There is a joke which is told concerning a pre-med student enrolled in a Physics class in college. The student, fed up with his studies, protested one day in class, “Why do we have to take Physics? What is the point?” To which, after a moment, the professor replied, “It helps keep the riff-raff out of medical school.”
The complaint is an old one, heard in every school, “Why do I need to know this?” Many students cannot imagine that the information they are being given will ever be useful in their future lives.
A similar refrain, oft voiced by students who want to know whether or not they can ignore certain subjects or topics is, “will it be on the test?” Time, it is perceived, could be spent on things the student enjoys doing, rather than on studying chapter after chapter of material.
Sometimes, one sees a similar attitude creeping into the lives of Christians regarding their need to study the Bible. “Is this particular passage important,” comes the question, “Do I really need to know all of this in order to make it to heaven?” There is a general feeling many seem to have that most of the Bible is irrelevant to them, and that so long as they get the highlights, the rest of it is redundant, unneeded, and a distraction from doing other, more enjoyable activities.
Now, admittedly, when one gets to the end of life, there won’t be a “test” of knowledge. Yet, at the same time, the Bible is pretty clear there will be a trial: “It is appointed men to die once, and then the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) Elsewhere we read, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Corinthians 5:10; ESV)
So we are not going to be “tested” but we will be “graded.” If one wants to view it in that light, it is reasonable to argue that we are being tested right now. Life is a test, and when we come to the end of life, we will be examined to see how well we did or did not do. It will be too late at that point to make a difference, or change our answers. What we have done in the body will be what we are examined on.
But God is not the sort of “professor” who delights in failing His students. If we can carry the analogy a little further, God wants everyone to pass. Rather than springing surprise questions on us at the last minute, God is quite literally giving us an “open-book” test.
In regards to this, we are told, concerning the Bible, “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who place their trust in Him.” (Proverbs 30:5) and “All scripture is inspired of God and is profitable.” (2 Timothy 3:15)
In life we will each be facing various situations which test us in various ways. Our faith, our love, our kindness, our wisdom, our generosity, our righteousness,… all these things and more besides will be tested from day to day. God gives us the Bible, not just as a message of salvation (cf. Romans 1:16; 2 Timothy 3:15), but also to instruct us in wisdom, righteousness, and equip us to pass these tests (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
The Bible does this in different ways. Sometimes God simply tells us, via commands, which choices we should be making. But God also provides us examples of the choices other people made, and how it affected them. God also, in the Bible, illustrates His interactions with man in order to lead us into an understanding of His grace, His love, and His plan for our salvation, revealed in Christ.
The thing about the way in which we are tested in life, is that when the trials come, we seldom have the time, nor the opportunity to sit down, open up our Bibles, and say, “let me see if I can find what I should be doing.” Rather, it is better to be prepared ahead of time, by already having studied.
Jesus did this, and so, when He was tempted, He could say, with full understanding, “it is written,” and thus use His knowledge of God’s word to assist Him in facing temptation. (cf. Matthew 4:1-11). We are each commended to the same. (cf. Psalm 1:1-3)
“Will it be on the test?”
When it comes to the Bible, the answer is, “yes,” it is on the test, and you are in the middle of the test, and it really behooves you to prepare and study the Book God has given you to make it possible for you to pass the test. Your soul is worth the effort.
If you would like to study the Bible, the church of Christ invites you to study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions, please share them with us through our website: chapelhillchurchofchrist.org
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.