Family Bible study is one of the most powerful and effective ways to share our faith with our children. However, not all methods of studying the Bible are equally beneficial. In this article, we want to discuss some of both. We will also provide you with resources to help you guide your family in responding by faith to the worldwide pandemic known as the Coronavirus.
It can be a joyful bonding experience to gather around God’s Word as a family and look into it together especially when it is surrounded by prayer. One particularly helpful method is to select a passage of Scripture and then have each literate member of the family read a verse or two. Once the passage has been read then someone asks questions about the text and the family discusses the answers together.
This format of daily reading a passage, asking questions of the text, and discussing the answers can be one of the most exhilarating and thrilling experiences that any family can have. And yet, it can also fall flat if approaching the Bible study time from a merely informational perspective, rather than as a transformational experience.
If a family reads their Bibles and only learns the facts of a story, then they miss the whole point. For example, knowing that God placed Adam into a deep sleep, opened Adam's side, and formed Eve out of Adam's rib is an excellent place to start, but a poor place to end. Or understanding that, in obedience to God, Abraham went on a three-day journey to sacrifice his son, Issac, carrying a knife and the material to start the fire, while his son, Isaac, carried the pieces of wood up the hill where he was to be offered up is foundational but not transformational. Or knowing the size of King Nebuchadnezzar’s statue or the names of the three Hebrews that were thrown into the super-hot fiery furnace because they refused to bow to that statue is interesting but insufficient.
Mere information does not bring the transformation of heart, which is the real point of the Scriptures (Romans 12:2). The Bible is not merely a book of facts, useful maxims, or moral teachings. Our aim is not to be masters of Bible trivia or to have merely well-behaved children. Family Bible study that focuses on surface facts will miss the goal of strengthening the hearts and faith of the family.
So, what is a beneficial approach to family Bible study? And how can it help us respond to the pressing issues that our world is facing, such as the Coronavirus pandemic of the year 2020?
To know the answer to these questions, we must keep in mind the central message of the Bible. We must remember that each passage of Scripture is designed to teach, illustrate, or provide evidence to illuminate that one primary teaching, that most important subject. And what is that main and most important message? The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:
“I passed on to you what I received, of which this was most important: that Christ died for our sins, as the Scriptures say; 4 that he was buried and was raised to life on the third day as the Scriptures say; 5 and that he was seen by Peter and then by the twelve apostles.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 (NCV)
From this text, we can see that the main message of the Bible, detailed in "the Scriptures," is the message of Christ crucified for our sins and risen from the dead.
Each passage of Scripture we read should illuminate this primary subject and draw our attention to it. To fail to see the message of Christ's death on the cross and His victorious resurrection when reading God's Word is to misinterpret and fail to understand the Scriptures properly.
Does this surprise you? It is okay if it does. The Bible tells us that this message of good news, the forgiveness of our sins through the death of Jesus and His resurrection, is hidden in story form in the Old Testament, making it more like a secret and a mystery. Jesus explained this very point to the disciples on the road to Emmaus too (Luke 24:25-27).
“Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past.” Romans 16:25 (NIV)
Another Bible translation says it this way:
“Glory to God who can make you strong in faith by the Good News that I tell people and by the message about Jesus Christ. The message about Christ is the secret that was hidden for long ages past but is now made known.” Romans 16:25 (NCV)
So, now that we understand that the good news about the cross and our forgiveness was hidden and kept secret in the Old Testament, we can begin to look for it as if searching for hidden treasure or solving for a mystery. This should be done every time we read the Old Testament.
Let’s do that now, remembering that we are looking for the message of the cross; that which is of “first importance.” As we do, we will also find help for dealing with the Coronavirus and all other threats and fears in life.
Earlier, we referenced a few stories from the Old Testament in our discussion about the less-than-helpful method of merely gathering information, learning the details of the stories, but missing the main point of Bible study. So now, let’s revisit these stories and see the main message they truly convey.
The first story alluded to was from Genesis 2 about how God created Eve out of Adam's rib. Whenever we see something unusual like this, we should start by asking ourselves, "Why did God do it this way? How does this point forward to the main message of the Bible, and how will this strengthen our faith?"
In Genesis 2, we see that God placed Adam into a deep sleep, opened his side, withdrew one of Adam's ribs, and made Eve out of it. But we can also see the mystery of Christ crucified revealed, the secret of how we are forgiven through Jesus' death and made into the Bride of Christ.
And so look closer at this story in Genesis chapter 2:
“The man gave names to all the tame animals, to the birds in the sky, and to all the wild animals. But Adam did not find a helper that was right for him. 21 So the LORD God caused the man to sleep very deeply, and while he was asleep, God removed one of the man's ribs. Then God closed up the man's skin at the place where he took the rib. 22 The LORD God used the rib from the man to make a woman, and then he brought the woman to the man.” Genesis 2:20-22 (NCV)
God created Eve in this way to point us to the main message of the Bible. At the cross, Jesus, who is called “the last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45), was placed into the deep sleep of death, had His side pierced opened by a Roman soldier, and out gushed His blood that forgives and water that cleanses all who come to Him. Jesus’ bride is made up of those who are forgiven and cleansed by faith in the message of the cross. Notice how Paul makes this same connection in Ephesians 5:
“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it 26 to make it belong to God. Christ used the word to make the church clean by washing it with water. 27 He died so that he could give the church to himself like a bride in all her beauty. He died so that the church could be pure and without fault, with no evil or sin or any other wrong thing in it.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32).
Now we have understood Genesis 2 correctly, seeing the main message in it, having the secret revealed, and the mystery made known. We have interpreted Scripture correctly by seeing the gospel in it. Family Bible study focused on the amazing love of Jesus, who submitted Himself to death, even death on a cross, for His bride is most beneficial and heart impacting! Focusing on the gospel, the family rejoices in salvation, ongoing sanctification, and the union believers have with Jesus, who loved them to death and back! This is the heart encouraging, faith-strengthening way to study the Bible as a family.
The account of Abraham offering up Issac likewise points to the same message, yet tells it in different words. In Genesis 22, God tells Abraham to take his son, his only son, to a particular mountain and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. God is simply testing Abraham here, and more importantly, is making an illustration that points straight to the cross - the main story of the Bible.
And so we see Abraham and Isaac walking along toward the mountain, a three-day journey, and Isaac, the son, is under the death sentence for these three days. When they reach the place, the father puts the wood on his son’s back, and we watch as the son carries the wood up the hill to the place where he is to be the sacrifice.
But then, on the third day, God stays the execution, having completed the test of Abraham’s faith (and finished the picture of the gospel). Abraham receives his son back “as from the dead” (Hebrews 11:19) on the third day.
Now, we have had a family Bible study with meaning, where imaginations are captured at the cross. We’ve seen the Father’s love in giving His own Son illustrated in the story, and we’ve seen the son’s willingness to die for us out of love. We’ve seen the son received back by the Father on the third day; the secret is made known, the mystery revealed. Now our hearts can be filled with love, and our time in God’s Word has humbled and healed our hearts and has drawn us near as a family together. The cross makes all the difference.
The final story helps us not only see the gospel of Jesus Christ, the mystery hidden in story form, but it also shows us how to handle fiery trials and difficult situations such as the current pandemic of Coronavirus.
The story is of three young Hebrews who refused, at threat of death, to bow down and worship a statue of King Nebuchadnezzar and were thrown into the fiery furnace. This story is not merely facts that tell us to be strong in the light of persecution, holding fast to our belief in God. No, there is a mystery here that needs to be revealed and a secret that needs to be shown.
Something shocking happens in this story after the three Hebrew young men are thrown into the fire: the king looks in and sees not three men, but four, and the fourth one has an amazing appearance:
“Firmly tied, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego fell into the blazing furnace. 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was so surprised that he jumped to his feet. He asked the men who advised him, "Didn't we tie up only three men and throw them into the fire?" They answered, "Yes, O king." 25 The king said, "Look! I see four men walking around in the fire. They are not tied up, and they are not burned. The fourth man looks like a son of the gods." Daniel 3:23-25 (NCV)
Imagine the king’s shock when he looked into the furnace and saw a fourth man had joined the other three, and that this new man looked like “a son of the gods”? Notice what Nebuchadnezzar did next:
“Then Nebuchadnezzar went to the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, come out! Servants of the Most High God, come here!" Daniel 3:26 (NCV)
This story, like all stories in the Bible, contains a “secret” that should be made known, and a “mystery” that should be revealed. Right at the worst moment of these three young men’s lives, the Son of God, Jesus Himself, came to be with them and rescue them in the fire.
But more than that, the secret mystery of this story is that it points us to the main ministry of Jesus Christ, that which is of first importance. Jesus Christ came to this world to enter the fire of God’s wrath for you, taking all your sin with Him to the cross and the grave to rescue you from both.
See Jesus enter the fire that you and I deserve. See Him remain in and be consumed in the fire (even as “the son of the gods” isn’t shown to have left the fire in Daniel 3), yet He rescued you out of it by dying in your place. “Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath” (1 Thessalonians 1:10)! Jesus suffered alone in the darkness that fateful day on Golgotha’s hill. He died under the judgment we deserved to rescue us out of the fire of God’s wrath and keep us safe forever.
And yet there is more, and here is where we learn how to face the Coronavirus fearlessly and courageously. Here is how to comfort and encourage children, family members, and any others who may be terrified of the Coronavirus and who desperately need to be anchored to the truth of God’s Word.
You see, not only did the Son of God enter the fire of God’s wrath to rescue us at the cross, but He also promises to be with us in every fire we go through now. He promises never to leave us nor forsake us, to be with us in very real and tangible ways when we suffer, and by His presence to prevent our destruction:
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2 (NIV)
The Christian will survive every fiery trial because of the indestructible Son of God, who is with us! Every Christian needs to have their faith bolstered with this beautiful promise. Though we may get a new body, through physical death, we will forever be alive with the Lord, for Jesus secured our eternal life through His death. “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).
During fiery trials, we can comfort each other with stories like the three Hebrew young men who were rescued by Jesus. We can encourage our hearts by this truth, being fully assured that we have absolutely nothing to fear, for Jesus is with us. Jesus once entered the fire of God’s wrath to rescue us, and He now enters our every fire to be with us and comfort us:
“who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:4-5 (NIV)
There is a way to enjoy family Bible study time where the Holy Spirit is involved, where hearts are impacted, where transformation happens. It is to always look for the main message of the Bible in every passage.
Setting Captives Free Publishing has a devotional that examines numerous stories of the Bible, revealing the gospel of Jesus Christ in every one.
This devotional is perfect for a family, each day being broken down into three headings: introduction, illustration and application. Each section can be read by a different member of the family if desired, then the questions at the end can be discussed together. Click on the picture below to order the family Bible study devotional.