“And they continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine . . .” – Acts 2:42b
The Spirit built church has passion. But passion must be directed toward something. The Spirit doesn’t instill passion for passion’s sake. It must be directed toward the right thing. Otherwise it won’t serve its holy heaven sent purpose. For what does the Spirit give passion? There are a number of things the Spirit’s passion is to be directed toward. But the first thing we are to have a passion for is the teaching of God’s word.
The Spirit built church has a passion for the teaching of the word of God. It states, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine” (Acts 2:42b). “Doctrine” simply means “teaching” (Greek - didache). What was it that the early apostles were teaching? They were teaching what the Spirit brought to their remembrance from the teachings of Jesus (John 14:26; 15:26). Jesus taught the Old Testament word of God to the disciples. The Apostle’s teaching consisted of the Spirit revealed application and fulfillment of the Old Testament in Christ. In the Spirit they were teaching the word of God to others as Jesus had taught them.
When the Spirit acts He moves people to teach God’s word. The teaching of the word of God is the mainstay of God’s church. What a tragedy it is that so many churches have left the simple expository teaching of the word of God. The impotence and apostasy we find in churches is directly correlated to the absence of proper teaching of God’s word. If a church is to be a church according to God’s model it must be a church where the word of God is taught in the Spirit.
Why study the Bible? The Spirit who inspired or breathed out the words of the Bible through holy men gives us many reasons for studying the Bible. Here are just a few.
First, believers need a steady diet of God’s word to grow in their faith. The apostle Peter was inspired to write, “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,” (1 Pet. 2:2). God’s word is filled with all of the spiritual nutrients necessary for spiritual nurture and growth. The new believer as well as the believer who has been walking with the Lord for a time needs to study God’s word so that they know what and why they believe and have been born again.
Feeding on God’s word equips the believer to move in to a life of discipleship where they share God’s word with others (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Therefore, God’s word is essential to spiritual growth from the onset of life in Christ to the sunset of life on earth.
Second, studying God’s word gives the disciple skill and discernment in ministry. As the disciple studies God’s word he or she becomes equipped to minister and be used by God to further His kingdom plan. The Bible instructs us that the disciple should not only familiarize themselves with the entry-level truths of repentance, faith, salvation, etc., but that the disciple should broaden their understanding of God’s will by feeding on the full counsel of God’s word.
When Paul was saying farewell to the Ephesian church leaders he reminded them of how he had taught them. He said, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.27 “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.28 “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:26-28). The Bible is a manual for life. God made humankind and gave us an instruction manual so that we would know how to get the most out of life on earth as well as be prepared to live life eternally. God’s word equips us for life. God’s word tells us what is really important in life, what the purpose of life is.
In Hebrews the study of God’s word is promoted and likened to moving from milk to the meat of God’s word. Studying God’s word is the means by which the Christian is prepared and equipped to guard against falsehoods. It states, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb.5:12-14). The implication here is that if the recipients, to which the letter of Hebrews was written, had studied and taken to heart God’s word, they would be better prepared and skilled, “exercised,” for ministry. This leads us to the final statement about why we should study God’s word.
Third, studying the Word of God prepares the disciple against falsehoods, fallacies, and fakeries. In Paul’s inspired letter to the Colossians he warns them against heretical teachings that diminish the deity of Jesus Christ and that rely on human tradition and worldly philosophy as their foundation. In this letter Paul exhorts believers to grow in their relationship with Jesus and one of the primary means this is accomplished is by the application of God’s word by the Spirit to their lives. Paul states, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16). If we are to grow in our relationship with Jesus and be protected against the evil influence of aberrant teachings, we need to be students of God’s word.
Fourth, we need to study God’s word to get an accurate appraisal of where we are in our spiritual walk. The heart is deceitful and wicked (Jer. 17:9-10). The only way to know it accurately is through God’s word (Heb. 4:12-13). God’s word is a mirror that shows us what we look like (James 1:22-25). We need God’s word to show us our blemishes and to keep us going in the right direction (Ps. 119:105).
Do you have a passion for God’s word? One prime sign of a Spirit built church is that central to its ministry will be the teaching of the word of God. And while not everyone will be able to teach God’s word, everyone will be moved by the Spirit to live by God’s word. Does that describe you? I encourage you to do everything you can to assure and encourage that your church teaches the word of God. And I encourage you to get into the word of God yourself. Ask Jesus to give you a passion for His word. He has a way of stoking the fires of His passion in us with His word.