Just recently, I responded to a post on FB about studying the Bible. Now, I’m certainly not against studying the Bible (which I’ve been reading ever since I could read — what? 55 years?) But it’s critical to keep in mind that when you’re reading the Bible, it’s not entirely useless but definitely dangerous if it’s read apart from the Indwelling Spirit of God.
Merely reading the Bible — apart from the Spirit — leaves the reader trying to understand the words on a purely rational level. But in 1Cor 2, Paul warns that the “natural man is not able to take in the things of the Spirit of God, because they seem foolish to him and he’s not able to understand them, because such understanding comes only through the Spirit.”
The Bible has been used to support all manner of evil through people trying to understand it with their merely natural minds. Not so long ago in the U.S., slave owners in the South quoted passages such as in Ephesians 5 in which Paul wrote: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.” Since these slave owners were interpreting the Bible with their natural minds, they inevitably misinterpreted it — taking it out of context — and used it to reassure themselves that owning slaves was acceptable to God. In the prior verses, the infamous “Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord” and this verse is being used by carnally minded people to subjugate women in many societies. Throughout the centuries, dictators have interpreted the Scriptures with their natural minds in order to validate torture; governments have interpreted Scripture to support slaughtering thousands in the Name of God — the infamous Crusades, for example.
When Scripture is read through the Mind of the Spirit,these atrocities are corrected and people commit their lives to manifesting the Love of God amongst their neighbors (like the Samaritan who saved the life of a Jewish businessman who otherwise would have scorned and spit on him.)
“But,” you ask, “Why don’t I see these lives lived in Love all around me? After all, I see people carrying their Bibles to school or work; I read news articles of people defending their religious rights to read it on work breaks; I have acquaintances who plead with me to go to their “Bible believing church”… With all these people “feeding on the Word of God”, where’s the Love?” The answer is simple: There are a whole lot of people reading the Bible in their natural minds, without the Mind of the Spirit bringing understanding. There are a whole lot of people who have been hoodwinked into thinking that by reading and memorizing the Scriptures, their minds will be renewed and they’ll become like Jesus Christ. Merely through mentally focusing on those super-thin, onionskin pages with black and red lettering mixed throughout. If people — by faith in Jesus Christ and trusting that the Spirit of God has set up His “House” inside them — if they read the Bible as the Spirit leads them to understand it, then (and only then) will the reading of the Scriptures bring them to see right in front of them the Living Word Who is Jesus Christ.
You see, that’s the purpose of the Scriptures — to open people’s eyes to see Jesus and believe in Him.
Here’s where I’m going to switch gears and bring in the dialogue I had on FB about these things. A friend of mine (I hope?) had written a lengthy post urging people to “search the Scriptures” and he said to do so “like Jesus commanded us.”
I responded — but not because he made an “error” by thinking Jesus advocated us to “search…” More importantly, there was nothing in his post about reading the Scriptures through the “Eyes” of the Spirit Who dwells within us… It seemed he was promoting only the kind of reading that the Pharisees were doing — reading with their natural mind and not in the Spirit.
So I responded with this thought:
Just catching the end of this thread, I suppose. Wanted to rethink something [so-and-so] put out on the table.
You mentioned how Jesus “commended scriptures”, and then wrote, “The NT did not exist when he commanded you to ‘search the scriptures’.”
But Jesus never commended you (or anyone else) to “search the Scriptures”. I know this will be disappointing, but it’s true anyhow.
The only reference to “search the Scriptures” is when Jesus was rebuking the Pharisees in John 5.37-40. He confronted them for not ever having “heard His Voice” nor having “seen Him”. On top of that, Jesus finished with, “And you do not have His Word dwelling within you.”
Rather than “hearing” His Voice or having His Word dwelling within them, the Pharisees had instead spent their time in “searching the Scriptures” — uselessly, fruitlessly, foolishly. Jesus rebuked them, “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life [implies they were wrong!]; and it is these [very Scriptures] that bear witness of Me; but you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life.”
This is the only use of “search the Scriptures” and Jesus certainly wasn’t “commending” people to “search…” — but rebuking them for doing so AT THE COST of hearing and knowing the indwelling Word.
If Jesus is “commending” us to do anything, it’s to hear God’s Voice and have His Word dwelling within us. (And dwelling within us is not “verses memorized” but is referring to the Anointing/Spirit Who points us to the Living Word — Jesus Christ Himself.