How to Read It—The goal

The point of reading the Bible is not to acquire knowledge for the sake of it, but to find out about God's message and purpose for the world. Remembering why you are reading and studying the Bible can be very helpful if you want to ensure you get the most out of your reading.

A crucial turning-point in Jesus’ ministry is recorded in John chapter 6. Many of Jesus’ followers had taken offence at some of his teachings and began to turn away from him. Jesus, deeply saddened, turns to his closest disciples and asks them: ‘Will you also go away?’ Peter responds in an instant:

“Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 12:68-69) (AV)

What Peter says about the words of Jesus is true in a broader sense of the Bible as a whole as the word of God. If it is indeed what it claims to be, then it is, quite literally, the Word of Life. That is why it is worth reading; that is why it is worth studying; that is why it is worth believing and applying in everyday life.

It’s worth always keeping that goal in mind whenever we pick up a Bible. Sometimes people – even sincere Christians – regard the Bible as a kind of optional extra, a nice-to-have if you have time, but a book which is also sometimes a little too probing, a little too uncomfortable. It’s very tempting to make one’s understanding of God in one’s own image – to create a God as we might like Him to be rather than as He has actually revealed Himself. If the Bible is the life-giving Word of God, as it claims and as the evidence seems to support, then that would be the reason for giving it our utmost attention.

In a verse we’ve quoted several times on this site, Paul describes the Scriptures as ‘able to make us wise unto salvation’ (2 Timothy 3:16). Salvation doesn’t come by internal meditation or external creativity; it comes from a knowledge of God revealed in His word and a relationship with Him built upon that knowledge.

This sense of the importance of the Bible is valuable, not only so that we remember to read it and pay attention to it, but also so that when we do read and study it we keep the right end in view. We should not be reading it to win arguments, to score points, to prove ourselves clever, or for the sake of knowing it better than the next person. The reason to study the Bible – and the goal in view whenever we open it – should be that it is the living and powerful Word of God. Through it we can get to know Him better and deepen our relationship with Him. We can train our minds to think in Godly ways rather than human, selfish ways. We can discover more about His purpose and how He wants us to behave in our everyday lives. That must always be the goal for the most profitable sort of Bible reading.

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