During a break in our Spiritual Gifts Workshop I got into a conversation with a young mother about loving God. We ticked off various ways: prayer, worship, meditation,. And then she mentioned Bible Study.
I drew a blank. Do we love God studying the Word? Since we are commanded to love God with our minds as well as our hearts, I looked carefully at Psalm 119. It’s the longest psalm, one that deals at length with our relationship to God’s word.
Nouns and Verbs: I researched the many nouns the Psalmist employed as synonyms for God’s word and counted nine, including: law, testimonies, command(s); judgments, ordinances, way(s); truth, and of course word(s). Some of the verbs used to describe our relationship to God’s word(s). are: search out, walk in ways of, seek after, keep, contemplate, meditate, follow after, pay attention to.
New Covenant Law: How do we interpret this old covenant psalm in the light of the New Covenant of Jesus? One thing certainly applies to both covenants. Our relationship with God’s Word is both to (a) study or contemplate and (b) take action. The former precedes, but never precludes the latter. John the apostle made this clear: My dear children, our love should not be just in word and speech; it must be true love, which shows itself in action. (I John 3: 18)
While believers are no longer constrained to obey Old Covenant commands, we have been given laws in the New Covenant. They are simple, but profound. In the gospels, Jesus affirmed and summarized the whole law by the two laws given through Moses: to love God with all our hearts, minds, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. At the last supper Jesus added a third, making the great commandment a kind of trinity.
Jesus’ New Law for a New Covenant: The apostle writes, “Bear one another’s burdens and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal 6:2) What is this law of Christ? Sadly, it is one ignored by the church and/or confused with the one Moses gave to love our neighbor. Christ’s third dimension of the great commandment, is his mandate to the church, “Love one another as I have loved you that the others may know you as my disciples.” (John 13:34).
Rewards for Obedience: In his teaching on the vine and the branches, Jesus reiterates this command, promising great rewards for keeping it, including a life of love, fruitfulness or success, joy and answered prayer. (Please read John 15: 6-12)
In Summary: We know that without faith it is impossible to please God. We also know we show our love by obeying his commands to love our neighbor and fellow members of our church family. In the words of the old hymn, “Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
Our conclusion about Bible study is this: (a) we show our love for God by paying close attention to what the Word says but (b) only if we keep or practice it . The corollary is also true: we show lack of love for God when we study His word but fail to practice it.
Personally, I love to study the Bible. But rarely do I do so without finding areas of my life where I have failed. I need to then repent and ask for His strength to trust and obey