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I want to start with a quote from Martin Luther that expressed his view of the Bible he would translate from Greek into the German language. He said,

You can’t joke with God’s Word. If you cannot understand this, take off your hat in front of it. It’s not a joke, it’s serious and wants to be honored.

If you read my blog regularly, you might know that I am not someone who recommends to regularly study the Bible according to an unalterable time schedule. I could never suggest this as I feel that Spirit-led people might read the Bible as God nudges them to do so. However, I remember several times in my life when I somehow devoured the whole Bible for several months. You might know that there are times when God convicts us and calls us to turn from our old ways where we ignored His Word (repentance is just another word for finally turning to the Lord). When He in His grace forgave us and we sense His love, joy, and peace after having been restored to God, usually a hunger for His Word (the Bible) and for the presence of the Lord will follow, too, as we hunger and thirst for THE LIFE only He can give. Jesus told us,

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (Jn 6:63 ESV)

But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Mt 4:4 ESV)

This sort of ‘binge-eating’ of the Word of God happened at least three times in my life. Today I realize how important these times have been for me. Even though I cannot remember all these Bible verses I once dug into if you ask me right now (in fact, it often seems I do not remember any of them), 😉 I know that God reminds me of what I need to know according to His plan in His timing. As there is not always a Bible or my cell phone with a Bible app available to me (esp. when I sleep and dream), 😊 it seems that God pulls, even in my dreams (!), particular verses I once read out of a hidden resource which is located at a lower level in my mind. It is like what Jesus said here, speaking of the scriptural knowledge we might have collected before Christ manifests Himself to us.

 “And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” (Mt 13:52 ESV)

So, it is surely never wrong to read the Bible! However, we can also misuse the written word when we take it out of its original context and try to apply it to further our own personal agenda. This is what the devil tried to do with our Lord Jesus Christ in the wilderness, for example. Satan took some Scriptures out of context in order to tempt Jesus to deny His Father, the only true God. The devil, of course, who wanted to further his own kingdom in doing so suggested Scriptures to Jesus which in themselves were (and still are) true. However, taken out of context AND not spoken in God’s timing, obeying them would have meant disobedience to God!! Do you see our problem? 🙄 Written truth is not always applicable unless God is speaking it to you and me right now. ”Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”. Present Tense!

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. (Is 30:21 ESV – emphasis added)

We must not think because someone has been well trained in Biblical studies that they automatically know the real God also. Alas, often the opposite is the case. 😦 As for a person who knows Scripture but not God through Jesus Christ as well, we could learn from what they know, but not from how they live their lives. Jesus said,

“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.” (Mt 23:2-3 ESV)

In fact, eternal life given to our own spirit by being born from above (Jn 3:3) must have come from the Holy Spirit before Jesus’ words turn into spirit and life to us! The Holy Spirit alone can make the whole Bible alive whenever He wills. It might need years, even decades, until we finally grasp what we could not accept or understand in Scripture before, but it is solely the work of the Holy Spirit who relates biblical truth to our everyday life so that we eventually realize, “Ah, these Scriptures are true, indeed!” Therefore, Jesus warned those who knew Scriptures but did not likewise believe in Him,

“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.“ (Jn 5:39-40 ESV)

While our soul and our fallen nature can grasp parts of the written word on an intellectual and superficial level, these parts we cannot understand we might be tempted to explain by human wisdom also. And therein lies the danger. Either we throw the baby out with the bathwater by fully rejecting the Bible when there seem to be contradictions our mind cannot comprehend or we try to take the whole of Scripture literally, which does not work at all. Scripture must be interpreted for us by the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, without the Holy Spirit, it is often wrongly applied. Just as the apostle Paul wrote Timothy,

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:14-17 ESV)

All images © Susanne Schuberth 2020