How to read the words of God
How to Read the Bible
We have received two inseparable inheritances from GodHis Word and His Spirit. The Word reveals God to us so that we can know Him, and the Spirit transmits God to us so that we can possess Him. The Spirit without the Word is intangible, while the Word without the Spirit is mere letter. It is God's Word that makes the Spirit substantial, and it is His Spirit who makes the Word vital. The Bible makes known to us the things of the Spirit, and the Spirit makes real to us the things in the Bible. Ultimately, the Word of God and the Spirit of God are one.
Second Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is God-breathed," clearly indicating that God's Word is His Spirit exhaled. Thus, the logical way for us to take in His Word is to breathe in the Spirit who is incorporated in the breathed-out Word. Since the Word is embodied in the Spirit and the Spirit is received through the Word, the most basic and important thing in our reading of the Bible is to exercise our regenerated spirit to contact the Spirit in the Word.1
John 6 says that the Lord's words are spirit. The basic principle is the same: Since the Lord's words are spirit, we have to read them in spirit. In other words, we can only touch spiritual things with the spirit... The very nature of the Bible is spirit. For this reason, everyone who reads this book must approach it with his spirit; it must be read with his spirit.2
This indicates that we need to receive the word of God by means of all prayer and petition. We need to pray to receive the word of God.3
The essential way to read the Bible is not by this or that method with this or that tool but with prayer. Prayer is the exercise of our spirit, and when we pray properly we are in spirit and we touch the divine Spirit. Since the same Spirit who dwells in us is also contained in the Scriptures, whenever we read the Word with a prayerful spirit, we enjoy the riches, receive the enlightenment, and appropriate the power in the living Word of God. If we read in such a way, the Bible will cease to be a book merely of history, ethics, doctrines, or prophecies but will be to us a source of spiritual supply.
Moreover, both the Word and the Spirit are Christ Himself. He is the eternal Word (John 1:1, 14) and is called the Word of God (Rev. 19:13), and in resurrection He became a life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45, 2 Cor. 3:6). Christ is therefore the reality of the Word and the person of the Spirit. Each time we open the Bible we must be conscious that we are approaching Himthat we are not only reading His Word but also communing with Him as the Word. The Lord Jesus once reproved the Jews for their searching the Scriptures without coming to Him that they might have life (John 5:39-40). His message was clear: studying the Bible without drawing near to Him can be a lifeless and empty pursuit. The knowledge of the Word alone, however precious, should never replace the enjoyment of Christ as life.
Although we read the Word of God primarily for the nourishment of our being and not the gratification of our intellect, we need to apply our renewed mental facultya mind under the rule of the Spiritto understand the Scriptures. Throughout the past centuries, the divine revelations in the Bible, like hidden treasures, were seen only by those who toiled in the study of the Word book by book, passage by passage, verse by verse, even word by word. Standing on the shoulders of past expositors of the Scriptures, they received the Spirit of wisdom and revelation who enlightened the eyes of their heart and enabled them to interpret the mysteries of God, Christ, the Spirit, life, the believers, the church, the kingdom, and the New Jerusalem. Following their example, we as believers should read the Word regularly and thoroughly with understanding so that we fulfill the desire of our Savior God to come to the full knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). We ought to first familiarize ourselves with the Bible by committing its contents to memory, and then learn these contents fully in their breadth and depth.
Thus, the way to read the Bible, or more importantly, the way for us to benefit from reading the Bible, is to adhere to the following:
- Exercise our spirit in prayer when we come to the Word to receive the Spirit.
- Fill our heart with love towards the Lord who is the Word and who spoke the Word.
- Use our mind to grasp the facts, the meanings, the interpretations, and the significances of the Word, with the help of outlines and footnotes.
- Be ready to heed the Spirit's speaking and obey the truths in the Word.
- Read consistently and regularly, a fixed portion on a daily basis.
Why Read the Bible?
God has given Himself to us in the Bible. The Bible is God's breath, the essence of His person (2 Tim. 3:16), God's speaking out through men borne by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21), God's speaking in the prophets and in the Son (Heb. 1:1-2), and the Holy Spirit's revelation (John 16:13).
The Bible is the foundation of Western civilizationmorally, politically, literarily. Even the secular world recognizes the Bible as the most influential book in the world. It is the highest in its record of the origin of man, human history, and prophecies and in its wisdom, profoundness, ethics, and morality. While these qualities are compelling enough reasons to read the Bible, they cannot compare with the amazing fact that God Himself is embodied and expressed in His Word. But God does not want His words to remain confined in a book. John 15:7 speaks of the Lord's words abiding in us, and Colossians 3:16 charges us to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly. God's destination is our inward being, and He gets there through His Word. By reading the Bible with our spirit, we can activate everything that the Bible is and make it a part of us, enabling us to touch God and allowing Him to enter into us.
Once in us, the Lord's word is living and operative (Heb. 4:12);
every reality of God that the Bible reveals comes alive in our daily experience. When we read the Bible in a consistent and living way, the Bible becomes a subjective and practical part of our daily living. It imparts a revelation of God's person and economy to us, filling us with life, truth, and light. Our spiritual life depends on the nourishment we receive from the supply of life in the Word. By contacting the Lord through our reading of the Bible, we are washed, filled in spirit, and infused with faith. Furthermore, as we receive more of the Word, the Lord Himself increases within us, and we mature to become full-grown (Col. 1:28), fully-equipped men of God (2 Tim. 3:17).