The truth is that I love and revere the Bible as God’s holy Word, and yet, if I’m honest, I also have concerns that we may be overdoing it.
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Now, if it sounds crazy to suggest that one might “overdo” the Word of God, which is called food and life for the believer (e.g. Dt 8.3; Jn 6.33; etc.), than I get it – it does sound a little weird, especially from a pastor and Bible teacher.
And no doubt, the opening statement may raise concerns – fears that I am denying God’s Word or limiting its importance or that I am on a “slippery slope” to problematic theology, etc.
But please rest assured that this is not the case. I love and revere and live by the Scriptures. I read and meditate upon them constantly. I study them and I study books full of them and I listen endlessly to other Bible teachers expound upon them. They are a constant source of conversation in my home and my work. I actively seek out other believers for discussion and debate. And I have given my life to teaching the Word to others.
So what then is the concern about “overdoing” the Bible?
It is this:
For all of our studies, sermons, books, podcasts, small groups, YouTube videos, etc. – for all of the time and energy that we give to study and discussion – I do have a concern that our church culture is seeking to master our Bible knowledge at the expense of mastering being like Christ.
Jesus’ concern with the scriptural teachers and Pharisees of His day was that they knew the Scriptures very well, but didn’t really know God. They were considered biblical experts, mastering the text and the commandments, but this knowledge alone wasn’t making them godly. They were committed to doctrine, but not to loving others. They were fiercely devoted to the words of God’s Law, but sometimes missed the heart of God at the same time (see Matthew chapter 23 for examples of these things).
These leaders were people who knew their Bible front to back, who on paper seemed like they had it all figured out – but in fact, they were so committed to their own interpretation of Scripture that they missed the long-awaited Messiah when He was standing right in front of them. Jesus didn’t look the way they thought the Saviour would look, He did not fit into their biblical worldview or their doctrine, and so they elevated their interpretation of Scripture over Christ Himself.
This should startle and humble us! Might it be possible that we could make the same mistakes?
But most telling is Jesus’ rebuke of the Jewish leaders from John 5.39-40:
“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
In other words, the Scriptures were actually not the main point. Jesus was the main point. The Scriptures are crucial, but as a guide – the Scriptures are there to guide us to Jesus. They are God’s gift to us to introduce us to a Person, and that Person is to be our main focus, not the text that points to Him.
Our most important job is not actually to become experts in Scripture, but experts in Jesus, and the God-breathed Scriptures are given as the “useful” gift of God that guides us to Christ (2Tim 3.16-17).
This does not make studying and learning the Scriptures any less important to our spiritual journey or life with Christ. Of course, we cannot know Him or His ways apart from God’s Word! Doctrine and sound teaching/understanding need to be a high priority. We cannot know His will apart from Scripture. The Gospel is presented to us through the biblical text, and so there is no way to know or walk with Jesus apart from His Word.
So it’s not really that we may be “overdoing” the Bible – but if we aren’t careful, we may be overdoing our devotion to study for study’s sake. It is not a matter of engaging with the Word less; if anything, most of us could probably stand to engage with it more.
But the most important question is: to what end? Why are we engaging with it?
If we, for example, become experts in expository explanations of the book of Romans, with stunning theological arguments and conclusions, then this is wonderful – but is it making us more like Jesus?
Do we know the Person better and more intimately and more worshipfully?
Does our knowledge cause the fruit of the Spirit to increase in our lives?
Does it call us deeper into communion with Christ through the Holy Spirit?
Does it inspire us to share the Gospel more, to live more sacrificially towards others, to be generous with what we have?
Does it spur us on to greater love of God, neighbour, and enemy?
Because if it does not, then we are in danger of becoming just like the Pharisees – biblical “experts” who know a lot of things, but ultimately nonetheless miss God in all of it. We will then be in danger of all of the self-righteous legalism that goes with this.
We are warned in Scripture that, “Knowledge puffs up, while love builds up.” (1Cor 8.1). Growing in biblical knowledge alone does not guarantee growing in love or in Christlikeness. That is my concern about “overdoing” the Bible – not that we need less of it, but we need to ensure that study and knowledge on their own are not our end goal.
We study the Scriptures diligently that we may find the real Jesus there. Scripture is the means, not the end. Jesus is the end, and when this priority is always clear, then the Scriptures become the infallible, inspired, life-giving guide to help us to meet Him, and know Him, and follow Him, in all the ways that are pleasing to Him.
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