“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15, ESV)
It may seem an odd question to ask—Why study the Bible?—especially when you probably wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t believe that such a study is either necessary or at least in some way profitable. But too often we do things simply for the sake of doing them. There is certainly nothing sacred about the first day of a year, but it is as good a time as any to ask ourselves anew why we do what we do.
Though there are several compelling reasons to study the Bible, there are two common excuses for not studying Scripture. The first usually offered is that the Bible is difficult to understand and only highly skilled theologians with technical training are equipped for the task. This, however, is too often what we want to hear in order to quiet our consciences for neglecting our duty of studying the Scriptures.
The sixteenth-century Reformers answered this excuse by advocating the perspicuity of Scripture, meaning the Scripture’s clarity. They maintained not that all parts of Scripture are equally clear, but that the Bible is necessarily clear in its basic message. This means that if we can read, we can, with the Spirit’s illumination, grasp the essentials.
The second excuse is that the Bible is too boring. We complain that we need someone to “make the Bible come alive” for us, but it is alive, and its words make us come alive. There is nothing dull about the drama, passion, pathos, crime, devotion, and real life depicted in Scripture. The ancient settings may seem foreign to us, but the struggles and issues biblical characters faced are the same ones we also face.
As followers of the Lord Jesus, however, we should be motivated to study the Bible in order to continue growing in the things we have learned. We need to deepen our understanding of the backgrounds and contexts of scriptural books in order to better understand and apply to our lives the truths they contain.
Our ultimate goal is to be pleasing to God in all of life. Certainly for the believer, a critical part of life is our handling and understanding of the Bible. As you begin another year of reading and study, commit yourself to the long-term goal of being found faithful to the task of presenting yourself as a workman who correctly handles the word of truth. Though a lifetime goal, it is achieved through patient daily practice.