Reading God’s Word (2)
All Scripture isgiven by inspiration of God, and is profitable… 2 Timothy 3.16
The Westminster Confession of Faith, an acknowledged source of Biblical and theological guidance since 1648, offers a concise statement concerning the importance of the Scriptures. The Confession states, “it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing: which maketh the Holy Scripture to be most necessary…”
The Westminster divines were here only reflecting the opinion of the Church in every age, that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are “most necessary” to comfort, strengthen, and protect the Church of Jesus Christ against corrupting influences from without and within. Without a solid grounding in the Word of God, believers are vulnerable to every passing “wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4.14). They are susceptible to being blown off course in their journey of faith, and in danger of shipwrecking their faith on the rocks of false teaching.
This is why it is so important that believers establish the practice of daily reading, meditation, and study in the Bible. Increasingly, pastors and church leaders are employing a hermeneutic of convenience to allow them to embrace doctrines and practices which cannot be supported from the whole counsel of God in Scripture. And they are leading multitudes of believers into a pattern of drift, away from the Lord and His Word, into another gospel and misguided Christian faith. Unless we are faithfully reading, meditating on, and studying God’s Word, we will be vulnerable to being led astray from the path of evangelical orthodoxy into a form of “near Christianity” that is, in fact, no Christianity at all.
We are reading the Scriptures wrong if we aren’t reading them regularly, and if we aren’t daily searching the Scriptures to understand the good and perfect will of God for our lives.
Paul is emphatic that our reading and study of the Bible should not be piecemeal, hunt-and-peck, but comprehensive. He insisted that all Scripture is the very Word of God. He considered it important that his own study and teaching should take into consideration “all the counsel of God” in Scripture (Acts 20.27). A survey of the quotes and allusions to the Old Testament in Paul’s letters reveals his ease and skill in moving throughout what was then the Bible in presenting his case for the Gospel of the Kingdom and the life of faith.
Paul commanded those who read his epistles to imitate him as he imitated Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 11.1). I take this to mean, with respect to our subject, that we who follow in the footsteps of Paul and Jesus should be good students of the whole Bible. It’s not enough to read, meditate, and study portions the Word of God with some regularity. We need to make sure, if we want to ready the Word rightly, that we are becoming increasingly familiar with and immersed in all the sections and books of the Bible.
In other words, we need to make all of Scripture the focus of our daily reading, meditation, and study. We won’t do this if all we ever read are those favorite, familiar stories, passages, or books. We won’t do this if our reading is guided exclusively by one of the many excellent devotional guides available through various ministries. These don’t always take readers systematically through the whole Scripture, and they can lead us to become more dependent on the commentary on the text than on the text itself.
There is no substitute for daily reading, meditation, and study in all the counsel of God, the whole Bible, all of Scripture. So, how can we do this?
A reading plan
The best way to make sure that you will grow in all the counsel of God is to follow a reading schedule that regularly takes you through the whole Bible. Guides are available, such as the M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, which can lead you in reading through the whole Bible in a year. The One Year Bible offers another approach to reading through the Bible in a year, with helpful breakdowns of your reading to make this a manageable effort. An interesting version of this is the One Year Chronological Bible which, in addition to taking you through the Bible in a year, arranges the readings to follow the chronological development of the redemptive plan of God in His Word.
Reading the Bible through in a year may be too ambitious for some of us. If you read two chapters of the Old Testament, one chapter from a gospel – Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John – and one chapter of the New Testament every day, you’ll get through the whole Bible in about 18 months. During that time, you’ll complete the Old Testament once, the New Testament three times, and each of the gospels about four times. By keeping the gospels in your daily reading, you will increase your ability to “see” Jesus in all the other parts of Scripture as well (Jn. 5.39).
You need a Bible reading plan that will take you consistently, over and over, through all the books of the Bible. All Scripture is the Word of God, inspired by the Spirit, and profitable for our comfort, strengthening, and protection. You will be reading the Scriptures wrong unless you read them all, and read them continuously, over and over and over again. This is the kind of right reading of God’s Word that can keep us from being misled or short-changed in our faith.
1. What parts of Scripture do you find particularly interesting or helpful? Why?
2. What parts of Scripture do you find less interesting and less helpful? What is it about these parts of Scripture that cause you to feel this way?
3. Paul insists that all Scripture is inspired by God. Even the difficult or uninteresting parts. Suggest some ways you might overcome the difficulty of these parts of Scripture and begin to gain the “breath of God” they contain:
Next steps – Transformation: Does your present Bible-reading plan take you through the whole Bible? Find a friend who will read through the Scriptures with you, using a plan agreeable to both of you. Meet frequently to discuss your progress and to share what you’re learning from God’s Word.
T. M. Moore
To learn more about understanding and using the Bible, enroll in the course, Introduction to Biblical Theology. It’s free and online, and you can study at your own pace or with friends. To learn more and to register, click here. This week’s study is Part 4 of a series on The Word of God, and is available as a free download by clicking here.
Your next step every day should be to improve your work in your Personal Mission Field. Our Mission Partners Outreach can help. This six-month, stay-at-home missions effort will show you and a study partner how to identify and begin working your Personal Mission Field faithfully and effectively. It’s free and online, so watch this brief video, then find a friend to join you and get started right away.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.