Lee Roy Martin (DTh) is professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages at Pentecostal Theological Seminray
“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:12-13 NKJV).
We study the Bible with at least four goals in mind:
to improve our understanding of God (knowledge),
to enhance our communion to God (relationship),
to increase our likeness to God (discipleship),
to expand our effectiveness for God (ministry).
As we study Scripture, and seek to grow spiritually, we are confident in many areas of doctrine and practice. Without any doubt, we believe in the authority of Scripture. Without any doubt, we “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3 NKJV). However, although the essential doctrines of Scripture are clear, many passages of Scripture are difficult to understand (2 Peter 3:16).
Undergirding all of our goals for Bible study should be a sincere desire to hear the voice of God. Knowledge, relationship, discipleship, and ministry require that we come to God and to God’s Word with an attitude of openness to God, hunger for God, fear of God, and humility in the presence of God.
Therefore, the attitude of humility must permeate all of our biblical study. If we learn Greek and Hebrew, but do not have humility, our interpretations will be a dead letter, lacking in Spiritual power, for “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). Arrogance will doom our Bible study to mediocrity and irrelevance.
The Apostle Paul addresses the need for humility. He confesses that he did not possess perfect understanding. Let us look closely at what Paul is saying here. Paul is an Apostle of Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus appeared to him in a vision, a vision that was so bright that it blinded him for three days. Then, according to Galatians 1:17-18, Paul was in Arabia for three years being taught by the Lord Himself. Paul was caught up into the third heaven and saw things that he was not permitted to tell. If there was anyone in the world that knew God, it was Paul. If there was anyone in the world that new the Gospel it was Paul. If there was anyone who understood correct theology, it was Paul and yet he admitted that his knowledge was only “in part.” He did not know everything. He did not have perfect understanding. He did not have perfect knowledge. Paul declare that someday we will stand before God, and we will know God perfectly. God will reveal everything to us, and there will be no hindrance to our understanding. But for now, we only know in part. We must maintain humility.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul also makes the point that whatever we do must be motivated by love. If it is not motivated by love, then it is not worth anything. Without love we can have all the gifts, but we are no more than a gong or a clanging cymbal. Without love, we are just noise makers. So, let our biblical study be motivated by love, and also let our interpretations produce love. Our biblical interpretations should reflect our love for God and our love for other people. Our interpretations should cause our hearers to love God and love their neighbor. I’m connecting this now back to the Old Testament Deuteronomy Chapter 6, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God the Lord is one and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul, with all your strength and you shall teach these commandments unto your children. You shall bind them on the post of your doors write them on the palms of your hands engraved them on your forehead you when you go out and when you come in teach them to your children when you’re walking by the way so that they may learn to love the Lord.” That is why God gave us the Scripture; God gave us a Scripture to teach us how to love God and love one another. Let us read the Scriptures with humility and with the motivation of love.