Why study the Bible?

02/16/2011  |  Randall Bell Director, ABHE Commission on Accreditation

Among all literature available to mankind, the Bible is unique in many different ways. A comparatively small amount of literature from the ancient world survives and is available to us today. Given the technology of the ancient world, comparatively few copies of ancient manuscripts were created and most of what existed before the time of Christ was destroyed due to the ravages of wars and time. Despite the factors that limits what we know of the literature of the ancient world, the Bible has survived across the centuries and comes to us so robustly documented that we can be confident that it has been transmitted through the ages with an incredible degree of accuracy. For people of faith, it is not surprising that the Bible survived so successfully. We believe the Bible is God’s special message to mankind. It reveals truth to us that we simply could not discover by our own efforts. It comes to us from a God who created us and wants to relate to us. It teaches us about the God who made us so that we can know Him and understand His characteristics.

The Bible reveals God’s character through his names. For example, the Bible uses the name Yahweh which is often translated LORD (all caps) in our English Bibles. This is the “covenant” name for God which is used in the Bible almost 7000 times. It means “The Self-Existent One.” Since the Hebrews considered God’s name to be too sacred to be uttered, they would abbreviate it or use Jehovah in its place. Jehovah often includes a suffix that helps us understand more about Him and there are at least eleven forms of the suffix in the Old Testament. The combination of the name Jehovah with a suffix gives insights into the nature of God. Examples include: The Lord who provides, the Lord who heals, the Lord our banner, the Lord our peace, the Lord our Shepherd. The Old Testament offers at least 34 variations in the names for God and each of these provides additional insight into who He is and what He is like. Similarly, the New Testament provides a variety of names for God that help us understand and appreciate who He is. It also talks about the individual members of the Godhead and provides additional details for them. For example, the Holy Spirit is described with words or names such as: Counselor; Comforter; Baptizer; Advocate; Sanctifier, Spirit of Truth; Spirit of Holiness; and Spirit of Life to list but a few. Both testaments liken the Holy Spirit to (l) breath or wind; (2) fire; (3) water; (4) oil; (5) light; and (6) a dove. These provide word pictures for us to help us understand God’s nature and work.

The Bible explains that God not only created us, but He gave us free will so we can choose whether we want to know and love Him. At the same time, we are also free to ignore Him. The Bible reveals that the first man, Adam, disobeyed God by eating the fruit of a tree that God had commanded him to avoid. Before his disobedience, Adam walked regularly with God, but, after he disobeyed, he hid from God because he was afraid of Him. The Bible describes Adam’s disobedience as sin. Indeed, the Bible teaches that, since the whole human race descended from Adam, everyone has been born with a sin nature. It is our nature to want to be self-directed rather than to be obedient to God’s commands. The Bible further teaches that sin separates us from God. Nevertheless, God loves us so much that He sent his Son (Jesus) to live as a divine human being among us to demonstrate a perfect life and to show us how God wants us to live.

Without the Bible, we could never understand what God expects of us. The Bible not only deals with our relationship to God, but it has a lot to say about our relationships with each other. There is a great deal of literature in the market place today that stresses the importance of getting along with other people. Indeed, business schools currently require students to work on projects in teams because they have learned the importance of dealing with interpersonal relationship for success in the business environment. Daniel Goleman has written extensively regarding emotional intelligence and its importance in the workplace. As Dr. Goleman has studied this subject he has reached conclusions that are consistent with what the Bible teaches about relationships with one another. The Bible provides principles that work not only in the business world, but in families, churches, schools and virtually any other sector of human endeavor.

When I was young, it was my privilege to get well acquainted with a retired Air Force Colonel who in the latter years of his Air Force career monitored the work of large corporations who were fulfilling contracts for the U.S. Department of Defense. In the course of his work, he noticed an unusually effective department within one of the largest manufacturers of military equipment. He was curious as to why this one department was run so much better than other departments. As he investigated, he discovered that the department head was a preacher’s kid. While he had rejected his father’s faith, he ran the department using the biblical principles that his father had taught him. The Colonel went on to systematically study the Bible to learn its business and leadership principles. After retiring from the Air Force, he went on to create a successful consulting firm that taught the Biblical principles to fortune 500 companies. The Bible has a great deal to say about personnel relationships, business, leadership, finance, and a host of other issues.

Why should we study the Bible? It is the instruction manual from our Creator regarding how to relate to Him and how to live successful lives. If you ignore the instruction manual provided by the manufacturer of your automobile, you can be sure that you will not get the kind of service from your vehicle that you want and expect. In the same way, if we ignore the Bible, God’s instruction manual for living, we can expect a lot of trouble that could be avoided through careful attention to its principles. Why study the Bible? It is the key to a successful, fulfilling life! You can ignore it, but you do so at your peril!

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