Taking the Bible into our own hands!
I’d like to start off with a little true story. As this concerns my own history, I can’t help smiling with a bit of tender nostalgia, remembering my younger self.
As I have shared many times before, I was brought up in a fervently Christian home, for which I am immensely grateful. We read the Bible in my home every day, and as children we were given Bibles as gifts and encouraged to read the Bible individually. However, for much of my childhood I nurtured the idea that the Bible was hard to know, difficult, complex.
However, when I was in my early teens, possibly 12, or 13 or 14, (I know that 12 is technically not in the teens!) I came across an idea that would completely alter my attitude to the Bible. I can’t remember now whether this came from something I watched on television, or whether it was something I read in a book – television, I suspect. Apparently, in the Middle Ages the Church of the day used to cheat ordinary people by twisting or changing what the Bible said. Back then, the Bible was only available in Latin, which meant that ordinary people could not understand it, and that it was only accessible to those who were highly educated. So clergy and priests could exploit this by essentially making up whatever they liked. And because the people could not actually understand the language in which the Bible was then available, they had no way of examining what they were told and from that they were unable to work out that actually, no, the Bible did not say that. So in practice they had no choice but to just “go along” and do as they were told. This resulted in lots of abuses – many of them financial – as if that could ever be a surprise!
So this was the story I came across. I was aghast at seeing this. What?! Would people seriously exploit the Bible in this way? And right there and then, I made up my mind that no matter how difficult the Bible was, I would know it for my own self, inside out, so that no pastor would ever be able to cheat me, so that if ever anyone tried to tell me (falsely) “This is what the Bible says” I could instantly reply “No!”. So since then I have endeavoured to know the Bible. This has involved knowing Bible theory, as well as how all the pieces fit together.
So then, here is a question. Those ordinary citizens of the Middle Ages had an excellent excuse for not knowing the Bible, as it was not actually available in their language. In these days, for those of us who speak English, what excuse for not knowing the Bible can we possible offer, when it is readily available everywhere, for sale, and often for free, available online, countless websites smartphone apps, and Bible Gateways and portals?
Back then when I was making this commitment to myself I honestly never thought that I would actually ever have to use it against pastors to defend theological truth. Back then, the pastors and ministries that I was exposed to were of similar spiritual calibre to my excellent Dad, with similar commitment to the integrity of Bible truth. Or perhaps the signs were there, even then, but they simply passed over my innocent youthful head. Whichever way, on becoming an adult, I am sad to say that falsehood strongly and consistently outweighs truth in many Christian circles, to an extent that I could never have imagined possible as a child.
I encourage you all to learn the Bible for yourselves. Please do not rely on me, or on anything you read on this blog. I hope I will never here offer up things that are not true, and that I will never get distracted, and by the awesome grace of God I trust that I will never turn from my commitment to God to start trying to exploit people for the sake of my own gain. That said, God gives us the Bible so that we can know it ourselves, not rely on other people to know it for us. That is, God has made it available for you, so that you can know it for yourself, not rely on me to know it for you. It is supposed to be read and understood by ordinary people. It is supposed to be our “bread and butter” for life. Jesus Himself says in Matthew 4v4: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”.
So then, I challenge you, know this book for yourself. Take it into your own hands. Know how all the pieces fit together and how the theology locks together, learn the character of God. This will give you a sold grounding for a life in faith. This will also help you to cut through lies and deceit spun by people who think that godliness is a means of gain, (1 Timothy 6v5) or who might have other reasons for promoting inaccuracies, or who might sincerely not know themselves – perhaps they have been badly taught. Either way, I challenge you to read the Bible – and know the Bible, to the point where you too can be confident in proclaiming that this is what it says.
NB – it is not my own hand that features in the picture above! Rather the photo is by Vinicius de Carvalho Venâncio at http://publicdomainpictures.net
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