Why are some Christians so adamant that the Bible should be read and studied? Does it really matter? Really?
This was something I wondered myself when I was in my mid to late 20s. My children’s storybook Bible had included most of the major stories from the real Bible. So I knew all about Adam and Eve, the Flood, David & Goliath, and Jesus’ life. But I had never read the entire Bible, Genesis to Revelation. Then one day the Holy Spirit put a thought in my head: “How can I say I am a Christian if I do not know all of what that Book says and what I am agreeing to?” That question led me to not only reading the Bible all the way through and experiencing an even deeper relationship with and understanding of God, but also opened my eyes to how crucial this Book is.
There seem to be so many reasons that make it sound like reading and studying the Bible might not be such a good idea. Some of those reasons include that the Bible contradicts itself; the stories have no relevance to modern day life and issues; and it was written by men, so it can’t be trusted as a reliable source. This series articles will address these reasons, beginning with the first: the Bible contradicts itself.
“But what about the contradictions?”
Yes, a surface reading of the Bible can definitely lead one to think the Bible contradicts itself. For example, in Psalm 58:6 David says about his enemies, “O God, shatter their teeth in their mouth; Break out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord.” Compare that with what Jesus says in Matthew 5:44-45: “44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may [a]be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
To be honest, I was surprised that the more I studied the Bible, the more I found things like this. No wonder people think it sounds like there’s a difference between the “God of the Old Testament” and the “God of the New Testament.” Seriously.
So what is going on here? Is it acceptable to want bad things for your enemies, or should we instead love them and pray for good things for them? The model for the way we tackle this apparent contradiction is the same way to tackle all of them. It involves using the whole Bible to interpret itself.
David was chosen by God for the kingship, and much of what David did throughout his life was pleasing to God. But we know that he was just a man. He did not always do what pleased God, so it only stands to reason that his thoughts did not always please God. The psalm is simply a record of what David prayed, not a model of how we should pray. In this case, Jesus’ teaching about loving our enemies stands as the way it was always meant to be. The Old Testament supports this because scattered throughout it repeats the theme of being a light to the Gentiles.
So when faced with statements in the Bible that are diametrically opposed, one has to ask what the Bible teaches about the topic. Then we begin to see that there are no contradictions. By reading and studying the entire Bible and learning how it fits together perfectly we can really know what the Bible says and apply those truths to our lives. Instead of praying that your mean, nasty coworker drives her car into a ditch, you can perhaps pray instead that God will show you why she is hurting so much and help you to figure out how to help her.
Reading and studying the Bible is life-changing!