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The Purpose of Bible Study

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Augustine (AD 354-430) wrote that biblical education meant “moving the minds of the listeners, not [simply] that they may know what is to be done, but that they may do what they already know should be done.”1

The-Purpose-of-Bible-StudyAugustine’s ancient advice is a good reminder for us all. The purpose of any Bible class is not to make spiritual smarty-pants out of God’s people so they can answer all the questions in Bible Trivial Pursuit. No, we want God’s people to know God’s Word, to believe it, and to put it into practice. What did Jesus say? “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24). Christian authors Rick and Shera Melick even made up a word when they wrote: “The goal [of Bible study] is transformactional learning: learning that acts.”2

Of course, our Bible studies shouldn’t be a series of “How To” lessons (“How to Have a Successful Marriage”; “How to Budget Wisely”; etc.). Our lessons will clearly teach God’s law so that we are convicted of sin. Our lessons will also firmly center on Jesus and what he has done to win forgiveness. So yes, we will want to help our students grow in the knowledge of our Savior (cf. 2 Peter 3:17,18).3 But God has also promised that Holy Spirit-worked faith in Jesus does lead to change and action in a repentant sinner’s life (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:3).4 This change and action is something we may intentionally encourage when teaching. Through the next several Teach the Word articles we’ll explore some practical ways to do that.

1 Augustine, De Doctrina Christiana, 4.12.27. Italics added.
2 Rick and Shera Melick, Teaching that Transforms (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010), 186.
3 2 Peter 3:17,18a: “Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (NIV 84)
4 1 Thessalonians 1:3: “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NIV 84)