How to Study Your Bible Part Four
If you remember in the first article in this series, we learned that one of the first things we must do to learn from Scripture is to set aside what we have learned. We must not jettison our learned beliefs, that would be folly, but we must set them aside in order to allow the Spirit and the text to lead us into deeper understanding.
In the previous article, we took a quick glance at the scene in Genesis in which the serpent connives Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The lesson we learned that concerned our learning how to study Scripture is that we must pay close attention to the particular words and phrases therein and to neither add nor take away from the texts. To do so is a slippery step indeed (c.f. Rev. 22, Deut. 12).
Let’s move on, then and take a look at what God says was the real issue on that fateful day in the Garden…
“You Will Be Like God”
To recap, the serpent spoke with Eve at the tree of knowledge of good and evil (not “knowledge”) and convinced her by her own error to eat the fruit that God had warned Adam not to eat since it would doom him to die. Much has been written, taught, and preached concerning this part of the Bible and the general consensus and “party line”, if you will, is that Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God and by doing so, sin entered the world and is responsible for all the evil that we see and experience all around us to this day. Now’s the time to set all of that aside and ask the all important question, “What does the text say?” The challenge is to allow ourselves to be taught by the Spirit and the Word and accept what they teach us. Obviously, if an important discrepancy is made apparent, then subsequent work is required, but that is a good thing not in the least because being lead by the Spirit through the Word in order to learn more and come closer to our Father is a wonderful act of worship in its own right. So, let’s jump in and see what the text says; reading as if for the very first time. (Please read Genesis Chapter 3)
“Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:11-13 ESV)
Two lessons are being made abundantly clear in this chapter. The first is that blaming some one else for our failures does not fool God. Adam blames Eve who then blames the serpent. God does not accept these excuses. Nor does God accept ours. We cannot expect to stand before the judgement seat and simply explain that we lived and believed according to what preachers and teachers taught us. God has given us His Word to read and study for ourselves. This is one reason for this series.
We must do our own work. It’s not about being totally correct (no one ever will be), it is about utilizing the gifts that God has given us and working things out in faith and intelligence. No scholar or preacher is God and we must not expect anyone to be. Eve was not God, yet Adam followed her example instead of listening to God. The serpent was not God, yet Eve listened to him instead of heeding God’s warning. Disobedience, therefore, is not the primary issue in this passage, idolatry is.That is the second lesson. Idolatry is placing anything or anyone before God and it has plagued humankind since the beginning of time.
Let’s move on just a little bit and we will see that idolatry is, indeed what was on God’s mind:
” The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:14-19 ESV)
The key verse has been emphasized in the above quote. God spoke to Adam, after all. God reprimands him, telling Adam that the reason that this is happening is because he listened to his wife instead of to God. Interestingly, the texts referenced earlier concerning the injunction against adding or taking away from the text of the Bible culminate passages denouncing idolatry. Furthermore, we need look no further than the Ten Commandments (first five) in the Old Testament or Jesus’ Great Commandment in the New Testament.
It can be seen by this brief study, in which we asked the Spirit and the text to teach us God’s Truth, we learned a valuable lesson that differs slightly than what we were taught in church. Sin is less an issue to God than idolatry. Our ongoing challenge is to keep this in mind as our studies continue so we may ascertain the veracity of this lesson, knowing that whether we determine that we are correct of incorrect, we are drawing closer to God by working alongside the Spirit in the Word.
Above all, don’t believe any of this because you read it here. Study and restudy the texts for yourself. Ask questions and expect answers. You will grow in your walk with the Lord as you do and that is a very good thing.