Shortcuts to Bible Study

Priests in Rome

A few months ago I was sent an article that was written by a Catholic. The beginning of the article talked about the great burden it is to study the Bible. After all, the author reasoned, we are all just so busy. There is just not the time for us to study the Bible on our own. He then talked about the great blessing we have in the Catholic Church. He argued that we really do not have to study, we can just listen to what the Church tells us. And what a comfort to know that we do not have to bother with taking the time ourselves to study God’s word.

This is an example of a great problem in religion – many do not want to study. They come up with different excuses – they are busy, they do not understand, etc. So instead of studying the Bible, they look for shortcuts – ways to get around having to study much themselves. I want us to consider some of these “shortcuts” and notice what the Bible has to say about them.

  • Use your own common sense – Sometimes we get ourselves in trouble by assuming we know something. In the same way, people often assume they know what would be pleasing to God. In discussing the process of revelation, Paul said the only way we can know God’s will is for Him to tell us. “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11). We cannot assume to know what God wants, for His ways and thoughts are far higher than our own (Isaiah 55:8-9). Our assumptions (common sense) are not a safe guide. “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
  • Follow the majority – There is sometimes a temptation to judge a position by the number of people who hold it. After all, how could the majority of people be wrong? It is also easier anyway to go along with the larger number. But the Scriptures teach that those of the larger number are generally wrong. Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
  • Believe what your family believes – Instead of examining the Scriptures, many simply go along with what their family believes or has believed. Some refuse to study, believe, or obey because of how their family will react. But Jesus warned us that we must be ready to stand apart from our family if they reject Him. “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword …and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household” (Matthew 10:34, 36). Some will not accept the truth because it means they must recognize the lost state of their relatives, often those who have passed on. But one thing we learn from the story of the rich man and Lazarus is that if someone is lost, and they die in that state, they do not want their loved ones to follow them (Luke 16:27-28). We must not let someone else’s lost condition hinder us from studying the Bible. On the other hand, we may have family members that do believe the truth. In this case, we must accept the truth, not because our family believes it, but because it is the truth.
  • Do what you have always done – Another shortcut people take is assuming that what they are doing is right. They simply follow their traditions, though Jesus condemned people for following the traditions of men (Matthew 15:1-9). It is arrogant to assume that a thing is right because we believe or practice it. Instead of ignoring God’s word and arrogantly believe we are right, we must “humbly accept the word” (James 1:21, NIV). Of course, not all traditions are bad. Paul told the brethren in Thessalonica to “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us” (2 Thessalonians 2:15). The traditions we are to keep are those passed down by the apostles and revealed to us in the word of God. We must continually examine our traditions to be sure they come from apostolic teaching.
  • Follow well-known or well-respected preachers – Some men are known for being faithful, sound gospel preachers. Some, through writing and meeting work, are known all over the country or world. It could be easy to let our guard down when listening to such men preach and assume such men are right on a given topic. But we must not “think of men above that which is written” (1 Corinthians 4:6, KJV). Well-known, well-respected preachers can be wrong. Remember the example of Peter. In Antioch, Paul “opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned” (Galatians 2:11). Instead of blindly following what some preacher says, no matter how good of a reputation he has, we should follow the example of the Bereans. “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). They found out for themselves whether Paul’s message was the truth before accepting it. We must do the same today.

Instead of following these shortcuts, we must look to the Bible and see what it says regarding our study of God’s word. We must recognize our individual responsibility. Each one of us, individually, will stand before Christ in judgment and give an account to Him (2 Corinthians 5:10). Since we are individually responsible for our salvation, we must make time to study. It must be a priority. And we must study with an open mind. God’s word is right, no matter what we think or what anyone else thinks about a matter (Romans 3:4). So we must approach the word with humility (James 1:21) and seek to apply what we learn. “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22).

Do not try to find shortcuts to studying the Bible. Instead, be diligent in your study, so that you might learn the will of God and live pleasing to Him (2 Timothy 2:15).

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  1. Wayne D. Teel says

    Andy, you are so right with this article. A Catholic friend many years ago told me the Catholic Church had to be right because just look at the many followers they have. I told him no, that indicated how easy it was to be a Catholic and pointed out how he had just told me he could get drunk ever Saturday night as long as he went to confession on Sunday mornings, everything would be fine .

  2. Thanks, Wayne. You’re answer to your friend was right. Too many people want the easy way rather than the right way.