First Daily Pillar: Bible Reading
Dr. Derek Carlsen
Many people are intimidated by the size of the Bible and believe that it is an impossible task to read the whole of it and thus they never do. Yet the entire Bible has been read onto cassette tapes, with a total running time of 72 hours. Thus, it is possible to read the whole of the Bible, out loud, in just 72 hours. Silent reading is always much faster than reading aloud, but even if we make it only slightly faster, we see it’s quite possible to read through the Bible on your own in just 65 hours. This means that if someone read the Bible only five days a week and for just fifteen minutes each time, they would finish the Bible in one year. If they read it for half an hour every day, they would complete it in less than five months. Those who are daunted by the size of the Bible should approach it as they approach many other things in life—one step (or bite) at a time and keep going.
Why Read the Bible?
When we are justified by God’s grace and our relationship with Him is restored, we know Christ and thus have eternal life (John 17:3). This new relationship with, or knowing Christ, is also inseparable from growing daily in our understanding of who He is. In a marriage relationship there is a specific point in time when a man and a woman are united and become one flesh, but from that point on there ought to be a life-long growth in getting to know one another in ever greater intimacy. As a married couple learn more about each other, their relationship deepens and produces a hunger for constant sharing of themselves with one another. They want to know each other and the more they know, the more they understand about each other and the more they understand, the more they are able to serve and bless.
Our relationship with Christ is very much like a good marriage relationship (Eph.5:31,32) and the means God has given to us to deepen our relationship with Him, include daily repentance, prayer, fellowship with other believers, the sacraments, hearing the word preached, serving others and personal reading of His word. Though we have been made new creatures by God’s sovereign power and grace, we still have to be renewed in the whole of our being, thus Paul exhorts believers to be renewed in their minds (Rom.12:2). Our thinking needs to be brought into line with the mind of Christ (2 Cor.10:5) and our lives ought to be lived in accordance with every word from God’s mouth (Matt.4:4). To do this requires us to be constantly learning and being reminded about who God is and what His will for us is. It is those who know their God that will be strong and do exploits (Dan.11:32)—this means knowing what God has revealed about Himself and what our responsibilities are. Our growth, in every way and area of life is a process. Our ability to understand and apply the truth is also a growth-process and just like a healthy diet, requires us to have a regular intake of food. We don’t eat only once a month, because we were not made to function like that physically and the Scriptures show us that we were made to feed upon the Lord on a daily basis too and daily Bible reading is part of that diet.
When we realize our need to live a life of repentance we will also better understand the place reading the Bible has in our daily routine. God’s goal for us is that we should be conformed into the image of His Son (Rom.8:29) and while this too arises from God’s grace, we have a moral responsibility to work together with Him unto that end (Phil.2:12,13). Our growth in Godliness necessitates Scripture reading because the process of sanctification entails a constant washing by the word (Eph.5:26)—we are sanctified by being exposed to the truth (John 17:17) and reading the word plays a central role in this ongoing process. A Godly life is also a life of faith (Rom.14:23; Heb.11:6) and Paul tells us that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom.10:17). Calvin said Romans 10:17 shows that “faith is grounded on nothing else but the truth of God” (Commentary on Romans). We need to be familiar with the word Christ speaks and that word has been preserved for us in the Scriptures (John 3:34; 6:63; 12:50; 17:8; Rom.10:8; 1 Thes.2:13). Thus a life of faith cannot be separated from regular Scripture reading. Furthermore, the Godly are exhorted to recognize the wiles of the devil and told to resist him (Eph.4:27; 6:11; 1 Pet.5:8,9). This is spiritual warfare (Eph.6:12) and vital to this kind of battle is being able to wield the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Eph.6:17). If you do not know what has been written, your effectiveness in the fight will be greatly reduced, if not made completely ineffective. This battle also means we are to keep our minds focused on the things that are above (Col.3:2), but to do this means we have to know what these things are through constant exposure to the Scriptures. Finally, the Godly gain their guidance through Christ, in whom dwells all the fullness of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col.1:19; 2:3). It is the word that is their counsellor (Ps.119:24), but if they never consult their counsellor, then they have only themselves to blame when they go astray or make foolish decisions. Bible reading is by no means a cold mechanical ritual that the Godly rush through and “tick off”, but something warm and living, flowing out of their real intimate union with the Lord. When the basis of our Scripture reading is a vibrant relationship with Christ, then our reading will be a constant feasting upon Him in our hearts by faith (John 6:55), incorporating praise, worship, meditation, repentance, awareness of our utter dependence and unceasing prayer.