“To what greater inspiration and counsel can we turn than to the imperishable truth to be found in this treasure house, the Bible?” – Queen Elizabeth II
Americans have a positive view of the Bible. However, more than half of Americans have read little or none of the Bible. It was not always that way. If you are like most followers of Jesus, you had a season when you couldn’t get enough of God’s Word. You had your head stuck in a Bible making notes about key passages that seemed to jump off the page or screen. It seemed every day you were adding a new translation or a new commentary or some other resource. The local Christian book store knew you by name. And the weird thing is it was as if the Bible was written for you. It was uncanny. It talked about your struggles, your ups and downs, your yearnings, etc. And best of it all, it had the answers. It was a truly amazing time.
But at some point other priorities seeped in and the Bible faded into the background. The connection was disconnected. The desire to learn more and more wane. Because of other time restraints, you no longer had the time to enjoy the Bible as you once did. If that is true of you, you are not alone. Research indicates that most Americans face that challenge in their life. And as a result of that challenge, many Christians are not as oriented to the Bible as they could or should be.
For example, the Bible is not a traditional book—written by a single author and divided into chapters. The Bible could be described as a compilation of 66 individual books written by different men over about 1,500 years. Although about 40 men wrote the 66 books of the Bible, in another sense, there is only one author. Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “all Scripture is inspired by God.” The books are of different lengths and different literary styles. Yet through it all, the Bible is the story of God pursuing a relationship with people. It is a story of God working to restore a broken relationship between himself and humanity.
Secondly, the Bible is two testaments, the Old Testament (39 books) and the New Testament (27 books) because the Old Testament described the history of the people that God chose to be the ones through whom the Messiah would come. Therefore, it contains the history of God’s people (Jews) and also includes prophecies of the coming of Jesus the Messiah. The New Testament was written as a demonstration of the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of Jesus as well as letters written to various churches and individuals informing them of proper Christian behavior.
Studying and understanding the Bible can be a lifelong adventure. It contains both simple and practical insights, but also profound and moving insights that will help Christians of all kinds grow in their faith. Bible study should never become just an academic task. Rather the overarching point of studying the Bible is to know God better so that He may be glorified. Along the way, you will be edified, challenged and changed for the better. Learning to correctly handle “the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 ) through Bible study begins with an orientation and ends in putting it to use in our lives.
- How well do you believe you have been oriented to the Bible? What can you do to fill in the gaps?
- Bible study is not the same thing as Bible reading. How are they different?