The following is an edited transcript of the audio.
How should we approach the Bible when reading it?
I'm torn as to which approach to take in answering that. I want to say right off the bat that we should approach the Bible with reverence. And yet I'm aware that there are people listening, probably, who don't even know enough about the Bible to know whether it should be reverenced or not. They've never even read it.
And so I think I would want to say to those people, because of the history of the Bible, with 2000 years of power being exerted in the lives of people for good, "Come to the Bible with a sense of expectation and openness that here you might find something vastly more wise and more penetrating and more world-shaping than any of the contemporary ideas you are presently dealing with."
And after they come, I think they will discover that here is the very word of God and, therefore, it should be approached with a sense of reverence. And it should be approached with a sense of need and with a sense of expectation that God has given us this word in order to meet our needs, to convict us of sin, to bring us to the point of forgiveness, and then to give us hope.
And so I hope that people will come with
- openness to the fact that it is the word of God;
- reverence when they discover that it is so;
- a sense of conviction that we are sinners in the view of this word;
- the knowledge that it meets us with forgiveness because of Christ at the center of this book; and then,
- hope that we can press on in life, and that this book will give us all the guidance we need.
It says in 2 Timothy 3:16 that it is inspired and makes the man of God sufficient and competent for every good work. So there's nothing God expects of us that he does not provide in this word for us to understand how to do it and have the motivation to do it. So there's high-level expectation that I think people ought to have when they come.
It seems like the Bible is a whole lot easier for you to understand than it is for most folks. Is that true?
I suppose it's partly accurate and partly inaccurate. The accurate part is that when you've lived with a book for 50 years and it has been your main job to understand it and explain it, you've got a head start. That's not rocket science to understand that a man who spends his life meditating on the book in order to explain it to other people is probably going to see connections that others don't see. (And I think it's seeing connections that makes the Bible live.)
On the other hand, just because you've had a lifetime of exposure to the Bible doesn't make you necessarily a better seer of what's there. And I illustrated a while back when we were talking that there are scholars who look at this Bible probably more than I do and, I think, see less than lay people do of real truth, because they're not born again.
What is inaccurate about it is that I don't have to have a leg up on seeing the glorious truth of this Bible. In fact, there might be people who don't know any Greek or Hebrew and haven't spent a lifetime studying this book who will see things in texts that I have not seen, because the Holy Spirit has simply attuned them.
I'll give you an example. In Psalm 119 it talks about suffering as being one of the instruments that God uses: "It was good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes." Well now, that kind of learning is something that comes through suffering. Therefore a person who has walked through deep waters that I haven't walked through will probably see things I don't see and experience them in depths that I don't experience.
So I don't want to elevate scholarship or languages or even length of exposure to the Bible as the only or even the main way by which we see glorious things in this book. God prepares people for seeing things in his word in his own way, and there are people who will see things I've never seen.