Encouraging Study of the Bible

Is imagesthere a way to use the Bible to get someone interested in knowing more about the Bible? I’ve thought about this question for many years. As I learned more about the Word, and spoke more with people who called themselves Christian but knew little or nothing about what the Bible teaches, I wondered about the best approach to take. Here, in a nutshell, is one possible approach to make the case for studying the Bible from the Bible.

Most nominal Christians will acknowledge that the Bible is the inspired word of God. What this means to them varies. Usually they will insist that the Bible is not literal, leaving them free to add meaning as they choose, and to ignore passages that are difficult. But why do such people seem to have no interest in ever learning scripture? Even if the Bible is not literal, it must, after all, mean something. There are many possible answers. The Old Testament is set in a distant past which is very dissimilar to present-day life. The culture, habits and behavior of those it describes are quite foreign to us. Learning the history, and the context, takes more than simply opening the Bible and beginning to read. But there really is no substitute. If the Bible is going to be more than a paperweight adorning the coffee table, learning about Biblical times – about the history and context of the sacred words – is as essential as reading a particular passage.

So, I begin by asking a “believer” who is content not knowing much about what he believes who Jesus might have been referring to in Matthew 7:21-22, where He warned about false prophets and added that not all who “prophesied,” “cast out demons” and “performed miracles” in His name will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Instead, it is “he who does the will of My Father.” In John 8:12, Jesus calls himself the light of the world; “he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life.” And then in verses 31-32: “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” It seems pretty obvious that Jesus is saying there are those who know of Him, who may even invoke His name, who He will not recognize, because they have not in truth accepted and followed Him.

If invoking His name, or calling oneself a believer, is not enough, what then must one do to follow Him? Scripture provides the answer: we must love God not just with our heart and soul and strength, but also with our mind. (Mark 12:30) We must study and know the Word of God. How else can we be “salt and light” to a fallen world (Matt. 5:13) or represent Christ as His ambassadors (2 Corinth. 5:17)?

The Bible tells us that we should “not be conformed to this world” but instead “transformed” by the renewal of our minds, that by testing we can discern what is the will of God, “what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). We must “abhor what is evil and hold fast to what is good” (Rom. 12:9). God intends the Scripture to be this source of the knowledge of good, as it is “inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

In studying the Word, we are to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Writing to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul thanked God that when they received the word of God which they heard from him, they “accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” (1 Thess. 2:13). And to Timothy, Paul urges him “retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me” and to “guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” (2 Tim 5:13-14).

In short, as the Apostle Peter wrote, we are to always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, doing so with gentleness and reverence. (1 Peter 3:15) It takes knowledge, and thoughtfulness, to do this. Studying and knowing the Bible is, necessarily, the first step.

Changing someone’s view of the importance of Scripture is easier said than done. This approach may be a start, but there are no doubt many other, and better, ones. If you’ve had some success in this endeavor, write me at Al@pleaseconvinceme.com with the approach you took. 

Posted by Al Serrato

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One Comment

  1. John Moore says:

    It could be that the pre-Reformation Catholics were right – it’s too risky for lay people to try to read and correctly interpret the Bible for themselves. It’s best for common believers to trust their priestly leaders. Humble submission to authority is more important than the specific details of the belief.

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