How We Get the Bible All Wrong

“We’re going to review 6 years of teaching in 45 minutes.” Their faces reflected a mixture of amusement, disbelief, and delight. I had taught this group of students twice a week for 6 years. We explored nearly every book in the New Testament, plus quite a few in the Old. We studied identity, friendships, and dating relationships together. I stood in front of them to teach over 500 times. But that Sunday, August 29, 2010, was our last time together.


What would you teach in that situation? How would you capture 6 years of teaching and shepherding? Your decision depends on how you answer one key question: What is the main purpose of the Bible? Or, in other words, What’s the Bible for?

  • Is it application? Is my main job as a studyer and teacher of Scripture to apply the truth for my students? In Bible school you learn the 4 steps of Bible Study Methods: Observation, Interpretation, Principle, Application. Is that really point? Is the Bible primarily designed to tell me how to live?
  • Is it truth? Is my main job to explain and defend the truth? Is defending absolute truth my greatest calling? The Bible does say, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Is this the main objective of Scripture? Is the Bible primarily designed to give me right beliefs?

If the Bible really is ‘God-breathed’—the very breath of God—then how we teach it reflects who God is … or it should. Our picture of God should determine our view of the Bible.

(By the way, have you ever thought about how intimate breath is? If you can smell someone’s breath, it means they’re close to you. You know what they had for breakfast. You feel their warmth. It comes from inside them. The Bible is God’s breath … it’s close, personal. It smells like Him. Hmm …)

So, what if the main purpose of the Bible is application? Then we have decided that God’s greatest concern is what we do. And if our teaching emphasizes application above all else, we’re teaching people that God is most concerned about how we act, not who we are. Troubling.

What if the main purpose of the Bible is truth? Then God is clearly most concerned about what we know or which truths we believe. But “knowledge puffs up, love builds up.” And Jesus said, “I am the … truth.” So the truth is Jesus, not a set of beliefs. To know Jesus is to know the truth. Period.

What is the main purpose of the Bible? It’s not application. It’s not knowledge or truth. It’s not a skill set. (Although all of those things are helpful and important.)

Jesus said that “all the law and the prophets hang” on two commandments. So, that Sunday, August 29, 2012, we opened our Bibles to Deuteronomy 6:4–5: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Jesus has already told us the main point of every passage in Scripture: Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself. The Bible is written to showcase the love of God as God defines love. Love expressed in blessing. Love expressed in wrath. Love expressed in deep affection. Love expressed in tears. Love expressed in judgment. Love expressed in truth. Love lived out in Jesus. And how we can express love in return (application).

The main purpose of the Bible is relationship. It’s Jesus. It’s the outflow of a relational God communicating with His kids. Do you read it that way? Do you teach it that way?

What do you think is the main purpose of the Bible? How would your teaching or personal study change if you saw God’s love as the main purpose of the Bible? To leave a comment, click here: comments.

  • It’s all about relationship and after all God is love. God is holy but he doesn’t answer to holiness. God is good but he doesn’t answer to goodness. God is just but he doesn’t answer to justice. God is love so he does answer to love. God is Father, Son and Spirit in an others-oriented love relationship. Thank God they love us enough to include us in their love.

  • Terry–well said! I like what you said about what God answers to–that’s interesting. Can you say more about that?

  • Jona Tompkins

    Thanks for this! As I begin my third year of teaching 5th grade Sunday School, I have really solidified my desire to convery to them, above everything else, that God loves them. I will now approach that task with a new thought process. I’m so glad you shared these thoughts!!
    Yesterday we looked at the 10 commandments, and the most important commandment. My small group discussion turned from “How can we show others that we love God”, etc., presupposing that they DO, into “HOW do we (fall in) love with God?” The why is because He loves us, but can we make ourselves love Someone? We talked about spending time with Him, sharing with others about Him, following His teachings. Any thoughts on this?

    • Jona,

      Ahh, you’re right on! Yes, if you want to fall in love with someone, you spend time with them. You hang out with them. You watch them. I love the direction you’re headed with your group, and they’ll be blessed because of it!

  • Austin Williams

    Jesus says that these things “sum up” to loving God and loving others. So I think these things are important, yet are not the point. They are the means to an end. Knowing God, following God’s law and so on, are the means to reach the goal of relationship with God and others.

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