Do I Really Need to Read the Whole Bible?
Do I Really Need to Read the Whole Bible?
8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. -James 2:8-10
One of my favorite little tidbits of Church history is how the Protestant reformer Martin Luther felt about the epistle of James. Luther was not shy about his confusion on James and is even quoted to have said, “We should throw the epistle of James out of this school, for it doesn’t amount to much. It contains not a syllable about Christ. Not once does it mention Christ, except at the beginning,” (Luther’s an interesting guy to study, if you ever get the time). There’s a bit of historical nuance behind his dislike about James, and I certainly can’t do the whole story justice. Nonetheless, there’s a kind of irony in it. Luther, although a very educated and accomplished theologian, willfully blinded himself to the Word of God by choosing not to accept the whole Word. He showed partiality in what doctrines of Christ he deemed as “not amounting to much,” and I know I have fallen into the same trap. When choosing what to study, we sometimes are tempted to write off certain scripture or even entire books of the Bible, as too confusing or not worth the time. This is a very common mindset, but if we focus our studies only on passages we can easily understand, we’re throwing away a ton of applicable lessons. The passage from ol’ Marty Luther’s least favorite epistle above comes near the end of a passage warning against personal favoritism in evangelizing; However, it also applies to how we ought to view our study of the Word, and why every bit of it is important for study (Yes, even if, “it contains not a syllable about Christ”). If we want to do well like James says, we need to keep the whole law. If we take out or ignore certain scripture, we are very liable to fail in a point of the Word, because we don’t even know about it! We must not show partiality, both amongst ourselves and in what passages we study.
Every Passage Is Important
I will wholeheartedly admit that I have struggled (and will continue struggling) to understand much of Scripture, and I imagine I feel a bit like how Martin Luther felt when he tried to make sense of James. I’ve found myself staring at even a single verse for hours trying to figure out what it could possibly mean and why I should care. I would read every article or study I could find, only to slam all my books shut in frustration because I still couldn’t figure it out. I’m positive I’m not the only one who gets confused or frustrated reading the Word (although I might be a little more melodramatic). But it’s important to remember, it is 100% normal to not know what a scripture means on our first try; that’s why it’s called study! In a life dedicated to studying Christ and God’s Word, we will inevitably hit a mental roadblock. That does not mean we should avoid those difficult passages, though. There are certain scriptures that are difficult for some and easy for others, and there are entire books that prove difficult to completely understand for even the most well-read scholar (See: The Book of Ezekiel, Jude’s Epistle, etc.). Nevertheless, this difficulty ought not to turn us away from studying. Have you ever heard someone say something like, “well, it doesn’t concern my salvation, so it’s not important”? This is more often than not just a bad excuse to justify complacency in study, and frequently comes from a desire to “know enough to be dangerous.” We must not let difficulty or lack of understanding stall our study! 2 Timothy 3:16 says,
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Our Christian life is only sustainable if we use the tools God gave us to follow Him, and there is not one bit of it we can ignore. The Bible is the only collection of writings that has any authority concerning our salvation. If our eternal souls are on the line, why would we NOT study everything we can about it?
-Robert Grode III
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
James 1:22 – 25