The Bible is a beautiful gift from God to us. He has given it to us so that we may know him. It is always good to read the Bible.
And yet, if we aren’t careful, we can misuse this gift. To be clear, everything that we will list for you here is a good reason to read the Bible. However, they are not the primary reason we read the Bible, and should not be the only reason you read the Bible. They are insufficient reasons to read the Bible. For something to be insufficient doesn’t mean it’s bad—it just means it’s not enough.
To Learn More
Many people say they want to read the Bible so that they can learn more. We know what they mean, and we want them to desire to grow in knowledge. However, there’s a danger in viewing the Bible as a kind of textbook, merely for us to learn from intellectually. With this attitude, we are treating the Bible like a storehouse of facts, rather than the feast God has provided for us.
Think of those theologians and biblical scholars who know more than we will ever know. Think, then, of someone’s grandmother who has never heard of John Calvin, Athenagoras, or Boethius, but who reads the Bible out of a sense of need and love for God. Which of these two people seems more faithful?
To be clear, it’s not wrong to be a theologian. At all. Archibald Alexander (himself a brilliant theologian!) says in his book, Thoughts on Religious Experience, “It is not the critic, the speculative or polemic theologian, who is most likely to receive the right impression, but the humble, simple-hearted, contemplative Christian.” Alexander’s point is that “speculative” or “polemic” theologians aren’t the default of what it means to be a Christian. Rather, it’s the Christian who is a “humble, simple-hearted, [and] contemplative.”
St. Augustine, a brilliant early church father, wrote these words to a student of his: “I wish you to prepare for yourself no other way of seizing and holding the truth than that which has been prepared by [God]. . . in that way the first part is humility; the second, humility; the third, humility.” The first three steps of reading the Bible? Humility, humility, and humility.
This is why prayer is so important. God uses prayer to transform us. He gives us new desires that more fully align with his own. Prayer helps us to go to God’s Word asking for him to reveal his agenda, not affirm ours.
To Find Good Arguments
Some people just read the Bible to be able to cite it to others. They may do this in order to be seen as intelligent. They may also do this to simply argue with those who aren’t Christians and aim to have the right answers when talking with people who disagree with their worldview.
Now, it’s not bad to go to the Bible to find answers to people’s questions, or to be able to quote it at appropriate times. In fact, we are commanded to do this (1 Peter 3:15)! But your spiritual life will suffer if you simply go to the Bible to prepare for arguments—and you certainly won’t positively impact anyone. The issue here isn’t that you’re citing Scripture, but the kind of person you become when you only care about arguing.
In order to really help your friends understand what the Bible says, you first need to be impacted by it yourself. If you just go to God’s Word thinking about how this will affect others, you may be unmoved by God’s Word to you, or blind to your personal need for the Word of God to work in you.
Paul tells Titus to reject divisive men from the church body (Titus 3:9-10). Divisive men are those who are caught up in pointless and worthless controversies. They’re men who aren’t caught up in God’s Word. They’re caught up in themselves. Peter warns about those who “twist” the teachings of the Bible (2 Peter 3:16). Those are the people who go to the Bible with an agenda to win arguments.
To Do My Christian Duty
Sometimes it feels like we carry around a mental checklist in our heads. Did I read enough of the Bible? Did I pray long enough? I didn’t spend enough time reading the Psalms. Is God mad at me? Our guilt stems from our failure to live up to the standards we have set for ourselves. Instead, our guilt should come from the fact that we only have a little thirst to hear from God and receive grace from him. God wants you to thirst for him. God wants you to understand your need for him—not because he’s needy, but because he wants to provide for you. He wants you to draw near to him.
You must have regular, disciplined, faithful, consistent time in God’s Word. That’s not legalism. That’s going to the God who gives wisdom to those who ask (James 1:5). Acknowledging your need for God isn’t legalism.
Legalism is reading the Bible to finish it—not to change. It’s reading the Bible because you think deep down it will compel God to love you, and not out of a knowledge that he already loves you. Legalism is reading the Bible at night to make up to God for your sinful failure during the day.
God wants you to delight in his Word. Read Psalm 119 (buckle up, it’s a little long!). His delight was in God’s law! Pray that God would give you a heart that looks like that, that loves every part of God’s Word. That’s our prayer for ourselves.
To Learn How to Live It Rightly
A lot of people go to the Bible and say, “Okay, what can I find in here that I can do to make myself better.” That’s a good impulse. Scripture is breathed out by God so “that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17 ESV). We do have to find out how to live our lives from the Bible. We conform our lives, habits, and patterns to the culture around us if we don’t get our cues from God in his Word about how life should be lived, what choices to make, etc.
But we read Scripture, first and foremost, to find Jesus who offers us life. Read John 5:39-40 (NIV): “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
Jesus’ point isn’t that the Scriptures are unimportant. They’re incredibly important because they testify about Jesus, the giver of life.
But, here’s what will happen if all you do is try to find out how to live rightly from the Bible. It will either become boring or burdensome (probably both) and you’ll simply give up. For, we are unable to live righteously apart from Jesus anyways (John 15:4). The Word of God is an invitation to worship, know, and love a Person. It’s not a rule book. Again, make no mistake: The Bible does tell us how to live. It tells us to live in Christ.
Scripture is God’s gift to us. It can easily be misused and abused. But God wants you to find his Son in the Scriptures, so that you may have life. Don’t suffer under the weight of burden. Flourish under the easy yoke of Jesus Christ—get to know him by reading his Word—and delight in what he says.