I sometimes get asked by skeptics and the indifferent some variation of the following: “Why should I read the Bible?” After all, isn’t it just a bunch of stories about superstitious people who lived thousands of years ago? Don’t we know better now? We have science! What relevance could these dusty old pages have to us in our technologically-advanced culture?
Before I get into that, these kinds of questions and comments reveal a total disconnect that cannot be overstated. In addition to this, whether they will admit it or not, a lot of Christians really don’t see the relevance. One can see this by looking at how many of them actually read it regularly. According to a 2016 study done by Lifeway Research, most Americans have a Bible but they haven’t cracked it open much. Here’s what Executive Director, Scott McConnell said:
“Most Americans don’t know first-hand the overall story of the Bible—because they rarely pick it up. Even among worship attendees less than half read the Bible daily. The only time most Americans hear from the Bible is when someone else is reading it.”
The sad truth is, many believers seem to prefer to have their pastor or leader read it for them. While it’s good to be taught by others, this will never replace actually having God speak to you directly through Scripture.
Another problem we have as believers is how we read it. Calling ourselves “Bible-believing Christians” has almost no meaning. There are people who don’t believe in the Bible who act more Christlike than those who do. The Pharisees believed in the Bible and they had their own Messiah crucified.
Indeed, some of the most evil people in human history said they read the Bible. Satan, himself, can quote Scripture better than you or I ever will.
I’ve found a curious thing over the years. We can actually hide from God by participating in Bible studies. We can learn the lesson, answer the questions, yet never let Him penetrate our hearts and renew our minds.
One could say these things are major reasons why so many followers of Christ don’t look and act like Him.
One last thing before we look at why we should read the Bible. I’ve written other posts on this subject, so in order to keep this post relatively brief, I’ll refer you to the following for further reading:
- “Letting the Bible Study You,” (series)
- “Biblical Inspiration“
- “The Nature of Biblical Inspiration“
- “Encountering the God of the Word“
Okay, let’s get to the question: “Why read the Bible?”
The first thing we need to understand is that we need to let the Bible study us (see series link above for more information). We must let Jesus, the Living Word (John 1:1), penetrate our protective walls within and dismantle the lies we believe that bind us, and also teach us how to be honest about our own motives for doing what we do.
12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb.4:12 NASB*)
This is important because it’s not something we’ll naturally do on our own. Only the Living Word can differentiate between our spirit (in perfect union with Christ) and our soul (who we are as a person, shaped by all our experiences). This distinction is so mysterious that many theologians don’t distinguish between them at all. But that would be a grave mistake, for God has not come to transform our spirit, which is seated in heavenly places with Christ, but our soul which is the invisible interface by which we receive and live by these heavenly realities. Our soul is what makes us human. And this is why we must let God’s Word wash over our soul and renew our minds.
Second, this is the easiest way to be made aware of our union with Christ. Even though we read that we’re in Christ, and He’s in us, we can live as though He isn’t. We must cultivate this awareness of His constant presence, and the easiest way to do it is by daily devotional reading.
Other reasons we should read the Bible are found in the following statement from Paul from Romans 15. I’ve highlighted how they are listed:
4 Whatever was written beforehand is meant to instruct us in how to live. The Scriptures impart to us encouragement and inspiration so that we can live in hope and endure all things. (Rom.15:4 TPT*)
We learn how to navigate life in one of two ways: either by our own limited life experience, which also means learning from our own mistakes, or we learn through the lives of others who’ve walked with God, warts and all. Wisdom is found in learning by the latter.
The Scriptures teach us about the best possible way to live our life according to the true meaning of success, which is having learned how to be loved and to love, and by living a life filled with peace, joy, and purpose.
The English phrase, “impart to us encouragement and inspiration” is derived from one Greek word, παράκλησις (paraklēsis). It’s a form of the same word we have for “Holy Spirit” (See John 14:16-18; 16:7-15). It’s the Spirit who inspires us and reveals the deep things of God and helps us think like Christ. Indeed, it’s the only way we’ll ever understand these mysteries (2 Cor.2:10-16).
What we also see in Romans 15:4 is that Scripture empowers us to “live in hope and endure all things.” If there’s anything people needed today it’s hope. Hope is on the wane in our culture because people have become driven by self-interest and fear and have not let Hope live in them.
When we lose hope, we lose a sense of purpose, our vision become myopic, driven by circumstances, and our ability to endure anything life brings our way is greatly diminished.
The current dystopian-like hysteria over the Coronavirus outbreak is a good case in point. While we should be very careful in public places, understand that panic and fear are not fruits of the Spirit! However, when we’ve filled our hearts with God’s Word to us, we also fill it with His joy and peace that surpasses our natural understanding.
An important distinction should also be made here. We’re not being Pollyanna or living in denial about the troubles and trials we may face in this world. Quite the contrary, we’re empowered by hope to endure them, and we can also receive His wisdom and power to overcome them.
Through it all—the good, bad, and ugly—we know that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”(Rom.8:28).
Of course, we wouldn’t know any of these things if we didn’t read the Bible.