We attend Bible classes, Bible studies, devotionals, and worship services. We read our Bibles and listen to sermons. We memorize passages of Scripture. But do we ever stop and ask ourselves, “What’s the point of all of this? What are we really trying to accomplish?” Is the goal to impress God and others with our biblical knowledge? Is the goal to know all the stories? Is the goal to know all the rules, so we don’t accidentally break one? Here is what the Bible says is the whole point of Christian teaching.
It’s Not to Make You a Lawyer
When the New Testament speaks of a “lawyer,” it is speaking of someone who was an expert in the Law of Moses. In other words, lawyers were Jews who knew all the rules of the Old Testament Law, as well as all the traditional understandings about how to keep those rules.
In Luke, Jesus and a lawyer had a conversation about loving God and loving your neighbor. The lawyer understood that these two commands summarized the Law, but because he wanted to justify himself, the lawyer tried to debate with Jesus the meaning of the word, “neighbor” (Luke 10:29). He was trying to find a legal loophole.
Those who want to be lawyers attend Bible studies, memorize Scripture, and listen to sermons in order to load others with heavy burdens, while at the same time trying to find loopholes for themselves (see Luke 11:46). The goal of their study is to find out why everyone else is wrong and they are right. The goal is to justify why they can continue doing what they are doing and everyone else needs to stop doing what they are doing.
It’s Not to Make You a Historian, Philosopher, or Scholar
Some people love the way it feels to know more than others. They love knowing historical facts or tidbits about the original languages. They love to speculate about what this passage might mean or what life might have been like in that ancient city. They seem to believe the whole point is to simply be as knowledgeable about Scripture as possible.
Here is something to consider: When someone quotes a passage of Scripture, do you think to yourself, “Wow! That’s impressive, I wish I could do that!”? When someone rattles off some fact about the culture in ancient Ephesus or the definition of a Greek word, do you think, “How do they know all that stuff? I wish I was that smart!”?
Knowledge is an interesting thing; it is important and necessary, when it is serving the right purpose, but it can be detrimental when it becomes an end unto itself. When knowledge itself becomes the goal, it can make a person arrogant and idle. It can promote endless and fruitless debates. Paul said knowledge can “puff up” (1 Corinthians 8:1) and the whole book of James seems to be dealing with Christians who thought themselves to be wise teachers, but they had no good works to show for it.
The Whole Point is Love
Paul told Timothy, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). Let the weight of that statement sink into your heart and mind for just a moment. “The aim of our charge is love.” Or as Eugene Peterson paraphrases it, “The whole point of what we’re urging is simply love.”
This kind of love, “issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” The only way we can have a pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith is through the gospel of Jesus Christ. And the more the eyes of our hearts enlightened (Ephesians 1:18) to the glorious truth of the gospel, the more we will experience a pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith.
So here is how it should work: We should study the Bible, attend Bible studies and BIble classes, and listen to sermons so we have understanding of the Good News of Jesus Christ. When we understand – and are living in obedience to – the Good News, we have a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. When we have those things, love is the natural result.
This love “is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6). Others will be able to see this love we have for one another and will know we are disciples of Jesus (John 13:35).
I’m afraid I’ve lived a lot of my Christian life without knowing the whole point of Christian teaching. I thought the point was to know as much Bible as possible or just to ensure I go to heaven when I die. But Scripture says the whole point is that the gospel renews my heart and my mind so I can love; so I can love God and love my neighbor in a way that brings maximum glory to God. That is truly the whole point. That’s what it’s all about.
I love you and God loves you,