The Importance of Biblical Literacy
“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
I recently heard a DJ on a Christian radio station say that God created us because He was lonely. What?! That couldn’t be farther from the truth! Deeply troubled, I spent the rest of my drive comparing what the DJ had said to what the Bible says.
REFUTED BY THE WORD OF GOD
In short order, three strong arguments from the Word of God sprang to mind.
- Three in One — Genesis 1:26
From the very first chapter of the Bible, we see that God is not lonely. Speaking as the triune God—that is, Father, Son and Holy Spirit in One God—He says, “Let Us make human beings in Our image, to be like Us.” How could Elohim—One God in three Persons who exists in perfect harmony and oneness throughout all eternity—ever feel lonely?
- “As We Are One” — John 17:22
Jesus prayed to the Father, “I have given them the glory You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are One.” Christ wants His followers to experience unity the way the Holy Trinity does—not the other way around. God is the source of a oneness and unity; broken mankind is not.
- Atop Mars Hill — Acts 17:24-25
Paul proclaimed to the intellectuals of Athens, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth….He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything. Rather, He Himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” God is a good God who desires to have relationship with us, but our Creator is the Originator of relationship, community and oneness. He certainly did not create us out of a lack of companionship.
SCRIPTURE TEACHES WHAT IS TRUE
Friends, it is imperative that we know the truth so we can recognize the lies of the devil. But, as Pontius Pilate asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:38, NKJV), and how do we know it when we hear it?
Jesus prayed to the Father, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17, NKJV). (Read about how Jesus is the Word of God.) The Apostle Paul also tells us, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true” (2 Timothy 3:16, NLT).
As the psalmist said, “Blessed is the man [whose] delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2, NKJV). The LORD Himself also told Joshua, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8, NKJV).
We must become so familiar with the Bible that we instantly recognize when something doesn’t line up with the truth of Scripture. The best way to do that is to meditate on God’s word—to dwell on it, contemplate it, turn it over in our minds (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary).
If you’ve had trouble getting into God’s word and sticking with it, try downloading a Bible reading plan app, and read a chapter or two every morning or night. Listen to an audio Bible on your commute to work or school. Write down the promises you read in the Scriptures, and carry them in your purse or wallet. Memorize Bible verses—word for word—and rehearse them throughout your day.
MISQUOTING IS MISREPRESENTING
In the Garden of Eden, the serpent asked Eve, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1, NLT). That wasn’t actually what God had commanded, and Satan, disguised as a serpent, knew it.
Misquoting Scripture misrepresents God’s true nature. By twisting God’s actual command ever so slightly, the devil moved Eve’s focus off of God’s goodness—“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden” (Genesis 2:16, NIV)—and onto the one thing that was withheld—“but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:17, NIV). By drawing the woman’s attention to the forbidden fruit, the devil was able to deceive her into wrongly thinking that God wasn’t the good God she had thought He was.
Notice that Eve, too, misquoted God, in her reply to the serpent: “God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree…and you must not touch it’” (Genesis 3:3, NIV). God never commanded them not to touch the tree or its fruit.
If we are to accurately represent God to the world, we must accurately handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15, NASB). We must get God’s word right.
IT IS WRITTEN
In the Garden, the serpent knew exactly what God had said. Satan has a better command of Scripture than any Christian, and he will do his level best to use it against us. He even had the audacity to try it with Christ during the Lord’s 40-day trial in the wilderness. But Jesus, led by the Holy Spirit, thwarted the devil with Scripture at every turn. Witness their exchange, recorded in Matthew 4:1-11 (NKJV):
Satan: “If You are the Son of God, command these stones become bread.”
Jesus: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’
Satan: “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down [from the pinnacle of the temple]. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over You,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear You up, lest You dash your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus: “It is written again, ‘You must not tempt the LORD your God.’”
Satan: “All these [kingdoms] I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
Jesus: “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”
At this third and final rebuke from Scripture, the devil retreated, soundly defeated by the sword of the Spirit—God’s Word—expertly wielded by Christ (Ephesians 6:17, NKJV).
SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES
There is an interesting group of believers in the New Testament called the Bereans. The book of Acts describes these brethren as “noble” and says they “received the message with great eagerness” (Acts 17:11, NIV). But, what really stood out about these Christians was that, even though they heard the gospel straight from Paul and Silas—the greatest evangelists of their time—the Bereans did not simply take their word for it. Instead, “They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth” (Acts 17:11, NLT).
The Bereans checked God’s Word for themselves to verify that what they had heard was true.
DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR
We cannot accept everything we hear just because the speaker is popular, well known or claims to be a Christian. Jesus warned to “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves” (Matthew 7:15, NLT) and that false teachers would arise “to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones” (Matthew 24:24, NLT). Likewise, Paul warned the Ephesian elders, “savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:29-30, NKJV).
That’s not to say every misstep or misquote by a Christian is due to malicious intent. But, you can be sure that Satan will use every mistake as an opportunity to sow untruth and undermine the authority of the Bible. How many people who heard that DJ’s comment now have a misunderstanding of God simply because it was broadcast on Christian radio?
Every day we are bombarded with worldly wisdom, accepting it without a second thought. Much of what we accept as true just because we’ve heard it so often, really should give the Christian pause.
For instance, the world tells us, “Seeing is believing,” but the Bible says, “We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7, NIV). When the disciple Thomas doubted the resurrection of Christ, the risen Lord said to him, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29, NIV).
Maybe you grew up hearing, “God helps those who help themselves.” Did you know the Bible doesn’t say that at all? The Bible actually says, “I can do nothing on My own” (John 5:30, NLT), but “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV).
It seems every romantic comedy encourages young lovers to follow their hearts. But, the Bible admonishes us, “Above all else, guard your heart” (Proverbs 4:23, NLT) and warns that “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9, NLT).
What about Shakespeare’s oft-quoted line, “To thine own self be true”? Today’s rendition goes, you have to love yourself before you can love others. But, it simply isn’t biblical. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23, NIV) and “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for Me, you will find it” (Matthew 10:39, NLT).
MORE THAN BIBLICAL SOUNDBITES
If we are to be able to recognize when Scripture is being taken out of context, we must know more than just biblical soundbites. We must know that Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6, NKJV), but He also came to bring a sword (Matthew 10:34, NKJV). While all things together for good for those that love Him (Romans 8:28, NKJV), Christ reminds us that in this life we will have trouble (John 16:33, NIV). Jesus said that He calls us friends, but it’s conditional—“…if you do what I command” (John 15:14, NLT). God is love (I John 4:8, NLT), but He is also “a consuming fire, a jealous God” who will tolerate no rivals (Deuteronomy 4:24, NIV).
We thank You for Your holy word. Thank You that You speak to us corporately and individually through the pages of Scripture. Thank You for placing in our hands the sword of the Spirit*—a powerful weapon that is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword**, able to strike down the lies of the enemy.
Lord, we commit to spending more time in Your word. We ask You to reveal Yourself to us through its pages. Let Your truth become so deeply rooted in us that we cannot be swayed by the wisdom of the world. Help us to rightly handle the Scriptures† that we would be able to point others to Jesus.
In Jesus’ Mighty Name We Pray,