Thursday, June 03, 2010

Believers Without Bibles Prosper!

A few times I have it said that many believers in the world don’t have access to bibles and that they often prosper more in their faith than most who do have bibles. The argument continues with reference to those throughout history who were either illiterate, too poor to obtain a bible, or were denied the right to have one by the authorities of their time.
If scripture is so vital to Christian life, how do (and did) those believers make it?

It is ironic that these arguments are usually raised by those who have easy access to multiple bibles who are not likely to find themselves in a position where they never have one.

If we don't have access to a bible and can't get access to a bible then we can not and will not be held accountable for what we don’t have. And I believe the Lord will provide in some way to make up for the lack.

But if we do have access:
“…from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”. (Luke 12:48)

So why and how do those believers prosper in their faith without easy access to scripture?

They are often living in genuine poverty and/or experiencing genuine persecution and have to genuinely trust in the Lord for day to day survival. But bible ownership (especially multiple copy ownership) often comes with relative wealth and freedom from harsh persecution.

While these "benefits" are appreciated the freedom is usually accompanied by countless distractions. These distractions include a lot of "spiritual benefits" such as Christian books & music, TV, Church attendance, preaching etc., which can become substitutes for searching the scriptures for ourselves. Those resources are often given more influence and authority over our doctrine than scripture is - because they are so convenient and easy to take in.

And when we DO go to scripture, if we come across something we can't understand, we have so many resources to which we can refer for understanding. Unfortunately those resources can become substitutes for trusting the Holy Spirit to teach us.
We often prefer to turn to commentaries because we are impatient for answers and the Spirit doesn't always respond to our impatience as quickly as we would like. Unlike the commentary writers, the Holy Spirit knows the truth of EVERYTHING. He also knows our capacity and readiness to learn so He reveals what we need to understand when we are ready to understand it.

And how many people trust in study bibles to give them understanding? And how many of those people find themselves reading the study notes more than they read the actual biblical text? Those are just some thoughts on this issue. It is not due to the presence or absence of a Bible. It is due to the types of society in which Bible ownership is easy, hard or impossible. And most importantly, it is due to the value we REALLY give to scripture. Do we value it enough to actually take it seriously? Do we take it as seriously as those to whom access to the scriptures is a rare privilege?


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Anonymous said...

I like to ask people who say they do daily devotions if they actually read the Bible every day or do they just read what someone else is saying about the Bible. People are building relationship with the authors and teachers not with Jesus. You have to put in the time to get to know Him.

Onesimus said...

That is always a problem with those "daily devotional" books.

It is also the case with a lot of bible study aids that get you to read a section of scripture and then answer questions about the verses you've read. The questions can direct the reader towards a particular conclusion and a particular understanding of what they have read.

I've given up trying to understand everything I read in scripture - meaning I'm willing to let things go occasionally. The temptation is always there to consult what someone else says but I've learned to put things aside for a time.

So often understanding has come later. Some times we don't understand because there is something else we need to learn first.
With me this was the case with the “millennium”. Revelation gives very little information about this period and that few verses perhaps raises many more questions than it answers. There are many contradictory views about the millennial rule of Jesus, including outright denial that it will happen.
Most of this ignorance can be cleared up through the additional revelation given throughout the rest of scripture – especially the OT prophets.

I understand far more about the millennium now after spending time reading the prophets. Without familiarity with those prophets it is impossible to understand the fullness of what Revelation 20 is revealing.

SLW said...

I don't understand why folk find other sources more interesting, compelling, or understandable than the Word. Smith Wigglesworth would read nothing but the Bible. When it comes to God, his will, his dealings with mankind, and his plans for me, I think his approach just might be the best one. I love history for context, but for anything theological, everything starts and ends with the Bible!

Onesimus said...

Yes SLW,
for doctrine and theology we should start and finish with the Bible.

I have noticed how easy it is to see when someone is interpreting scripture through the filter of what they have been taught. You can tell by their terminology.

On a forum that I frequent, one person is forever mentioning the current "dispensation of grace" and his doctrine confirms that he has picked up his beliefs from dispensationalist teachers and not from scripture.

Another obvious one I know you'll be familiar with is continual reference to "the doctrines of grace". No prizes for guessing where THAT terminology originates.

I do not discount the value of referring to the studies of others, but the time to do that is AFTER we have been to scripture and AFTER we have developed an understanding of what we have read in scripture.

I find that in referring to others at THAT point I will usually get confirmation that I am on the right track or I will receive some kind of correction to point out that I have something wrong - and then it is back to scripture.

A very important lesson I have learned in recent years is that I don't need to understand everything NOW.
Some things will only come with time and further study as various pieces of what I've read come together.
But I get the feeling I'm now repeating what I said in earlier comments.

Sr Crystal Mary said...

Oi Oi,,, Great to see a fellow Christian Ozzie on her. Great to meet you.
God is so good and honestly, the best book to read IS the bible and the best teacher IS the Holy Spirit.
Bless you brother.

Onesimus said...

Hi Crystal Mary,
Thank you for visiting. After looking at your profile and your blog I see we have some common interests. You might be interested in looking at my other two blogs.

I note your interest in creative writing.
I studied creative writing at University as a "mature" student and did very well academically, but I didn't really put it into practice after graduation.

My most recent blog "Out of Shadows" (a "literary" blog) was started as a project to hopefully encourage me to write creatively again.

Sylvia said...

Hi Onesimus, I love your blog site and look forward to looking in more often.
I very much appreciate your sound biblical comments here (and elsewhere).
I notice that one of your favourite books is 'unlocking the bible' well it is mine too. I agree that understanding the prophets is key to understanding the truth of scripture as a whole, and I have learned so much from David Pawson in this regard.

Onesimus said...

Thanks Sylvia,
If you look back through my blog you will find a few references to David Pawson's ministry and links to some of his teaching.

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog and love your post. I too find it ironic how in the west where we are saturated with Bibles or Christian literture, we sometimes don't apprectiate it. In other places where even a page of the Bible is passed around, devoured, and cherished they rare flourishing in their faith. It's all about Who you know, not what you know.

I am looking forward to future posts. Thanks!

Onesimus said...

Hi Godthinker,
I like the way you say it:

"It's all about Who you know, not what you know."

So many times when I've spoken out about the importance of scripture there's often someone who makes the accusation of "worshipping a book".

But it is the books of the Bible that we learn more about God and how to recognise His voice.

In a world of so many confusing voices and opinions I thank the Lord that He has given us a standard by which all of those voices and opinions can be assessed.