Why Should a Christian Study the Bible?
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Friday, December 11, 2009 at 4:26pm
QUESTION: Why should a Christian STUDY the Bible?
ANSWER: Someone might say, “I read my Bible every day!” But is simply reading the Bible the same as Bible STUDY? Not necessarily. Bible study certainly involves careful reading of Scripture, but it is more. In Bible study we are not just reading the text of Scripture. We are also asking two basic questions about the text: (1) What does it mean? I.e., when the original writer (e.g., Moses, David, Matthew, or Paul) wrote this text, exactly what point was he trying to make? (2) What does it mean TO ME? How can I apply this to my life, so that my life will be somehow changed by it? To answer such questions, one must not only read the Bible, but think about it as well. “Thinking about” something the Bible says is sometimes called “meditation” (see Psalm 1:2; 119:15, 97).
But the question is, WHY should a Christian do this? Why should anyone WANT to study the Bible (i.e., read it AND meditate on it)? Here are two main reasons.
The first reason is because of what the Bible IS, namely, the very words of God. The words of Scripture are in a real sense words that God himself has spoken to us. When the Psalmist David spoke of the inspired Scriptures available to him, he called them God’s Word (Psalm 119:9, 11, 16, 103, 105). Jesus referred to Old Testament Scripture as “the Word of God” (Mark 7:13; see John 17:17). Paul refers to the Old Testament as “the oracles of God” or “the very spoken words of God” (Rom. 3:2; see Heb. 5:12). In 2 Tim. 3:16 Paul affirms that “all Scripture is inspired by God.” “All Scripture” includes both the Old and New Testaments. The term “Scripture” refers to words that are written. “Inspired by God” means literally “breathed out by God,” as the English Standard Version (ESV) properly translates it.
Though the words of Scripture (in the original Hebrew and Greek text) were actually written down by human beings, these men were under the influence of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21). This means that whatever they wrote was either revealed to them directly by the Holy Spirit, or otherwise had the Spirit’s stamp of approval. Thus whatever they wrote was TRUE (John 17:17), namely, without error (John 10:35). How could we NOT want to study such writings as these?
The second reason why we should want to study the Bible is because of what the Bible DOES. The first thing it does is that it gives us food for our souls. We are all well aware of the necessity of food for keeping our bodies alive and well. In like manner the Bible—the Word of God—is food for the soul, including milk or simple teachings for new Christians and meat or solid food for more mature Christians (see Heb. 5:11-14; 6:5; 1 Peter 2:2). Just reading the Bible is more like smelling food than actually eating it. STUDYING the Bible is like chewing on it, swallowing it, and digesting it. Only in this way does the food of God’s Word keep us alive, make us strong, and help us grow.
Another thing the Bible does is that it gives us instructions about how to live. Whenever we buy a complicated new product, it comes with an instruction manual. Reading and following that manual is the only way to use the product safely and successfully. No product is more complicated than a God-created human being, and thankfully the Creator has provided us with the Bible as an instruction manual to show us how to live successfully for eternity. This is what David means when he declares that God’s Word “is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). “How can a young man keep his way pure?” he asks. “By keeping it according to Your word” (Psalm 119:9). Likewise Paul describes this purpose of the Bible when he writes, “All Scripture 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.”
How can we hope to function properly in this life and to ultimately live forever, if we ignore our God-given instructions on how conduct ourselves now?
The third thing the Bible does is that it gives joy to our hearts when we truly accept it and study it as God’s own words to us. For someone who is physically separated from a loved one, nothing brings more joy than a message from that one—a “love letter,” as it were. The Bible in a real sense is our packet of love letters from God, the one who loves us dearly (John 3:16) and whom we love with all our hearts (Matt. 22:37; 1 John 4:19). Since God is not physically with us, the Bible as his very words to us is the most concrete form of his presence among us. How can we ignore these expressions of his love? We should echo the words of David, “Your testimonies . . . are the joy of my heart” (Psalm 119:111); “I rejoice in Your word” (Psalm 119:162).