Reading the Bible Profitably

Knowledge about Christ is essential; you must have it or you cannot “know Him.”  But I find myself often, and perhaps you discover as much, settling for knowledge about Christ to the neglect of the life that consists therein.  The point I believe is this: when we read the Bible are advised not to read it as any other book, whether fantasy or textbook.  The Bible calls itself living and active (Hebrews 4:12), and so to settle for a dry knowledge about Christ is to fall far short of what the Bible itself offers.  We have not found the life of the text until we have seen clearly its relationship to the Christ of it.  Jesus chides the Pharisees for their textbook reading, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).  

Let us notice a few things:

It is possible to read the Scriptures in such a way that we gather neither eternal life or Him in whom that life resides.  This should cause us to be stirred.  There is a way to read the Bible by which we bypass the very One whom the Bible bears witness to.  That is to say that unbelievers can read the Bible as a book and become knowledgeable about Jesus Christ, but there is no salvation in that.  There is an insurmountable chasm between the knowledge of the text and the significance of the text, and between that and one’s obedience to the text wherein Christ is both loved and delighted in.  Sheer knowledge is like a steroid for the head but seldom waxes the heart warm with holy affections for God and His Christ.

Jesus does not deny that they can have eternal life; He only says that the Scriptures do something more, namely, bear witness to Christ in whom that life resides.  Jesus maintains that eternal life can be had in this window of zero to 100 years.  This just won’t be found in a dry reading of the text.  The Pharisees are proof positive that you can be diligent students of the Bible (the Old Testament Scriptures), and have Jesus directly in front of you to whom the Scriptures are concerned, and yet not believe in Him.  In my own recent readings of the Old Testament, in combination with my class on Christology, the reality that Jesus speaks of in Luke 24:25 – “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” – which is a simplistic way of saying “the whole Old Testament” (since the prophets were the interpreters of the rest of it), this reality – that not one, or two verses, or even 50 verses, but every line of the Old Testament is improperly understood until it in some way is rightly related to or seen as fulfilled in Jesus – is very plain.  So, again, a text is not to be cast aside until we have understood the wonder of Christ that it in particular bears witness to.  We must ask Genesis-Deuteronomy, the History, the Wisdom, the Prophets, and every line of the New Testament – what have you to do with my Lord, Jesus Christ?  

They, however, refused to come to Jesus to find that life.  We must refuse to be like these.  Do not set up your Bible until you have come to Jesus to find the “life and activity” of the Bible in Him.  Once more, ask every text – “what have you to do with Christ?”  To which it will reply – “To bear witness to Him only and no other, indeed, He is all I long to show you!”  And there we must go with our lives, trials, praises, sufferings, good reports, health, ill, the whole of ourselves, and our condition and plead with God’s Spirit “grant me high thoughts about Jesus – You did come to glorify Him, and You authored the Word to bear witness to Him – grant me then in Your sovereign mercy and goodness to see great wonders, that is, Jesus Christ.”    And the Gospel will come like a balm and with rejoicing, communion with Christ will be adorned by the weary soul and we shall find rest wherein life and the enjoyment of God reside.  Then we will have read the Bible profitably, when we seeing the glory of the Lord, have gathered to our own life the reality of His life, His standing, His love, His comforts, indeed, Himself.  May God be praised and pleased to help us obtain our Lord in our devotions in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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