How to Read the Bible

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17)
I’ve got a lot of respect for living statues – you know, the street performers that you see who look like statues. Being a natural fidget and incapable of keeping my mouth shut for longer than five minutes at a time, I find their ability to stay still and in character both impressive and completely alien to me! The reason we find them so fascinating, other than the cool metallic silver paint they use, is that  they present the wonder of something that is inanimate-yet-showing-signs-of-life. There is something really magical about that (just look at Disney’s Beauty and the Beast).

It is hopefully obvious that this is not what the writer of Hebrews is talking about when he says “the word of God is alive”. The Greek language has two different words for life, whereas English just has one. The living statue has ‘bios’ life (the word from which we get biology), because the street performer is a person in a costume (sorry – spoiler!). The life that the word of God has is ‘zoe’ life (the word from which we get zoology, or the name Zoe). It means “spiritual life”, as opposed to “flesh life”. The Bible is alive and active spiritually. Read that statement again. It’s hugely important. If the Bible is alive and active, then we should approach it that way!

Did you know that it’s possible to read the Bible in a fleshly way? It’s exactly pretty common. You can read the Bible just like you would read any other book but, if you do, then you are missing something huge! The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, to pick a book at random, is not alive and active. You read it to get something out of it, it’s something to be consumed. That’s not how we should read the Bible. The Bible is rich and full of wisdom that we should gather like gold dust, but it is also far more than that. It is one of the key tools that God has given us to commune with him and to draw closer to him. We should pore over it prayerfully, listening to what God is saying to us through it and just enjoying his presence even if we’re not hearing any angelic trumpets. The same Spirit who inspired the Scriptures has now united himself with our spirits. That’s why when we read the Bible, we should expect to have a conversation with the Lord.

Many Christians avoid spending time reading certain parts of Scripture because they don’t think those bits are relevant. But that’s a fleshly response to Scripture! Paul tells us in 2 Timothy that the whole Bible is the Word of God. All of it is alive and active and able to penetrate our hearts so that we hear God speaking to us in our inner beings. Even if you read something that seems to have no bearing on your modern life, just the act of spending some time in the Bible nourishes your spirit in a way that will bring life to your day, whether you’re reading Ephesians or Ezekiel, Matthew or Malachi.
  1. Do you often think of the Word as being alive and active? What difference does that make to your life?
  2. Do you read the Bible every day? Are there any particular books that you tend to avoid? What makes you avoid them? What steps could you take to help you have a wide ranging, diverse, daily diet of scripture?
  3. One of the ways that we can support each other is to use the Word to build each other up. What would it look like in your life if you fed yourself on the Word and used it to feed others? What would it look like if you allowed others around you to share their spiritual food from the Scriptures with you too?
Father God, I thank you that you have given us your alive and active Word. Thank you that your Word speaks to us and shapes us, even if we don’t always know how. Thank you that the Bible speaks to our minds but also to our spirits. Lord, please help us keep our spirits open to you as we read your Word and to hear you speak to us. Amen.
Today’s Everyday Devotions were written by Freddie Ingle, who leads our Kingston congregation.
If you have time, consider carrying on your conversation with God using one of our helpful Prayer Pathways.
Today’s Everyday Devotions have also inspired a devotional video that you can watch on our YouTube channel.
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