How Can I Get Started Reading the Bible? The Problem with False Prophets, Then and Now Why Does Small Group Bible Study Matter?
While sitting in a church several years ago, I listened to the speaker make a statement to the effect of, “give me liberty or give me death.” While those were not the exact words, he prefaced his remark boldly with, “the Bible says.” The words he spoke were obviously not in the Bible, yet a strange thing happened. A majority of the congregation shouted a hearty “Amen!” to what was spoken. I looked around incredulously, thinking to myself, “What is going in here? Why has nearly everyone agreed with this clearly unbiblical statement?” As stunned as I was by what had happened, I resigned myself to the sad truth that this particular congregation, at least those who had lent their assent, were not only biblically incompetent, but also probably biblically illiterate.
As cruel as this may sound, the fact remains that one of the greatest threats to a strong and healthy walk with the Lord is false teaching. False teaching has made its way into the church on the back of truth by twisting and even denying God’s Word. From the very beginning, we read Satan’s first spoken words to Eve through the serpent:
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1).
With this statement, Satan introduces both doubt and unbelief into Eve’s life. But it was what he said next that would bring the false teaching to her, questioning and misinterpreting God’s purposes:
“’You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (Genesis 3:4-5).
This blatant denial of God’s spoken word has continued through the years in one form or another. But how does it happen? We’re given a hint in the book of Jude:
“For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” (Jude 1:4).
Because the church was unequipped, those with harmful intentions were able to find a place among the people of God and introduce doctrines of demons. Every child of God needs to guard against the threat of false teaching by executing a battle plan that includes the consistent and diligent study of God’s Word.
It’s not necessary to compile a variety of degrees or certificates for this to happen, though there is certainly no harm in it. All the Lord desires is that we devote ourselves to the careful reading, study and application of His Word. The value of Bible study must not be minimized. Here is the rule: We should become so familiar with the truth, that a lie will not have a chance in your presence, and Bible study will help to accomplish this. A failure to devote oneself to it is not only a sign of spiritual apathy, but it will prove to be detrimental to your walk.
Here then are five solid reasons why you need Bible study:
1. It Guards You Against False Teachings
As it has been prefaced, false teaching is very dangerous, and it should never be underestimated. We should look at false teaching as a disease; it is a deadly virus that seeks to infect and contaminate individuals and even entire congregations. Likewise, we should see the truth that is God’s Word as the vaccination or cure that will stop its spread and eradicate the damage it causes spiritually to your life. This is because God’s truth is the only power that can effectively offset and destroy doctrines of demons. And while all false doctrine may not be classified as doctrines of devils, all false doctrine has in fact, “erred from the truth.” We read:
“Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:16-18).
This particular false teaching was able to undermine the faith of certain individuals who heard it. It will have the same effect on those who have not sufficiently protected themselves through the careful and faithful study of God’s Word. Bible study unites us with the psalmist as he wrote these words:
“I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws” (Psalm 119:30).
2. It Increases Your Level of Discernment
The renowned nineteenth century revivalist Charles Spurgeon made a fascinating statement that reveals just how important discernment is. He said that “discernment is not just knowing the difference between right and wrong, it is knowing the difference between right and almost right.” This apt description does not just apply to false teaching, but to all matters of faith and life. The more we deliberately expose ourselves to God’s Word, the more His Word will be able take root in our lives. Here is truth: our level of discernment will be commensurate with our time spent in the study of his Word. Once again we read the words of the psalmist:
“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).
3. It Is Able to Make You Wise unto Salvation
“And how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).
Bible study will help to reinforce the truth that Christ is to be the focal point of our faith. What must be understood is that Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of the Bible. From Genesis 3:15, where we read the protoevangelium, or first gospel, we hear the prophets speak of and point to one who would come bringing salvation with Him; that One is Jesus Christ. Bible study will also give us a fuller appreciation of this great salvation in which His grace has made us a part.
There are many things in this world that we can choose to be wise to, but there is no greater wisdom to which we can attain to than the wisdom we receive through the earnest study of God’s Word concerning who we are in Christ.
4. It Keeps You from Wrongly Dividing the Word
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
If Scripture can be rightly divided, then surely it can also be wrongly divided—and none of us want to be that one who does such a thing. As we study His Word, the Holy Spirit, who superintended the writing of the Word, will guide us into truth.
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come” (John 16:13).
The Holy Spirit will never promote, confirm, or approve that which is not truth. Because He is the Spirit of truth, this is what He reveals. Anyone who deliberately falsifies Scripture, or is guilty of spreading dangerous doctrinal deviations, has not heard from the Spirit of God. Certain teachings may sound right and even feel right, but if it does not line up with Scripture, it is to be rejected.
5. It Will Bless You When Its Principles Are Kept and Applied
The Word of God will never be able to accomplish its desired effect in our lives unless we apply to our lives what we have received. By default, not doing so causes us to be the dreaded hearers of the Word, and not doers (James 1:22). Rather we should continue to look into the Word—and that with purpose:
“But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do” (James 1:25).
In closing, how you view the Word of God will determine the place that it holds in your life. The Bible should not be consigned as just “good literature,” or a “great read.” It is not simply a book of short stories or even a history book of sorts. All of these ideas are far from the actual truth. The Bible is the unerring, infallible, unchanging, and ever living Word of God. The very same people who refer to God as “the man upstairs,” are the same people who refer to the Bible as “the good book.” But it is so much more!
These final words from the psalmist serve to show us all we need to understand about God’s Word and why we need to devote ourselves to its study:
“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:7-11).
Is this your heart? Let’s remove every obstacle that prevents us from accomplishing this very undervalued component to our life in the Lord.