H. Winfield Graham
Your most valuable possession is the Bible. Pity is that so many have only a dusty copy on a shelf and live in spiritual poverty because they neglect their treasure-store. To help them to appreciate it we give a few hints.
Get a good-sized copy with readable print. You can choose between a well-bound edition which will last for years or a cheaper one that you can replace when it is worn. A Bible without notes is preferable. It is difficult for the average person to free himself from their influence.
Remember that the Bible is the Word of God, it is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3. 16). Learned Biblical scholars can produce many reasons for accepting it as such. There is a mode of proof within the reach of all. Read it prayerfully and if God speaks to you through it, it is evidently His word.
READ THE BIBLE TOTALLY. You may have read Psalm 23 scores of times and Matthew 23 not even once. Some try to live on a diet of promises, others on a diet of precepts. You need the whole book for a balanced diet. If you read five chapters each Sunday and three every weekday you will just about get through the Bible in a year. So adopt some simple system of consecutive reading. Read it with discernment. All is not addressed to everybody. Sinners are not told to work out their own salvation. Christians are not commanded to bring animal sacrifices. Jews were not commissioned to observe the Lords supper. Notice to whom and in what circumstances a book or an epistle is written. Dont be alarmed about "so many interpretations," read it for yourself and read it simply. The writer was once questioned about his interpretation of a certain passage. On declaring his point of view the questioner objected that it was far to simple, there must be a hidden meaning. Read each text in its context. Dont try to understand a few isolated words. Take the whole passage and see what the subject is.
READ THE BIBLE DEVOTIONALLY. You need to hear daily the voice of God for the feeding, refreshing and reviving of your own soul and your spiritual life. Only in the Bible can you hear His voice.
READ THE BIBLE DOCTRINALLY. You need to learn divine truth. God will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2. 4). Faith in Christ saves. The knowledge of the truth establishes and confirms the believer. For growth and usefulness it is essential to have a good understanding of the fundamental truths of the gospel. We would not be prone to saying that such and such a chapter is the most important in the Bible, but we would venture to affirm that without a good grounding in Gen. 3 there will be little progress. Only a clear perception of what the fall of mankind involves can permit a clear appreciation of the gospel. Only against the background of mans ruin can we appreciate the wonder of divine grace, the value of Christs atoning death the necessity of the new birth, the need of the Holy Spirits operation in order to conversion, and the fullness of the salvation which God provided to meet our need. One finds that most fundamental errors are due to defective views on the fall.
READ THE BIBLE PRACTICALLY. You need guidance and instruction about Christian living. For every department of life, light can be found in the guide book. Family affairs, business matters, your relation to such things as trade unions, employers federations, political organizations, church connections, Christian service - on all these and for all else a search of the scriptures will give true guidance. You may not always get a direct command or prohibition but you will get insight into the mind of God. The writer was once perplexed about the right or wrong of participating in certain celebrations. One day he saw in a catalogue the announcement of a booklet dealing with that very subject. He neither bought the booklet nor did he ever read it. The title was enough: "My Lord has not told me to do it." That and many another problem has been solved by the same principle. It is wisdom to refrain from that which the Lord has not commanded.
READ THE BIBLE OBEDIENTLY. That is the great secret of growth in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. If God makes known to you some truth and you refuse to submit, you shut off the entrance of further light. You may even lose the light you already have. To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams (1 Sam. 15:22). It is sadly true that some Christian workers, just like the romish priests, are afraid of people reading the Bible for themselves. They are afraid to say to young Christians: "Search the Bible and do what it says." They fear the result. A friend of the writer was diligently reading his Bible a few days after his conversion, and was advised not to read the Bible too much. In surprise he inquired the reason and was informed that those who get saved and read the Bible leave the false church.
What about books to help understand the Bible? One is grateful for all the help received through books and magazines, but truth must be assimilated into ones own spiritual being. There seems to be a real sense in which every student must start at the beginning and build up his own store of knowledge. That is why there is no really rapid course of study which can make one an efficient minister of the New Testament. No Bible School or Training College course can do it. The Bible can be learned only by quiet study in the presence of God. That is the only knowledge worth having, but God is not in a hurry He takes time to train His servants.
The Bible is sufficient and needs no supplement of human tradition. By it "the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:17). It is not a textbook of theology. One cannot read the chapter that deals with the Trinity, for example, and master that subject. To learn of the Trinity one begins at Gen. 1:1 and finds material on the subject right through to Rev. 22. So with every other subject.
Young believer, if you want to live for God, and be a vessel unto honor meet for the Masters s use: "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).