The point of Bible study

As I’ve pointed out before, doctrinal disagreements between believers can become emotionally charged and that can lead to otherwise absurd statements — which would be rejected outright on their own merits — being accepted as valid in the heat of the moment. Consider the following statement (which I’ve heard on occasion)…

“Well, I’m not going to change my mind and you aren’t going to change your mind so there’s no point in continuing this conversation — let’s just move on.”

Now, in the midst of a heated doctrinal discussion this statement seems to make some sense. Put the matter aside before one party or the other becomes angry. After all, we won’t always agree on doctrine, but our discussions on such matters should always be conducted in a spirit of love for one another. And, if a discussion becomes too heated it probably is a good idea to put it aside for a time. However, the statement above, when pulled from the context of a heated discussion, becomes patently absurd.

Look at it. Look at how that statement begins.

“I’m not going to change my mind…”

Consider the implications of that statement. Does it accurately describe your approach to biblical doctrine? If it does then please answer one question…

Why do you study the Bible?

Think about it — by saying, “I’m not going to change my mind,” you are declaring one of two things:

  1. “I have God’s Word completely figured out,” or…
  2. “I don’t care what God’s Word says, I’m going to believe what I want to believe.”

So, if you have decided that you aren’t going to change your mind then you should just dispense with your Bible reading because the reasons for reading and studying Scripture presume the opposite of those statements to be true.

Concerning Statement 1: I have yet to meet the person who had the Bible completely figured out. And — it’s kind of ironic — those who have studied the Bible the most tend to be the ones who recognize just how much they don’t know. It is those who haven’t studied as much who tend to populate the “I’m not going to change my mind” camp.

Concerning Statement 2: If we recognize that we don’t have the entire Bible figured out, if we allow that we may hold to some beliefs that may not square with Scripture then guess what — we are the ones who need to change. In fact, this is the whole point of studying Scripture because…

God and His Word do not change.

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” — 1 Peter 1:22-25

He is the same.

“Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end.” — Psalm 102:25-27

He does not change His mind.

“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” — Numbers 23:19

WE are the ones who need to change. We need to change the way we think, the way we act, the way we live. We need to focus on God and not on ourselves. The whole point of reading and studying God’s Word is so that we may conform ourselves more and more to his likeness.

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” — Romans 8:29

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” — Romans 12:2

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” — 2 Corinthians 5:17

The heart that resists change resists God, because God intends to change us. He saved us so that He could make us into something new. He loves us too much to leave us as we were.

There is a phrase that is associated with the Protestant Reformation, “ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda.” Translated into English this Latin phrase reads, “the church reformed and always reforming.” The church was reformed during the Protestant Reformation, but it is always in need of further reformation — always in need to more completely conform to Scripture.

If we know we don’t have the Bible completely figured out yet (and we don’t) then we should approach Bible study prepared to change our minds — for surely we are to discover where we still differ from God.

This is why it is so important to study Scripture and to discuss the difficult and contentious passages. It is not to spark a controversy nor to divide the Body of Christ nor even to just increase in theological knowledge. We discuss these things so that with our deeper understanding of God and his grace we will be further broken, crushed and amazed at his incredible love for us.

About Chip
Chip is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, AR and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, TN. He served more than five years on the staff of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana as Director of Communications and Public Relations, editor of the Indiana Baptist newsjournal, and regular contributor to the Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. He currently earns his living as a writer. He serves his local church as a teacher and deacon and his local Baptist Association as a Seminary Extension instructor and supply preacher.

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