Ronald J. Van Overloop is a missionary-pastor of the Protestant Reformed Churches in suburban Northwest Chicago.
One of the vital issues of the Reformation was the priesthood of all believers. The Reformation abolished the idea that only a select group of men may function as priests. It pointed out that Scripture calls all of the members of the church “priests” (I Peter 2:9) and that each has priestly tasks (Hebrews 13:15, 16).
One of the principal duties of priests was to know and to teach the Word of God to the people (Malachi 2:7). In the old dispensation the people had to find the knowledge of God from the mouth of the priest. Now, with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, every child of God knows and speaks the Word of God and is able to teach others. The Word is written in our hearts, so every believer knows God, from the least to the greatest (Hebrews 8:10, 11 and I John 2:27).
The danger is great that the believer does not use his office. This danger is present in the worship services when the believers do not enter into what is preached with understanding, do not respond to it, and do not make it their own. This danger is also present in the home of believers when the Bible is neglected or abused. Abuse of the Bible is probably more serious than the neglect of it. It is dangerous to use verses out of their context. It is just as dangerous to hold doctrinal positions without being able to give a Biblical defense.
Next to praying there is nothing so important in practical religion as Bible reading. God mercifully gave us a book which is “able to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ.” Through that one book the believer learns what to believe, what to be, and what to do; he learns how to live and die with comfort.
It has been rightly said, “Happy is he who possesses the Bible; happiest is he who reads and obeys the Bible.”
What do you do with the Bible? Do you read it? Do you read and obey it? “How readest thou?” (Luke 10:26b).
Why should the Bible be read and obeyed?
First, Scripture should be read because the knowledge of the things found in the Bible is absolutely necessary to a man’s salvation. One can get to heaven without money, learning, or health, but knowledge of the Bible is necessary.
How glorious is God’s plan of salvation. How satisfying to the soul is the knowledge of the way by which our sins are forgiven. How comforting are the accounts the Bible gives of the great Mediator, the man Christ Jesus: His incarnation, suffering, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. How precious are the promises the Bible contains for those who love God. How encouraging are the examples the Bible gives of the good people, who were of like passions as we are. How instructive are the examples the Bible gives of the wicked.
Secondly, the Bible should be read and obeyed, if only because of how it originated and Who is its author. The Bible was “given by inspiration of God.” It is not a collection of thoughts of various imperfect men. It is the very mind of the King of kings. All other books, however good and useful they may be, are more or less defective. The Bible is absolutely perfect, being entirely the Word of God.
Therefore, it is no light matter what you are doing with this Book.
Thirdly, the Bible should be read because it is the only food that can sustain the heart which has the new principle of the life of Christ, given by the Holy Spirit. A newborn babe desires its mother’s milk. It does not have to be taught to desire it. So the life of Christ delights in the Word of God day and night (Psalm 1:2).
This is so true that it can be said of one who despises Bible reading, that he is not born again, even if he is zealous for the ceremonies of the church. The signal evidence of the Spirit’s presence within a believer is that the Word is precious to him. “I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.” “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Job 23:12; Psalm 119:103).
It is very important whether you know anything of this sweetness of the Word.
The knowledge gained from Bible reading has many benefits.
Applied by the Holy Spirit, the Bible is the instrument which converts souls to God (Psalm 19:7). Also through faith it is able to instruct in righteousness and to furnish the child of God unto all good works (II Timothy 3:16). This is a tremendous potential lying at the fingertips of every believer. The man who has the Bible and the Holy Spirit has an infallible guide. He needs no priest or church for him to know the truth. What are you doing with such a powerful tool? Are you using these talents well, so it can be said that you are being faithful over few things and will be made ruler over many things?
Another benefit is that the Bible is the only tool by which all questions of doctrine and practice can be tried. God has mercifully provided an unerring standard for our poor, fallen understandings. The world is full of difficulties on points of doctrine, with some errors so very close to the truth. The world is equally full of difficulties on points of practice. There are questions about vocations, about amusements, about the various relationships in society, about the duties of parenting, etc. The Bible must be made the rule for doctrine and conduct. It is the only correct compass to guide the believer through the storms of this life.
Do you know the Scriptures well enough to be able to defend your doctrinal position? As important as doctrine is, it is not sufficient to know only the doctrine. Do you free yourself from the charge of abusing the Scriptures because, in defending your position, you do not use only one passage, but a number of them, thus giving the current teaching of Scripture?
To those willing to read the Bible, here is some advice.
1. Make use of your Bible. All the resolving to read it does absolutely no good. Read it!
2. Be careful how you read it. Do not just let the words pass before your eyes. Read it with the earnest desire to understand it. It does no good if it is not understood. The believer must read the Bible concentrating on understanding what he reads, as if digging for golden nuggets of truth.
3. Read the Bible with childlike faith and humility. Believe implicitly what you read, and do not stand in judgment over it.
4. Read the Bible in the spirit of obedience and self-application. It is not to be read for curiosity or speculation.
5. Read the Bible daily. We put on our clothes daily and eat our food daily. So we should read the Scriptures. A great type of the Word of God in the old dispensation was the manna the children of Israel received in the wilderness. They had to gather it fresh every morning. That is probably the best time for our daily reading of the Scriptures.
6. Read all of the Bible and read it in an orderly way. Skipping here and there, from this interesting piece of history or to that short psalm, profits but little. Paul told Timothy that ALL Scripture is profitable.
7. Most importantly, read the Bible with Christ Jesus continually in view. He and His life are its primary objects. When you see Him and yourself you will be the most benefited.
Many believers love and believe the Bible, but they read it only a little. They are likely to get little comfort from it in time of need. They will not be established in the truth. They are likely also to make mistakes in life and practice. And they can easily be carried away for a while by some false wind.
The Bible must be read, but not a little. It must be read a great deal. “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16).
The benefits of daily reading the Scriptures with an earnest, childlike faith come slowly, but surely. No dramatic changes are evident immediately. But impressions are left upon the heart, of which we might not be aware. Sin becomes more and more disgusting and Christ more and more precious.
Resolve to read the Bible more. Resolve to honor it more in your families. Meditate upon it more and talk more about it. And resolve to live by it more and more.