How do you Read your Bible?
Do you know how to read your Bible? That sounds like a senseless question. Surely anyone who knows how to read should be able to pick up a Bible and start reading it without being told how to do so! Yet a correct reading of Scripture isn’t as straightforward as we might think. The scribes, lawyers and Pharisees in Israel faithfully read the Word of God. Yet they really did not understand what they were reading because they had thrown away the key of knowledge.
When we sit down to read the Bible we cannot treat it like a novel, magazine or historical study. It is not on the same level as any form of literature. From Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, the Lord is speaking to us through His living Word. No part of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation because it was not written by the resolution of people, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God (2 Peter 1:20, 21).
A Book for Sinners
When we open our Bibles we must read it from the premise that it is God’s revelation. He discloses his glorious deeds and words to us. The Lord makes known to us his will for our lives. Moreover, we are to read this book, penned by the Holy Spirit, as those who know ourselves to be sinners.
This wasn’t done by everyone in the early Christian church. For instance, false teachers in the church at Ephesus used Scripture to drum up all kinds of stories regarding their ancestors. Their time was consumed with endless genealogies which promoted speculations and did nothing to train them and their students in the faith. These people misread the Scriptures and “wandered away into vain discussions” because they had never learned to know themselves as sinners before God (1 Timothy 1:8-11). They lacked humility and an awareness of guilt. These false teachers thought quite highly of themselves considering themselves capable of teaching Scripture. Yet they themselves were not touched or convicted by its message.
The Bible is a book for sinners. We may want to write it down on one of the first pages of our own personal Bible: “This book belongs to me, a sinner.” Before we read, we are to humble ourselves before the living God and ask Him, “Teach me, a sinner, the way I should go, O Lord.” The purpose and goal of all of Scripture is to challenge and change us. Through it, the Holy Spirit calls us to repentance and conversion. Reading Scripture requires alterations and transformation.
Not a Book for Endless Debates
Christians today can easily fall into the same trap. Rather than using the Bible as a textbook for vain discussions or endless debates on doctrinal and moral issues we ourselves must be convicted by its message and cut to the heart when, through it, the Lord calls us to repentance and conversion. We are to read it as those who desperately need God’s grace and salvation; as those who cry out, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” This is what we are taught in 1 Timothy 1:8,
Now we know that the law is good, if anyone uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners.
You may have noticed that the Word of God never refers to itself as “the Bible”. That name came into being later. In the Old Testament, the Israelites referred to the Scriptures as “The law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms” and sometimes that was shortened to “the law”. Thus when Paul uses the word “law” we can easily put in its place “the Bible,” or “the Word of God.” 1 Timothy 1:8 could read, “Now we know that the Bible is good, if any one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the Bible is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient.” The apostle is talking about the lawful use of the Bible.
Is the Bible for Christians?
If this is true, can we say the Bible is intended for Christians? Paul writes that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane. He makes the claim that the Bible was written for the most vile sinners, to expose their error and to bring to light their wickedness. Thereby the apostle impresses upon our hearts that there is no room for anyone to sit at ease, to be filled with a sense of false security, so that with perfect composure he can use the Bible for his own pleasure and purposes.
So yes, the Bible is for Christians to make us realize who we are. Too often pride gets in the way and Christians present themselves to the world as being better than what they really are. Yet through his Word, the Lord exposes that Christians, by nature, are just as lawless, disobedient, unholy, and profane as the rest of humanity. If we were already just and righteous we wouldn’t need to hear the message of the Bible; we wouldn’t need Christ or forgiveness of sins.
The Bible Changes How we Look at Ourselves and Others
The Word of the Lord teaches us not to think too highly of ourselves; as if we can withstand the temptations to sin. We may not say in response to the sins we see in others, “But that would never happen to me.” Instead, we are to repeat what Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 1:15, 16,
The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners; but I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience for an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life
The apostle had not forgotten his former way of life or his present inclination to fall back into the same sins.
Examining ourselves in the mirror of Scripture our attitude toward other changes. We do not look down on those who have fallen into sin but we count others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). We learn to see that even though there is no place for sin in the church there is room for sinners. Sinners who repent of their sins and amend their ways in conformity to God’s Word find a home in the congregation of Christ.
How do you read your Bible? Once you see yourself as a sinner in need of grace and mercy your eyes will also go open to the wonderful gospel of mercy and grace of God in Christ. Let us continue to read our Bible daily, carefully and diligently, so that we may gain a deeper understanding of our own sinfulness and of the greatness of God’s glorious deeds of redemption.