Far too many people freeze up when we talk about studying the Bible. There is a fear that the Bible is too complicated or too deep for the average person to study it. There is a problem with this fear: the Bible says that it is good for everyone! So, if the Bible is for everyone it would be good for us to discover how to study it!
How can a person study the Bible? What we really need is to come at the Scriptures with a solid foundation under us. This is what gives your pastor confidence on a Sunday morning. It isn’t his intelligence or his training. Yes, he uses both of those things, but that isn’t what gives him the confidence to study. A solid foundation is what makes it possible for Bible teachers to write books and Bible studies for us. It isn’t their popularity or the online tools that are at their disposal.
What is the foundation that gives our pastors and Bible teachers confidence? They know two things that guide everything they study in the Bible. These two things protect them from error. These two foundation stones correct them when they are tempted to shape the Bible message for themselves. These two foundations serve as the compass which keeps our teachers going the right direction. These foundations are:
1. The Bible claims to be the God-inspired Word from Him.
2. The Bible’s mission is to lead people to a saving knowledge of Jesus.
Let’s think for a moment about these two foundation stones. The Bible does claim to be the God-breathed Word from Him. The Bible does not claim to be words from wise men about God and life. The Bible does not claim to be merely the experiences of men with God. Although we can certainly see both of these things in the Bible, the Bible claims to be more.
20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.2 Peter 1:20-21
As a Christian, if I am trusting the promises of God in Jesus to save me then I must have this issue settled in my heart. It is foundational to study the Word of God. We study it as it claims to be. We don’t need to prove the Bible is true. We can’t mold the Bible to agree with us and our culture. We don’t need to excuse the Bible for how the authors don’t understand modern sensibilities. This is what it means to believe that the Bible is God-breathed. With this foundational stone in place my two questions of the Scripture becomes: what did God say and how can I live it out in my life.
39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.John 5:39-40
The second foundation stone is equally important. The Bible has a purpose. It is revealed as the Scripture unfolds. That purpose is to lead people to a saving knowledge of Jesus. Everything is about Jesus. It is teaching us why we need Him (the Old Testament Law), how He came to us (the historical passages), the consequences of living apart from Him (the prophets), His ministry and sacrifice for us (the gospels), how we live for Him (the apostolic letters), and the glory of following Him fully (the Psalms and Revelation).
This foundation stone keeps us from losing our focus and running down rabbit trails into speculation and wrangling over words. It also protects us when we are tempted to read the Scripture without grace or Jesus. If Jesus is the foundation, leaving Him raises a red flag that we cannot ignore. Without oversimplifying the intricacies of the Old Testament, for the average believer it will be enough to protect us from mistaken understandings if this foundation stone is securely in place.
After these stones are secure, studying the Bible is simply about time and care. Bible study cannot be rushed. When it is, we get sloppy. We stray from our foundations and what we glean from the Scripture becomes more and more untrustworthy. Without time, we stop being careful. When we exercise care, we automatically take the time needed to keep our gleanings from the Scripture fully on those foundation stones. Taking care makes us treat the Bible as what it claims to be. Taking care makes us keep coming back to the question: what does this teach us about Jesus?
Trust these foundation stones in your study of God’s Word. Let these stones give you confidence. Let these stones raise red flags that make you ask questions. Let these stones show you which understandings of God’s Word are trustworthy and which are not. Then, you will find confidence in your study of God’s Word and will not be easily led astray by either the devious or the sloppy.
Let’s study God’s Word in confidence together!