Updated: Feb 19
It seems like we live in a time when everyone thinks they have all the answers (myself included haha)... but we don't.
As God has been leading me on this blog/writing journey, he has allowed me to have more open conversations with people around me about spiritual and religious matters. Recently, a friend of mine opened up about their journey with their faith. As we were discussing the Bible itself, they posed a really interesting question that I want to address here. My friend pointed out that there are many scholars, pastors, and leaders with a wealth of knowledge on Biblical history who somehow still come up with conflicting views and opinions. So how do we know who to trust? How can such well-educated people hold such opposing views on what the Bible is saying? In this post, I'm going to share my own personal view on that question and maybe it will give someone a new perspective or at least something to think about.
NOTE: This post is written from the perspective of someone who already believes and accepts the Bible as inspired by God. If you are looking for an article about if the Bible is even a holy book or not... I am not covering that here- but stay tuned!
Using Scripture to Understand Scripture
If we believe that God wrote the Bible for us to help us know him, it is reasonable for us to believe that he also told us how to understand what he is telling us! Because of this, I think it is important to first look to the Bible itself for clarity on how to determine it's validity. Here are some guiding texts:
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
Joshua 1:8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
1 Timothy 4:13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Romans 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
Putting Our Faith in the Bible
Each of the verses above is powerful in its own way. First, we see that the Bible claims ALL scripture is breathed by God. Emphasis on the ALL! It seems to be a popular opinion in this time to question the validity of the Bible because it was written by people. In fact, it is almost considered ignorant to not question it. I could understand this approach if we were dealing with any other book... but if you believe in God, you must believe that the Bible is an inspired, holy, and supernatural act. I realize this goes against human nature or "the way things are done"in the world of literature. When we study other classic works, we always investigate the authors and work hard to determine what their bias, cultural influences, and hidden agendas were in their writings. I would caution us against doing this with the Bible. While it is true that there are some cultural influences, the messages of each verse remain valid and applicable to life today. Understanding the Bible and its origin is an act of faith. If that makes you uneasy, I would urge you to re-evaluate the basis of your faith in the first place. If you can't place your trust in the Bible, what other source do you have for knowing God? Some people might say prayer or the Holy Spirit will reveal God to them. I think both of those things are necessary and useful in our relationship with God, but they are not going to do you much good without pairing them with the Bible. The Bible is the meat, the core of our very belief system! I believe that part of accepting Jesus is also accepting that the Bible says what God intended it to say. God has preserved it from corruption despite what some critics are leading us to believe.
Reading the Bible for Ourselves
I think that the main reason people do not read the Bible is that it intimidates them. Sure, we tell people we are just SO busy, don't have time, forgot, or will do it later, but deep down we are avoiding it because it overwhelms us. The Bible is really long, has a lot of confusing parables, and is also really harsh sometimes! We see phrases like the "wrath of God" and we feel afraid. Sometimes ignorance is bliss!
Other times, we are afraid we will misunderstand the Bible. Because we never went to college, we weren't raised in the church, or we can't understand Greek and Hebrew, we worry that we aren't capable of gleaning from scripture on our own. With this mindset, we start to rely on our pastors, authors, and well-known theologians. Suddenly we aren't reading the Bible at all, instead, we are reading literature that boasts about how it explains the Bible. We are listening to sermons that somehow make connections and shed light on things from the Bible that we never could've come up with on our own. The more we do this, the more we feel underqualified. We start to rely on other people and other sources to gain our understanding of God. Well, let me tell you a secret. Everyone is underqualified when it comes to understanding the Bible, but God still asks each of us to read it. There is no scholar, no pastor, no anyone who can give you clarity on the Word of God like God himself can.
In the verses found in Timothy and Joshua, we see a necessity to read the Bible for ourselves- and not just read it but also meditate on it. It is good to discuss it with our friends, church members, or other people around us, but we must also study it independently. I'm not trying to bash or condemn people who make their careers or living explaining and deciphering scripture. I think collaborating with other believers can be very helpful as we read the Bible, but I also think we must be careful. If you find yourself needing a thesaurus, a translator, and a dictionary just to read some scripture... something is wrong.
The Holy Spirit
Perhaps you feel that I still haven't answered the question of whose version of the Bible is correct. What scholar knows the most? What podcast shows the character of God the clearest? What church denomination is the truest? In my opinion, these questions miss the point. It is not a person, a podcast, or a sermon that deciphers the Bible, it is the Holy Spirit. How do I know I have the Holy Spirit? The Bible is the key. When you open the Bible and read the words out of a sincere and pure mindset, the Holy Spirit will enter your life. He will lead you to Jesus and He will reveal His work on earth at this present time.
When people around us share something with us about the Bible that is true, it is because the Holy Spirit has revealed it to them. But you won't know if it is actually true unless you also read the Bible and have given the Holy Spirit an opportunity to reveal things to you as well. People don't seem to like this. It seems too risky. What if I think the Holy Spirit is revealing something to me, but I'm wrong? The Bible itself says our hearts are deceitful above all things so it is good for us to admit we have our flaws. Yet it is also good for us to admit that we have a powerful God. If we have enough faith to believe that Jesus has died and saved us from our sins, we can have enough faith to believe that when we ask God to reveal the truth of the Bible to us he will. Why wouldn't he? There is no being who wants you to understand the Bible clearly more than God does.
Prayer & Mentorship
Are you still scared to pick up your Bible and read it for yourself? Do you still feel confused about what you are trying to read? It is time to pray. Pray and ask God to show you what to do. Pray and ask him to send people to you who can share what the Holy Spirit has revealed to them. I'm not saying ask for people who claim the Holy Spirit has revealed things to them, I'm talking about people who can simply guide you on your own journey with reading the Bible for yourself. The best theologian or teacher doesn't give you all the answers, instead, they teach you how to find the answers for yourself. They admit that they don't know it all and that they are still learning. If anyone claims they already know everything about the Bible, don't trust that person. We could never know everything. We must always continue to learn more. We also must always pray. We must pray daily for God to show us the truth.
Back to the Basics
There is so much information in the Bible that it can be hard to understand where to begin. It can be especially challenging to read the bible when you are bombarded with lifestyle questions. What should I eat? What should I wear? Who should I marry? As you begin your Bible study journey, I would urge you to lay aside some of those questions and focus first on what I believe is at the heart of the Bible: Jesus. Read the story of Jesus's life. When you read his story, you will get a crash course on what the rest of the Bible is all about. In my opinion, there are only two topics in the Bible that are "required" for a successful relationship with God. I believe they are accepting Jesus as your Savior, and committing to keeping The Ten Commandments. Jesus's sacrifice reminds us of how we got on earth and the fact that we are sinful. The Ten Commandments show us how to live our lives while we wait for Jesus's return. Sure there are other issues that arise in the Bible about dress code and Christian conduct, but I really don't think they bear the same weight. If you focus on Jesus and The Ten Commandments, all the other things God wants to reveal to you will start to be revealed.
Interested in reading the Bible for the first time? Check out this post.
Make sure you visit my affiliated site www.biblegateway.com for some AMAZING Bible study tools and resources.