Reading the Bible

In the Christian life there are a number of healthy spiritual habits we all need to cultivate: prayerful, careful and regular reading of scripture is one of the most important. This means not just making do with a few random verses a day, but long term consecutive reading and immersion!

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The public reading of God’s word was given priority in the early church (1 Timothy 4:3), partly because they did not have multiple copies of the scriptures as we do today. As a result, it is much easier for us to access the Bible than it was for them. Nevertheless, its reading remains equally important.

We read the Bible because it is God’s word (2 Timothy 3:16). Unlike any other book, it is living, and through it God speaks to our souls. As has often been said, the more believers read it, the more they want to read it; the less they read it, the less they want to read it. This underlines the importance of setting aside regular time to read the word of God! 

There are a number of reasons why regular Bible reading is vital for every believer. The points that follow are some of the more important:

The Bible speaks to us of Christ and God

It speaks to us about Christ (John 5:39), and reminds us of the gospel of our salvation. Because salvation depends on the word of God, assurance of salvation is closely linked with our appreciation of the scriptures. In reading, we not only learn more about God and Christ, but our hearts respond in praise and worship to God as we begin to understand more of His greatness. Psalm 119, the longest Psalm, is taken up with the priority of God’s word and the pleasure it brings the believer: ‘your statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage’ (Psalm 119:54).

The Bible is the food that enables the believer to grow spiritually

God expects the believer to mature spiritually, becoming daily more conformed to Christ. References to fruitfulness in the New Testament are often related to the Christian becoming increasingly Christ-like. Peter, for example, wrote the following: ‘Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby’ (1 Peter 2:1). It is through the Bible that God speaks to believers today. Just as children have to feed in order to thrive, so do we as God’s spiritual children. Natural children feed instinctively; indeed, a loss of appetite is often indicative of illness. In the same way, failure to feed on the word of God is usually an indication that we are in a spiritually unhealthy condition. We would not generally miss food for days on end; so the believer should ensure steady and prayerful feeding on scripture.

Infants begin with milk, but then progress on to solid food. Paul uses this metaphor in his first letter to the Corinthians to point out that problems in the assembly sprang from the saints’ failure to grow. They were still like babies, unable to digest spiritual meat. While this was understandable when they were first saved, they ought to have developed (1 Corinthians 3:1-2). Those who do not feed consistently will not be able to progress on to solid food, remaining trapped in spiritual babyhood. This means growth will be stunted and spiritual potential unfulfilled.

The Bible has a purifying effect when we read it

Sometimes, when reading scripture, believers become concerned that they seem to retain so little of its teachings in their minds. However, even if information is not consciously stored (and it is surprising how much we do remember), the simple reading of the word has a purifying effect. In the Old Testament, the priest washed at the laver in the tabernacle courtyard. This pictures the action of God’s word: as we read it, the Bible has a cleansing effect (Ephesians 5:26). ’How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word’ (Psalm 119:9, ESV). 

The Bible shows us God’s will for our lives

Believers are rightly concerned about what God’s will is for their lives. We sometimes try to interpret our personal circumstances in order to determine God’s will. However, while God can undoubtedly speak through circumstances, His primary method of communicating His will is through His word. ’All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly furnished for every good work’ (2 Timothy 3:16-17). If we want to know what to believe, how our lives should change, how we should behave and what we should be involved in, we must read the word of God. The Psalmist puts it like this: ’Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’ (Psalm 119:105). God uses the reading of scripture to give direction to our lives.

The Bible protects us and gives us hope

There are often difficult days on the Christian pathway, but God’s word gives hope and comfort as we read it. In his time of distress, the Psalmist says, ‘You are my hiding place and my shield. I hope in your word’ (Psalm 119:114). Interestingly, the New Testament refers to the scriptures not only as a defence but also as a weapon to be used offensively in spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:17). Perhaps the challenge is this: just as a swordsman has to know his weapon, so we need to know the scriptures before we can effectively deploy them in the battle.

Reading the scriptures is so fundamental to Christianity that we cannot know God in the way He wants us to without regular and prayerful feeding on His word. Do you read the scriptures regularly?