Yesterday, I asked the question ‘Why should I read the Bible myself?’. In it I posed some very positive reasons why we should – and I still fully support those. But taken too far, you may start to think that you can interpret it all yourself, and that other sources of input are therefore useless or unnecessary.
I will start with the answer – they are not useless, but valuable!
I can honestly say in my experience, that both personal reading and interacting with others, as well as submitting to teaching from trusted sources is extremely valuable. And lest I look like degrading the value of the knowledge and learning of those that spend years in seminary – what they have learned can be very valuable indeed, and help us in our growth – as that is what they are called to do – help us! Here are just a few of the advantages to submitting to the teaching and guidance of others (with the caveat that you also need to be looking yourself!)
Teachers (elders, preachers, pastors, etc) can help us to understand hard to read passages in the Bible. No one will deny that there are challenging passages in the Bible, a little help now and again from those that commit their lives to study is a good thing.
Teachers can help us see things that we wouldn’t see otherwise, because they have spent the time to learn much of the context of the Bible. See my example below.
Having other people input into our lives stops us from stagnating in one area, and can challenge us in areas we may avoid ourselves.
Proverbs 1:2–7 (ESV) (Bold mine)
To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
So, in conjunction with reading the Bible yourself, you should also be submitting yourself to someones teaching! I personally search out teaching regularly, as I want to know more about God, more about the Bible, more about Jesus. It is just how God has made me – as a seeker for more.
Let me give you a direct example.
Yesterday, I learned from someone that Philippi was a Roman Colony – which means that many of the people in the church there would have been Roman Citizens. Privileged people living in a society which respected them. I had never realized this, and so now the call to live humbly in Philippians 2 is much more pronounced, radical and revolutionary even! I may have never learned this without this particular teacher, and so despite all my personal study, teaching is still extremely valuable.
So I stand by yesterdays call – Ad Fontes! – but also find good sources of teaching, and learn from them. And then you will truly grow in the knowledge and truth.