In this chapter, Sproul discusses why the average person should study Scripture in an in-depth manner. We are all theologians; the only question is whether we are good or bad theologians.
1. Why study the Bible?
The most common reasons people give for not studying the Bible are:
- The Bible is too difficult for the ordinary person to understand
- The Bible is boring.
On this second point, Sproul has the following to say:
“The preponderance of boredom that people experience with the Bible came home to me several years ago when I was hired to teach the Scriptures in required Bible courses at a Christian college. The president of the institution phoned me and said, “We need someone young and exciting, someone with a dynamic method who will be able to ‘make the Bible come alive.’” I had to force myself to swallow my words. I wanted to say, “You want me to make the Bible come alive? I didn’t know that it had died. In fact, I never even heard that it was ill. Who was the attending physician at the Bible’s demise?” No, I can’t make the Bible come alive for anyone. The Bible is already alive, It makes me come alive.”
The perspicuity of Scripture
The 16th century reformers declared their confidence in the clarity of Scripture. They maintained that the Bible is simple enough for any literate person to understand its basic message. This is not to say that there aren’t any complex passages or sections within it.
The problem of motivation
There is a difference between reading Scripture and studying it. Reading can be done in a leisurely way, but study suggests serious and painstaking effort. Many Christians fail to study God’s word mainly out of laziness.
What does the Bible say about studying the Bible?
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
The content of the Word isn’t to be mentioned casually and once in a while; rather it is to be repeated all day, every day.
2 Timothy 3:14-17
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 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.
–continue in what you have learned: this points to constancy and consistency.
– holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation: through the Scriptures we can acquire that kind of wisdom that concerns our ultimate fulfillment and destiny as human beings.
– you know those from whom you learned: this may possibly refer to his mother, grandmother or Paul himself. However, it is likely that Paul is referring to the ultimate source, i.e. God.
– All Scripture is God-breathed: God is the ultimate author of Scripture
– Scripture is useful for teaching: our greatest profit in studying the Bible is instruction in the things of God.
“Countless times I have heard Christians say, “Why do I need to study doctrine or theology when all I need is to know Jesus?” My immediate reply is this: “Who is Jesus?” As soon as we begin to answer that question we are involved in doctrine and theology. No Christian can avoid theology. Every Christian is a theologian. Perhaps not a theologian in the technical or professional sense, but a theologian nonetheless. The issue for Christians is not whether we are going to be theologians but whether we are going to be good theologians or bad ones. A good theologian is one who is instructed by God.”
– Scripture is useful for rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness: this is the practical value of Bible study.
– that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work: the Christian who doesn’t study the Bile is inadequate and unequipped.
The Bible gives us much information that isn’t available anywhere else. Much can be learned about God from a study of nature, but it is His self-revelation in Scripture that is most complete and valuable to us.
Some will contend that the Bible isn’t a pragmatic book. The Bible is a most practical book because it is established from an eternal perspective.
On the other side of the spectrum from the pragmatists are the sensuous. Sproul defines a sensuous Christian as “one who lives by his feelings rather than through his understanding of the word of God… His Christian life is only as effective as the intensity of present feelings. When he experiences spiritual euphoria, he is a whirlwind of Godly activity; when he is depressed, he is a spiritual incompetent. He constantly seeks new and fresh spiritual experiences and uses them to determine the word of God.”
For the sensuous Christian, childlike faith is equated with ignorance. The Bible doesn’t endorse ignorance (1 Cor 14:20) The apostle Paul repeatedly says a version of, “Brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.” The Bible is addressed primarily but not exclusively to our understanding.
The main reason we should study the Bible is because it is our duty to do so.