Bible Literacy and Correct Ideas About God

The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), November 28

images“For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).

The stories of Noah, Abraham, Hannah, Josiah, and many other individuals who walked with God in the Old Testament infuse hope into those who study their lives. How so?

They were ordinary people with ordinary problems who experienced intimacy with God. People like us, who struggled with faith, obedience, and suffering. People who faced problems, both internal and external, that challenged their faith.

Many perceive the God of the Old Testament as harsh, stern, and just a little mean. Therefore, they either rush through reading the Old Testament, read favorite parts and ignore the rest, or ignore the Old Testament altogether. They prefer the New Testament and focus on the kind One in the Trinity.

Those who ignore or misunderstand the Old Testament generally possess an inadequate and flat view of God. Even though the Old Testament frequently states that God is gracious, kind, patient, loving, merciful, etc., He is rarely seen in that light. Repeated and thoughtful reading correct inaccurate views of God and illuminate God as He is. Yes, God does judge sin and disobedience. He does so, not because He is mean, but because He has provided redemption for man at great cost to Himself, yet man refuses His overtures. The problem isn’t God, but man.

Commenting on the rebellion of the children of Israel during the wilderness experience, the Psalmist pinpoints the problem: “For forty years I was grieved with that generation, and said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts, and they do not know My ways’” (Ps. 95:10, emphasis added). It is through the Old Testament stories that man is revealed for who he is: proud, stubborn, rebellious. It is through the Old Testament story that the ways of God are revealed: loving in redemption, faithful in covenant, patient in discipline, and long-suffering in judgment.

Those who no longer read and study the Old Testament are malnourished—they live off of fragmented or favorite portions of Scripture, struggle with unbelief, and yield to fleshly passions. Understanding God’s ways enables Christ -followers to cooperate with God’s activity, to interpret life correctly, and to experience God in ways similar to Old Testament saints.

Warped views of God and secular thinking accompany Bible aliteracy (where people can read, but they don’t read two-thirds of the Bible). Bible literacy builds a correct view of God, as the truth of who God is and how He works in the lives of those who walk with Him by faith emerge from the Bible’s grand story and the individual stories it includes.

Understanding God’s interaction with His people in the past equips believers to understand His ways and His working in our lives today.

Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Rom. 15:1-16:27; 2 Cor. 1:1-2:4):
Upon what basis must believers accept one another?
How were the Roman believers involved in Paul’s ministry?
What does Paul communicate about God and about his friends and ministry partners in the closing paragraphs of his letter to the Romans?
What does Paul communicate about suffering in the opening of his second letter to the Corinthians? What does this reveal about Paul’s philosophy of ministry?