In Galatians 1:1-5, Paul sets forth a powerful gospel greeting, which not only exposes the grievous sin of the Galatians but also manifests the marvelous glory of God in redemption.
Thus, deeply moved by the reality of the truths of the gospel, Paul concludes his greeting with a spontaneous affirmation of praise to God, “to whom [belongs] the glory forever and ever. Amen,” (v. 5).
Paul’s explosion in his soul has some profound implications in regards to how and why we should study the Bible.
First, Bible study is not simply to increase one’s knowledge but rather to increase one’s affection for God!
Paul’s spontaneous doxology in Galatians 1:5 demonstrates that the gospel was not just a theological idea. Paul was profoundly aware that he was a sinner for whom Christ died (cf. 1 Tim. 1:15). He understood firsthand what it was like to be held in bondage to sin and the shackles of legalism (cf. Philip. 3:4-6). This is why he affectionately speaks of Christ in Galatians 2:20 as one “who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Timothy George writes,
“To contemplate who God is and what he has done in Jesus Christ is to fall on our knees in worship, thanksgiving, and praise. We study the Bible and the great doctrines of the Christian faith not out of vain curiosity, nor merely to increase our intellectual acumen and historical knowledge but rather that we might come more fully to love and enjoy the gracious God who delights in our praise. As Calvin put it so well, ‘So glorious is his redemption that it should ravish us with wonder,’” (Galatians, p. 88).
The first question one should ask when studying the Bible is, “What does this tell me about God?”
In the quest for “relevance,” and “application”, I often hear believers insist on asking questions such as, “What is this passage saying to me?” “How does this passage apply to my daily life?” “How can it help me in my daily walk?” “What does it mean to me as I seek to apply it to my life?”
Me, me, me, my, my, my! Quite frankly, this oft repeated refrain becomes quite wearisome. It fails to recognize the profound God/Christ-centered focus of the Gospel and the Scriptures.
In Luke 24:27, Luke writes, “…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself,” (emphasis mine).
A gospel-driven life begins to reorient one’s approach to Bible study. Instead of coming to the Scriptures with a self-centered focus, seeking to find out how the Bible “applies to me,” one should approach the Bible with a God/Christ-centered focus, seeking first to discover what the Bible tells him about God.
Vaughan Roberts writes, “Sometimes we miss the point by asking too quickly, ‘What is it saying to me?’ A good first question to ask whenever we look at a passage is, ‘What does this tell me about God?’ Very often the application for us will then be obvious. The Bible is, above all, a book about God,” (God’s Big Picture, p. 65).
Vaughan, with a God/Christ-centered focus in view, concludes his book with the following three propositions, which help govern the how and why of Bible study:
Knowing Christ in all the Scriptures.– All the Scriptures contribute and point to Jesus Christ and God’s plan to establish His kingdom through Him.
Teaching Christ from all the Scriptures. With the “big picture” of Scripture in view, one should point people to Christ from any part of it, rather than just a few favorite passages.
Loving Christ through all the Scriptures. “It would be a terrible thing if a deeper knowledge of the Bible affected only our heads and not our hearts. The Bible is a relational book, which the Holy Spirit uses to help us grow in the knowledge and love of God through Jesus Christ,” (pp. 153-154).