Part 4 – Did not our hearts burn?: expository reading
Read the Bible
When I was 13 years old, my mother gave me a photocopy of a hand-written guide for reading the Bible through in a year. Thus began the most important part of my theological education – immersion in Scripture.
[tweetable]In order to understand the Bible, one must read it.[/tweetable] And, in order to read the individual parts of the Bible in context, one must read the whole. Thus, it is essential for any faithful interpreter of the Bible to have read the entire Bible and to continue to read through the Bible regularly. Can you imagine a teacher of Milton who admitted to having read only “portions” of Paradise Lost? How foolish it is for a minister of the gospel to seek faithfulness in expounding God’s Word while remaining ignorant of the contents of
If you want to start this kind of habit you can start at Genesis 1 and read three or four chapters per day. By the end of the year, you will have finished the Bible. Another option is to read portions of both the Old and New Testament every day. The famous Scottish preacher Robert Murray M’Cheyne developed a reading plan that takes one through the Old Testament once and New Testament and Psalms twice over the course of a year – reading about four chapters per day.
I am currently following this reading plan, which is found in an introductory section of D.A. Carson’s devotional, For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word (Wheaton: Crossway, 1998). This book has a one-page devotional for each day of the year. At the top of each page is a list of Bible chapters to read for that day, according to M’Cheyne’s reading plan. Carson, a leading evangelical New Testament scholar, provides insightful reflections on one chapter from the reading plan each day. I appreciate the way he interprets the passages faithfully while showing how the small pieces fit in the overall vista of Scripture, finding ultimate fulfillment in Christ. Over the course of a year or two, the bite-size chunks of biblical theology, slowly digested, could have quite a beneficial effect on the thoughtful reader.
Read and Listen to Faithful Preaching and Teaching
[tweetable]Faithful interpretation is more easily “caught” than “taught.”[/tweetable] By reading or listening to faithful expositions of Scripture, one’s heart and mind are engaged. Just as the person who regularly drinks fine coffee develops a refined taste for the beverage, a person who consumes a regular diet of faithful teaching develops a mind and heart that is able to recognize good interpretation, as well as distortions.
One of the most important questions you need to ask yourself is, “Am I hearing the Bible faithfully preached and taught at my local church?” If you are not, the second question you should ask yourself is, “Why am I a member of a church where God’s Word is not being taught correctly?” If you are not experiencing the edifying and sanctifying effects of biblical teaching, you are likely withering and ineffective in your spiritual life (Col 1:28-29; 2 Peter 1:3-8). If you are receiving a regular diet of biblical edification but only from source(s) outside your church, that is a good indication that you need to seek a new church – one where the pastors faithfully shepherd the flock, feeding them from the Word of God (Acts 20:28).
Although a local church that teaches the Bible faithfully is an absolute necessity, one can also grow spiritually from reading or listening to the sermons and Bible teaching of those outside your local church. Free audio sermons are widely available on the Web. Two websites I recommend are www.truthforlife.org (teaching by Alistair Begg) and www.desiringgod.org (teaching by John Piper and others). There are, of course, many other gifted, faithful preachers to whom you can listen.
One also can learn much from reading sermons, commentaries and devotionals by faithful exegetes. Certainly, the Bible is the Book, but God’s gifting of his servants demands that we admit the usefulness of others’ books as well. One way to discover useful books or resources is to ask a trusted fellow Christian. Maybe there is someone in your church who has demonstrated a mature knowledge of the Scriptures. Why not ask that person, “What good books have you read recently? Do you have any book recommendations?”
My prayer is that these principles will encourage you to immerse yourself in the Scriptures. There is no more worthy endeavor than to honor God by seeking to know and understand all that he has said. As with all good things that God gives us, they are not for our benefit only. In the spiritual life, you are either a stagnant pool or a flowing fountain. If you are learning but not sharing what you are learning, you will be like an algae-covered pond. You might not be in full-time ministry, but when it comes to the Bible, all of God’s people are to overflow with the truths they are learning. Even if your conversations about the Bible are only with your children, spouse and neighbors, you should be seeking to share the new insights you are learning about God. As you move forward in sharing the Scriptures, may you and those you teach cry out to God, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Ps 119:103)!
Adapted from 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible © Copyright 2010 by Robert L. Plummer. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
Robert L. Plummer serves as associate professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern Seminary.