(Created before August 13, 2012 for a bible study)
"You cannot get the Scriptures unless you are in the Scriptures" ~Mark Driscoll
The goal of this bible study was to answer two questions:
1. Can we be a Christian without reading the bible?
2. What effect does reading the bible have?
What does it mean to be a Christian?
A Christian is one who has accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord, and Saviour. They believe (know) Christ, fully man and fully God, died on the cross for their sins and rose again. They have repented of their past sins and have made the decision to serve Jesus with their life. (John 1:12, John 3:16, John 3:3, 1 John 5:12,13) (Also see my answer for “How do I know I’m a Christian?”)
The difference between Christianity and other religions is that in other religions people do good things in order to be saved (Islam, Catholicism, etc.), whereas in the Christian faith we are doing good because we are grateful that we are already saved.
What does it mean to do good?
Most people would agree that to do "good" is doing good to others (which could include God and one's self): not doing anything that harmed others. There will always be decisions that will either "harm" one person or another. Is one allowed to "harm" for the greater good? (Can discuss, but not the focus of today's bible study, perhaps another one...) What is the guideline by which we decide what is "good?" Is it perhaps having to do with your intentions?
We'll come back to that later.
Continuing on the topic of what does it means to be a Christian...
Those who are Christians are indwelt with the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), allowing us to have a relationship with God.
It's a well known catchphrase that "Christianity isn't a religion, it's a relationship." It's true. We are able to talk to God, we have a relationship with Him.
And God is able to talk to us. God can talk through us by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but that kind of guiding is very similar to the guiding one's conscience does, especially without the accompaniment of the other ways God talks to us.
God talks to us through his servants. That is how people heard God in the past. These servants were able to pass on God's words not because God was physically speaking to them, but because they had access to the Scripture(s) (which only became the bible within the last millennium.
So it IS possible to be a Christian without the bible. After all we have the Holy Spirit and godly teachers. We are able to talk to God. A relationship can exist. We can know what to do by asking experienced, learned, and godly people. In some unfortunate scenarios this is the only option.
However, and this is important, it is very well known that there are those who purposely or unintentionally falsely pass on the words of God. If one's knowledge of God is largely limited to information gathered from other people, how do they know for sure what they are hearing is truth?
Getting back to an earlier question, how do we know what we are doing is good? We know we are supposed to serve Jesus with our lives, but how do we know what we are doing is actually serving Jesus?
We need the bible for that. Only through knowing the bible is it possible to be assured that what you are learning is truth, and what you are doing is good. The better you know the bible, the more discernment you'll have in your day to day life, this'll come both through the knowledge gained by the bible and by the growing relationship with God.
We don't need the bible to be a Christian, but we need it in order for our relationship with God to be a healthy, growing one.
I find it necessary to go a bit further on this topic...
Jesus compares becoming a Christian as being born again (John 3:3). We have new lives as Christians (2 Corinthians 5:17). So growth is needed. Otherwise we are stuck as newborn babies. We would still be Christians, but not strong ones, not obedient ones. Babies may need to be fed initially, but eventually they need to start feeding themselves. Eventually Christians need to start reading the bible for themselves. We need to become stronger (Hebrews 5:12-14, 1 Peter 2:2).
There are so many people who are just a pleasure to be with. They show the "fruits of the spirit" without necessarily believing the bible.
Why is the bible effective? What difference does it make?
Quite frankly, if you just want to survive and even thrive in this world, then the bible isn't what you are looking for.
But as Christians we know that there's more to life than just the happily ever after most people are wanting, at least in the sense they believe it. We know there's a Heaven (Revelation 21) and a Hell (Revelation 20:15) (For more on Heaven and Hell visit “The H Words”). We know people's souls are on the line. As Christians it is our responsibility to do our best to follow God because we know there is so much more at stake than our own happiness (Ephesians 4:1).
We shouldn't just want to live "good" lives, we should want to make a difference, we should want our lives to have some sort of meaning, some eternal significance.
We should want to obey God. How do we know for sure that we are obeying God unless we know what the bible says (1 Peter 3:15)?
Quite often I'll be in a challenging situation, and a bible verse will come to mind and help me through it. True, there's many "wise" statements worldly people cling to in order to overcome challenges, such as "reach for the stars," "believe in yourself," and "all you need is love." But there is something comforting about knowing that your motivation comes from something concrete that has stood the test of time. The bible is from God.
One example of how knowing the bible (even though I fail at remembering the exact address of the reference) is this: quite often I sit in complete frustration with how my life has went and my directionless and mysterious future. I don't know what I should do with my life. Should I be working at a grocery store, for instance. Then I remember the verse "in all your ways acknowledge him and he shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:6 NKJV)." I know this is true because it comes from the bible, but I don't know "you can be anything you want to be" is true, even though it sounds nice.
Even if you are like me and don't remember the whole verse, it's still hard to forget certain truths gained from the bible, such as knowing that we won't be tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).
As time goes by, we'll discover more and more how the bible is effective. Every worthwhile sermon can be backed up by scripture. Every worthwhile sermon makes an impact in your life.
The bible is also effective because from it we can be assured of our salvation through Christ (Romans 5:8). Other people may claim to have the secret to finding happiness, but it is our responsibility as human beings to seek the truth (John 14:6).