Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Importance of Bible Study

As Greek Orthodox Christians, one thing we are severely lacking in America is the study of the Holy Scriptures. Many of us have grown up thinking, “Bible study is for Protestants,” but nothing can be further from the truth. In the 8th Century Saint John of Damascus wrote, “For like a tree which is planted near the running waters, so does the souls watered by sacred Scripture also grow fat and bear fruit in due season, which is the Orthodox Faith.”

So let us knock at the very beautiful paradise of the Scriptures, the fragrant, most sweet and lovely paradise which fills our ears with the varied songs of inspired spiritual birds, which touches our heart, comforting it when grieving, calming it when angry, and filling it with everlasting joy, and which lifts our mind onto the back of the sacred dove, gleaming with gold and most brilliant, who bears us with his most bright wings to the only-begotten Son and heir of the Husbandman of the spiritual vineyard and through Him on to the Father of lights. Let us not knock casually, but with eagerness and persistence, and let us not lose heart while knocking, for so it will be opened to us. Should we read once and then a second time and still not understand what we are reading, let us not be discouraged. Rather, let us persist, let us meditate and inquire, for it is written, “Ask thy father, and he will declare to you; thy elders and they will tell you.” (Deuteronomy 32.7) For not all have knowledge. From the fountain of paradise let us draw ever flowing and most pure waters springing up into life everlasting. Let us revel in them, let us revel greedily in them to satiety, for they contain the grace which cannot be exhausted. (Orthodox Faith, Book 4, Chapter 17)

The reading of the Holy Scriptures should be both an inspiration for our daily struggles and a roadmap to encounter God and understanding His Gospel, His Saving Plan, for us. But in a world of more than 25,000 denominations of Christianity, there exists a plethora of interpretations of the same Holy Scriptures. If you think all Christians think the same thing about God, just ask one!

This is why St John invoked the Jewish Law when he said, “For not all have knowledge.” Since the reading of Holy Scripture is supposed to lead us to God, Saint John knew how dangerous it would be if the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures was left to free thinkers rather than the Holy Tradition of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Put in a contemporary context, there is One Gospel; how can there be 25,000 different answers to understanding God’s single message? Putting is simply; it’s impossible.

This is not a new challenge for the Church. When St Philip questioned the Ethiopian Eunuch if he understood the Holy Scriptures, the Eunuch said, “How can I, unless someone guides me.” (Acts 8.31) Since ancient times, it was understood that we were not free to interpret the Holy Scriptures, since they were created from within the Church, and they should be interpreted from within the Church.

So this is why, especially in America where our Holy Orthodox Faith is not taught in schools, the Church offers Bible study programs. The programs are not so we Orthodox look more appealing to Protestants, but so that we Orthodox can properly understand the Truth about God and His Holy Gospel as, “once and for all delivered to the Saints.” (Jude 1.3)

Bible study meets each week on Wednesdays at 7pm and Thursdays at 10am. Consider the importance of properly understanding God’s plan for your eternal future and “set time aside” for proper Orthodox Bible study. Your soul “will grow fat and bear fruit in due season,” but only if it is planted deeply in Holy Scripture.

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