“Bible study won’t change your life.”
OK, I admit to indulging in a bit of overstatement to shock you into recognizing what should be obvious: just because you know the Bible doesn’t mean the Word will bear fruit in your life.
It is possible to know the Scriptures, read the Scriptures, revere the Scriptures, and study the Scriptures and miss the point entirely.
Take the liberal scholar who knows the Greek New Testament better than most orthodox pastors. He can quote whole sections of the Bible in its original languages. Definitions of biblical words tumble out of his mouth as he effortlessly places everything in historical context. And yet, he does not believe in the Jesus he reads about in the pages of the Bible.
Sure, he is endlessly fascinated by the communities that gave us such an interesting artifact of study. But to him, his job is to immerse himself into a world of fables and dreams. The Bible is an epic story with no bearing on reality today.
Or take the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day who were steeped in the rich traditions of their people’s history. The leaders knew the Scriptures backwards and forwards, yet they had missed the signs pointing to the most important chapter in the Story that God was writing – the chapter that had been foreshadowed by the prophets and Bible writers for thousands of years.
That’s why Jesus could say: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me that you may have life!” (John 5:39-40) He doesn’t condemn them for their meticulous knowledge of the Old Testament. He mourns the fact that they’ve missed the point of it all.
Even today, it’s possible to get so wrapped up in searching the Scriptures that we miss what God is trying to teach us. Consider would-be prophets who scour over the prophecies of Revelation trying to pull out clues and codes about the European Union or the next major ecological catastrophe.