Recently, I posted a question on social media asking, “Can you live a godly life without reading the Bible?” As expected, the range of answers went from a simple yes or no to everything in between. But no one hit my perspective.
Yesterday I did not read the Bible even once. The day before I completed my reading of the Bible and then took a one day break. Did I sin? Was I less godly yesterday because I didn’t read scripture?
To answer my own question I’d like to change its terminology just slightly, but significantly. But before I do so, I’d like to define just what the Bible is. The Bible isn’t merely a collection of religious writings. Rather, it can be described as what theologians call, revelation. This means that its content is not simply writings of mere men. Rather, the Bible is God’s revelation of himself to man. This is significant because you can’t go anywhere else to discover the specifics of who God is. Now, some might argue that we can go to godly men to learn about God. But where do they get their information about God’s character? From the Bible.
Some might argue that we can learn about God through his creation. Doesn’t Paul teach us this in Romans 1? Indeed, he does, but even that information comes from the Bible. And while it’s true that creation reveals certain things about God, it doesn’t give us specifics such as who Jesus is.
The point here is that we cannot know the specifics about God, or godly living apart from God revealing himself to us. Here’s the catch: you can’t discover God. No one can discover God. Rather, God reveals himself. That’s revelation. Remember what Jesus said to Peter after Peter declared Jesus was the Son of God? He said, “Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). In fact, Jesus once said, “No one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27). In no instance in scripture does anyone discover God. Rather, God reveals himself in one way or another.
This is pertinent to my original question because the Bible is revelation. And apart from God revealing himself, we cannot live a godly life. Therefore, we can rephrase the question, “Can you live a godly life without God revealing himself?” And the answer to that question is always no.
Now, you might say that someone can live a moral life and not be a Christian. But, notice that I didn’t ask about living a moral life. I asked about living a godly life. Consider this: nowhere in scripture are we admonished to live a moral life. Definitions of morality are fluid. But not so regarding a godly life. Scripture doesn’t say to live morally. It says to be godly. “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (II Timothy 3:12). No one is persecuted for being moral. Morality is well and good. But godliness is more. Paul touched on this difference when he said to Titus, “To deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12). Godliness emphasizes a relationship with the Creator and the empowering of the Holy Spirit to lead a life beyond simple morals. Have you ever heard someone claim they lead a moral life then go on to loosely quote a sentence or two from the Ten Commandments? They quote the later commands about not murdering or fornicating, or stealing, or lying, perhaps even the tenth about coveting. But no one claims the earlier commands about worshipping God only, keeping the sabbath and so on. And that’s the difference between morality and godliness. Morality is something you do—it’s works oriented. Godly is something you are, through grace by faith.
Someone might say that early Bible figures like Noah, Abraham, and Joseph had no Bible but they were able to live godly without it. However, this argument misses the main point. These early believers DID have a Bible of sorts. God revealed himself to them. They trusted what God said to them, by faith, and went on to grow spiritually. So, in a very real way, they had revelation, just in a different form, and they trusted it to faith and obedience.
Can you live a godly life without reading the Bible? No, godliness is impossible without the revelation of who God is. For essentially, godliness is about becoming like God, like Jesus. And thus, we need the Bible—God’s revelation of himself—to fulfill all that that means. Morality is good, but it won’t get you to heaven. Godliness, however, is the sign that you’re already on your way there. I'll take godliness over morality.