by Rev. Benjamin P. Glaser
Pastor, Ellisville Presbyterian Church, ARP
One of the most common questions I receive as a pastor is, “Rev. Glaser, how do I get the most out of my Bible reading?” It is a question even the apostles themselves wondered. (2 Peter 3:14-18). In this short article we will look at three things that can help you feast upon the meat of the gracious Word of our Triune God.
First of all we must understand that what we are reading is God’s Word. (Heb. 1:1-4, 2 Tim. 3:16, 2 Peter 1:16-21). This may seem obvious or even unnecessary to mention, but part of the problem many of us have is that we, intentionally or not, use the Bible the way we would any other book. We look for pithy statements for a greeting card or a quick verse to simply settle an argument or to find a justification for something either we would like to do or even as a club to stop someone from doing something we may not like. When we humbly present ourselves before the Word as the recipient of the Bible and not as its author, to simply use it how we please, we have a come a long way to rightly using it for both God’s purpose and for our benefit. A good example of this can be seen in 2 Chronicles 29. There King Hezekiah is in the process of rebuilding the Temple. He is careful to only do that which God has commanded to be done in His Word.
Second of all we must be careful to answer three questions before we fall into the trap of using a part of the Bible unwisely. These three are, 1) What is the larger context and background of the book/chapter/verse?, 2) What did the original author of that book/chapter/verse have in mind when he wrote it?, and 3) How, in the larger context of the redemptive story of the Bible, does God want us to apply this book/chapter/verse today in our context? Once we find the answer to these three questions we will have gone a long way in not only rightly understanding the text, but using it in the way its true author, God Almighty, intended. Another thing worth mentioning here is that the Bible was not written with the chapter and verse divisions we have now. Each part was constructed to be understood in the context of the whole book. This is one of the problems with just randomly taking verses and using them without taking into consideration the purpose the author had for them. A good example in the Bible of someone doing this very thing can be seen in the temptation narrative in Matthew 4. Satan knows the Scriptures. He takes passages and misapplies them in order to cause trouble. Now, it is not likely that any of us intend to do that, but God in His wisdom warns us in a very serious way the damage this can cause. (Rom. 16:17-20).
Lastly, it is important that we understand what the Bible is about. It is the story of man’s creation by the Triune God (Col. 1:15-17), man’s fall in the covenantal sin of Adam (Rom. 5:12), and redemption by the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:21). Our Savior is present on every page, whether as the King of Kings providentially ordering things for His glory (like in the Book of Esther), or as the recipient of the praises of David in the Psalms, which he sang and the Church continues to sing, in thankfulness for Christ’s love, or as the subject of His own life and work as in the Gospels and Epistles in the New Testament.
I hope these three short principles are helpful to you in using your Bible to grow in the knowledge of God’s grace and the person and work of His only begotten Son. When we use the Holy Scriptures rightly and truly there is nothing better for our lives, both in the here and now as well as in the life to come for those who rest and trust in the finished work of Christ.