Prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. – Philippians 2:15-17
At York Springs Foursquare Church one of the elements of our mission statement is that we teach the Bible. If you come to our church, you will open your Bible. If you send your kids to the kids dept, or your teens to the youth group, they will be taught the Bible.
It may seem obvious, but unfortunately it isn’t. I have attended churches that have solid Christian doctrine and statements of faith, and good people in attendance, but never opened my Bible at all during a sermon. The sermons at these churches were good, and biblically grounded, but they were not direct teachings from the Bible. They were topical, and when the preacher felt necessary he would quote a related Bible passage.
This isn’t just a modern America thing either. This problem has plagued the Christian church since the beginning. The book of Acts tells us frequently of false teachers, and each of Paul’s letters to his churches warns them about false teachers who do not follow all of scripture. The Bible is our lifeline. It is our connection with God’s truth. Without it we would have a very hard time figuring out the truth and falsehood. Without the standard of scripture we would not know God’s standard and call on our lives.
In ancient, early church days two of the biggest problems the church had was illiteracy and lack of Bibles. In those days only the wealthy could afford an education and learn to read. Because Christianity flourished among the poor and the slaves, there were very few literate people in the church.
This meant that most church members learned their Bibles by hearing them, not by personal reading. That meant they had to schedule times to meet with literate people and have them read the scriptures. It was a significant sacrifice for the literate to read to the illiterate, but they did anyway. They did it so often that over time they memorized entire sections of the Bible. Once they had it memorized they could teach it wherever they went and leave their copies with others, who could read and teach.
This points to the other problem in the early days, which was lack of Bibles. To get a copy of the Bible in those days you had to copy it, by hand. You had to make your own paper and your own ink, and then write it yourself. It was tremendous work, yet they did the work, and once they had copied a few copies they too would have it memorized, making it easier to copy more.
Nonetheless, in a town like Philippi we have to assume that more than half the church members did not have Bibles and could not read them consistently. When Paul told them to “hold fast to the word of life,” he was asking them to do something major, something that would require work and dedication on their part.
I think it was worth it. When I read the Bible I don’t always find a million blessings, but sometimes I do, and I almost always find something. It is worth it. Keep going church!