In our day, it is possible to find many people involved in biblical studies on the scholarly level who have no actual love for the Scriptures. There are men and women who have received advanced degrees and teach classes on the Bible at secular universities yet do not know Christ. Entire scholarly societies exist for the purpose of critically analyzing the Bible, not primarily for edifying God’s people but for tearing down the text and encouraging unbelief.
This is a sad reality indeed. Why would anyone pursue biblical studies if they do not believe what the Bible teaches? Moreover, how can people spend decades studying the Word of God and never come to faith in Christ?
Scripture itself answers these questions. There are false teachers who creep in and twist the Word of God for their own selfish ends (Jude 4). And, because human beings are dead in sin apart from the sovereign intervention of God the Holy Spirit, saving faith and trust in the Scriptures must be granted to us (Eph. 2:1–10). People can understand much of the teaching of Scripture simply by reading the Bible as they would read any other book. But they will not receive its message in faith apart from the Spirit’s work. Without the Spirit’s working in the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, no one will ever trust its promises (John 3:5; Rom. 10:14–15).
We see an illustration of this reality in the meeting Jesus had with the two men on the road to Emmaus. Greatly discouraged by the death of Christ because they believed it meant Jesus was not the Messiah, these two men found it incredible that the post-resurrection Jesus, whom they did not recognize at first, did not seem to know of Jesus’ death (Luke 24:13–21). Not even news of the empty tomb could give them hope that Jesus was, in fact, alive (vv. 22–24).
Only when Jesus Himself opened their hearts and minds to understand the necessity of His death and resurrection did they understand that the Law and the Prophets were fulfilled in Him. Only then did they truly embrace Him as Lord and Savior (vv. 25–35). This is instructive for us. We can and should present all the evidence we have that Jesus did miracles and rose from the dead. But people will not be convinced by the evidence without the work of the Spirit. Our efforts to defend the faith may be a means through which God brings people to faith, but ultimately, salvation is His work, and He grants it as He sees fit.