I grew up knowing that the Bible was the Word of God. In retrospect, I consider that fact strange for several reasons. I do not recall reading the Bible in my early life, and my attendance at a Sunday school class or a church youth group meeting was limited to a few short periods of time. I heard very few sermons and remembered none of them, but in spite of these things, I really believed the Bible was the Word of God. Yet, even though I had this conviction about the Bible, it had very little influence on my life because of my ignorance concerning its teaching.
It was not until after I returned home from World War II that I started attending church and thinking seriously about the Bible. My confession of faith and my obedience in Christian baptism took place at a Wednesday night Bible study taught by my uncle, an elder in the church. His Bible study lessons were a mix of Old Testament and New Testament stories, and he was excellent in application. I was able to grasp the concept of salvation through Christ with a basic understanding of the doctrine of grace. I knew my sins were forgiven, but my Bible knowledge was very limited.
I remember being surprised that my decision for Christ did not solve the problems in my life. In fact, that decision created some new problems. Things like profanity, filthy language, smoking, and drinking had been part of my lifestyle, and now they were huge problems in direct conflict with my Christianity. Then along came those things called “the fruit of the spirit” in Galatians 5, and I knew I couldn’t pass a test on them.
In spite of my slowness of real Christian growth, I enrolled in a Bible college to study for the ministry. I had a strong conviction about this, and in a strange way felt a calling from God to preach the gospel.
However, my first few months in college seemed to be one long string of embarrassing situations brought about by my lack of Bible knowledge. This was obvious both in the classroom and in my conversations on the campus.
So I decided to study the Bible for my own personal growth. I had been studying it to pass exams, but now I determined to study it to change my life. I reviewed several Bible study programs, and while all of them seemed good, I decided to start at the beginning, Genesis, and go through Revelation.
It worked! Slowly I began to see and feel the results of Bible study in my life, and the Bible has been my guide from that time to this very day.
The Bible became my guide for my lifestyle. My bad habits seemed easier to overcome after I became acquainted with the Word of God. I admit it took time before I became aware of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and my becoming a partaker of the divine nature. These were things I understood in my mind, but they were vague and undefined in my life until Bible study became a personal discipline.
Then the Bible became my guide for my preaching and teaching. Shortly after I entered into personal Bible study, one of my professors assigned my class the project of reading and outlining in detail a number of sermons in print by outstanding Restoration Movement preachers. This was a great help to me because the study of those sermons helped my understanding of New Testament doctrine.
And another important thing came out of that study. I could understand the value of clear-cut Bible teaching, and this influence was immediately reflected in my preaching and teaching. It is still a strong part of my preparation, and I make Scripture exposition and application my main thrust as a preacher and teacher.
The Bible has been my guide in personal evangelism and pastoral ministry. I discovered very quickly I did not have the personality characteristics to come alongside people quickly. I was often clumsy in my approach to both personal evangelism and pastoral calls. Therefore, I came to rely on the Bible—what could be better than that? I still depend on the reading of Scripture in all types of calling.
I also find the Bible is a trustworthy guide for motivation. Bible reading results in a constant reminder that through Jesus Christ I have access to an almighty, miracle-working God. This has led me to attempt that which I would never undertake through my natural abilities. From the Bible, I have learned that any good goal is something we attempt to do for God with his help. I have also learned that a goal must be big enough to require God’s help or it is not a worthy goal for a Christian or a church. I really believe the Bible will guide us away from smallness into the bigness of God. I still have a long way to go in this area, but I have made progress through my faith in the Bible.
By the way, that teaching about the “fruit of the spirit” in Galatians 5 is still a problem area in my life. I have concluded it will always be a problem until I am dead or perfect. If Jesus comes before I die, the problem will be solved. If I die, the problem also will be solved. I win either way!
What a guide we have in the Bible.
Ben Merold is minister-at-large with Harvester Christian Church in St. Charles, Missouri, where he served 17 years as senior minister.