Confidence in Studying the Bible Hero Image
Confidence in Studying the Bible Hero Image
Jul 8, 2024 / 11 min

Confidence in Studying the Bible

Grant Wilkie

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The idea of studying anything may sound more like a chore than a privilege. It may bring up memories of staying up past midnight writing papers or preparing for college exams. However, we can’t overlook the fact that studying God’s word is nothing less than a privilege. In contrast to the voices you listen to each day, from your friends or your favorite podcast, inside the Bible we hear the voice of God himself – Father, Son, and Spirit. That little book on your nightstand teaches of God’s power as Creator, grace as Redeemer, and love as Keeper.

At times, we believe the lie that reading God’s word is another item on our to-do list. Check it off, and we pat ourselves on the back; miss a day, and we’re filled with shame. At other times, we misunderstand how the Bible matters in our lives. You might read a story and put yourself in the hero’s role, or hear a biblical command and apply it one-to-one without understanding the context in which the mandate was given.

As we evaluate what it means to have confidence in studying the Bible, we need to align ourselves with God’s intention for the Bible, letting his voice drive the lessons we learn rather than placing meaning on the text from our own understanding.

The Bible is an Objective Revelation from God.

Consider the phrase “the Word of God” at face value. If the Bible is the Word of God, its words reveal God’s voice. Every word within the Scriptures is one which God led man to write. This divine inspiration (as in, God’s work in leading the biblical authors to write what they wrote) is what Paul has in mind when noting that “all Scripture is breathed out by God” [2 Timothy 3:16]. As God spoke, so the Bible reads.

Therefore, we can trust that the Bible is without error. This isn’t because the men who put pen-to-paper (or, more accurately, to scroll!) were brilliant and perfect. Rather, the Bible is trustworthy because God does not lie. Since the Bible is without error, we can also call its truth objective. The Bible’s reliability does not rest on subjective feeling nor personal interpretation. Instead, the Bible is God’s Word of truth. Each word within the Bible stands as a gift of divine revelation from God to us, and, through this revelation, God gives us reliable, objective knowledge of reality.

As we consider what the Bible is, we must also note what it isn't. For example, the Bible is not:

- Primarily about us. If you’re anything like me, you likely often place yourself at the center of the world. However, we are not the main characters or protagonists of the Bible – God is.

- A rule book. If we’re honest, how often do we relate to the Bible as if it’s a long-list-of-rules-that-make-me-a-better-person?

- A storybook. The Bible is no collection of myths or fairy tales; instead, it is a grounded, historical document written across time by real people telling true stories for specific purposes. It isn’t a collection of bedtime stories to help us sleep; it contains true words from the mouth of God.

Through the Bible, God reveals reality. Who is God? What is man? How may man be rescued from the darkness he sees within the world and his own heart? From his own mouth, God answers these questions – and many more! Woven into every word is God’s heart for us, his plan for His kingdom, and the truth of His character, all so we may know Him better. Plainly, the Bible reveals the roadmap of true religion.

Now, “religion” may be a word you shy away from. Surely, it’s easy to favor warmer analogies of the Christian faith, such as “Christianity is a relationship, not a religion.” However well-intended, statements like these draw false dichotomies the Bible never suggests. Rather, the two go together. On one side of the coin, religion is what we objectively believe about God; God’s word teaches us this true religion.

This revelation teaches us about God, allowing us to flip the coin. On the other side, relationships are how we subjectively experience fellowship with God. God is no abstract deity who stands afar; instead, he has come close, taken our hand, and given us access to Him through the revelation of His Word and His Son. Without religion, we can’t have a relationship with God. More simply, we can’t know the God of the Bible without the Bible.

For example, in Exodus 3:14, God tells Moses his name: “Yahweh”, or “I am who I am”. More dynamically, this name can be understood to mean that God is being itself – he is the God who was, is, and is to come as Revelation 1:8 later states. In the next verse, he tells Moses this name shall be remembered throughout all generations. Why is this?

God is making a statement of permanence and stability – he doesn’t change like men do, nor do his power or presence ebb and flow due to time and space. God is was he once was, and is what he one day shall be. To make this practical for us today, may you rest easy – God shall not one day stop loving his children, for he shall always be the same God who showed his love to them in the first place.

Elsewhere in the Scriptures, God reveals Himself as “Emmanuel” (or “God with us”) [Matthew 1:22-23, drawing from Isaiah 7:14, 8:8, 10]. Further, the Bible tells us that God “shall be your God, and you shall be my people” [Jeremiah 31:33]. God does not merely desire to reign over his people, but to dwell with them in relationship.

The Bible provides powerful, objective truths that we get to cherish in our hearts and draw strength from. By the gift of biblical truth, the Christian’s life is grounded in reality, distinguished from the world, directed to holiness, and sustained in strength.

God’s Clearest Revelation is in His Son, Jesus Christ.

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” Hebrews 1:1-2

Could there be a clearer, more wonderful revelation than the words of the Bible? The author of Hebrews seems to think so. In days past, God attested time and time again to his existence, magnificence, power, faithfulness, strength, kindness, mercy, and love. We have clear proof of this statement’s truth – simply turn to the Old Testament and start reading!

However, though the Bible does truly present the wonders of God, the Lord most clearly reveals in his Son, Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches us about God; Jesus is God himself, preeminent over all things and the firstborn over all creation [Colossians 1:15-16]. Still, we must be careful of dividing these two revelations too starkly. The author of Hebrews is not arguing the Bible is a poor picture of God and Jesus is a good one. No, this is no statement of truthfulness, but of clarity and priority. The Bible is without error and faithfully reveals the character and work of God. Yet, it does so by pointing us to Jesus, the “founder and perfector of our faith” [Hebrews 12:1-2]. Jesus, then, stands as the perfect revelation of God not because the Bible’s message is poor, but because his is better.

How may we have a relationship with God? Through believing in Jesus Christ and his work on our behalf. When we look to Jesus, we see the fullness of God. How do we know this? Well, as the children’s song goes, because the Bible tells us so. We see God's clearest revelation to us in His Son, who is the payment for not only our sins, but for the whole world’s [John 3:16].

We Gain Confidence in Studying the Word by Simply Starting

While all this is good and true, we need to acknowledge that we’ve covered a lot of dense material. There’s a real danger you may be thinking, “All this is great…but where do I begin?” Luckily, that’s an easy answer – start somewhere. Nothing has ever become more familiar by maintaining distance. While you may not be armed with a seminary education or years of experience, God gave us the Bible so that we might know him. Because of this, you can have confidence that God has something to teach you through His Word.

In starting somewhere, I’d encourage you to keep this motto in your mind: simply start, start simply. Remind yourself that the best way to grow is by simply starting to read your Bible. To set yourself up for success, be sure to start simply – pick a book of the Bible that is easier to understand and don’t try to do too much all at once. A chapter a day is a great rhythm to strive for as you get started. Consider starting with the book of Luke (a historian’s account of Jesus’ life) or John (a reflection on Jesus’ ministry by Jesus’ disciple and friend).

To get a little more practical, here are some helpful steps to remember as you engage with God’s Word.

Step One: Consider how your passage fits with the rest of Scripture. When you have questions about how things fit together or what words and verses might mean, use resources like Got Questions or Bible Ref.

Step Two: Ask “What does this passage teach me about God?” As the Bible is God’s word, it has much to teach us about its author.

Step Three: Ask “What does this passage teach me about man?” As the Bible’s is God’s word to us, it has much to teach us about ourselves and our world.

Step Four: Consider what your passage teaches you about how you must live. What commands, encouragements, or reminders do you see in this text? Keep this in mind – the Bible informs us so that we might be transformed.

As a gentle warning, it can be easy to jump to Step Four without thinking about anything else. If we don’t slow down and go through Steps One through Three, we can jump to some pretty wacky conclusions. Beware of taking a verse like Galatians 5:12 or Matthew 18:9 out of context and applying it without prudence!

Another bad habit to avoid is coming in with a lens of what we wish the Bible said rather than looking for what the Bible actually says. We need to extract meaning from the Bible rather than imposing meaning into it so we can get to the true meaning of the text.

Ultimately, It’s Not About Our Ability to Study Well, but Our Intimacy with Our Lord

You might feel like you were just given a list of new benchmarks to hit in your quiet time. Remember — your striving doesn’t further qualify you for the salvation you’ve already received. Rest in the fact that God has already chosen you and that time with him is a sweet gift flowing from his love [Colossians 1:16-17].

The most important thing you can do before, during, and after you dive into God’s word is praying, or remaining in conversation with Him [Ephesians 4:23]. Pray without ceasing, and let it become second nature to bring things you don’t understand to Him. As your prayer life matures, just watch how more rich and wonderful your time in the Word becomes.

Discussion Questions:

  • What’s one step you can take in studying the Bible this week?
  • Who is someone you can ask for help in studying your Bible?
  • How can you share what you’re learning with someone else?