by Steven Chan
- You may have heard it said before: “The Bible is the cause of confusion among believers. We should just put our faith in Jesus and not trouble ourselves with doctrinal issues. Let’s leave doctrinal matters to the theologians to argue over. After all it is solely by God’s sovereign grace that we are all one in Christ. But when we let someone brings in doctrinal matters, our unity and fellowship are jeopardized.”
- As a result of the above sentiment, the Bible is not the subject of diligent study by believers; efforts to study the Bible are mainly “devotional” in nature. According to a popular writer: “The Devotional Method of Bible Study involves taking a passage of the Bible, large or small, and prayerfully meditating on it until the Holy Spirit shows you a way apply its truth to your own life in a way that is personal, practical, possible, and provable. The goal is for you to take seriously the Word of God and “do what it says” (James 1:22).”
Such an approach to the study of the Bible probably describes how many believers “study” the Bible.
- It is true that without application of the truth of the Word of God, the mere knowledge of the Bible is of no benefit to the person. Jesus said of such a person: one “who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand” (Matt 7:26).
- The dual requirements from God are that: –
a. one must study the Scriptures diligently so that one knows accurately what God has revealed to man (2 Tim 2:15; 2 Pet 3:16), and
b. then to be guided by such understanding of the truth – personal application/use of such understanding (James 1:22).
- The problem often is the lack of emphasis on the importance of having an accurate understanding of God’s revealed Word: “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 NASB). Without a good understanding of the context of the passage of Scriptures (both immediate context as well as the total context of the Scriptures), the mere prayerful meditation on a passage will not give an accurate understanding of that passage.
- It is not true that the Holy Spirit will show you a way to understand the truth. If that were true, then the Holy Spirit would have directly revealed the understanding of the passage that the eunuch was reading. Then there would have been no need to ask the evangelist, Philip, to go all the way to the road to Gaza, to teach the Ethiopian eunuch so that he could understand accurately the Scriptures that the eunuch had been reading (and probably meditating or thinking or reflecting deeply as to its meaning) (Acts 8:26-39).
The Holy Spirit revealed the Word of God to the prophets and the apostles who then wrote them down so that all may be able to read and understand God’s revealed will for man (2 Pet 1:20-21; 2 Tim 3:16-17; 1 Cor 2:10-13; Eph 3:3-5; John 20:30-31)
We now need to read and study the God-inspired written Word of God diligently to have an accurate understanding of God and His Revealed Will for man, and then to be guided by God and His Word (2 Tim 2:15; 1 Tim 4:12-16; Psa 119:105). The Bible says: “The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” (Psa 119:130)
- Those at Bereans were commended for their diligence in searching the Scriptures: “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11).
It was the same in the Old Testament. Ezra and the Levites helped the people to understand the Scriptures: “So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.” (Neh 8:8).
Believers were warned not to twist the meaning of the Scriptures to their destruction (2 Pet 3:17).
- Contrary to the sentiment expressed that the Scriptures is the cause of division among believers, the unity of believers will only be possible when “all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you” (1 Cor 1:10). Speaking the same thing is only possible when all speak as “oracles of God” (1 Pet 4:11), teaching the same Word (2 Tim 2:2; 4:2) – “walk by the same rule, be of the same mind” (Phil 3:16), “note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them” (Rom 16:17), and “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” for there is only “one faith” (Eph 4:3,5).
Having the same mind as Christ and endeavoring to have the same accurate understanding of the Scriptures will enable all to “speak the same thing and be of the same mind’ (1 Cor 1:10; 2 Tim 3:16-17).
Neither God nor His Word is the source of confusion (1 Cor 14:33).
- It is men who are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim 3:7) who are the cause of divisions among believers. These religious teachers propagate their own teachings, the “commandments and traditions of men”; they teach their own ideas – not the Word of God: “Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition… 9 And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Matt 15:6-9)
- The Scriptures, diligently studied and accurately understood, will facilitate one to teach the same things/doctrines and thereby ensure unity among believers who love one another (John 13:34-35) as desired by our Lord (John 17:20-22):
“But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:14-17).
The Bible says: “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa 8:20). “Thus says the Lord: “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.” (Jer 6:16).
Unity among believers is only possible when everyone teaches according to God’s revealed Word and be determined to “walk in the old paths” as revealed by God in the Scriptures.
Let’s go back to the Bible and speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent. We are not to add to nor subtract from God’s Word (Deut 4:2; Rev 22:18-19).