“I’d like to know more about the gospel, but I’ve never had time to learn.” Or, “I wish I could find Bible passages on the spot as fast you can.”
We all would like to know our way around the word of God a little better. And we can! But like anything worth doing, it takes a little bit of effort.
Bible proficiency is not for the purpose of becoming a well-rounded person, or for impressing people in conversation. In October 2004, A. J. Jacobs published The Know-it-all: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World. He made the bestseller list by describing his experiences as he sat down and read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z. Ugh, I’m sure Mr. Jacobs would be unbearable at the dinner table!
When it comes to desiring Bible knowledge, it’s a different sort of pursuit. First, knowing more about the Bible provides necessary information for salvation. Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). John said, “these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31).
God identifies the Bible as that which enables a person to be saved. The options aren’t between taking a college class on the Bible or taking a college class on Medieval Japanese history; the options are between knowing the message of God unto salvation, and dying in sin eternally due to ignorance. To develop the belief in the death burial and resurrection of Jesus, which we need for salvation, we must first read about it in the Bible. We can know that God exists just by looking at the created world—but to know what He expects, we must read His revealed word.
Furthermore, Bible knowledge makes Christians better equipped to serve God. The Bible isn’t just another book on the shelf—it is God’s own inspired word. Paul says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). God has packed the pages of His word with revelation of His character and His plan for mankind. There we learn what to value, where we come from and where we’re going, how to make good decisions. Our faith begins in the Scriptures, and grows in the Scriptures.
Once I realize the value of the Scripture, I need to get serious about reading it. Paul instructed Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). That means I can address my ignorance by “being diligent” to open the book.
Planning helps. Get one of the many Bible reading checklists that are available on the Internet. You can set out to read the Bible in a year, or in two. Once you determine how much you must read each day, block out that amount of time and let nothing interfere. If you are a morning person, get up fifteen minutes early to read and pray. If you are an evening person, get out your Bible when the kids go to bed and read for a while, rather than flipping on the TV right away. Monitor your progress by checking off each day’s reading. Jot down questions that come up as you read, and ask someone about them later.
Finally, understand that the dangers of Bible ignorance are many. Hosea famously lamented, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). Unless one reads and understands the word of God for himself, he is at the mercy of any crackpot preacher with a smooth presentation. How many people would stop believing false teachings if they would only open the Bible for themselves?
Learning the Bible from beginning to end is a lifelong task that starts when one obeys the gospel and never stops until life is over. Every Christian should make it his goal to read the whole Bible at least once in his life. Diligent study is the only cure for ignorance. —John Guzzetta