I grew up in the Church. My parents were devout, we were in a vibrant church that had Sunday School, Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening services, and we were there every time the doors were open. The Church loved God and the Bible, they valued discipleship and doctrinal integrity. It was solid.
Unfortunately, from the time I was in High School, I started to hear pastors saying, “We know enough about God” and follow that up with an action statement. But the youth group at the very same Church was full of students who did not have a single Bible verse memorized. They did not know the books of the Bible. They could not even find the books in the Bible. But yet they knew enough about God? Have you heard the statement, “The last thing we need is another Bible study”?
America today is entering what historians are calling the “post-Christian” era. Most of Western Europe has been in this era for a while now, characterized by the fact that the average Joe on the street did not grow up in the Church or with a Christian influence in the home. While many people would still call themselves Christians, there are fewer and fewer who have learned the basics of the faith: the story of Jesus, the offer of salvation or how to study and apply the Bible.
The New Age movement coupled with the prevalent notion of there being no absolute truth has led Gen X and subsequent generations to believe that they have not only the ability but the right to define God. The sentiment is heard often, “I do not know the scriptures well, but I know God’s heart.”
But let me ask you a very simple question: How do you get to know someone?
This may seem pathetically elementary, but unfortunately we miss the boat when we contemplate building a relationship with God. God has revealed to us His heart, His plan and His actions throughout thousands of years of history. There are countless numbers of times that we can know the exact words that proceeded verbally from God Himself in the Old Testament. Jesus was the physical manifestation of the unseen God on Earth, and His life story is accounted four times, in its entirety, in the Gospels. Book after book explain His heart, His plan, His intentions for our lives and His expectations. If a friend writes you an intimate email explaining his heart, how he handles trials, how he expresses and receives love, and telling you his life story, would reading this email help you get to know him? Or better yet, how well can you get to know this friend if you chose to not read his email?
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.
– 2 Tim 3.16-17
We must know the Scriptures if we want to know God. Paul teaches us clearly that there is adequate testimony about God and sin in creation and through our conscience to condemn us to judgment and damnation:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
– Rom 1.18-20
But unfortunately, there is not adequate revelation in creation alone to save us:
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
– Rom 10.17
Thus if we come to God for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, we need the Scriptures. We cannot get to know God intimately without reading His revealed and inspired word to us. The Bible is deep. It forms arguments and systematically explains God and much of His attributes and plans. It is not a collection of nuggets of wisdom. It is not a massive book of proverbs. It is logical. It is progressive. You must understand some parts in order to understand other parts, and we have to be taught how to interpret accurately and understand thoughtfully the depths encompassed therein. Not all promises made in Scripture are promises that are made to us, for example!
But knowing God is not simply an academic exercise. Some people become scholars of the Bible and never get to know Him! We must enjoy and glory in the Truths we learn. We must respond in faith, hope and love to the promises of salvation through grace. We must commune in prayer and praise God in worship. We must love and enjoy Him. But we can only know God if we know His Word.
Just because there are people who know the Scriptures and do not know God, we cannot assume that the Scriptures are expendable. Not everyone who knows the Bible knows God. But everyone who knows God knows the Bible.
So, is it ever appropriate to say, “We do not need another Bible study”? Yes, absolutely. There are many old and stagnant churches in the United States today. There are many comfortable Christians who do know their Bibles and have the ability to study and learn more about God on their own. These so-called Christians need a swift kick in the rear end because Jesus said,
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
– John 14.15
And Jesus’ greatest commandment – His final words were,
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
– Matt 28.18-20
If people are sitting around and studying the Bible and not obeying it – not applying it – then yes. Another Bible study is not going to fix that. They need instruction and mentoring on how to apply it. But the very moment they lead someone to faith, they are going to have to engage in another Bible study. Why? Because this brand new baby Christian does not know the difference of the New Testament and the Old. He does not know how to study the Bible, or what Jesus had to say – or even where to find what Jesus had to say!
We cannot build new churches or start new movements based on the foundation, “the last thing we need is another Bible study”. Quite the contrary is true. The most important thing we need is another Bible study, and that full of people who have never read it. Full of people who are learning and struggling to apply it. Full of people who are crazy in love with Jesus and all they want to do is to get to know Him more. Because God has given us thousands of years of history, chapters upon chapters of poetry and prophecy and instruction to guide every single decision that we will ever make in this one book.
You cannot know God unless you know about God. And you cannot know about God unless you know the Bible. So go, get it out, dust it off, and get busy reading. The more you know about Him the more you can love Him. And sing praise in response. Pray prayers of repentance, of thankfulness, of communion in response. Rejoice in His promises and in His Word. And obey. Then you will know Him.