The summer before I arrived at Biola as an undergraduate, I attended a massive worship service at a local stadium. One of the speakers who got up to pray that evening opened by reciting a familiar verse from Matthew 18: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.”
“Take a look around you!” the speaker said enthusiastically, gesturing to the thousands of people congregated in the stadium seats. “Jesus is surely here in our midst tonight.” We all cheered.
A few months later, I was enrolled in one of my first biblical studies classes at Biola — one of 10 that I would take as part of Biola’s unique requirement that all undergraduate students complete 30 units of Bible. It was a hermeneutics class, and I’d been assigned professor Walt Russell’s Playing With Fire, a book on how to properly read the Bible.
When I reached chapter 3, I was surprised to discover that I had been hearing — and using — the Matthew 18 passage incorrectly all my life.
In context, Russell explained, the oft-misused passage is part of Jesus’ instructions for how to deal with a believer who is living in sin. Rather than offering a general promise that Christ will be present whenever two or more believers gather for worship or prayer, the verse is specifically intended to provide assurance of God’s guidance and blessing when handling the sensitive issue of discipline.
The hermeneutics class ensured that I would never mishandle that particular verse again. But more importantly, as a college freshman, it gave me the tools and the desire to read the Bible in its proper literary, grammatical, historical and cultural context from then on. That class, and the nine others in my 30 units, offered countless lessons that stretched my faith and gave me a sure foundation on God’s Word.
For thousands of us Biolans, the “30 units” requirement was a defining part of our Biola experience. The exposure to four years of Bible, theology and spiritual formation classes played an instrumental role in equipping us to follow Christ and to think biblically about the world.
That’s why, in honor of the opening of the new Talbot East building (where thousands of students will take Bible classes every year), we decided to contact hundreds of alumni from decades past, asking them to share some of the most memorable and impactful lessons learned during their 30 units. You’ll find 30 of the responses in this issue's "30 Units, 30 Lessons" feature — along with some additional submissions that we didn't have room to print.
As you’re reading, maybe the responses will jog your own memory. If you’re a graduate, which lessons impacted you the most during your 30 units? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we may add your response to the feature on our website.