A life characterized by an immersion in the Bible, and a thoughtful understanding of its more than 31,000 verses, offers weighty benefits. In the 23rd chapter of the Old Testament book that bears his name, Job declared that he treasured the words of God’s mouth more than his necessary food.
God’s words flawlessly represent the power to illuminate the best path to walk through life, according to Ezra—the author of Psalm 119:105. No one should ignore Jeremiah 15:16 if any truth exists in the old saying, “You are what you eat.” The famous Berean believers, immortalized in Acts 17, are held up as examples to follow by Luke because they invested the time to search the Scriptures for truth.
Romans 10:17 describes God’s words not only as the very pathway to eternal life, but also as a way to strengthen one’s faith on this side of New Jerusalem. Hebrews 4:12 paints a vivid picture of how the Word of God changes a person forever by piercing through any present outer shells and transforming those willing to believe from the inside out. Revelation 1:3 offers blessing to anyone willing to embrace that final book of the Bible, trusting the One it reveals.
And on and on such a list could go. From beginning to end, the Bible claims to be nothing less than the recorded words of God Himself. This is done perhaps nowhere more succinctly than the Apostle Paul’s second letter to his student and friend, Timothy, who was shepherding the vital local church in Ephesus. Not only does Paul assert, in 2nd Timothy 3:16-17, that all of the Scriptures are inspired by God, but that they literally help complete a person—showing him or her what is right, what is wrong, how to get right with God, and how to stay right with Him. The Apostle’s emphasis focuses on both the nature and Source of the Scriptures, as well as the results of those who believe and apply them.
In other words, a complete, fulfilled life is not possible for those made in God’s image apart from the image-bearer gaining some understanding of, and level of intimacy with, the Creator through His words.
So, not only the weighty benefits of life are at stake, but the most important ones—the ones that make our short lives here on earth meaningful, as well as the only ones that last forever. On the flip side of the examination of the benefits of a life lived attached to the Bible dwell the just-as-weighty dangers of the biblically illiterate life.
Truth. Light. Transparency. Accessibility. Clarity. Honor. Healing. Accountability. Sacrificial Love. Life. That is one list. Now consider their opposites. Deception. Darkness. Obfuscation. Obstacles. Fog. Shame. Pain. Defiance. Self-centeredness. Death.
The former set carries one Source, connotation, and result. The latter set offers an entirely—and abruptly different—source, feeling, and outcome. The first never pretends to be the second, but the second loves to masquerade as the first, until it is forced not to.
2nd Corinthians 11:14-15 explains, “…Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”
You find both the benefits and disguised dangers everywhere: homes, churches, education systems, businesses, governments, etc. Why? Because evil cannot escape God’s omnipresence and the whole universe groans under sin’s dark curse.
A popular example would be the visual representation of one of the primary teachings of major Eastern religions—Yin and Yang. You know the black and white swirls that are equal in intensity and volume, working together to be the whole, and neither existing purely as each has the other embedded in their cores. With Yin and Yang, neither is dominant and both are necessary for existence. That representation of the reality of things is nothing less than a lie from the pit of Hell.
Consider Biblical Christianity next to the Yin and Yang. Good and evil are not equal opposites necessary for existence to continue. In the beginning, there was God and He was good. God existed in purity, perfection, and trinity—not duality—and existed in that way literally forever before Genesis 1:1’s famous first three words, “In the beginning.”
The good of God is not only not dependent on the existence of evil to continue, but is dominant in every way at every turn. Evil was allowed by God, by the Source of all that is good, to not only come into existence, but to actively deceive and harm, as it is known to do. Good, though, sets the limits. In Genesis 3, God declares to Satan that he will, indeed, cause harm to the woman’s seed, but that her Seed will destroy him, and by extension, all that belongs to him. That plays out to its conclusion and God’s Genesis 3 promise is kept in Revelation 20.
If Romans 10:17 is true and a faith that saves comes by hearing the Word of God, then the flipside is a lack of faith and salvation—destruction along with the dominated, defeated Satan. Any other danger I could list pales in comparison to these pillars of the Bible’s metanarrative.
The difference and distance between the benefits and dangers are easily seen in the differences and distance between Cain and Abel, or Halloween and Easter, or Jesus and Satan; sometimes mistaken for the same type of thing or person, but closer inspection, light, patience, and discernment reveal them to be two very different things—an eternity apart.
Both Cain and Abel were worshipping and both holidays are celebrated, but that’s where the stories, paths, substance, spirits, and final destinations are ripped apart.
Have you ever considered that Satan is far more appealing to human beings apart from the intervention of Jesus Christ, yet Satan has no idea what it means to be human? We choose to embrace the foreign, deadly S-I-N virus rather than The Great Physician. Satan chooses to hate us, driven by jealousy, while Jesus chose to become human, forever motivated by love and compassion for us. Yet, we humans crucified Jesus because we thought He was dangerous. We were deceived.
Spiritual reality does not allow room for a fence to sit on or a neutral Switzerland to vacation in. It is not a matter of you, dear reader, needing to make a choice between believing the Bible or not believing. We all are actively and presently choosing darkness or light.
It is more a matter of recognizing that if you are not actively choosing to turn from darkness to light (evidenced by repentance, as described in Acts 3:19) that you need to be turned from darkness to light by Jesus Christ in order to receive forgiveness and eternal life instead of eternal death (Acts 26:18). That is the Gospel truth—the difference between living forever comforted or dying forever tormented.
As I mentioned above, any other danger I could list pales in comparison to an individual image-bearer of God being tormented forever, unable to die; but more temporal and, for now, more visible dangers exist. Consider the post-modern world we live in. Many of us think about what may likely lie ahead, and would nod in agreement that it seems that “something wicked this way comes,” right beside also knowing Jesus can return anytime.
The Shakespearean play Macbeth is the source of the poetic line that announces something ominous approaching. If you know the play, you know there is a monster approaching the line’s speaker, but it was a monster she helped create. Fiction mirrors reality, though, in that as our society moves toward embracing wickedness more and more, it is wise to examine ourselves, as commanded in 2nd Corinthians 13:5, to ensure we are not also enjoying the sins Jesus died to free us from, right along with the blind and lost.
So many souls worried and angry about being egregiously overtaxed and their rights oppressed by the government. So many others troubled and angry about being oppressed, or others being oppressed by groups with more money and influence than they have, or by the systems in place. It is not uncommon to hear, “This is an outrage! Where is justice?!”
That does sound like our world now, but that paragraph was composed describing Israel under Roman control. It was a hard place to live. God knew that, but He didn’t send His Son to save anyone from one group or government taxing or oppressing any others, in Israel then or in America now.
One of the dangers of being, and remaining, ignorant of God’s Word and power is that our society becomes a place characterized by twisted identity and institutions. Think about it.
We are constantly being pushed to believe that we are either oppressed or oppressor, that we are either this race or that, that we are who we say we are or even what gender we are, and that is our identity.
No one can be your judge unless you do not believe these things, then the State will judge you wrong for your disbelief. What if I know and believe the Bible—God’s Word—about my identity (made in God’s image), what and who is really oppressing all of us (Satan and sin), and all sorts of unpopular truths like unborn babies are living human beings, and that God designed marriage—not the State—so the State cannot change the defining characteristics of marriage? The same can be said about the New Testament church. God designed His Church, not the State, so the State cannot change the defining characteristics of what Church is or what is can and cannot do.
That is a society fraught with many dangers and it is the society we live in. That means the further society gets away from biblical literacy, the further they get away from believing the truths that bring grace and peace. Deception and injustice will dominate that landscape. When those who are biblically literate and believing God’s Word act in such a way as their understanding dictates, we should be prepared to follow Jesus’ example, even to death on a cross.
John 18:36 records that Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” Jesus expressed to His followers that they should not resist or fight the injustice that brought Jesus trouble, pain, imprisonment, and even execution. Earlier in John 18, we see Peter drawing a sword to resist, but Jesus stops him. It is difficult to imagine that scene was not in Peter’s mind and heart as he wrote the words that would later be labeled 1st Peter 3:17, explaining that it is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
Some would say that the Apostle Paul used the Roman legal system to further the Gospel. Yes, he sure did. And it ultimately led to his beheading. He never resisted arrest. He made his case in the unjust and unbelieving system, but never condemned the system or society. He just submitted and accepted the dangerous consequences that system brought to those who would bow to no other than Jesus Christ, including himself.
Peter and Paul came to understand that Jesus did not come to save us from each other, or our nations from ruin, or to bring world peace, though injustice and war do grieve His heart. He came to save us from our sins. It is not that the corporate sins and systems of this world will not be overcome by His Kingdom, because they will. That story can be read in passages like Psalm 73, Daniel 2, Daniel 7, and Revelation 20-22, but the time for that was not 2,000 years ago in Israel and it is not now in America, either.
Jesus came to save individuals from their sins. Including you. Including me. World peace and perfect justice will come later. But by then countless millions will have spent their lives pursuing justice and peace without giving much, if any, thought to needing Jesus to save them from their own sins, and the cost will be eternally horrible, and ironically, just.
Please do advocate for justice and kindness, between individuals and within systems, but not at the expense of personally knowing Jesus through His Word and loving Him by applying what He’s taught, as you obey His words, as recorded in John 14:15. It is a tragic waste of time and life to pursue justice and peace without the Judge and Prince of Peace (Revelation 14:6-7; Ephesians 2:14) simply because it is not possible—not achievable—apart from Him. And to know Him, live close to Him, and be useful to Him as an evangelist to a biblically illiterate world, you need to be biblically literate.
Dave Scott holds earned graduate degrees in organizational development from the University of Oklahoma and in Christian ministry from Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, PA. Dave is a supported missionary pastor serving with Village Missions.