How to Read the Bible

This session is not intended to be a lecture on "How to Study the Bible". Such a lecture is important, but I believe something more fundamental needs to be addressed.

"Why study the bible?" What do we hope to obtain from such an activity? There are many motivations, of course, but I am interested in what I believe should be the key one: We study the bible because we want to know God's will. In order to know God's will, we need to be able to recognize/hear his voice. Thus, before we address the issue of how to read the bible, let us firstly think about how to hear God's voice.
 

The large picture

Firstly, the whole issue of hearing God's voice must be seen in the context of a relationship with Him. This means that it cannot be separated from Prayer (speaking to Him) and Service (serving Him) and Worship (responding to Him). You can't have a growing relationship with Him if you are not speaking to Him, or not responding to Him, or not serving Him, or not listening to Him. All are aspects of the one thing, the one objective.

Secondly, Jesus said in John 10:27 (RSV) "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." It implies that those who are of his flock will be able to recognise his voice, just as he recognises them, and they will thus be able to follow him. We may take it one step further to say that there is a co-relation between all 3 parts: hearing his voice, being known by him, and following him and these 3 parts make up what it means to be his sheep.

Thirdly, while we are speaking in the context of bible reading when we discuss the matter of hearing his voice, we must recognise the fact that his voice is not confined to the bible. "All Truth is God's Truth", the title of a book by Arthur Holmes, basically argues the idea that truth is not defined by its Christian origin nor even that all ideas that originate from Christendom is truth. But when truth is found, wherever its source may be, it should be embraced as God's truth.

The fact is that God is the God of the Universe and not merely God of the Church. This means that He can speak to us through any medium.

The problem, however, is that there are, in this information- enriched age, there are innumerable (means cannot be numbered) voices that claim to be true and sound pretty convincing as well. We do not want to be monks, shut from the world so that we can hear God's voice, nor do we want to be people who "will listen to anybody and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 3:7).

Finally, as a response to the third point, we should recognise that of all the voices we hear, the voice which is closest to the Voice of God is surely the voice we hear from the Bible. That is why, if we want to learn to hear the voice of God, we read the Bible.

Paul has also said, in Philippians 3:17 "Brethren, join in imitating me, and mark those who so live as you have an example in us." and in 1 Corinthians 11:1 "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ." The second voice we want to give more attention to is the voice of Christians who have demonstrated in their life that they are clearly followers of Jesus. They might be teachers from the pulpit (morning worship sermons), elders and other respected Christians we know, or authors who have put their thoughts in writing.

The danger is that we may mishear the voice of the Bible and that the voice of other Christians, no matter how saintly they may be, is still fallible (means can be wrong). But we have a better chance of hearing the true voice of God from these two sources than elsewhere. This means that no matter the source, we cannot NOT be vigilant, always testing, always checking, always challenging.
 

Summary

We started with "How to read the bible?". And we said that we need to define firstly WHY we read the bible. We read the bible to know God's will. (At least this is the one MOTIVATION that we all recognize as worthwhile. We can read the bible to know more about God, but that doesn't get our juices going...) To know God's will we need to know how to hear his voice. To learn how to hear his voice, we need to read the bible. So we revise our motivation for reading the bible. We read the bible to learn to hear his voice. This is quite a good motive. Perhaps this is where we can start.
 

Session 2: Read the bible to know God.