I believe that the Bible is the true, infallible word of God. Although that will seem most strange and unusual to those who are not Christians, most Christians will agree with this. Clearly the Bible is the important book for Christians.
As Paul famously said to his apprentice Timothy in 2 Tim 3:14-17:
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2Ti 3:14-17 ESV)
At the time when Paul wrote this, the New Testament as we know it did not yet exist. So the “sacred writings” that are mentioned in v15 that Timothy has known since childhood (presumably through his Jewish mother) must be the Old Testament. (The New Testament is clearly also ‘sacred’ or ‘holy’ as we see from, amongst other places, 2 Pet 3:16).
Paul clearly has a high view of the Bible. He sees it as being able to “make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” That doesn’t mean the Bible saves you – read that carefully. It can make you wise for salvation. In other words, it contains the message about Jesus, which you then can believe in and be saved by once you know it. And the Bible is more than this as well. It is breathed out by God – the very words of God himself. And it is useful – it both encourages (in the positive) and corrects (in the negative), equipping Christians for every good work. The majority of Christians today would agree with all of this, that the Bible is a sacred book, the very words of God, which contains critical information for all people as well as being incredibly useful.
This blog post is not to defend all of these things. There is a place for that! But what I want to point out is an issue I see in my own life, which I have also observed in other believers. And the issue is this: despite our very high view of the Bible, so often Christians in practice don’t read it very much.
I know the struggle many believers have in this area. They know they should read the Bible, they are convinced that it is God’s Word, they in theory know that it is useful, but it seems like hard work.
Logically, if the Almighty God, who made the world, who loves you, wanted to speak to you, you would listen, right? If Jesus was to stand before you then you would stop whatever you were doing and listen! In many generations Christians have had no access or limited access to the Bible and yet yearned for it more, valued it more, and remembered it better.
Why is this so? Let me offer a few suggestions. They have all been true of me at some stage!
1. I don’t understand what I am reading: very common in particular with younger Christians. All of us need someone to explain how the Bible is put together and what its message is. It covers some thousands of years, using different genres and writers, so it helps to know the big picture. If you don’t know this kind of thing, God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts would be a great place to start, or ask a more mature Christian you know. There are also lots of Bible reading guides that help you see the main points of the passage too.
2. I think I kind of know what it says anyway: very common with people who have been Christian a while. We know the basic storyline; that’s not the problem. But when we assume things we often get them wrong. We are to be people of the Book. My job means I have the privilege of digging deep into Bible passages each week to teach to others, and I can honestly say I learn something new every time, even on the most familiar passages. We do not know it as well as we think we do.
3. I don’t have consistent habits and discipline in my life: we live in an age of soundbites and distractions, and all of us are busy. But there needs to be a place in the Christian life for discipline. Having a regular time and place to read the Bible helps immensely in doing it often and regularly. For me it is before 7am; for you maybe 10pm. Find what works and stick to it. A little reading, with reflection, on a regular basis is better than an hour only when I think of it.
4. Deep down, I don’t really believe that it is as useful as it claims to be: yes, 2 Tim 3 tells me it is useful. But we often prefer the popular magazine’s guide to being a better person, or perhaps the latest Christian book’s 7 steps to success in marriage. The Bible is far more useful, for it is the wisdom of God not the wisdom of some person somewhere.
5. I understand the message, but don’t know how to apply it to my life: yes, this can be tricky. But don’t let this get you discouraged, for there are many places that can help. Maybe some sort of Bible study book will give some application ideas. Maybe you can listen and take note of how your pastor applies the Bible passage on Sunday. Or just ask questions of the text: what does this tell me about people? About Jesus? About how to live? The Bible is no academic book, but it is intended to be used and applied.
Let’s not be hypocrites on this most critical issue. It is impossible to have a strong foundation to your Christian life if you don’t know the Bible well and read it often. It is the cornerstone of the Christian life. If you don’t read the Bible, or know you should but have let the habit slip, try again! Reading the Bible won’t make God love you more than He already does. But if you can find out more about your heavenly Father and how to love and serve Him better, why wouldn’t you want to read it?