In my home office, there’s a fireproof safe where my wife and I keep our most precious possessions. While we partly use the safe for legal papers, we’ve filled most of it with the 45 love letters that document the development of our romance. This bundle of letters is more than a memento; it’s our story.
The story begins with a question mark. A love-struck young man composes a poetic thank-you note to a sweet girl who has done a nice thing for him. He ends the note with a simple question—a question clear enough to give her reason to write back, but vague enough to prevent any guilt should she choose not to. Either way, the presence of the question mark is indisputable, and with it, he takes a chance.
She chooses to write back, asking her own vague question in return. Queen’s knight to c3. Game on.
The remaining details will remain private, but I’m willing to share this much: We pored over those letters. We wrapped our hearts in them, and we squeezed every juicy jot and tittle for another drop of meaning. We didn’t read those letters because we had to, though I admit there was a sense of compulsion. We didn’t read those letters to learn about each other, though it’s true each delivery brought more information. Technically, what we did with those letters wasn’t exactly reading. It was more like fixating or indulging.
And all for what? We sought this one thing: to get to know each other. We wanted a relationship.
Similarly, you and I get to read the Bible to build our relationship with the God who wrote it. He already knows us, and he wants us to get to know him. He became a man to reconcile us to himself and live with us forever, and he left a book documenting the whole affair. “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
Sometimes we think we need a special encounter to know God. We seek a mountaintop experience where we can behold his glory and see him face to face. We want to hear his voice speak with clarity and power. We long to be wowed from on high.
The Apostle Peter had such an experience with Jesus, and he concluded that you and I don’t need to share it:
We were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place. (2 Peter 1:16-19)
The text isn’t clear whether the prophetic word is more sure than the mountaintop experience, or more sure than it would have been without the mountaintop experience (does the word trump the mountaintop, or is it confirmed by the mountaintop?). Either way, Peter says this word is sure. We don’t need the mountaintop; we need to pay more attention to the word that has already been spoken.
That’s why, when Paul wanted to introduce people to Jesus, he introduced them to the Bible (Acts 17:1-3). The apostles were clear that Jesus was the main point of the Bible (John 1:45, 5:39-40, Luke 24:44-49, 1 Peter 1:10-12).
We study the Bible to know Jesus and to help others know him.
Maybe you’ve never studied the Bible without a tour guide or commentary, and you want to learn the basics. Perhaps you know the basics but want to make them instinctive, like an athlete perfecting a skill through endless repetition. Or perhaps you already teach the Bible, but you do so intuitively, unsure of how to take what you do and package it up for wholesale distribution among your flock.
Whatever your situation, a simple and sensible Bible study method will help. This year, how can you be more intentional about both learning to study the Bible and teaching others to study it? Do you think it would be worth it to get to know the Word who is the Truth?