Throughout the life of the pastor and theologian, John Wesley, he was described as a “man of one Book”. The one Book that is referred to was none other than the Bible. Although Wesley was very well read across many areas, he knew the only source that pointed to true salvation, faith, and practice was found in the Bible alone.
Today, there is no lack of books, commentaries, study guides, courses, curriculum, and the like. Many turn to these other sources that may talk about the Bible, but are not a replaced for the Bible itself.
Churches have done an awful job teaching people to read and study the Bible for themselves. People feel unable to properly understand the Bible without outside help. But instead of training people up, people are left in the very infant stages of their faith; dependent upon and trusting in other people and other sources to tell them about faith.
The root of the problem seems to stem from people either being too trusting or too lazy to take ownership of their own faith.
In being too trusting, people often look to those that are considered “experts”. These so-called experts are those who often have masters and doctorates from colleges and seminaries, are commissioned or ordained, and have been appointed as pastors and leaders in ministries, churches, and denominations. They might also be those who speak at conferences, author books, and may be active on radio, television, and social media. The crowds look to them because they have great charisma to explain their ideas and can often quote verses left and right. But what is missed is that people can be easily persuaded and manipulated because they don’t question or know the Bible well enough to know if what they are being taught is true or not.
In being too lazy, people tend to complain about being too busy or not really wanting to do the work of studying the Bible themselves. People would much rather just be told what to believe instead of having to open their Bibles. Many would also rather go through a study guide that prompts questions, gives people ideas to ponder on, and lots of other things that lead people in a certain direction. What people miss, though, is that all of these outside sources begin and end with their own opinions and agendas.
We must return to the Bible to read and study without pre-conceived ideas and conclusions.
At this point, some might be feeling very uncomfortable with what I am saying. I am not saying there isn’t a place for other sources or that we can’t spend time in other things that may not even be related to Scripture. What I am saying is that the Bible must be the only source when it comes to understanding true faith.
What, then, is the place for other sources?? Other sources may be used after our careful reading and studying of the Bible to help understand a different point of view or to confirm our understanding of Scripture isn’t way off the rails. Other sources may also help in knowing about historical or cultural contexts that we may not know about otherwise. But we again, must not get overwhelmed by these things to the point that our faith is defined by all of these sources rather than the Bible itself.
I am a big proponent of the concept of both reading and studying the Bible. Every year, I set out to read through the entire Bible from Genesis through Revelation. Sometimes reading straight through, other times, chronologically. I try to encourage those part of our church as well as other believers to be doing the same. There is much to be said about continually having an overview of all of Scripture and not just studying select books or passages.
There must also be times of deeper study of the Bible. This means really diving into the individual passages and books of the Bible. I really caution against doing overly topical studies, because many times you end up jumping from one verse or passage without truly understanding the context for which it was written. Some have called this “Biblical Hopscotch”. There may be times when we want to study a particular theology or to understand God’s Way in a particular situation, but this should not become the norm. Individual, deeper study through Scripture helps bring about a greater understanding of how to live out our faith as we carefully dive into the text.
We must be careful that the Bible is the sole source for understanding faith and practice rather than things we have be taught or have gained from our life experiences.
Many in churches do quite the opposite. They fill their teaching and preaching from all sorts of other sources; with the Bible simply being one among many. Sermons are often full of quotes from the “whose-who” of both the popular Christian world and other secular people. Sermons today often begin with a concept and work backwards to find verses and sources that support their agendas and sermon series’. Once you recognize this, you realize how utterly dangerous, and more times than not, the false teaching that often goes along with this type of preaching.
Our faith and relationship with the Lord should be the most important thing in our lives. We cannot give this responsibility over to others because we might find ourselves either too trusting or too lazy to make time for the Lord and His Word a priority in our lives. We also can’t seek to justify ourselves by spending time in all these others sources, but neglect the one Book that we can trust as the final authority for faith and practice.
Can it be said that each of us are known as a “man of one Book”?? Let us consider the seriousness of owning our own faith and not relying on other people or sources to tell us what they think about faith. May we truly be known as people who are reading, studying, and knowing God according to the Bible alone.