Study Bibles: A Shield against Misinterpreting Scripture

This update is related to the Crossway Global Ministry Fund campaign.

Breaking the Trend

When someone we trust tells us something of importance, we’re likely to believe them. And when someone we trust is in a position of authority, we’re even more likely to believe what they tell us. But Isaac Odeyemi, a pastor in Lagos, Nigeria, has identified that though local pastors are well-meaning, many don’t preach the full truth of the gospel. This is due to the simple reality that they were never taught the full gospel truth in the first place.

How might one break this vicious cycle? Through the Global Ministry Fund, donors to Crossway made it possible for Isaac to receive an ESV Global Study Bible. Ministry partner Lux in Tenebris (LIT) provides training and resources for pastors throughout Nigeria to support gospel work, and through partnership with Crossway they have received ESV Global Study Bibles to give to pastors and seminary students like Isaac.

We recently talked with Isaac about his experience of coming to a fuller understanding of the Bible, and how he now lives and serves in light of God’s Word.

How did you come to know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?

I was born into a Christian home in Lagos, Nigeria. It was normal for my family to go to church while I was growing up. But until I was 18, I went to church just because my parents required me to. Just after high school someone invited me to a different church from the one I had always attended. This church was different from the church where I grew up. My church weekly preached a message and prayed, but they never preached with an invitation for people to be born again. I had never heard of this concept. But when I went to this new church I encountered it for the first time. At the end of the message the pastor explained that in order to know Christ you must be born again. On that day my faith journey started. Shortly after that, I applied and was accepted to a seminary where I embarked on my life’s calling to pastoral work for the Lord.

Donate $4 to Give a Bible

Crossway is providing Bibles to one million believers in need around the world. Join us in this effort to help provide a Bible to someone who has never had the opportunity to own their own copy. Would you consider partnering with us? Learn More.

Why did you feel the Lord calling you to pastoral ministry?

In Nigeria, it’s difficult to find a church that preaches the truth. But from my experience, most church attendees don’t know this. I’ve now been involved in the life of the church for decades, and during that time I’ve seen many different ideas that people call “truth.” A very popular message preached in Nigeria is a mixture of truth and falsehood, which makes it hard and confusing to understand the real truth. So receiving the opportunity to attend the seminary connected to Sovereign Grace Bible Church was an incredible answer to prayer. When I look back at the place I was at theologically before attending seminary, I realize that I really didn’t fully understand what it meant to be a Christian.

I know of a friend who could clearly see this mixture of truth and falsehood was being taught in his church. He wasn’t comfortable with this, so he left the church and started his own Bible study. But after months of doing this without important biblical structures of a church, he stopped believing. He’s no longer a Christian. He didn’t have people coming alongside him as he was studying God’s Word to encourage and challenge him and to hold him accountable. He’s one example of what happens to many people. I pray that the Spirit would strengthen me to preach the truth so that these scenarios don’t happen.

Access to God’s Word is important to understand and point out the difference between this mixture of truth and falsehood. Do Nigerians have access to either text-only or study Bibles?

It’s not difficult for a Nigerian in Lagos to find a Bible if he has money. There are some Christian bookshops where he could purchase one. But many are resistant or hesitant to get a Bible, so it is common for me to go into a church to preach and many of the congregants don’t have a personal copy of the Bible.

But study Bibles are very rare. Most Nigerians won’t have a clue what a study Bible is if you asked. As a seminary teacher now, I have many students also who don’t know what a study Bible is. I encourage them to try to find a study Bible if they are able, because I think it is very important that each pastor has access to one of these study Bibles.

How has the Global Study Bible impacted your understanding of God’s Word?

I was given my Global Study Bible about one year ago. It has been very helpful for me in both my personal faith walk and in my work as a teacher in the seminary.

Personally, when I first received my Global Study Bible, two things stood out to me. First, this study Bible is a great size while still including all of the study notes, maps, and many helpful articles that help us as pastors. I can put it in my bag to bring with me to church, class, or visiting a congregant. Second, it has personally encouraged me in my walk with the Lord. I personally read it during my own study and devotional times. It’s my goal to read through all the books of the Bible using the Global Study Bible. It will help me to be able to interpret every passage correctly, especially when I have questions about what I’m reading and studying. In the churches I’ve attended, there are often misinterpretations of Scripture, especially in the way it is applied by the pastor. But this is a resource that will help the pastor and any congregants who have a study Bible to stay in line with what God’s Word is saying.

As a teacher, whenever I go to class, I bring my study Bible with me because I’ve found that it helps me to be able to answer questions with theological accuracy. Students will often ask questions to clarify their interpretation of a Scripture passage. If I don’t know the answer or want to be sure that my answer is theologically accurate, I read the study Bible notes.

Do you see a need in your ministry context for study Bibles?

Absolutely. When my students see me using my Global Study Bible, they will often ask, “how can I get a Global Study Bible?” I have not answered them because I can’t promise that I would be able to get a study Bible for them. It would come as a great surprise if I came to a class with a Global Study Bible that I could distribute to each student because, like I said earlier, many people—seminary students and the general public—don’t know what a study Bible is, let alone how to get one. Many people, when they read a particular passage of Scripture, don’t have any idea what it means or how to apply it. That means they’re limited to learning about God’s Word from what the pastor says and not really what the Bible says.

By God’s grace, donors to Crossway continue to support the Global Ministry Fund, allowing resources like the ESV Global Study Bible to be distributed to Isaac and other pastors, church leaders, and lay believers in their faith. You’re invited to support this work as we continue to care for the spiritual needs of believers around the world by providing them with theologically sound books and ESV Bibles. The Lord is at work in the lives of believers everywhere, so join us as we take part in what the Lord is doing!

Pray for Isaac’s faith to continue to grow and be an example for his students and others in his spheres of influence.

Pray for the ministry of LIT as they continue to support gospel work and equip pastors throughout Nigeria with Bibles. Pray that the gospel would go forth, even when the spiritual environment is challenging.

View Campaign


Other Ways to Give

Monthly Giving

Help resource the church around the world every month.

Learn More

Gifts of Stock

Make a kingdom investment by donating stock or other securities.

Learn More

Planned Giving

Make a lasting impact for the gospel through planned giving.

Learn More

Employer Matching

Maximize your gift with a partnering employer.

Learn More

Wire Transfer

Give from anywhere, anytime.

Learn More

Phone & Mail

Connect with us to make a gift.

Learn More

Crossway is a not-for-profit Bible-based, gospel-centered ministry. It is tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. All gifts to Crossway are deductible to the full extent permitted by U.S. tax law. Your contributions are used to further the ministry of Crossway under the oversight and control of its Board of Directors.