The Bible is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path. It is healing for the soul; it is the breath of God himself. Through it, God challenges and comforts, rebukes and restores, exhorts and encourages. It is, in its entirety, God’s revelation of truth to us.
But the Bible can also be misused. That is why the great IFES discipline of inductive Bible study is important: learning to understand Scripture on its own terms; respecting the context and obeying the message, no matter how uncomfortable it may make us feel.
Bible study can also too easily become an abstract exercise. That is why I love that one of the core IFES values is not simply “the Bible”, but “Scripture Engagement”. All Bible study should not ultimately and primarily be about us, but about God, his character and his invitation to use this Holy Revelation to get to know him better.
When Darrell Johnson was interviewed at the 2015 World Assembly, he shared how, before he opened a passage to prepare for preaching, he would ask himself (referencing the Song of Solomon) “what does this passage tell me about him whom my heart loves?”. That should be the question for all of us when we open Scripture at any time, whether we are preachers or Bible study leaders or not.
Speaking personally, my journey with Scripture has gone through various stages. I was privileged to be taught it as an infant sitting at my parents’ feet and was fascinated by it as a listener; it was a bedtime story for me. In adolescence as I committed my life to Christ and read it regularly as a spiritual discipline, I saw it as a story to me; a set of exhortations to help me live well as a disciple.
Then as I grew in the faith, I realised it was a story about me; I saw more clearly my own shortcomings in the lives of its flawed heroes and marvelled at the sufficiency of Christ to cover all my sin. As I studied it more deeply in seminary and embarked on a preaching ministry, it became (not always for the best) a story from me; truths that I felt commissioned to pass on to others. Eventually I realised that these strands all needed to come together and, as I grasped more firmly the depth of God’s grace, they became a story growing within me. As I engage with Scripture, the Spirit who inspired those authors is the same Spirit who is convicting and changing me. That is a journey I am still on, and if I can, I want to bring others with me.
David Montgomery, IFES Europe Regional Secretary