Have you ever gotten a letter from someone you loved? It was a great gift wasn’t it? With each sentence that goes by, they are sharing more of themselves with you. It tells you how they think, what they value, and all of that reveals how you can love them better. Wouldn’t it be great if God did something like that for you? Well, it turns out that He has! Not only has He revealed Himself in this letter called the Bible, He has also revealed how your life is supposed to work. In here, He will teach you where real truth is found, how to fight sin, how to detect error, and so much more. Our two points today are: The Bible is a precious gift from God and Training is required to use the Bible rightly
The Bible is a precious gift from God
The Bible is a precious gift from God. God didn’t have to give us this. He could have written down His words on some rock way up in the mountains that only the dedicated would have been able to even see. He could have written it as a series of mysterious riddles that people would need to think about for ages only to come to the wrong answer. These are the ways that almost all other religions work. It’s how we would set up a religion if we could. Instead God is gracious to write us this book.
If you have been in Christian circles for any length of time, you have probably heard the Bible described as a love letter. I think this is actually a good way of thinking about the Bible because it helps us keep the context of who this is from and why God has written it. It is because He loves you.
I think keeping this in mind helps us approach this book rightly. When we have a love letter in front of us we investigate every little word that is sent to us. We try hard to discover every nuance, try to notice every connection, and if there is anything that doesn’t make sense on first reading, we look at it closer and closer, not satisfied to leave any part of the letter not understood. Heaven help you if there is a typo! If there is a missing “not,” the whole relationship can change! Imagine reading, “I can wait to see you again.”
Thankfully the Word of God as originally given doesn’t have mistakes! The Bible is a letter given in love that tells us what is absolutely true because it comes from God. It is inspired by God and is thus without error or contradiction (2 Timothy 3:16; Psalm 19). An infallible source is something that should be more precious to us than ever. Our world has grown so complicated and information so unreliable finding anything that is authoritative is more needed than ever. The only way that this is possible is because God Himself has written it.
But this does more for us than an assurance that we are believing the right things. This is the only tool that we can use to fight error. Fighting evil with anything less than the Word of God is only going to end in failure. Trying to fight the advance of sexual perversity in homosexuality and transgenderism isn’t through citing scientific literature. It isn’t through appealing to the latest book that has been written.
This applies to our own personal sins as well. Ian Duguid points out that when Jesus was tempted, He quoted from God’s Word. But what typically happens with us when we are tempted? We tend to give reasons why we shouldn’t sin like, “I’ll get caught” or “I’ll feel bad about it.” He points out that Satan is really good at debate, and he’ll eventually talk you out of your reasons and into what you really want to do. Instead, by going straight to God’s Word, the argument is over. There is nothing else to say (The Whole Armor of God, 91-93). Scientific literature or our own personal reasons can feel helpful in the moment. Those sources may even be correct, but only God’s word is the truth. The Bible tells you why something is correct. It brings not only sanity into the world but brings significance into the world.
This attitude of awe is something that we should bring to the Bible. When we approach any text we do it with expectations. When you approach an instruction manual you expect to learn how to do something. When you approach a novel you expect to be entertained. What expectations are you bringing to the Bible? Do you approach this like an inconsistent exercise habit? It’s something you know you should do; it’s something you know you have failed to do over and over, but you know you are supposed to do it, so you try yet again. Sometimes you will discover something wonderful despite that attitude, but oftentimes you won’t. If you come to the Bible knowing that this book is without mistakes, the only guiding truth for life written by someone who loves you deeply, coming at it like you would a love letter, you will find what you need for spiritual warfare.
Beyond just the revelation of knowledge, this letter is a gift because it gives us what we need to oppose evil and reveal error. As many commentators noted, this sword is our only weapon that is used for attack in this suit of armor that we have been given. It is one thing to say that the Bible contains truth. It is another thing to say that this truth has power. This is where we often stop short of giving the Bible the credit it deserves. As one commentator put it: “The Word of God draws the blood of Satan himself!” (Preaching the Word Commentary) This is what Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6. Arguments and lofty opinions are no match for the Word of God, but we get so scared of those things, don’t we? Someone comes along with a plausible sounding argument, and we suddenly start questioning God, don’t we? Or someone or some group decides which beliefs are fashionable, and we don’t want to be left out.
That’s what happens with Eve. Satan presents a plausible sounding argument, namely, God isn’t good to you because He withholds things from you. The verse that Eve probably should have quoted was, “‘All of these trees I give to you for food’ how could a God be mean who does all of that for us?” The same thing can be said of Israel when they wanted a king. Why do they want a king? Because everyone else had a king!
We need to be quicker to bring the gospel to bear on the situations that we encounter in our lives. We are too quick to believe the lies and doubt God’s goodness and put down the sword of the gospel message. When you have a firm grasp of the gospel any lies that question the goodness of God are answered by that weapon. That’s what we clung to when we saw shootings and unexpected deaths. We clung to the sword and said, “I hear what the world around me is saying, but this I know, that Jesus will make it right.”
I’m quick to pick up the feather duster of distraction. That does nothing against Satan’s lies. But when I grab the razor sharp blade of the Word of God, evil goes running.
So before we jump into point two, let’s remember what we have covered. We have been given the ultimate weapon against Satan, and it is a Divine love letter. It is absolutely true in everything that it says and is our only weapon that will actually defeat evil because it has Divine power in it. It is not working like some sort of magic words (Hoehner,853), but God is using it in such a way that it will always have an effect.
Training is required to use the Bible rightly
We need training to understand what we have been given (2 Timothy 2:15 “rightly dividing” implies “wrongly dividing.”). To properly use this gift that we have been given, we need instruction and training, but why? Isn’t the Bible intuitive?
Some things (but certainly not all or even most) in the Bible are hard to understand. Even Peter himself admits this (2 Peter 3:16)! He was talking about the letters of Paul! He doesn’t say in particular what it was that confused him, but there are a number of things that can go in that category! Some things are difficult to understand. A big part of this is our sinful tendencies pull us away from a proper understanding of God’s Word and the gospel. We have to make a very careful study of the book in front of us, knowing this limitation, if we are going arrive at the right meaning. This doesn’t mean that we give up on our personal study to let the professionals take care of it. The Word of God will sink deepest into the person who is working on it.
Having knowledge of a diverse number of subjects can be very helpful. If you know about car engines, you can save yourself a fortune in repairs. If you know computers, you can save yourself hours of work both on the computer or with tech support. The problem with those things is for the most part, knowing how to work on an engine doesn’t carry over very much to computer knowledge. Knowing how to knit doesn’t help you very much with cooking dinner.
Knowing about the Bible, however, changes how you know everything else. If you remember a few weeks ago, I mentioned a concept I had heard from somewhere that knowledge and facts always need to be interpreted. The Bible is the only accurate foundation for interpreting the world around you. The Bible doesn’t have recipes in it, but it will give you a foundation to understand why you are cooking or how gracious God is to give you food in the first place. The Bible doesn’t explain how to change your oil, but it does give us a grid to be amazed that everything in that car came from some element of God’s creation and how good God is to allow us to know these things (idea from Tony Reinke’s book on Technology). This is of course to say nothing of the immensely practical information that the Bible gives you on marriage, children, and you know, how to get to heaven forever after you die!
I hope at this point it is very obvious that this book is worth studying, but I can understand it being intimidating. The Bible is a big book after all. I want to encourage you that just because you are studying yourself, doesn’t mean that you are studying alone. I’ve been preaching and studying the Bible for years, but I never give a sermon unless I’ve looked at other people’s comments on the passage. I know that I have biases and blindspots that other men don’t, so it is a very important step to consult with those who have studied and walked with Jesus longer and deeper than I have. We are in an age where there are so many good resources out there, it’s a shame we don’t know our Bibles better than any previous generation. Just about every pastor puts their sermons out for free (we used to have to pay for a cassette to be produced and shipped!). Ministries like Ligonier put out stellar teaching for extremely low cost in multiple formats of magazines, books, videos, and podcasts. There are study Bibles in multiple versions from Ligonier and Crossway that take practically every verse and provide a short commentary on it. If you REALLY want to go deep, there are commentaries from some of the brightest minds that ever lived, and they sit right on my shelves in my office (you are always welcome to borrow!). A quick glance at our screen time statistics tell us we have time (with the possible exception of young, new moms. Even Dr. Martin Loyd Jones gave y’all a pass).
You need to be ready because if you don’t know it, there will be those who will sow false teaching to their own advantage (1 Timothy 4:1-16). Any area of knowledge that requires a lot of time and effort will be used by the immoral to their advantage. We see many of them on the TV taking advantage of people by proclaiming a false gospel of prosperity to enrich themselves. The counter is learning true teaching, of course, but you can’t learn true teaching if you just don’t put in the time.
I remember being told of Grandpa’s training to be a policeman. One of the exercises was to put him in a room for hours with only a pile of money to familiarize himself with. He would sort, count, feel, smell, get to know every aspect of what a real dollar is made of. The next day, they would slip in a counterfeit bill for him to find. After spending several hours with the real deal, the fake was found out immediately. Knowledge of the Bible is not automatically granted. You simply have to put in the time to become familiar with it. There is no shortcut to this.
Because of false teaching, our own sin, and the difficulty of (some) of the Scriptures, we are called to be workman to rightly divide the word of truth, so as we draw to a close, let me encourage you to take up this book for the sake of your joy. Yes, this book will keep you from error, sin, and futile living, but this is a book for your joy. Take up and read to discover the source of all comfort and peace. Be familiar with it, memorize it, meditate on it. When I say “meditate” I don’t mean sitting in a room with an empty mind. That’s Eastern meditation of emptying your mind to hear your own internal truth. Biblical meditation is to fill your mind with God’s Word to drown out your internal lies! Any encounter with God’s Word will bring a blessing, but if you want to really get the most benefit out of your Bible reading, don’t just read it and put it down. Instead, take some time, sit back and turn it over in your mind. Think about how the verse that just struck you applies to your life. Try not to let it go before you can write down something that this verse will make different about your life. It doesn’t have to transform every aspect of your life. Even if it just gives you a reason to keep doing what you are doing, that will benefit you.
Above all, dive into this word to know the one who loves your soul so much. Jesus knows every hair on your head. Why not get to know Him a little better?
Image by Vasily Sukovatitsyn