The Bible is a tremendous collection of numerous letters and writings, written over a vast span of time, that is comprised into one consistent book. The Bible comes from the Greek word biblos which literally means books. In addressing scripture I hope to address the usefulness of it and why it is necessary not just for the Christian but for all people. I will categorize the application of scripture into two main areas: PRIORITY and PRACTICE. In doing so I will cover the importance of reading the bible, how to learn from it, and why it should be obeyed.
PRIORITY: Reading the Bible
Anyone who is sincere about growing spiritually must be willing to consistently spend time in God’s Word by reading and hearing its writings.
The Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament). It has now been translated in many different languages, one of them being English. We also have various types of translations. All of the translations can be categorized into two main types of translations: Exact and Dynamic
An exact translation means that it is word for word from the original text intended to be a literal transcript. A dynamic translation seeks to translate the main idea of the passage in a thought for thought manner.
The Protestant Bible contains a total of 66 “books”, and was produced by about forty writers, but has only one author, God. It has historical significance due to the place and time in which it was written.
The discipline of reading the Bible can be difficult to initiate if we do not understand why the book was given to us, however its purpose is discovered within its own text . Most importantly, the Bible is spiritually significant because of its ultimate reason for being written. Consider the following passage:
“29Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:29-31, NIV Bible)
Belief in Jesus is vital to life, earthly and eternally. The Bible tells us that Jesus is/gives life. Because Jesus came to give us life we can determine if we are experiencing this “life” the Bible promises is available by considering what our life resembles. We can conclude if we are living the life that Jesus intended to give by examining the differences between life and death and answering honestly which they relate to more.
Understanding that God’s Word is life to the reader provides good reason for it to be read. The Bible tells us it is inspired by God . In Greek the word used is theopneustos which literally translates: God-breathed.
There are basic elements of life that we cannot physically do without; air, food, and water. These things sustain our body and allow us to function correctly. We find in scripture that these same elements are represented in the personhood of God and are life to our spirit. Consider that scripture is breath , bread , and water . The Bible also tells us that Jesus gives water and that He is bread . We also read that Jesus is the Word . Jesus is the perfect embodiment of the Bible and the Bible is the perfect embodiment of Jesus. When we read the bible we are not just learning something but experiencing Someone, God.
If God’s Word is breath, bread, and water for us, and if Jesus is the Word, how can we expect to know Him or become like Him in image and character if we do not read the Bible?
If you consider how long the human body can physically last with food, water, or air it is easy to connect how vital reading the Word of God with understanding should be to all people. Simply put, you will be unsatisfied if you do not read God’s Word. There will always be uneasiness within without proper knowledge of God; this only comes through the Word .
PRACTICE: Learning the Bible
If one is going to truly learn a skill or understand an idea it will require practice of those things. In Romans we are instructed to “offer” our bodies so that we might live as a sacrifice unto God, one in which we are being transformed and able to discern Gods will . This is referred to as sanctification. We understand that God is the one who completely cleanses and sets us apart ; however, there is the act of obedience to what God calls us to that allows this work to take place. How can a person experience this work without the daily application and practice of what is read? This is a cleansing work that is for our good. Though, potentially painful at times it is an act of love so that the fruit of our life will be more productive and available to all who surround us. In the book Foundations of Pentecostal Theology the author writes:
“Sanctification is seen to be a continuing process throughout a Christian’s lifetime. It is not something negative. A man in not considered holy because of the things he does or not do. Virtue cannot be judged by the vices from which a person abstains. There must be a positive conformation to the image of Christ. This is seen as a gradual growth in, not into, grace…”
The believer in Jesus Christ should understand salvation in three ways or tenses: Past, Present and Future . When a person trusts in Christ He saves them from past sins and from the penalty that those sins warrant. Salvation from our past sins is referred to as Justification. We are righteous before God, the price has been paid, and the believer is justified before God because of Christ. In the above paragraph taken from FPT the writer is specifying the difference between the past and present tense of our salvation as he writes, “This is seen as a gradual growth in, not into, grace” meaning the believer is already into grace, he is righteous. However, because we live in the grace of God we can grow in it, or be sanctified. Sanctification is the saving work of Christ that frees the believer from the power of sin and death on a daily basis . And lastly, trust in Christ will save the believer from the presence of sin when Jesus comes back a second time for His people . This is known as glorification and is described in 1 John:
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
A sobering couple of sentences are found in John 8:
“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
This passage is startling because Jesus makes it very clear who are true disciples: those who abide or hold fast to His teachings found in the Bible. Abiding in the Word of God is vital to one’s growth and understanding of how the words of the Bible should be applied. There are tremendous benefits mentioned for the one who will do so: 1) they will discover truth and 2) they will be free. Freedom requires knowledge of what is true. One can read this passage as an if/then series of events; if we will remain in the word then we will know what is true. If we know what is true then we will be free.
In a book I once read the writer described a conversation that he had with a drunkard. The two were discussing the bible and the issue of freedom. Suddenly during the talk the drunkard rebutted that he was free to drink; to do whatever he willed. To this the writer agreed but also asked the question, “Are you free not to drink?” For the one who is growing and learning the ways of God the beauty and power of His grace is displayed in the freedom to overcome, think differently, and to pursue what is honorable.
The Bible informs us of a God who saves, enables us, and helps us to become more like Him. The practical application of the Word of God reveals His faithfulness and the truth of what is written. Because of this emphasis and focus should be placed upon reading and learning it. God offers to humanity grace that goes beyond the present and contains power to redeem eternally, saving from the power of sin in every way.
Guy P. Duffield and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave, Foundations of Pentecostal Theology, Foursquare Media, 2008
Ethix: Being Bold In A Whatever World, Sean McDowell
New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
New International Version Study Bible, Copyright 2002 by Zondervan Corporation