The Biggest Problem in the Church Today (Part II)

“When Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4), surely he intended at the very least for us to read “every word,” for how can we “live . . . by every word that comes from the mouth of God” if we’ve never even read “every word that comes from the mouth of God.”? [1]

This is Part II of The Biggest Problem in the Church Today. If you haven’t yet read Part I, I would suggest clicking this link so you can read the first portion of this article, where I set the framework for how biblical illiteracy has become such an issue in America.

In this article I am going to move forward in explaining the issue of biblical illiteracy, and why I believe it is the biggest problem in the church today. First, I’m going to discuss the consequences of biblical illiteracy, and then for a short while I will discuss why the habit of reading Scripture is so imperative.  

So, let’s just get into it.

Here are FIVE reasons why biblical illiteracy is detrimental to both Christians, and the church as whole.

  1. Those who don’t read Scripture are more susceptible to sin.
  2. Those who don’t read Scripture can’t understand God.
  3. Those who don’t read Scripture can’t understand theology.
  4. Those who don’t read Scripture are more susceptible to being influenced by false teaching.
  5. Those who don’t read Scripture make the church more susceptible to apostasy.

1. Those who don’t read Scripture are more susceptible to sin.

I’ll be sure to go to Scripture to back up all these claims by the way. Let’s go to Psalm 119:11!

“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I may not sin against you.”

Psalm 119:11 (ESV)

What are the reasons for the author of this psalm to “store up” God’s word in his heart?

So that he will not sin against God.

The author (perhaps David) found it clear that an ignorance of God’s word will only breed behavior that is contrary to God’s commands.

Scripture makes it very clear to us that we have a sinful nature. The Bible says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), and that “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Rom. 3:10b-11).

We are sinful by our very nature and we lack understanding – we lack truth. If we’re not living in truth then we are deceived, and if we are deceived then sin is crouching at our door.

This is why God gave us the Bible in the first place. God gave us Scripture so that we could come to the knowledge of the truth and find redemption through faith. Romans 10:17 says “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” We find our faith through the words that God has given us in the Bible. Without his word there is no possibility for restoration or redemption, for there is no knowledge of the truth. There is only a world full of sin and deception.

But Christ “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). He has given us his word so that we may “have life and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10), he has preserved it and promised that it will never pass away (Mk. 13:31), and thus he expects for us to read it and to read it daily. For as it is written, “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4).

Thus, however often our flesh is fed our soul must be fed twice over. We do this through the continual sanctifying that we receive through God’s word. As Christ has said, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (Jn. 17:17).

Or more eloquently spoken that I…

“A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough for the next six months, or take sufficient air into his lungs at one time to sustain life for a week. We must draw upon God’s boundless store of grace from day to day as we need it.” – D. L. Moody

2. Those who don’t read Scripture can’t understand God.

There is an uncanny amount of false conceptions that exist throughout our culture about the nature of God.

Why is this so?

Because people fail to read God’s word. The Bible is our primary source for understanding God. When we fail to read God’s word, we leave ourselves with the innate inability to understand who God is.

What are some of these false conceptions about the nature of God?

That he is a tyrant. That he is unjust. That he isn’t omnipotent. That He, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are entirely different beings. That he is at fault for the current, chaotic state of the world. Oh, here’s one:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” [2]

Do any of these claims contend to be accurate when contrasted with what is written in Scripture?

Of course not.

The Bible tells us that:

God is just: “God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice.” – Job 34:12

God is merciful: “For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.” – Psalm 86:5

God is omnipotent: “Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?” – Isaiah 43:13

God is a triune God: (Genesis 1:26, John 1:1-3, 1 Corinthians 12:4-62, Corinthians 13:14, Colossians 1:15-16)

This list goes on and on…

God is so many things, so many good things. And we can never expect to understand everything there is no know about him. But what we can know about him is enough for this life, and he has disclosed all that we need to know about him in his word. If we fail to read his word, then how can we ever expect to know that which he desires us to know?

And he desires for us to read all of it. He expects us to read all of it. He didn’t give us the entirety of Scripture with the expectation that we would only read some of it. He gave us the entirety of Scripture with the expectation that we would read the entirety of Scripture.

And this ties into my next point:

3. Those who don’t read Scripture can’t understand theology.

Theology is the ‘study of all things God.’ If we don’t read the Bible, which is the primary source for all theology (all good theology that is), then we hamper our ability to attain a fruitful understanding of theology.

Why is theology important?

I’m glad you asked.

Allow me to first say this: Theology is not reserved to be studied by merely seminary students and Charles Spurgeon.

And the title of theologian is not to be claimed exclusively by those in the pulpit and other clergymen. The title of theologian is to be claimed by every follower of Christ, for a follower of Christ is expected to be a theologian. After all, Christ refers to us as his “royal priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:9); we are his saints (Eph. 2:19).

If theology is the study of all things God, and I am a follower of the one true God, then I must make it my mission to understand all that there is to know about he who I follow. This is the quest that we are all called to undertake. But if we attempt to commence this quest without the Bible in hand, then that which we understand about God, ourselves, the rest of the world, and how we all fit together, will be inexorably fallacious.

It is theology (or the lack thereof) that affects everything that we do. Theology shapes our worldview – the greater our understanding, the more accurate our worldview. The more depraved our understanding, the more deceived is our worldview.

The question is: where do we want to fall in on this spectrum, Enlighted or Deceived?

Our understanding of theology will decide.

My final point on this is that we shouldn’t imagine ourselves to be able to be well-versed in Scripture while lacking in our understanding of theology, and we cannot expect to call ourselves a theologian if we never pick up the Bible. A solid understanding of sound theology and the proper reading of Scripture are two disciplines that together are inseparable.

And it is our worldview and those who we influence who are at stake.

Christ has never intended for us to live in darkness and deception, and for that he has given us his word.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” – Psalm 119:105

4. Those who don’t read Scripture are more susceptible to being influenced by false teaching.

Yes, the failure to read Scripture will leave you with a scantiness of theological understanding. However, another issue is that you leave yourself quite vulnerable to believing in false teachings.

Did you know that the warning to look out for false teachers is mentioned in almost every book of the New Testament? Yes, false teachers are mentioned in every NT book except Philemon.

And it’s not just that we are merely given warnings about false teachers, we’re given the Bible as a whole. Thus, if we discipline ourselves to habitually read the Bible, then we will be quick to detect those who speak what is contrary to the truth written in the Bible.

It is remarkable how many false gospels still exist in the world despite the Bible having been complete for almost 2,000 years. You would think that we would all be on the same page by now (pun intended), but we’re not. Many professing Christians are proving themselves to not even be on page one of Scripture, and they do so every time they fall for a counterfeit gospel. And yes, counterfeit gospels and false teachers are very prevalent, as well as their influence, which is marked by the great number of those following them.

This is truly an unfortunate reality. And it will continue to be a reality for as long as there are people who fail to read the Bible for themselves.

Scripture warns us that “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4: 3-4).

This is the warning for our generation, and every generation to come.

It is when we fail to read the Scriptures for ourselves that we leave ourselves vulnerable to believing in any one of the multitudes of false gospels that have been devised specifically for those with “itching ears”. Our hyper culture and technological advancements; smartphones at our immediate disposal, have rid us with the desire to slow down and read the Bible for ourselves. We don’t want to take the time to see if we’ve been given a passage out of context, and we’re often too soft to take Jesus’ words at face value (que the prosperity gospel). We want to hear what sounds nice and what makes us feel better. It is the ears that “itch” that yearn to hear from teachers who “suit their own passions”.

And to quickly strike that note about taking passages out of context, this is where the need for sound theology comes into play once again. It is essential that we discipline ourselves to read the entirety of Scripture so that we can understand any given passage based on the context of the entire storyline of Scripture.

5. Those who don’t read Scripture make the church more susceptible to apostasy.

Apostasy is the word that is used to describe the renunciation of Christianity. If a member of the Christian faith were to shift their beliefs to the complete abandonment of the faith, that person would be considered an apostate.

I want to make this point here very brief. And I do so because many of the other points previously listed give credence to this one. For instance, false teaching quickly leads to apostasy, as well as a misunderstanding of sound theology and the failure to understand who God really is. So, I wish to make this one brief, not because it is of any less importance, but because it’s so correlated to all of the other reasons why reading Scripture is so important.

Here it is:

The church is more susceptible to apostasy when people don’t read Scripture, because we wouldn’t have the church if we didn’t have Scripture.

Without Scripture, how would we know how to function as a church? How would we even know the word church?

We wouldn’t.  

Once again “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Without the word of Christ, there is no faith. It is the power of the proclamation of the gospel that people come to believe in the true and living God.

The less we read Scripture, the weaker we ought to expect our faith to become. The complete abandonment of reading Scripture, the complete abandonment of the faith. Faith and the reading of Scripture are two inseverable constituents that are integral to the Christian life. Any disciple of Christ; anyone yearning to follow his teachings, do all that he says, and submit all their authority to Christ alone will fail to do so unless they are deliberately feeding on the word of God for sustenance and direction.

Some final thoughts on the importance of reading Scripture.

Scripture has been handed to us by the Lord of the universe, as a gift.

And he has done so through an immeasurable effort. The Bible was written over the course of 1,400 years, across 3 different continents, in 3 different languages, and written by over 40 different hands. And it’s cohesive. Not only cohesive, it’s in fact the most hyperlinked text on planet earth.

God has given much time and effort to gift us the invaluable words from his very breath.

It is the most remarkable book ever written, for it is the only book to ever be written by God himself.

What a blessing it is to have these words so readily available to every single day.

Last of all, try ruminating on this thought for a moment: If The Fall never happened, would there even be a Bible?

Answer: Nope.

The Bible exists because of The Fall. The Bible is “God’s story about his plan to rescue, redeem, and restore what was lost in the fall of humanity.” [3]

The Bible exists so that we can get from where we are now to heaven.

It’s not just wise to read it, it’s obligatory that we read it, for we most desperately need it.

[1] Whitney, Donald S. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. (Colorado Springs, CO.: NavPress, 2014).

[2] Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. (Boston, MA.: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006).

[3] Gutierrez, Ben, Chris Hulshof and John Cartwright. (Nashville, TN.: B&H Publishing Group, 2016).

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