Believers should do more than rely on a particular religious denomination and those who preach its teaching. The Bible tells us we must live by God’s word; therefore, it’s our personal responsibility to learn it for ourselves.
“But he answered, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’'”
It cannot be argued that religious denominations in their institutions are man-created. Christianity is not a religion – it is a belief in Christ. There is no ordained religion for believers. Men established the various religious denominations and the rules, traditions, and dogma associated with each.
In some ways, these competing religions can be dangerous because they may teach certain practices that are not instructions given by the Bible but are those of men. Sadly, there are some very large religious denominations whose doctrines and practices are so far removed from the Bible that these groups meet the definition of a cult.
Even more unfortunate, the followers of these religions d not even realize they are being taught to do things in opposition to God’s teaching. But the worst thing of all is that some of these groups actually have created a false image of Christ and/or deny his deity. They claim to be Christians, but do not know the Christ of the Bible!
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel,”
– Galatians 1:6
However, none of this is meant to imply that one should not be part of any church or religious affiliation. The point is that one must know God’s word to be able to discern what is based on biblical truth and what is not. This is the only way to know if the teaching of your church is following God’s word.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
–2 Timothy 3:16-17
There is so much information at our fingertips these days. We are better equipped than any generation in history to get detailed information about the Bible. We can get multiple translations, see the words used in the original language and their meanings, as well as scholarly comments to help us understand the meanings in both the context and the worldview of those living at the time when the verses were written.
Learning the Bible for yourself means that you will be better equipped to be discerning about what other teachers and people say regarding the meaning of Bible verses. You will have a much better chance of separating Bible fact and fiction, knowing what is based on God’s word and what is not.
Here are 5 things you can do to learn and discern the truth of God’s word for yourself:
1. Investigate every Bible verse on your own. Don’t rely solely on what a religious teacher says. Don’t disregard it, but read the passages for yourself in the Bible. It’s okay to question and research things you don’t understand and seek multiple opinions on the verse or matter. Try to be aware of how someone’s particular religious denomination or tenets could influence their opinion.
2. Do not take Bible verses out of context. Read the verses before and after a piece of Scripture to better understand how a certain verse or sentence is being used to convey overall meaning.
3. Read more than one translation of the verse. Luckily, today we have tools such as BibleHub.com where we can read multiple translations in parallel at the same time to further gain meaning. Newer translations, say as opposed to the King James Version of the Bible, often stick much closer to the original Hebrew or Greek words that were written in the Bible and their meaning.
4. Read the work of religious scholars. You can also find scholarly comments on Bible verses at biblehub.com.
5.*Bonus* Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic: To pursue meaning further, look at the original Hebrew (Old Testament), Greek or Aramaic words (New Testament) as they often have different meanings or contexts than even the English word that is being substituted for them. There is a tool for Strong’s at biblehub.com. Otherwise, investigate Strong’s concordance of Hebrew and Greek. Also, some Bible verses were originally written in Aramaic, which is the language scholars say Jesus spoke.