by Roland W. Keith
Name one area in life where knowledge and understanding are not important. If you are a youngster and decide you want to play baseball you have to listen to the coach in order to learn— he will teach you how to hold the bat, catch the ball, throw to the correct base, etc. First day on the job? You’ve got a lot to learn to be successful. Life is all about learning. The more you learn and the better you get at applying what you learn the more likely you are to survive— on the job, in friendships, in marriage, in life itself.
Peter admonishes his readers to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord (II Peter 3:18), because he knew that the only way to survive as a Christian was to know the word. We have to learn about Christ to become a Christian (Romans 10:14). After accepting the gospel our Christian life is just beginning— and so is our education in the truth. To grow as followers of Christ we must come to know the word that Jesus left for us to live by, and to do that we must master the teachings of the Bible. In a comparison of two groups given the opportunity to receive the good news about Christ, Luke recorded: “The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men” (Acts 17:10-12).
In all walks of life those who are most successful are those who are eager to learn, are open to new ideas, and who are also diligent in weighing the evidence, discriminating fact from fiction. As Paul later wrote the Thessalonians, “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (I Thessalonians 4:1). The student of the Bible is not a cursory reader, but an investigator looking for proof. John gave his readers much the same direction as Paul did when he wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (I John 4:1).
As Christians our goal is to study the Bible, becoming experts in its teachings. We learn to resolve apparent differences in the various writer’s treatment of the same subject. We connect the thought patterns that run from writer to writer adding each piece to complete a “picture” of the subject under discussion. We leave no stone (or verse) unturned. We do word studies to ascertain their meanings. We compare what we hear to what is written, searching out additional scriptures to confirm or deny what we are told. In our desire to uncover the truth we treat the Bible as the key to life and death, because spiritually it is. We heed the words of Paul who wrote, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15).
Each of us should have the goal to go beyond a basic understanding of the word to become a skilled worker in the word (Hebrews 5:12-14). Whether or not we ever stand up in front of a class we should each strive to have the requisite knowledge and comprehension of a teacher and to utilize that skill in teaching others even if it is one-on-one in conversation (I Peter 3:15). As Christians each of us have obviously been given the opportunity to hear the gospel, or we wouldn’t be members of the Lord’s church. Do we not want to share the good news with others? To do that with any measure of long-term success we must achieve a profound understanding of the Holy Word.
“How,” Paul asked, “are they to believe in Him of Whom they have never heard. And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14). There are many who dedicate themselves to the work of God as preachers and missionaries. However, the spread of God’s word is not theirs alone. That responsibility belongs to each Christian, in one way or another. What are we doing to help spread the word of God? While it is true some of us may have more or less chances than others to engage people in spiritual conversation, the question is are we taking advantage when the opportunity does present itself?
James encouraged his readers to put aside wickedness and receive the word for salvation, encouraging them to not only hear the word but to be doers of the word (James 1:21-22). Part of putting the word into action is sharing it with others. If we are to become workers in the word handling it as God intended (II Timothy 2:15), we are going to have to actually reach out to others with the word. The scriptures are not a secret that someone shared with us to be kept from others. They are the words of truth and life to be taught far and wide. Would you hide the cure for cancer from others, or would you tell the world? If you have a Bible near you, you have the cure for the most destructive disease in the world at your fingertips. The disease is sin, and the cure is the Holy Scriptures. Spread the cure!
In the gospel according to John he recorded these words of Jesus, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in Me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears My words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects Me and does not receive My words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on My own authority, but the Father who sent Me has himself given Me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that His commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told Me” (John 12:46-50).
Those who accept the word will be saved. Those who refuse will be lost. Most of us have someone close to us who has rejected the truth. Several of those in my life have passed on, never having accepted the Lord. It is sad to think about, but each person has to make that choice for themselves. All we can do is share the word with them while they are here, hoping it will touch their hearts and compel them to reach out to God for salvation. We study the Bible to develop a ready recollection of the word for just such occasions. For those of us whose memories are not the best we can compensate by having study aids, memory joggers, verse lists, etc. at the ready to help facilitate every study we are able to have with an interested party.
The important thing is to get the person we are working with hands-on in the scriptures. Hearing is good but hearing and seeing is more effective. If we can get them into the word with a clear road map to the pertinent scriptures, being prepared to answer questions we can successfully share the word with a reasonable chance of leading that person to the truth. Paul once 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” (II Timothy 3:14-17).
When we share the gospel with someone we put them on the same path that Timothy’s mother and grandmother put him on, and that Paul later led him along. Not only can we lead someone to the truth and help them understand it, but after they have come to faith we can and should continue to help them on the way. We all need help from time-to-time as we journey toward heaven’s gate. It is through perseverance and the aid of our brothers and sisters in Christ around us that we gain the strength the Psalmist had when he wrote, “I do not turn aside from Your rules, for You have taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119: 102-105).
To gain that kind of strength and confidence in the word we must continue to grow in our knowledge. We cannot afford to stop growing and gaining in spiritual strength. As a man who stops being active loses physical strength and becomes weaker so is the man who is complacent in his faith. A good deal of the instruction we find in the New Testament is in fact focused on our need to not only maintain but to cultivate our faith and understanding. We don’t retire as Christians, instead we travel the path to heaven knowing to it is lifelong commitment. As Paul told the Corinthians, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:11-12). To avoid taking that fall that Paul warns against we must go beyond the elementary teachings of the faith to become mature in our faith (Hebrews 6: 1-6).
In his letter to the Hebrews Paul wrote, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He Who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries" (Hebrews 10 -23-27). If we hope to avoid the “fearful expectation of judgment” that Paul spoke of we must respect God’s word, growing in our knowledge and understanding of the wisdom contained therein, sharing it with others, and diligently applying it to our daily lives.
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.