There are many dire predictions for who Christians don’t study their Bibles enough. They will be weak. They will fall prey to heresy. They will backslide. These are things we are told over and over. Neglect a word study or a historical insight at your own risk. Only the most expert at Biblical dissection are fit to counsel others. Those who neglect a daily reading are probably carnal.
Or are they? Possibly a soul so well-founded in the simple truth of salvation in Jesus Christ has confidence without daily Bible reading. This might be something to worth pondering. After all, the earliest Christians only heard the uncomplicated message of hope and believed with all their hearts. They were told to encourage one another, but they had to do that without access to the printed Bible the way it is available now. Even the letters they apparently occasionally received were from people in their timeline. There is a conspicuous lack of commandments to the early church to read Scripture daily. Old testament references to “hiding God’s word” in the heart do not need to assume a person can’t remember words and needs to have them repeated daily. Hiding is something usually done as a singular event.
The references to Scripture in the New Testament are predominantly used to prove who God and Jesus are, to point out that certain events had been planned for quite some time, to show that encouraging heartfelt faith was always the goal. And Scripture is used to highlight that we were always supposed to love our neighbors. Here are some search results for the word ‘scripture’ on the Blue Letter Bible website.
It is also used to emphasize that once we believe IN (not about, heard of, etc) Jesus Christ we will have rivers of living water flowing from our innermost beings. (i.e. John 7:38) This doesn’t sound like the kind of people who need to be afraid that if they don’t read the Bible they will “not hear from God.” The fact that encouragement was written down does not detract from the source of truth within us. (1 John 2)
Now, obviously God has preserved this document we call the Bible and it can be of use to us. But, the heavens declare the glory of God and He has given each of us an inner awareness of Him that we are also free to acknowledge or ignore. Plenty of people choose to ignore every way He makes Himself known. The Bible is no different.
The Bible is one way He speaks His word, and He won’t contradict Himself. The Bible can be useful for testing what other’s try to claim about God. However, it is an unhappy fact that many a person has manipulated what is in the Bible to the destruction of souls and division of relationships. There is no magic that floats out of the pages of the Bible when it is opened to overwhelm the will of a person. We are always free to love and follow God. Or not. I have read wonderful stories of some people coming to see the truth of God’s love through reading the Bible. I have also run across many people who have read it cover to cover and sneered at it. A heart has to humbly want the truth.
Some Bible readers have a tendency to play “Whack-a-Christian” with scriptural references. It smacks of self-righteous legalism, often taking obscure or harder to understand portions and turning them into legalistic doctrines. If how Jesus did things while on earth is an example, His idea for the church is anything but predictable legalism. He healed each person in a different way. He turned water to wine just for the fun of it. He accepted people just as they were.
He was a master at emphasizing the heart over protocol. He was compassionate to women of questionable reputations, yet respectfully indicated that His mother was not of any more rank than any who do the will of His Father. (Matthew 12:48-50) He is extremely patient with real questions of faith, but has no qualms about humiliating religiously arrogant folks. (Mark 7)
In fact, it seems like Jesus mostly uses Scripture to set people straight who are using it wrong. People who are using it to claim authority over others or people who are misrepresenting God. People who take the wisdom or desires of men and try to superimpose it over God’s actual message of hope.
The way some people use the Bible is like opening a cookbook to one page and saying that one amount of salt should be used in everything they cook. That is going to spoil a lot of meals. Here are some concepts that are useful when trying to understand the Bible:
1. The Word of God is different than the inspired record in the Bible. To say it another way, the Bible contains a lot of God’s “word,” but not every word therein is His.
2. Reading the Bible is not supposed to be an academic exercise. It is a story, a record, a recording of wisdom that comes across best when viewed as a whole story.
3. A humble heart combined with the teaching of the Spirit (that God gives to all who believe in Him) are the best helps to understanding the Bible. Encouragement from fellow believers comes next. Maturity of character in someone who might encourage a fellow believer matters more than supposed religious expertise.
4. Following God is not about following rules. People gravitate toward legalistic rules of living because it seems safe. If you see anything other than “love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself” as being crucial to Christian living, you might want to rethink it.
5. The truth of God is simple enough for a child, yet engaging enough for the highest IQ. Those who want to find deep mysteries can, but they aren’t required for solid faith.
6. If you feel you must read the Bible, or perform any ritual, to be a Christian, it is possible you have not fully understood the gift offered you by God.
The Bible is truly a one-of-a-kind book, or compilation of books, depending on how you look at it. I enjoy it and have learned many things from it. Ironically, one of the things I learned was that God is not contained in it. The only reason I get anything from the Bible is because of His presence in all of time and space. And He is here with me now, whether or not I read the Bible today, because I am His.