Wednesday, October 28th, 2009 | Author:

Before all my regular readers have heart attacks, I don’t really mean throw out your Bible … well, not exactly. What I do mean is that knowing the Bible oftentimes becomes more important to Christians than knowing Christ, and as James would say, “That ought not to be!”

So today I’m going to look at what the Bible tells us “ought to be.” I’m sure this won’t be a complete study, but there is a point here, so stay with me.

What is the purpose of the Bible?

- Recording Prophecy

And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21)

Over the centuries the scriptures have recorded many prophecies, that we may know what is to come, and when it does come, that we will recognize it as fulfillment of God’s Word.

- Identifying Sin

because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20)

- Testing the words of man

Now these [the Bereans] 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)

Many Christians have gone astray because they trusted in man’s traditions or the words of false prophets, and did not receive a love of the truth. (2 Thess 2:10)

- Leads us to Christ

Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. (Galatians 3:24)

- Teaching and Correcting

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. (1 Timothy 4:13)

The scriptures can be used effectively to teach, reprove, correct, train, and exhort. But how do we square that with these verses, that say Christians won’t need a teacher?

As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him. (1 John 2:27)

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. (John 14:26)

for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say. (Luke 12:12)

Let’s go back to the verse from Galatians, but this time in context.

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ. What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise. Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one. Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:16-26)

Tutors by definition are intended to be temporary.

From Strongs:

From G3816 and a reduplication form of G71; a boy leader, that is, a servant whose office it was to take the children to school; (by implication [figuratively] a tutor [“paedagogue”]): - instructor, schoolmaster.

from Webster’s:

a person charged with the instruction and guidance of another: as a : a private teacher b : a teacher in a British university who gives individual instruction to undergraduates

So are we to be children and undergraduates forever? I think not. How much confidence would you place in a doctor who consults his textbooks every few minutes? Or a computer technician? Or a farmer? Not much, and the same is true of Christians. Setting false modesty aside, we are supposed to grow up.

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ (Ephesians 4:11-15)

So what is the goal? How do we function without a tutor?

But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. (Romans 2:29)

For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. (Romans 7:5-6)

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:12-16)

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)

For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:14)

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. (Galatians 5:18)

Quite simply, an adult Christian is led, not by the Bible, but by the Holy Spirit. Obviously, the student shouldn’t strike out on his own if he hasn’t learned his lessons. And the Bible is still useful in other ways, some of those listed above. But we can’t follow it, because it’s just a tool. It’s a crutch to use until we can stand on our own. The Law leads us to Christ. Christians should follow Christ.

In the parable of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-30) Jesus tells us, not once, but three times, that His sheep hear His voice. Listen:

vs. 3 … the sheep hear his voice

vs. 16 they will hear My voice

vs. 27 My sheep hear My voice

Jesus didn’t mean this figuratively. He meant it literally. We are to hear His voice. We are to know His voice and follow His voice.

Peter and John didn’t know the scriptures. They had about three and half years with Jesus, and then they followed the Holy Spirit.

Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

Acts gives us many other examples of Christians being led by the Holy Spirit. Here are a few.

While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself.” (Acts 10:19-20)

While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2)

They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; (Acts 16:6)

The Holy Spirit speaks the things which are not written in the Bible. He tells us, on a day by day basis, what we need to know for our specific situation.

So why aren’t we hearing Him? Why don’t we write, “Yesterday the Holy Spirit told me to do such-and-such.” Why do we still rely so heavily on our tutor, the Bible?

Speculations begins at this point, but I think one of the reasons is that we don’t know to listen. We think if we know the scriptures, and walk according to what they say, we’ve completed our mission.

Or maybe we’re scared we aren’t really hearing the Holy Spirit, but we’re hearing another spirit. This is a valid concern, and we certainly need to test the spirits (1 John 4). But that doesn’t mean we stop listening. It simply means we listen with discernment.

Or maybe we’re just not comfortable with “spiritual stuff.” All I can say to that is – get comfortable! – because “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)

If you’ve managed to read this very long post, and something has stirred inside of you and you’d like to go farther; if you’d like to know the voice of the Holy Spirit and be led by that voice, then I have some very sound advice for you: Read these words of our Lord Jesus Christ. Believe these words. Pray these words.

So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him? (Luke 11:9-13)

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9 Responses
  1. AKA Angrywhiteman says:

    You're skating on thin ice.
    Though I know you are not advocating one doesn't need to read the bible, for the bible is the word of God, there are others who will grasp this seed you have planted. They will believe the bible isn't necessary and just listen to the voices in their heads, Would they do so anyway, without your seeming validation? Who can say.

    Reading the word is necessary:

    Ps 40:7

    7 Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me,

    Heb 10:7

    7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.

    We are cleansed through the word:

    John 15:3

    3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

    How would we know his words without reading the book?

    John 15:7

    7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

    Praise God that He sees us differently, for I too get on what many might consider slippery ground.

    1 Sam 16:7

    7 But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance,
    but the Lord looketh on the heart.

  2. Rebecca says:

    Great post!

    I have heard so many testimonies of the salvation of people to whom God revealed Himself who didn't even know the Bible existed. For me, salvation came through the preaching of the word and the conviction of sin, not through reading the Bible. But the Bible is a supernatural book, and its preservation to us throughout the millennia is MIRACULOUS! It is the Bible that has carried the message.

    In some religious circles, it does seem that the Bible is worshiped instead of God (the "perfect" has come, etc). This is sad. And it's a lot like the error the Jews made: "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me," said Jesus.

    The Bible IS important, but saying that we must be led by the Spirit (which the Bible affirms) does not diminish the importance of the Bible. It only prioritizes our relationship with the Spirit. And the Spirit would never tell us to live/do something against Him (which is revealed to us in the Scriptures).

    It's also cool that Christ is sometimes called The Word. :D

  3. Jim Wetzel says:

    "Quite simply, an adult Christian is led, not by the Bible, but by the Holy Spirit."

    I agree, but with a "yes, but." Scripture / Holy Spirit are not, it seems to me, a pair of mutually-exclusive alternatives. At least in my limited experience, that which I've identified as a leading or teaching of the Spirit has come in the form of a new understanding of a piece of Scripture, and in the context of Bible study.

    That said: I do think there's a lot of Bible idolatry among evangelicals. Even though all scripture is, as Paul told Timothy, "God-breathed," it's still His creation, and not Him. And we do have a huge aptitude for confusing God with any number of His creations.

    (By the way, I completely admire your guts in opening up this topic … which, I predict, may gather an unprecedentedly-long comment thread.)

  4. Ken Eastburn says:

    I want to say an emphatic Amen, but its just so hard.

    The problem is that our ability to "discern the spirits" comes from being rooted in God's self-revelation. Without the Bible, we just wouldn't know whether what he hear is of God or not.

    Part of this addressed by your suggestion that the Bible is intended to be a temporary tutor. While I like the idea and the subsequent analogies relating to doctors, farmers, etc., the it falls drastically short. The Christian life, unlike medicine or farming, is not a science to be mastered, but a life to be lived (or died if we take Jesus seriously). And when it comes to life, tutors aren't temporary anymore than breathing is.

    Additionally, in your opening paragraph, knowing the Bible is set up as the mutual exclusive to knowing Christ. But what would you know of Christ were it not for the Bible? In what way does knowing the Bible detract from knowing Christ?

    I agree with Rebecca, the answer is not to neglect the Bible, but to embrace the Spirit.

  5. The Other Alice says:

    Very true, Jean. Thank you for sharing those Scriptures. They remind us to seek godliness and the power thereof. Thank God for knowledge of the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit in the United States! The government can never take that away; we have hidden it in our hearts!

  6. Jay says:

    Hi Jean,
    I agree with you! It is very important that we are all lead by the Spirit! In fact, that seems to be the main point of the book of Romans- being led by the Spirit of God. I do, however, have a few things I'd like to add. Basically, Rebecca put it perfectly! God would never tell us to do something that His Word said not to do or vice versa. Also, I have found that recently, the way that God speaks to me is through His Word, and through verses that I have been meditating on. I think that if you have hidden God's Word in your heart, then God's Spirit will speak to you in part by that Word. So I think that both the Spirit of God and the Word of God are essential.

    Have a blessed week

  7. akaGaGa says:

    @All Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this post. As Jim "The Prophet" predicted, the thread is longer than normal.

    There's an old chorus that has always spoken to my heart, that maybe will explain my motivation for writing this post:

    To know Him, to know Him
    is the cry of my heart.
    Spirit, reveal Him to me.
    To hear what He's saying
    brings life to my bones;
    to know Him, to know Him alone.

    In my experience, there is no greater joy on this earth than hearing the voice of our Lord, and I would hope to encourage others to listen for that voice and share in that joy.

    @AKA You're skating on thin ice. Maybe so. And next I may be, like Peter, walking on water. (Matt 14:28-29) But I would never try it unless I heard the voice of Jesus commanding me to do so – which goes to the point of this post. Knowing the scriptures will only fill your head with knowledge, not your heart, unless you're directed by the Holy Spirit.

    @Rebecca In some religious circles, it does seem that the Bible is worshiped instead of God It is sad indeed, Rebecca. And I wish I'd thought of that scripture. :) Here's the whole thing in context.

    "And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form. You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. (John 5:37-40)

    @Jim You're right. In our country in our day, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are not mutually exclusive. But the Bible is forbidden in some places and unknown in others. If I were preaching in Iraq, say, I would first want to see people filled with the Holy Spirit – then I would leave them Bibles, if possible.

    that which I've identified as a leading or teaching of the Spirit has come in the form of a new understanding of a piece of Scripture, and in the context of Bible study. That certainly happens, and I'm always grateful when it does. But I've also had God speak to me in other contexts – quite often when He wakes me up in the middle of the night! And these occasions, usually, are the things I really need to study and apply.

    @Ken Without the Bible, we just wouldn't know whether what we hear is of God or not. I'd like to say an emphatic Amen to this, but I can't honestly do that, and I'll tell you why.

    In the first few months after I was saved, I knew next to nothing of the Bible. Yet there were two different things I heard – one from a Christian acquaintance and one from my pastor – that just didn't set right with me. I kept saying to myself, "That just doesn't sound like my God." In the same state of ignorance as Peter and John, the Holy Spirit had put red flags over those two statements that I could not ignore. Ultimately, I hunted out the appropriate scriptures and took my concerns to the pastor. He agreed with me on both counts. This gave me confirmation from man, but my heart had never doubted.

    Without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the resulting love of the truth, I would probably have absorbed both of those errors. (2 Thess 2:10)

    @The Other Alice Thank God for knowledge of the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit in the United States! Amen!

    @Jay I think that if you have hidden God's Word in your heart, then God's Spirit will speak to you in part by that Word. He sure will, Jay, and what a blessing it is when He does. And when He speaks to us in other ways, we are blessed to be able to confirm what He said against the scriptures. But not everyone knows that He does speak in other ways, and how sad that is for them.

  8. Ken Eastburn says:

    Be that as it may, you simply cannot use your own experience (which, according to your own admission, eventually found its way back to Scripture) as normative or prescriptive for all Christians. Further, even if your convictions were right that time, there is no indication that they always would be. Surely you would not grant the same validity to someone saying it just didn’t feel right to them when they heard that murder was wrong. Our feelings may or may not mirror the truth of Scripture, but to rely on them alone is dangerous. In fact, I’m quite sure this is precisely where the prosperity gospel comes from.

  9. akagaga says:

    @Ken you simply cannot ???

    Your arrogance is getting old, Ken, but I will respond one more time in the hope that you might develop ears to hear. However, should you once again misrepresent my words on this blog, as you did previously on your own blog, I will simply delete your comment.

    I did not use just my own experience. It was backed up by some of the multiple scripture references to the leading of the Holy Spirit included in my original post, which you choose to ignore.

    Nor did I rely on my feelings, as you implied I did. There is a great difference between our feelings which you reference, and the voice of the Holy Spirit which I reference. Part of discernment is learning the difference between the two, which cannot be done by those without the indwelling of that same Spirit. Further, to characterize the voice of the Holy Spirit as feelings is not scripturally-based, and comes dangerously close to blasphemy.

    As for the prosperity gospel, I don’t know where it comes from because I’ve not researched it, but I suspect its spiritual source is the same as that of the latest craze for community.