When someone first hears about The Biblical Plan of Salvation they often express shock because they never knew there was anything different from what they had been taught and they think all of Christendom teaches the same thing. I tell them, “Yes. People really need to study the Bible in order to become a Christian!” And when they hear this, it is not uncommon for them to go back to their denominational pastor and ask, “Do I really need to study the Bible to be saved?”
“No, of course not.” Comes the reply. “That’s ridiculous. Look no further than the 3000 who were baptized on the day of Pentecost. Do you think they studied the Bible? No, there was no time. They simply heard Peter’s sermon and accepted Christ!” Now, this reasoning sounds good but let’s think it through.
You Might Not Need to Study the Bible if…
If you have never heard of Jesus, it is true; the simple Gospel message can be accepted and obeyed.
But given our current religious climate it would be highly unlikely. Let me explain.
Three thousand people did indeed become Christians on the day of Pentecost and it is unlikely that any of them opened a scroll to study it. Even the Apostle Paul, by the time Romans was written could say, “Faith comes from hearing the word…” Romans 10:17. So what’s changed? Why would studying the Bible to become a Christian be so important today?
A Lot Has Changed in 2000 Years!
Unlike the day of Pentecost, Christianity has been here for 2000 years and has had ample time to become incredibly perverted. Grab a phone book… if you can still find one… and look up “Churches” in the Yellow Pages. Under that category, you will find a huge number of different sub-headings for all the various denominations and within those denominational divisions a plethora of divided churches. They all teach slightly, and sometimes vastly, different things. That’s why they became divided. The goal and purpose of solid Bible study is to address and correct the denominational aberrations and bias which have been introduced over the last two millennia and bring spiritual thinking and reasoning back under the authority of scripture; since it is the source of our faith. It is, after all, our founder’s book.
This may sound really strange but based on my experience, the first battle I face teaching my religious friends, will be their acceptance of the authority of scripture. One would think this situation would be reversed. A religious person should, by nature, accept the authority of scripture and a person without any formal religion would be less ready to accept scriptural authority. But this is not the case.
The Problem with Traditions
Religious folks often carry decades of denominational teaching and traditions which must be carefully and gently addressed. This is done by exposing current beliefs to the light of scripture and carefully reasoning out incongruences. Even this process can be difficult because of our natural inclination to reject new ideas. We can sure get stuck in our ways, can’t we? Couple this attitude with a general apathy toward “matters spiritual” and we create a real dilemma. So, from the outset, we must establish that the Bible is the authority and we must listen to and obey it’s teachings above anything we have previously learned.
Most believers typically depend on their pastor or priest to tell them what the Bible says. A church service is the extent of their spiritual diet for the week. They rarely check things out for themselves. Most people naturally distrust anyone claiming to offer the word of God who is outside their current circle of religious experience; even if that person is asking them to read the same Bible they claim to follow. New ideas are treated with suspicion. Now, healthy suspicion can be a good thing, but we should never be completely closed to learning new truth when it comes directly and clearly from the scriptures, right? If we claim to follow the Bible, why not read the Bible? There is absolutely nothing to be afraid of, if you are trusting God to show you the truth.
Ahh… but learning new truth can be painful! When we sit down and carefully listen to and consider new ideas, process them in our heart, then take a humble, honest look at what scriptures really teach about a cherished tradition, we are pretty much guaranteed to bump into some inconsistencies. When this happens, a small warning light pops up on some security panel in our brain, and we get a bit defensive. Why? Because we just saw something in the scripture which is completely inconsistent with what we believe, value and teach. Let me walk you through my scenario as an example.
What the Bible Says vs. What I Want it to Say
Here is a simple clear verse in the Bible. It is Jesus himself speaking.
And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.
This Biblical verse is not difficult to understand. The context of the verse does not change even if you go back and read both before and after the verse. It stands alone as a simple clear command of Christ.
I spent a good bit of time in the Catholic Church where it was a common and accepted practice to call my priest, “Father.” In fact, I liked the practice. I saw my priest as a “fatherly” figure. I loved and respected him as my religious leader. I trusted him. The term “father,” for me, carried a fondness and respect for him and it felt good. I saw nothing wrong with this. Not only did it feel nurturing, it seemed harmless. I called him, “Father” out of love, respect and reverence for God.
Then someone showed me Matthew 23:9, “Do not call any man father.”
Wow, what a bombshell. The Bible said one thing but my Catholic training told me another thing. How in the world could I possibly reconcile this discrepancy. It was simple. With a wave of the hand I dismissed issue completely. Or, should I say, “I dismissed the Bible completely?”
What else could I do. A very cherished part of my religious experience was just challenged by a Bible thumping bigot, bent on destroying the religious practices I had come to know, love and adore. I felt the conflict but dismissed it easily. I did not listen nor did I want to. I was doing what I believed was right for me. It was all very natural and very easy. But what really just happened? I thought I was rejecting the messenger but I was really rejecting the scripture. Do you see that?
The Bible clearly and simply states that we are to call no man “father.” I was unwilling to accept this command and even listen! And therein lies the key to the entire problem of studying the Bible with a religious person. Tradition is Lord! They will not listen.
How to become an awesome listener.
Listening opens the door to new growth but to get there, a bunch of old growth needs to be cleared away and that can be a painful experience. When I see something in the Scriptures which correct one of my deeply held and cherished religious beliefs, by definition, it means I have been wrong about something. Nobody likes to be wrong! It’s embarrassing. It condemns me. Things I have said or taught previously may need to be corrected. That can add additional embarrassment. Now we’re getting to the root issue. This is an issue of pride!
The killer thing about pride is it prevents us from listening. We hear, but we do not listen. If you have never heard my podcast on this topic, I hope you will do that. It was Podcast 004 – An Awesome Gift. https://www.afaiththatobeys.org/blog/an-awesome-gift/
In that podcast, I talk about how vitally important it is to not only listen well, but stop and consider “how” we are listening. It is so important that we always keep this ability under close scrutiny. Are we listening carefully? In my example above, I was not listening carefully and easily rejected the message. I was acting like most people act. I was apathetic and unconcerned and an unconcerned person will never grow very much.
Our Supreme Source of Religious Authority
The Bible is the word of God. The Bible is the supreme source of religious authority. When we approach the cross and begin our search for salvation, it is to the Bible we must turn, not to a person or our traditions. A person may guide us… but our focus must be on the Word of God and it must become the authority for all the spiritual decisions we make. Listen to these verses from John 1. They build a framework for a very important concept.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…
Think about this. Listen carefully. John says, “The Word became flesh.” That’s Jesus. But I thought the Bible is the Word of God. It is. If Jesus is the word of God and the Bible is the Word of God, then our relationship with Him is only as deep as our Bible study! Let that one sink in. We cannot claim to know Christ and not know His word. Jesus is the word of God! When someone tells me they love Jesus but don’t read or study the word, I really have to question that claim. If we love Christ, we spend time with Christ. We meet with him every day in the pages of scripture. This is how someone has a real relationship with God.
How to spend time with Christ
Relationships are based on two things, time together and communication. When we spend time in the Word and prayer, we spend time with Christ. If Jesus is the word of God, then we know Jesus as well as we know the word! We cannot claim a relationship with Christ if we spend no time with him.
Bible study is an activity all Christians should practice and enjoy. If you love the Lord, Bible study should be something you want for yourself. It is a critical foundational practice you will enjoy as a life long pursuit. It goes way, way beyond the initial salvation experience. Where is your heart for God if you are not seeking him with every fiber of your being…? Where is your heart?
When a non-christian expresses an interest in Christ, I know the first order of business will be to build a respect and a trust for the word of God in their heart. This is not done through clever words or presentation, it must be done by the word itself; which convinces an individual of its importance. Listen to Isaiah.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
It is the Word which has the power to change the heart and the eternity.
You know, in one respect, it is not my job is not to teach the truth. My job is to point people to the Bible which teaches them the truth. Faith is produced by hearing “the word,” not hearing my words. Remember?
“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”
So, because of the current religious environment we live in, it is so absolutely vital that we have a deep conviction that the Bible must be held up as the supreme authority and all of our religious practices must be scrutinized by it alone. The consequences of not comparing our previous religious experiences to the scriptures can be disastrous.
Did you know it is possible to believe the Gospel in vain? It all has to do with how we handle the Word of God.
1 Corinthians 15:2
By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
The Word is Supreme.
1 Thessalonians 2:13
And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.
It is through the word of God, not human words, by which we are Born Again.
He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all he created.
Humbly accepting the Word is what will save you, not just simply asking Jesus to come into your life.
Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
In today’s modern evangelical world, Biblical truth tragically takes a back seat to time tested traditions such as The Sinners Prayer, Praying the Rosary, Putting our hope in our Infant Baptism or asking a Saint for help. These are traditions and traditions can be massive roadblocks on that narrow path to a saving faith. And guess what? This is nothing new! This was a problem in Jesus day just as much as it is in our era. Jesus identified the exact same problem and demolished it.
“Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
When we place time honored traditions above the Word of God, Jesus said we “nullify” the Word. That’s like taking a big red marker, opening the Bible and drawing massive red Xs across each page. We blindly slash away at the scripture by following man made practices and traditions. May it never be!
Fall in Love with the Scriptures!
Someone who wants to become a Christian must develop a deep love and respect for the scriptures. They must learn to feed themselves and grow away from the weekly spoon feedings a once-a-week church service offers. Since the scripture is our sole source of authority on spiritual matters, we must desire to know them well. Sure, it’s fine to have leaders and partners who can offer guidance and direction by pointing us back to the scriptures. That’s what discipling is all about; one person sharpens another person’s faith. But, this is always done using the Word of God. The Scripture remains supreme through that entire process.
One of the first things I tell someone who wants to study the Bible is, “Don’t believe anything your priest or pastor tells you. Read it for yourself and study it out from the Word. And Oh, by the way, don’t believe anything I tell you either.”
As they recover from their shock, I point them to this scripture.
“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
If the Bereans did not accept what Paul said, do you think you should trust me? No. You must search out the truth for yourself. It is your salvation. It is your relationship with God and it must be pursued through the Scriptures.
Some may complain, “You know, the Bible can be hard to understand; what about interpretation?”
What interpretation are you talking about, yours or God’s?
Do you honestly think God would graciously and mercifully provide the sacrifice for our sins in the life of Jesus Christ… for FREE… then present a book that was so difficult to understand that nobody could figure out the right way to appropriate the gift God provides? That pretty much turns God into the celestial version of Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown every time he tries to kick it — then laughing hysterically. Is that the God we serve? No!
God has not only lovingly given us a savior, He has given us an instruction manual which, if read with the heart of a child, can be easily understood and followed. If you will permit me to mix metaphors once again, this is not rocket surgery!
Therefore, because of the current religious environment we find ourselves in, it is absolutely critical that before we approach the throne of Grace, we make certain we are on the correct road. We must not be on the road of traditions or the road of good intentions… no matter how well trodden it is, even by the so called giants of the traditional church such as Luther, Calvin, Wesley, MacArthur or Graham. Don’t discard what they have brought to the table but weigh carefully everything in the light of Scripture.
This is interesting. There is only one person who does not want us to study the Bible and surely, we don’t want to be listening to him, do we? Be a Berean. Then you will develop a faith that obeys.Enjoy!