Knowing God’s word is a central responsibility and privilege for Christians. It is by His word that we get to know Him, and it is His word that equips us (2 Tim 3:16-17; Eph 4:12). His word protects us (Eph 6;11-17), guides us (Ps 119:11, 105), sustains us (Mt 4:4), and transforms and renews us (Rom 12:2; Eph 4:23). We are to let His word dwell richly in us (Col 3:16).
While all this requires that we learn His word, it isn’t enough just to hear it or to be able even to recite it. Additionally, we need to be doers of His word. If we are simply taking it in without doing it, then we are deceiving ourselves into thinking we are Biblically literate when we aren’t (Jam 1:22-23).
Biblical literacy is not just an intellectual awareness of what the Bible says. Notice the missing word in these passages:
The goal of our instruction is ______________ (1 Tim 1:5).
If I have…all knowledge…but do not have ________________…I am nothing (1 Cor 13:2).
Knowledge makes arrogant, but _________________ edifies (1 Cor 8:1).
Everyone who ________________ is born of God and knows God (1 Jn 4:7).
If the purpose of our instruction is love, then we haven’t put that instruction to proper use until we are demonstrating love. If we have knowledge without love, we are of no use. If we have knowledge without love, we will be more prone to arrogance than to building others up. And as John explains, it doesn’t make sense that we would claim to know God and not exhibit love toward those He has made.
I was recently sitting at a hotel enjoying a continental breakfast. At the table next to me were seven pastors (I assume) who were in town attending a conference or seminary. They were discussing, among other things, how to make their Sunday mornings as effective as possible. They discussed a number of strategies, all of which made some degree of sense, but sadly the conversation never came around to the centrality of the teaching of God’s word and the simple exhortation that we do what it says. This is emblematic of a pervasive problem not only in our churches but in our lives: we want the results, but we aren’t using the right formula.
Spiritually maturity requires a high degree of Biblical literacy. And Biblical literacy requires that knowledge bears fruit. There are no gimmicks that will facilitate that. There are no shortcuts. The formula is given in two contexts: “he who abides in Me and I in Him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5), and “walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the deeds of the flesh” (Gal 5:16). Walking with Him ensures that we will be in the right place, doing the right thing, with the right enablement. If our Bible study doesn’t result in a closer walk with Him and consequently a more fervent love, then we are doing it wrong.