How should we read the Bible? This seems like a simple question to answer at first, right? You pick it up, maybe dust it off if its been a while, and read it. Maybe you revisit some of your favorite passages that you know well. Maybe you decide to read it from Genesis to Revelation daily. You may choose to do a reading plan such as the chronological or the may others available. Of course none of these ways are wrong. But to read the scriptures in a way that will help you know the truth must be done in light of the whole of scripture. This is interpret scripture with scripture. Let’s look at what the 1689 says regarding this.
“We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the church of God to a high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scriptures; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, and the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, and many other incomparable excellencies, and entire perfections thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God; yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.”
THE SCOPE OF THE WHOLE
There is great danger in reading the Bible as if it were merely a book of inspirational quotes. You cannot take one verse ripped from its context and expect to have a true sound thinking about who God is. We must read in context. Not just the context of the paragraph, chapter, or book. Those are absolutely important, but not enough. We should read the Bible in context of the whole Bible. There may be 66 books in the Bible with multiple human authors, but there is one divine author behind the whole scope. He is wonderfully consistent. Themes of love, suffering, joy, worship, salvation, and sovereignty fill the pages across the Old and New Testaments. Everything that is said is vital and does not contradict. If we are too careless, picking and choosing the parts we like, we will miss the voice of God and replace it with our own. If we are too rigid, attempting to only read within the context of one book, we will miss the fullness of God’s voice. We need, as the 1689 puts it, the “full discovery”.
THE INWARD WORK
Along with seeking to interpret scripture with scripture, something else must be present in order for us to drink from the well of God’s word and receive true refreshment. We need “…the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.” This is the part of reading the Bible that is totally dependent on God and his work. Oh how this should humble us to our knees in prayer! We need God to know God. There are scholars who have read the Bible carefully in the original languages that are not able to hear the voice of God and know him fully because they have not been born again. The Spirit of God works through the Word of God in order that we would receive the grace of God. This is called regeneration. God’s redeemed people are able to read the Bible and truly hear God speaking as the Spirit bears witness to their hearts. This goes against our natural tendency to want to make things happen for ourselves. But we must read the Bible with a humble heart, knowing we are in need of God to do something in our hearts that we cannot make happen to ourselves. Read the Bible in light of the whole Bible, and read the Bible as one who is desperately dependent on God to speak truth into your heart as you read.