Reading the Bible

In 1981, Geoffrey Thomas wrote a pamphlet, Reading the Bible. It’s small in size, but it’s help and wisdom is great. In it he offers encouragement and guidance about Bible reading. He opens with this quote from J. C. Ryle:

“He that desires to read his Bible with profit, must first ask the Lord Jesus to open the eyes of his understanding by the Holy Ghost. Human commentaries are useful in their way. The help of good and learned men is not to be despised. But there is no commentary to be compared with the teaching of Christ. A humble and prayerful spirit will find a thousand things in the Bible, which the proud, self-conceited student will utterly fail to discern.”
J. C. Ryle as quoted by Geoffrey Thomas

To profit from the Bible this is where we must begin: with a humble and prayerful spirit. Read these words from Isaiah 66.

Because it is God’s Word, the Bible speaks with authority to us, but Christians do not always come to the Word in humility and trembling. Do we speak in awe regarding God’s Word? Do we come to it with hunger and eagerness to know what God has said? Do we come to God with a humble and contrite spirit, ready to leave our ways and learn God’s ways? Do we tremble at His Word and echo David in Psalm 19?

We tend too often to be content to be conformed to the world rather than transformed by the renewing of their mind. If we build our house on sand, then beliefs and attitudes about God, life and relationships are absorbed like a sponge from any passing streams of opinion in our world. And when the storms of life hit our house will come crashing down around us. If we claim to believe the Bible is God’s Word we cannot by our practice treat it as if it were not and act as if we are unbelievers by picking, choosing and discarding those portions we don’t like or find to be hindrances to our lifestyle.

Even when we consider themselves to be doctrinally sound we cannot forget that truths professed must abide in our hearts and that the goal of our instruction is love.

We cannot put ourselves above God’s Word. When we do so, we put ourselves above God. We must humble ourselves under God, under His Word. I speak not just to you, but to myself.

In Reading the Bible, Geoffrey Thomas writes:

“Life is exceedingly complex: the prevailing climate in present-day Society is hostile to the Christian faith. Marx, Darwin and Freud have all contributed to the dominant philosophy of unbelief that prevails in the Western World. The mass media repeatedly attack the faith of the Bible. The breakdown of the family, promiscuity, divorce, abortion—these things present considerable ethical problems to Christians. We are beset with baffling questions and we need to know what is the right thing to think and to do…Answers to our complex contemporary questions are found in the Bible and our task is to equip ourselves with the knowledge of the Word so that all needed insight and strength will be ours. Laziness is our great temptation. Reliance on knowledge gained in the past is a great danger. We must be growing Christians. Our convictions, our conduct and our devotion must be rooted in the Word of God.”

Thomas’ pamphlet can be read online here at Tony Capoccia’s Bible Bulletin Board. I think the entire text is there except for the quote from J. C. Ryle, and Thomas’ table outlining a plan for reading through the Bible in a year. Thomas challenges us and encourages us:

“The chief aim of studying the Scriptures is not the amount read or even the reading itself. The aim is to know God.

“In whatever ways we adapt the suggested plan to our own particular needs we must aim at reading two or three chapters at a sitting, or a whole book or epistle. There are many precious things we shall never see unless we read the Word of God in large chunks. We would never read fifteen lines of any other piece of literature and then set it aside, believing that we had thus satisfied the author’s original intentions. To see the whole massive movement of biblical thought, the Scriptures need to be read frequently and from Genesis to Revelation. The Christian must be content with nothing less. He will not understand the individual verses unless he has the framework of knowledge which a larger acquaintance with Scripture provides. The more he reads the more comprehensible the Bible becomes.”

In A Lamp & A Light I explained that in 2011 I started a year-long series of posts, “Read the Bible in 2011.” As I read the Bible each day I posted my thoughts and reflections on what I was reading along with a small amount of background material from various pastors and theologians. Because that year was such a hard one for me and my family, there are gaps in the links, and on those days my posts were simply reminders about the reading. I’ve start filling in those gaps, and my posts on Romans 8 over the last few weeks completed Winter Quarter.

As I start on Spring 2011 I thought about going straight through all the readings on one book before moving on to the next. I’ve decided instead to go straight through the weeks and fill in those gaps as I come to them. For example, for Week 14 I’ll be writing about Job 27–28 and Jeremiah 7–1, while for Week 15 I only need to write about Job 29–30.

I decided to do that because I really like the variety Michael Coley’s reading plan that I followed with his mix of readings from different sections of the Bible during the week:

Sunday: Epistles
Monday: The Law
Tuesday: History
Wednesday: Psalms
Thursday: Poetry
Friday: Prophecy
Saturday: Gospels

If you want to go straight through a book, check out the menu in the header for those that are complete. But don’t read what I’ve written first—go to God’s Word with a humble and contrite heart. Ask Him to teach you.

Thomas writes:

“The briefest regular perusal of Scripture has deep and largely unconscious effects upon us. So even if your achievements on certain days fall short of your desires, do not be discouraged, for ‘in due season we shall reap if we faint not’ [Galatians 6.9]…

“The study of God’s Word is not an end in itself, neither is a correct understanding of its meaning to be the goal of our study. A man may understand all mysteries and all knowledge and yet be nothing. Eminent, well-qualified teachers of the Bible may yet be strangers to God. Does my knowledge of the Scriptures bring me with greater devotion to the Christ who is contained in every chapter? The prize in reading the Bible is to come to the Christ of the Bible [Philippians 3.14]…

“Let the Word break over your heart and mind again and again as the years go by, and imperceptibly there will come great changes in your attitude and outlook and conduct. You will probably be the last to recognize these. Often you will feel very, very small, because increasingly the God of the Bible will become to you wonderfully great. So go on reading it until you can read no longer, and then you will not need the Bible any more, because when your eyes close for the last time in death, and never again read the Word of God in Scripture you will open them to the Word of God in the flesh, that same Jesus of the Bible whom you have known for so long, standing before you to take you for ever to His eternal home.”

May the Lord be with you and bless you as you read His Word. Never forget:

The prize in reading the Bible is to come to the Christ of the Bible.

Copyright ©2021 Iwana Carpenter

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