Knowing the Bible
My earliest memories of religious life begin at the tender age of two. I sang my first song in a small Baptist church before I had learned how to spell. My mama was our church organist and my grandmama was the pianist. As you can imagine, attending church was a pretty normal thing in our lives. Each Sunday, we would all load up in the car and make it to church just in time for the 11:00 a.m. service. As I grew older, my grandmama would strongly urge me to attend Sunday school in addition to morning service. I can almost hear her sassy voice saying, “Girl, you better get up and get to that church!” Sunday school was an opportunity to learn more about the Bible.
Unlike the morning service, Sunday school provided a space to actually talk to the teacher and ask questions. At the time, I didn’t realize the importance of actually studying the Bible, and in all honesty, I primarily attended Sunday school because my grandmama gave the order. Not everyone grows up in a godly home as I did, but we all experience seasons when we are going through the motions of Christianity instead of growing in the knowledge of God’s Word and intimate relationship with him.
Taking the Bible Seriously
Once I went off to college, attending Sunday school—and even church altogether—became less of a priority. Before I knew it, I began to suffer from spiritual inertia. In hindsight, I realize that my life as a Christian was only nominal. Verbally, I’d affirm life as a “believer,” but at the core, I didn’t fully know what I believed about God nor did I know why I believed in him at all.
What led me to this point? How did I manage to grow up in such a staunchly religious home, yet I could barely articulate the basis for my faith? I simply had not grasped the truths of God as outlined in Scripture. Being a student of Scripture was never a priority. In fact, at the time I didn’t even own a Bible translation that I could actually understand. (Let’s be honest, I’m sure we’ve all struggled with the KJV a time or two).
I am sitting here writing this blog about Bible literacy today because God has done a dramatic work in my life. I wholeheartedly credit him for saving me and carrying out his beautiful, sovereign plan for my life. But every once in awhile, I can’t help but wonder how different things would have been if I had taken Bible literacy seriously earlier in life. Through personal experience, I became painfully aware of the pitfalls of Bible illiteracy.
Vulnerable to the Wiles of False Teachers
When I think of the many dangers associated with being a biblically illiterate woman, I am quickly reminded of Paul’s words to Timothy. In 2 Timothy 3:6–7 Paul speaks of women at Ephesus who had been deceived by false teachers. The Christian Standard Bible (CSB) specifically describes these women as “gullible.” Unfortunately, this particular group of women had been easily persuaded by men who did not speak the truth.
Although the text does not explicitly state why these women were considered gullible, they likely lacked a solid understanding of truth according to the Scriptures. These women did not have the complete canon of Scripture as many of us have today, but make no mistake, they did have some access to God’s Word.
Many of the Old Testament writings had been preserved and were being passed around to newly established New Testament churches. Also, the teachings of the Apostles were in circulation. Whether their ignorance was by choice or by default, the Scriptures are clear in pointing out the dangers of not knowing God’s Word. When we are ignorant of God’s truth, then we are certainly more susceptible to false teaching.
Follower of Feelings instead of Truth
God created humans with emotions and the ability to feel. One of the reasons I love the Psalms so much is they highlight a wide range of emotions from a variety of believers. Obviously, having emotional experiences is not inherently bad. On the contrary, the problem arises when we allow our emotions to usurp God’s Word and will. Bible literacy helps us to keep our feelings in check.
Paul encouraged the Corinthian church to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Every believer must bring her thoughts and emotions into submission to the will of the Lord. We must know and understand God’s will through reading and studying his Word daily. When we are struggling to discern if our emotions are rightly placed, we must look to the Word of God. Lining our emotions up against the Word of God will help us to follow the truth as opposed to following our feelings.
Inauthentic Relationship with God
Author and Bible teacher Jen Wilkin says, “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.” Think of it this way: Can you really love a person if you do not know that person? Perhaps you may love a facade of that person or your own vision of them, but are you really loving them if you do not truly know them?
It’s no different in your relationship with God. In John 4, Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman and gives her the terms for having a true and authentic relationship with God. Jesus tells the woman that true relationship with and worship of God is based on spirit and truth (v. 24). Believers worship through the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, but what does Jesus mean by worshiping in truth?
Jesus’ own words from verse 22 provide a bit of clarity. “You Samaritans worship what you do not know. We worship what we do know, because salvation is from the Jews.” Jesus was explaining that true salvation, relationship, and worship of God must be undergirded by true knowledge of him.
God’s Holy Word is where we find the truth about God. Scripture is God’s special way of revealing himself to us. Making a commitment to become biblically literate is actually taking a step toward developing an authentic relationship with God that is rooted in truth. When we fail to study God according to the Scriptures, then we open ourselves up to deception.
Knowing the Bible is Essential for Life
Sisters, if we are going to grow in spiritual maturity and take seriously our call to follow Jesus, then we must be diligent students of the Bible. Bible literacy isn’t about “checking a box” or being a know-it-all. This world is filled with distractions that are vying to be the final authority in our lives. I pray that God’s Word will be the truth we hold firmly, now and forever.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Portia Collins is a Christian Bible teacher, writer, seminary student, and podcast host. She and her husband Mikhail have a daughter and currently live in the Mississippi Delta. She loves God's Word and enjoys studying and teaching Scripture. Portia's commitment to discipling and training women is more than another project on her "to do" list. Her desire is to see women from all walks of life grow in godliness, grace, and in the knowledge of God. Find out more about Portia at her website.