This chapter addresses a specific issue that Philip Nation identifies on the first page of chapter 3 – that having trusted Christ as Savior, many never study the Bible that would lead them to maturity in their faith. He confesses that sometimes it is easier to desire knowledge than it is to do the hard work of study to gain knowledge.
To ignore God’s Word is to embrace a life of spiritual stagnation. To pursue regular study of Scripture will mean that the Holy Spirit will have ample opportunity to work in us for spiritual maturity, will help overcome our cynicism about other Christians and replace that with a growing love for Christ’s Church, and will confront us repeatedly with the mission on which God has sent us.
Nation gives a helpful, but brief explanation of the difference between general revelation and special revelation. Theologians call the way God shows Himself in Creation and order the general revelation of God to all people who will open their eyes to see. But, in Scripture, God engages in special revelation – giving clear and unmistakable detail about who He is and what He is doing in our lives. So, the study of the Bible is the only way we will ever grow to know who God is and what He desires from us!
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
So, we approach the Bible knowing that it is from the very heart and mind of God and that unlike any other book, it teaches us, reproves us, corrects us, and trains us to live righteously. Scripture’s goal is to move us toward Christ-likeness and equip us to do good with our lives.
Nation suggests that there are 3 primary themes that tie together the 66 books of the Bible: Kingdom, Covenant, and Mission. God has a Kingdom and people are designed to know and serve the King. We enter into a relationship with the King through Covenant. And, just as God’s Mission is seen from the beginning, as He pursues those He made in His image (all humans), He calls us into His Mission.
A helpful part of the chapter is a segment on “How to Study the Bible.” First, is know the context of the text. Second, ask questions of the text. Nation suggests these:
- How does the verse or passage reveal God’s character?
- How does the passage reveal God’s redemptive plan?
- How did the passage apply to the original hearers?
- How does this truth affect my relationship with Christ?
- In what ways do I rebel against the truth in the passage?
- What is the impact of the passage on the Church?
There is an important reminder that the Holy Spirit is indispensable in teaching us spiritual truth. Apart from the Spirit’s work, we are doing nothing more than picking up some interesting trivia from an ancient text. The Holy Spirit reveals God and His Ways to us, through the Bible, transforming us in the process.
The third way to study the Bible is to study particularly and comprehensively. The author explains that we should both study the smallest details (words, phrases, etc.), but that we also need to read and study large blocks of the Bible, to make sure we see the big picture and flow of the revelation.
While we obviously need to study alone and privately, Nation points out the unique opportunities afforded us by the discipline of study the Bible with others. How can that be done? Reading scripture together (following a reading plan that a group is committed to using), reading scripture aloud, discussing a passage with other believers, and then making sure that we commit to applying the Scripture in our lives and holding one another accountable for that obedience.
I appreciated Philip Nation’s observation that the Bible always demands a response. Once again, the consistency of the thesis of the book is on display – the spiritual disciplines should send us out. So, the chapter ends with a discussion of how the Scriptures, when studied and obeyed, will send us out to the spiritually lost with the Good News of who God is and what He has done to redeem us.
“Grow up so I can reach out. Reach out so I can grow up.” – Philip Nation, p. 66.
PRAYER: Lord, help me to love your Word, because when I study it, I see you more clearly and know you more intimately. Lord, help me to not only learn your Word but let it sink deeply into my soul. Change me. Make me like Christ. Send me out to tell others who you are and what you have done for us.