Today, many Christians have turned the Bible into an idol.
They religiously study it, day by day, week after week, month after month. They make commitments to read the Bible every day. They know the Bible inside and out.
And yet, spiritually, they are dead or dying.
They know the Bible, but they don’t know the Author.
Chained to a Book
Now, make no mistake: I believe that the Bible is entirely inspired by God, that it’s His Word from one end to the other, and that it stands as a solid, unchanging reference point for our lives. It allows us to know God’s will for certain on many subjects, and guides us toward His will in many other subjects. I also firmly believe that we should not ignore or explain away parts of it just because it doesn’t fit with our cultural norms.
This is not about denigrating the Bible.
Rather, it’s about our perspective of the Bible.
For many years, people have taught that daily Bible reading will help you grow in the Christian life. However, I assure you that you can read the Bible every day and not grow. I know. That was my story.
In my last post, I told how I had made a commitment at one point to read the Bible for five minutes every day. This became a burden and source of guilt for me at one point. You might say, “But it’s only five minutes!” The burden is not in the time, but in the “I have to” feeling that becomes attached to Bible reading.
Change of the Covenants
In the Old Covenant, God delivered a set of laws to His people and told them to follow those laws. It was all written down from the beginning, such as the tablets of the Ten Commandments. Throughout the Old Testament, the Law is the main focus when it comes to following God.
In the New Covenant, God originally gave Christians zero writings. Jesus left nothing behind when He went back to Heaven. Instead, He gave them the Holy Spirit, and told them that the Spirit would guide them into all truth and bring all things to their remembrance.
The church existed for some time without much written Scripture (other than the Old Testament). The Book of Revelation wasn’t completed until AD 70-90. And yet, despite the lack of the Bible as we know it today, the Church thrived.
Is the Bible the enemy of the church, then? Absolutely not! (And I want to point out that there were oral traditions and teachings that were given by the apostles, and letters that never became part of the Bible.) Solid doctrine is not the enemy of the church. On the contrary, the Bible gives us a way to know for certain what God did and did not say.
However, Christianity is based around God and His leading, not around the Bible. The Bible comes from God; therefore, it is part of His leading. But unless we have the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we cannot truly understand the Bible.
Someone has said that many Christians today have changed the Trinity into the Father, Son, and Holy Bible. Sad, but true.
What Is “The Word of God”?
For most of us, when we read the term “the word of God” in the Bible, we automatically think of the Bible itself. However, I encourage you to pull up your favorite Bible program or app and search for “word of God”. You may find the results interesting.
The word of God increased and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem exceedingly. A great company of the priests were obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:7)
Now the apostles and the brothers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. (Acts 11:1)
But the word of God grew and multiplied. (Acts 12:24)
…of which I was made a servant, according to the stewardship of God which was given me toward you, to fulfill the word of God… (Colossians 1:25)
Somehow, despite the many times I have read the Bible, I never noticed until now that it mentioned that the word of God “increased”, “grew”, and “multiplied”. How could such a thing be?
Any time God speaks, it is the word of God. The word of God is not limited to a leather-bound book that was written 2,000+ years ago. God still speaks to us today!
The Training of a Scribe
And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Matthew 7:28-29)
- Studying the Bible does not give us the ability to speak with authority.
- Studying the Bible does not make us Godly people.
If daily Bible reading could, in and of itself, make us Godly people, the scribes should have been the Godliest people in Jesus’ day, because they were avid students of the Law. The scribes were learned men; teachers of the Law; copiers of the Law.
Yet Jesus said that the scribes were hypocrites. They used their Bible study and superior knowledge of the Law to make people think that they were Godly people. But when God stood in front of them, they condemned Him.
Lots of Bible knowledge without the guidance of the Holy Spirit is the foundation of a modern-day scribe.
Reading Does Not Equal Feeding
Many people believe that you feed yourself spiritually by reading the Bible. They may further extrapolate that, like the Israelites’ manna, one day’s food won’t last till the next day. You need to “eat” every day.
However, in our nearsighted perspective, we forget that most Christians did not have their own, personal copies of the Bible until about 150-200 years ago. We also forget that there are many Christians today who have no Bible and no way to acquire one. Are they therefore starving spiritually?
True spiritual nourishment comes from God. It very well may come from Scripture. But it can just as easily come by God’s direct voice speaking to you; an encouraging word from a friend; a song on the radio.
In addition, you can read the Bible faithfully for a month and never get any spiritual nourishment. Reading the Bible does not automatically feed you. God is the One who does that.
A Caution: Don’t Throw Out the Bible
However, none of this is grounds for disregarding or denigrating the Bible. Some people want to explain away Genesis 1, for example, by claiming that it is nothing more than some ancient writer’s attempt to explain how the world came to be. Another, even more common tactic is using “cultural context” to explain that certain verses only applied to the time in which they were given.
Beware, folks. Because my logical brain follows this line of reasoning to its conclusion: “Nothing in the Bible is absolute or necessarily relevant to today.” If, for example, Genesis is only an ancient myth about the origins of the world, then we can also theorize that the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection is just an allegory of good triumphing over evil.
The final result? Culture becomes our god, and its norms become our morals. Is no-fault divorce (and subsequent remarriage) acceptable in society? Then it is in Christianity as well. Conversely, is discrimination against other races acceptable in society? Then it is acceptable in Christianity as well.
And at that point, why mess around with Christianity at all? Why not just form humanistic social clubs and forget about God altogether? Why should we burden our lives worshiping a God who may just be the figment of some ancient writer’s imagination?
Because, at that point, Christianity stands for nothing. It is boring, stupid, and unexciting.
But This All Ties Together
The mentality I just described is only the result of reading the Bible without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Nothing more.
It is the Holy Spirit Who teaches us how to interpret the Bible and makes its pages come alive. He shows us how to overcome “conflicts” and understand the whole truth.
But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that were freely given to us by God. Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual things. Now the natural man doesn’t receive the things of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to him, and he can’t know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:12-14)
However when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak from himself; but whatever he hears, he will speak. He will declare to you things that are coming. (John 16:13)
Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I don’t go away, the Counselor won’t come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)
As we shift from focusing on Scripture to focusing on Jesus, He will guide us into all truth through the power of the Spirit within us. This power is so wonderful that we are better off than if Jesus was here in the flesh, as He was 2000 years ago. Wow!
So continue reading your Bible. But remember, life, freedom, joy, and understanding come from the working of the Holy Spirit, not from reading Scripture.