With Assurance and Affection: A Primer on How to Read Scripture

bibleWith the final seconds of 2015 ticking down, some bookish people are considering what they will read next year. Those who prize the Bible above all books are considering what reading plan they should adopt in 2016. At our church, we recommend three different reading plans for three different kinds of people (see Ben Purves’s blogpost). I will have more tomorrow on reading plans for those who don’t like to read.

For today, I want to tackle a different question: How will you read the Bible in 2016? 

Rightly Reading the Word of God

God’s Word reveals and conceals (Matthew 13:13–14). It brings life to those who by the Spirit receive God’s message with repentance and faith (John 1:12–13) and death to those who do not couple their hearing with faith (Hebrews 4:2). In this way, reading the Bible is not a trivial matter (Deut 32:47). Those who read the Bible with eyes to see Christ enjoy the life-giving nature of his Word (Hebrews 4:12), but those who grow in knowledge without love for God actually increase the weight of their judgment–to those who have been given much (i.e., access to knowing God), much is required (Luke 12:48).

Such consideration should not deter us from reading Scripture, but it should awaken in us a desire to read it with care and prayer–Lord, incline my heart to you (Psalm 119:36), open my eyes to behold the wonder of you law (Psalm 119:18), unite my heart to fear your name (Psalm 86:11), satisfy me with your steadfast love as revealed in your word (Psalm 90:14). This is one way to avoid vain reading.

Still, such prayerful reading invites thoughtful reading. To read Scripture rightly, we must have a basic confidence that it is God’s word and that it has been given to us to know and enjoy God. Without a proper “theology of the Bible,” our reading will be undermined by nagging doubts and distracting desires. So what should we think about the Bible?

Let me list seven arguments to bolster assurance in the Bible and seven affections to cultivate adoration for God’s Word.

Seven Arguments for Assurance in the Bible

When Thomas Watson (Body of Divinity) took up the question, “How does it appear that the Scriptures have . . . a divine authority stamped upon them,” he listed seven arguments for trusting the authority and authenticity of the Bible.

  1. The antiquity of the Bible argues for its authenticity. While our modern world prizes novelty and invention; the antiquity of the Bible argues for its eternal veracity.
  2. The miraculous preservation of the Bible across all ages. “The Word of God has never wanted [lacked] enemies to oppose it” (27), yet it has always stood the test of time. It is an unbroken anvil against a world full of hammers.
  3. The content of the Bible evinces its authenticity. “The Book of God has no errata in it; . . . All laws and edicts of men have had their corruptions, but the Word of God has not the least tincture” (27). In other words, Scripture is self-authenticating; the Spirit who inspired it convinces the mind of its veracity as it is read humbly.
  4. The predictions made in the Bible testify to its credibility. “It prophesies things to come, which shows the voice of God speaking in it” (28). The whole of the Bible could be outlined as promises made and promises kept (see Acts 13:32–33). God proves his faithfulness and his presence by fulfilling outlandish promises–e.g., that Jesus would die and rise again (John 10:17–18).
  5. The impartiality of biblical authors lobby for its truthfulness. “Moses records his own impatience [Numbers 20] . . . David relates his own adultery and bloodshed [Psalms 51] . . . Peter relates his own [cowardice] in denying Christ . . . [These men] take away all glory from themselves, and give the glory to God” (28). Such Spirit-led humility testifies to the divine character of the Bible.
  6. “The mighty power and efficacy that the Word has had upon the souls and consciences of men” (29) argues for it’s supernatural character. Other books may inform or inspire, but God’s book transforms. It is living and active (Heb 4:12) and has countless witnesses to testify to its life-changing power. The presence and growth of the church under persecution is but one corroborating evidence.
  7. The miracles of the Bible confirm its veracity. “Miracles were used by Moses, Elijah, and Christ, . . . [and] by the apostles to confirm the verity of the holy Sciptures. As props are set under weak vines, so these miracles were set under the weak faith of men, that if they would not believe the writings of the Word, they might believe the miracles” (29).

Of course, there questions that need to be asked and answered under each point and there are books more detailed than Watson’s that answer the technical questions regarding inspiration, inerrancy, historicity, but these seven apologetic arguments are a start and springboard to considering what Scripture says of itself.

Seven Attitudes for Adoring the Bible

If we only defend the cognitive feasibility of the Bible, we are still deficient of hearing its message and seeing its subject–the Triune God revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we must also consider the attitude with which we read Scripture.

Again, Thomas Watson is helpful. I leave you with seven of his exhortations and accompanying Scriptures. May God incline your heart, open your eyes, unite your mind, and satisfy your soul as you read his word in 2016.

  1. Study God’s Word. Psalm 111:2; 119:104
  2. Prize God’s Word. Psalm 19:10–11
  3. Believe God’s Word. Hebrews 4:2
  4. Love God’s Word. Psalm 119:97; Jeremiah 15:16
  5. Conform to God’s Word. Psalm 86:11; 2 Timothy 3:16–17; James 1:22–25
  6. Contend for God’s Word. Proverbs 4:13; 1 Peter 3:15
  7. Be thankful to God for his Word.

He concludes, “Adore God’s distinguishing grace, if you have felt the power and authority of the Word upon your conscience” (38). May we grow in assurance and adoration of God’s Word as we read the Bible in 2016.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

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  1. Pingback: Getting into the Word: A Sermon on Psalm 19 | Via Emmaus

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