[Today marks the 9th edition in our "The Church and..." series. Our guest writer today is Drew Kizer. Drew preaches for the Ashville Road church of Christ in Leeds, Alabama. He has served there since 2000. A graduate of both the undergraduate and graduate Bible schools at Freed-Hardeman University, Drew also makes regular trips to Russia, where he helps train preachers and conduct evangelistic work. He is the author of three books. Drew is married to Julie and they have two beautiful children, Ava and Jackson (their newborn!). We are grateful for Drew for so many reasons. We hope you will read his words carefully and see a man who loves God's Word. Also, make sure you check out Drew's blog, Truth and Repose, here.]
What would happen if the Bible were lost? Some people, I imagine, would say this is impossible, but it has happened, and it can happen again.
During the first half of the seventh century B.C., Judah was ruled by two wicked kings: Manasseh and his son Amon. Together they enveloped God’s people in a shroud of wickedness for 57 years. During this time God’s Word was utterly lost to the people, and the temple in Jerusalem was desecrated.
Upon Amon’s assassination in 640 B.C., his eight-year-old son Josiah ascended to the throne. During a temple renovation project he had ordered, a copy of the long-forsaken “book of the law” was found (2 Kgs. 22:8). This was read to the king who, upon hearing these words, tore his clothes in dismay and immediately executed an extensive series of religious and social reforms.
The Bible practically disappeared again during the Dark Ages. During that time the Bible was not available to the common man. And while there were copies in the Greek and Hebrew languages, most of the available editions were in Latin. In a world where much of the human race was illiterate and those who could read and write did not speak Latin, the Bible was again lost in obscurity.
In a lonely library during the early sixteenth century, Martin Luther studied law at the University of Erfurt in Germany. One day, while hard at work, he found to his surprise and great delight a copy of the Bible in Latin. He consumed it, having never seen one before. The first passage he read was the story of Hannah and Samuel. When he returned to his room that evening, he wished to himself, “Oh that God would give me such a book for myself!” From that point forward, new truth began to dawn upon his mind. He would later say of his chance discovery, “In that Bible the Reformation lay hid.”
If the Bible has disappeared before, could it not happen again? Look around. There are signs that it is already happening. Political scandals invade public offices on every level. Over 40 percent of marriages end in divorce. Churches are forsaking biblical authority, exchanging truth for “what works.” Every decade sees American falling deeper into moral depravity. The picture is bleak, but true. The signs are obvious to anyone who cares to notice. The Bible’s influence is fading.
The only way God’s Word will gain a foothold in society is for it to be studied and preached in God’s church. Bible study is an indispensible work of the church. Christians are to be the “light of the world” (Mt. 5:14-16); the “manifold wisdom of God” is to be made known through the church (Eph. 3:10). If the Bible vanishes, the blame lies on the shoulders of Christians, no one else.
Seeing the Profit
Consider the following advantages to being a part of a congregation that is engaged in a study of God’s Word:
1. Bible study is good for a church’s health. Like the church at Laodicea (Rev. 3:15-17), churches that suffer from biblical illiteracy become “lukewarm.” The Bible’s instruction regarding zeal, love and good works, however, turns up the flame, causing churches to boil (cf. Titus 2:14; Heb. 10:24).
2. Bible study is the only way to combat false teaching. Jesus says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Mt. 7:15). Jesus’ metaphor of “sheep’s clothing” reveals that false teachers’ disguises are both comforting and convincing. So how do we avoid false teaching? Jesus answers, “You will recognize them by their fruits” (v. 16). That is, by comparing their teaching with what is written in the New Testament, we may expose them for who they really are.
3. A study of God’s Word also brings meaning to our lives. The scriptures teach that we were created for holy things, not worldly pursuits (Is. 43:7; Acts 17:26-28). C.S. Lewis once said,
A car is made to run on gasoline, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on himself. He himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other.
An animal is not wired this way. A mule can plow the same field day after day, and that’s okay with him. He doesn’t fear death or wonder where he came from; he doesn’t need promises for the future. But we do. The Bible is where we find these promises. Without it, life doesn’t make any sense.
4. Bible study profits a church’s growth. Throughout the book of Acts we see a correlation between teaching the Word of God and church growth (Acts 6:7; 12:24; 19:20). This is because the power of God’s salvation is in the gospel (Rom. 1:16; Jas. 1:21). The church will not grow (at least, not in terms of actual growth as God sees it) unless its members learn, study, and preach the gospel of Christ.
Setting up a Plan
What should Christians do once they are in the “study”? Here are some suggestions:
- Read. Read the Bible. Read other tools and resources that will aid your understanding of the Bible. Stay up to date on challenges facing the brotherhood using monthly periodicals. Read anything that will be of value.
- Memorize. There is no better way to stamp the Word of God on your heart. The Psalmist “stored up” God’s Word in his heart so that we would not sin (Ps. 119:11). So should we.
- Record. Make a list of your goals for study, reading and memorization. Track your progress.
- Review. Once you have memorized a verse, you will have to go back over it several times before it becomes permanent in your memory. Even then you will have to freshen up on it. Review is also important in just reading the Bible. Those who read through the Bible every year say they pick up new insights every time.
God’s Word is powerful and effective. Isaiah testified of its force, saying,
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (55:10-11)
A church that studies the Bible is a church that is healthy, happy and growing. Elders should consider setting up a plan for study within their respective congregations. They will see results.