Both the Bible Study and Good Works

From a concerned church member,

Why are we wasting so much time studying and discussing the Bible when we should be out there loving others – evangelising to the lost and helping the needy?

Dear Concerned Church Member,

I am encouraged by your eagerness to obey the commandment to love your neighbours and to share the gospel with others. I acknowledge that you might have been in several Bible studies where time was wasted discussing frivolous and irrelevant issues, where the group members engaged in pointless and fruitless debate and nothing of consequence was learnt. It is true that there are some Christians who are content to sit in their holy huddles discussing their Bibles without lifting a finger to do what it says.

But please do not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Do not throw the Bible out along with lukewarm Christians who do not put into practice what they have learnt from studying the Bible. While you rightly understand through God’s Word that he is calling you to some good work that he has prepared for you, you must also understand that God has made his Word indispensable to every good work you wish to do. It is indispensable because it is the necessary means by which Christians are made competent and equipped for every good work, as Paul clearly explains in 2 Timothy 3:16-17,

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 competent, equipped for every good work.

The Bible is not a technical manual, teaching you how to raise money to feed the poor, or imparting principles for making conversation with strangers. Paul is not speaking about technical competence. Rather he is talking about heart and character competence. A good work will not be good if it is not carried out with a good heart, a heart that works for the glory of God rather than its own glory. And God will not get the glory for a good work if it is carried out by those who do not exhibit a growing goodness in their lives – in their words, actions and attitudes.

Know that while we have been forgiven of our sins and given new hearts that can long after God and work for his glory, sin still remains in us and seeks to corrupt our every motive and every action. You may begin a good work in earnest with the right frame of mind, the right motive and the right character, but sin will always be at work to corrupt it. The only way to fight the corrupting tendencies of our sinful nature is to continually study our Bibles and so grow in our knowledge and love of Jesus. By this we will will always remain equipped and competent for every good work.

In short, please don’t wrongly treat this as a either-or issue. It should not be either the Bible study or good works. Whenever you feel the urge to ditch the Bible study and get going with the good work of God, please remember what Paul wrote. It should be both the Bible study and good works. Make time for both. But the Bible always takes first priority in our use of time, since without its continual work in our lives we would not be competent and equipped for every good work.

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