Bible literacy is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart (which you may have already picked up on if you hang around here a bit).
I talk a whole lot about what Bible literacy is, why it’s so important, and how we can get there in my book, His Word Alone: A call to put down your Bible studies and pick up your Bible. Let me know what you think! I would honestly love to hear from you.
It is my fervent desire that all Christians would come to know and love God’s Word. The reason I am so passionate about the serious, intentional, and individual study of the Bible by Christians is because His Word is the very means through which the Lord has claimed my heart and transformed my life.
His Word has met me right where I was at the time, no matter where or when. His Word has relentlessly pursued me through the hard work of marriage, the endless delights and difficulties of raising small children, every insecurity and uncertainty a thirty-something-stay-at-home-mom could muster, and all the other ups, downs, ins, and outs of everyday life. There is no pain to which God’s Word does not speak, no joy that it does not birth.
And perhaps the most beautiful thing of all these is this: When we commit ourselves to the reading and studying of His Word, God Himself meets us there. I know this to be true.
But I also understand that setting out to study the Bible on your own can be intimidating.
So, I’m here to help.
In my last post, I gave some tips on how to begin reading and understanding the Bible, including 5 questions you can use to guide yourself through any book, chapter, or segment of Scripture. In today’s post, I’m going to tell you 5 things I wish I had known about the Bible before I even began studying it. These 5 principles will change the way you approach Bible study by widening your viewpoint of God’s Word and correctly orienting you to it. So let’s get to it.
Principle #1: The Bible is a book about God.
Ok, granted, this may seem obvious, but hear me out on this one. This one truth, more than any other Bible study tip I have ever received, absolutely revolutionized my understanding of the Bible.
When we study the Bible, it’s important that we keep the point of the Bible at the center of our study, and the point of the Bible is God Himself. Because God is the point of the Bible, everything in the Bible points to Him. Every book, every story, every character, every event - they all reveal information to us regarding the nature and character of God. As you read, you can keep this in mind by continually asking yourself questions like these:
What does this book, chapter, event, character tell us about God?
How does God reveal to us who He is through this account?
What do I learn about God's unchanging nature through this story?
The Bible is the primary tool through which God reveals Himself to us, which makes God-centered Bible study one of the most powerful means through which we draw near to him. Keeping the above questions in mind as you study the Bible will help you keep the point of the Bible at the center of your study. It will help you remember that the Bible is first and foremost, a book about God.
Principle #2: The Bible is not a book about you.
Point #2 is a necessary corollary of Point #1. If God is the main point of the Bible, then that must mean that you and I are NOT the main point of the Bible. That means that the Bible is not about us. It’s about Him. However, many of us learned to read the Bible as if it really is all about us. Think about how often questions such as these run through your mind as you approach Bible study:
How is this information going to help me?
Improve my relationships?
Help me steward my resources?
Shape the way I make decisions?
I’m not saying that these are bad questions to ask. But they mustn't be the primary questions we ask. The only “me” question that is of primary importance in Bible study is, “What does this information reveal to me about my God.” This is because the Gospel is not about who you are, but about who He is.
A good rule of thumb for Bible study is this; the “He” has to come before the “me.”
We will learn a lot about who we are as individuals, as well as human nature in general, through Bible study. However, that is not why we study the Bible.
We study the Bible to learn about God. Only after we nail down what a particular book/verse/character reveals to us about God, will we then ask ourselves, "In light of what this passage reveals to us about God, what do we learn about the nature of people in general or me in particular?”
Principle #3: The Bible tells one big story.
The Bible tells the most amazing story of all-time. The point of the entire Bible is to tell this one story. Even though the Bible is composed of 66 different books, written by over 40 different people (the majority of whom never knew each other), during a period of over 1600 years, the theme of this one story is unmistakable and there is one consistent message from God to man.
Having a correct understanding of the grand-scale Biblical narrative is crucial to a proper understanding of each individual character, book, story, and event in the Bible. We have to study each portion of the Bible in light of the bigger story in which it is embedded.
Principle #4: The Bible is about real people.
Coming to understand this principle absolutely brought the Bible to life for me.
The stories we read in the Bible are true stories that happened to real people.
These stories reveal to us information about an actual, living God.
Although I certainly didn’t recognize it at the time, for so long I read the Bible as if it were some sort of fable or fairy tale; a book full of principles for how to live and what kind of person I should be. This, however, is not the heart of the Bible. The heart of the Bible is that we would come to know God through our reading of it. And God chooses to reveal to us who He is through the stories of His people. His real people. And their true stories.
As we read the Bible with this in mind we come to see that the people in the Bible are not so different from you and I, and their stories bear a striking resemblance to our stories. As we come to know them and their stories, we better recognize God in ours.
Principle #5: The Bible is a supernatural book.
Although written by human hands, the words of the Bible are divinely inspired, with authorship of the book ultimately being attributed to God Himself. Because of this, the Bible is no ordinary book and we cannot fully understand it through ordinary means. That means the we are dependent on the Holy Spirit in our study of God’s Word.
We use the minds God gave us to study, explore, and press into God’s Word, and then we wholly depend on the Spirit to lead us to trust it, accept it and walk in it.
So there you have it. The 5 principles that have revolutionized the way I study the Bible. I hope you find them helpful as you seek to meet God through His Word. If you have a Bible study tip that’s changed the way that you study, I’d love to hear it! Comment below and let’s learn from each other as we press into God’s Word.