Why Study The Bible (4th in Series)

Bible study   

Dr. Stephen Newdell, drawing from notes By Robert Velarde

Part of the Why Study the Bible Series

  1. Why Study the Bible?
  2. How to Study the Bible
  3. How to Study the Bible In-Depth
  4. Necessity of Family Bible Time
  5. Devotional Bible Study Is Not an Option

Series About:

The Study of God

What sort of society would we have without the Bible? Compare what you imagine to what he have.

The Bible is both practical and foundational to society. It is practical in everyday life. The Bible provides real reasons for us to value what it tells us. Bible study is foundational to almost everything we do that holds society together.

While not an exhaustive list, here are eight reasons for studying the Bible:

  • Cultural literacy
  • To learn what it says firsthand
  • Personal edification
  • To help others
  • Jesus
  • Because it is God’s Word to us
  • To know God better
  • Avoiding error

Cultural Literacy

Bible study makes you culturally literate. It makes us “civilized.”  E.D. Hirsch writes, “To be culturally literate is to possess the basic information needed to thrive in the modern world.”1 

The Bible contains a wealth of cultural literacy. References to the Bible are not only found in religion, but also art, music, drama, philosophy, literature, law, celebrations, weddings, holidays, your first and foreign languages…almost every day you’ll hear or read a reference to The Bible in some way. Knowing what the Bible says is an important part of everyone’s knowledge-base. I want to give you some examples.

Let’s suppose you’re at a movie and you see and hear something including clouds, white doves or dry bones. What do those clouds, doves and bones symbolize? If you don’t know an important meaning in the movie means nothing to you.

Suppose you’re in the grocery store and see something that says it’s Kosher for Passover. Have you any idea what that means?

I lived at one time near Seattle and the Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong spoke in our little village church. At one point he said, Now of course, Jesus being Jewish….” and a man in the audience interrupted him and said, “Did you say Jesus was Jewish?” Bishop spong replied, “Well of course he was Jewish!” and that man replied much perturbed, “Well…surely The Mother Mary wasn’t Jewish!?” Here was a guy who thought he was a devout Christian believer but had never studied the Bible and was making a display of ignorance and folly before an entire crowd at Easter. He can dress up and drive to work but that doesn’t make him civilized. He doesn’t know the roots of our civility!

Here are some symbolism snips from: https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/dictionary-of-bible-themes/1670-symbols

1670 SYMBOLS

Objects, actions or creatures that have a deeper significance and are so understood by those who see them or use them.

Symbolic objects

The rainbow: a symbol of God’s covenant See also Ge 9:13Eze 1:28Rev 4:3

A stairway: a symbol of the way to God Ge 28:11-13Jn 1:51

Thunder, lightning, cloud and smoke: symbols of God’s majesty Ex 19:16-18Ex 24:17Ps 97:2,4Rev 4:5Rev 8:5Rev 11:19

Thunder: a symbol of God’s voice Ps 29:3Ps 68:33

Trumpets: a symbol of God speaking Ex 19:19Rev 8:6

The pillar of cloud and fire: a symbol of guidance Ex 13:21

A throne: a symbol of God’s glory Isa 6:1Eze 1:26Rev 4:2Rev 22:3

Dry bones: a symbol of spiritual death Eze 37:1-2,11

White hair: a symbol of wisdom Da 7:9Rev 1:14

The wind: a symbol of the Holy Spirit Jn 3:8Ac 2:2

Fire: a symbol of the Holy Spirit Ac 2:3

Stars and lampstands: symbols of God’s ministers Rev 1:20

A signet ring: a symbol of authority Est 8:10Hag 2:23

Arrows: symbols of God’s judgments Ps 38:2Ps 120:4

A sceptre: a symbol of God’s rule Ps 2:9Rev 2:27Rev 19:15

The capstone: a symbol of pre-eminence Mt 21:42 pp Mk 12:10-11 pp Lk 20:17Ps 118:22

A rock: a symbol of stability Ps 18:2Ps 40:2

The human body: a symbol of interdependence 1Co 12:27

Grass: a symbol of human frailty Ps 90:5-61Pe 1:24

I knew a girl who thought her fighter kite near another fighter kite was “symbolic” of something she had made up out of thin air. She only proved (again) that she was a cute creature but certainly not growing up to be a civilized and respectable Lady. She was proving she was a fool. She didn’t think there was anything wrong about admitting she had had “more than 50” lovers before age 16. Why would anyone care? Maybe because The Bible tells us it’s a sin that (once understood) might preclude us from entering the Kingdom of Heaven. Does it seem a bit more important to you now?

How many young men do you know who know nothing of the Bible and nothing of the law and think anytime they want they can beat someone up and they are the law unto themselves….until they wind up in jail? I have known several. I hope I’m extending the viewpoint that we cannot have a civil society without the teachings and precepts of The Holy Scriptures handed to us by Moses, various kings and prophets, and then later the Apostles and The Living Word of God, himself, Jesus the Christ!

Many popular phrases and figures of speech also find their origin in the Bible including being a Good Samaritan, the folly of letting the blind lead the blind, going the extra mile, ethical maxims such as “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” manna from heaven, etc. Hirsch considers the Bible so important to cultural literacy that it appears first in his Dictionary of Cultural Literacy.

Anyone who aspires to mature to be a respected civilized gentlemen or lady of business, oratory, and world affairs must understand The Bible.

What Does It Say?

Another reason to study the Bible is to learn what it has to say firsthand. Whether one is a supporter or critic of the Bible, or perhaps just neutral or disinterested in the topic, history has demonstrated that the Bible cannot be ignored. Considering that the Bible is important to three major world religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – it is worthy of study.

In addition, the recent rise of hostile criticism towards the Bible itself and religion in general also makes it worthy of study. Sometimes the critics do not always quote the Bible correctly or in context. Knowing what it says firsthand and having some knowledge of the context is helpful in understanding not only current events, but key ideas the Bible addresses such as the nature and existence of God, the human condition, the biblical pattern of redemption and salvation and ethics.

We live in troubled times of deception. I have several times read short articles and posts by Joel Osteen the pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. He often writes, “the scriptures say” but never gives references and arguments about their meaning. This is not a scholarly pursuit and leaves much doubt about the efficacy of his teachings. The man has a gigantic church taking in over 90-million dollars per year in contributions and no one is certain about his Bible references. I grant he’s making a lot of money. As for his Pastoral skills, I think I am not alone saying such non-referenced writing leaves something to be desired. I maintain, God does not want to make you rich. God has many more important issues to consider other than your materialistic desires.

Personal Edification

For thousands of years the Bible has been read not only as history and God’s Word, but also for personal edification. This, of course, is a more meaningful reason for studying the Bible for those who believe in God, but the Bible is also surprisingly edifying for those who do not believe. It is full of individuals facing moral choices, life challenges, and, frankly, situations that are applicable to us even today. As Paul wrote about the “Old Testament” scripture, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV).

He might nowadays say that also about the New Testament, but in his day there was none.

The Bible is available for us to learn from not only on an intellectual level, but on a personal and emotional level. People read the intellectual material and consider it, and over time they realize new meanings, new emotional realizations and applications to their personal lives.

To Help Others

But the Bible is not just for us to keep to ourselves as individuals. It is also useful in helping others. We gain centuries of wisdom and are thus able to help others by studying the Bible. Proverbs, for instance, contain general principles and ideas to assist anyone in living their lives in a way that is helpful and pleasing to God.

Studying the Bible in order to help others is not just for ministers, priests,  pastors, and rabbis. It is something everyone can and should do. By knowing what the Bible says on different subjects, we can help others through difficult circumstances, encourage them and sometimes even rescue their lives!

Jesus

For Christians the New Testament explains the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and of course it tells us within the true gospel, the message God sent through Jesus for all of us (available on this website.) Some 2,000 years after the time of Christ, His life and ministry remain relevant even in our contemporary world. Regardless of how one views Christ, like the Bible, He cannot be ignored. Far from being a distant prophet or irrelevant figure in history, Jesus Christ is at Christianity’s foundation. Particularly studying the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John will help anyone gain a better understanding of Jesus and His mission.

God’s Word to Us 

For people the world over, the Bible is God’s Word to us. People inspired by God recorded the words that make up the Bible, thus communicating what theologians call special revelation. In other words, God has chosen to reveal Himself not only through creation and conscience, but also specially through Jesus and through His Word. Studying the Bible, then, is a matter of course for those who love God and desire to follow Him.

After all, when you consider what the Bible really is, and how intricate and complex are its hidden meanings, and realize that the wisest of men can be confounded by its enormous meanings, and then consider that it is God’s Message For YOU, don’t you think it would be an insult to God if you ignored it? Do you think it might be the most important piece of literature in the Western World? I do.

To Know God Better

Since the Bible is God’s Word, studying it is a way to know God better. Through His words we come to know not only the nature and attributes of God, but we also come to understand His plan for each of us. In a larger sense, we also come to know God’s plan in history, His sovereignty, His providence, His love and more. There is much we can learn about God apart from the Bible, but the Bible is the essential message carrier explaining God and his plans for YOU, to you.

Avoiding Error

Studying the Bible also helps us avoid theological error. The Bible tells us, “Watch your life and doctrine closely” (1 Timothy 4:16 NIV), adding that we “must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1 NIV). If the Bible is our authority for faith and life, then the inspired words it contains will help us to avoid error. In a pluralistic world with many religious and non-religious ideas competing for attention, studying the Bible provides us with a firm foundation in God’s truth rather than the errors of the world. Knowing the Bible also helps us respond to error and answer questions that skeptics and others may have about it.

As we have seen, studying the Bible is important for a number of reasons. The Bible is not just for theologians and scholars. Rather, it is God’s Word in plain language intended for everyone. Together, we will explore the importance of Bible study and its relevance to everyday life. Far from being a stuffy or boring book, the Bible is the inspired and authoritative Word of God, helpful in building us up so that we may serve, love and glorify God and His Son, Jesus Christ, as we are intended to do.

Focus on the Family is a donor-supported ministry.

  1. D. Hirsch, Cultural Literacy(Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987), xiii. 

Why Study The Bible (A Series)

  1. How To Navigate The Holy Bible
  2. Why Study The Bible? and How to: (#1 of a series)
  3. How God Preserved the Bible (Why Study The Bible 2nd in series)
  4. To Understand the Bible (Why Study The Bible 3rd in series)
  5. Why Study The Bible (4th in Series)
  6. How To Develop Devotional Bible Study (5th in Series)
  7. Part 6 How To Develop Devotional Bible Study (6th in Series)
  8. Part 7 Devotional Bible Study A Daily Practice 7th in Why Study The Bible series
  9. Why We Should Read The Bible (8th in Series)
  10. Part 9: Last of series:  Studying the Scriptures
  11. What Christians Should Know About The Old Testament First 5-Books
  12. Four Best Pieces of Marital Advice
  13. How The Flat Earthers are Chasing People Away From Salvation
  14. EASTER:   The Cosmic Significance of The Cross!
  15. TRUMP OFFICIALLY RECOGNIZES ISRAELI CONTROL OVER GOLAN
  16. Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.

 

  1. How To Navigate The Holy Bible
  2. Why Study The Bible? and How to: (#1 of a series)
  3. How God Preserved the Bible (Why Study The Bible 2nd in series)
  4. To Understand the Bible (Why Study The Bible 3rd in series)
  5. Why Study The Bible (4th in Series)
  6. How To Develop Devotional Bible Study (5th in Series)
  7. Part 6 How To Develop Devotional Bible Study (6th in Series)
  8. Part 7 Devotional Bible Study A Daily Practice 7th in Why Study The Bible series
  9. Why We Should Read The Bible (8th in Series)
  10. Part 9: Last of series:  Studying the Scriptures