I’ve been reading my latest acquisition from Crossway’s Theologians On the Christian Life series, Spurgeon on the Christian Life: Alive in Christ by Michael Reeves, and I love what he has to say about reading the Bible. Reeves sums up Spurgeon’s “experiential, Christ-centered approach to Scripture” with three points from his 1879 sermon titled “How to Read the Bible.”
First seek to understand what is written:
His first point was that to read the Bible properly, the reader must understand what is written. “Understanding the meaning is the essence of true reading.” From the start Spurgeon is clear that in seeking to be experiential, he will not allow the sort of mysticism that bypasses the intellect. It is “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6) that transforms us “into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18). “There must be knowledge of God before there can be love to God: there must be a knowledge of divine things, as they are revealed, before there can be an enjoyment of them.”
Seek spiritual instruction and transformation:
Spurgeon’s second main point was that in reading we should seek out Scripture’s meaning and intent. Beyond simple understanding, this involves finding spiritual instruction. Reading a historical passage, for example about Moses’s bronze snake (Numbers 21), we learn more than history: we learn about the nature of living faith. Reading a passage from the Law, for example about the tabernacle (Exodus 25-31), we learn about the nature of God’s holiness and atonement. Reading a passage filled with explicit doctrine, we seek not simply to comprehend it but to be affected and altered by it. More than understanding, such reading involves transformation...
At its root, the transformation Spurgeon desired for readers of the Bible was a turning away from the sin that deadens and to the Christ who makes alive.
It’s worth all the investment of your time and energy:
His third and last point was really a simple encouragement: Scripture reading is profitable. It is worth all the investment of time and of mental and emotional energy. That is because it is the Spirit’s means of imparting new life. “We are begotten by the word of God: it is the instrumental means of regeneration. Therefore love your Bibles. Keep close to your Bibles.” We are initially regenerated and we are continually vitalized by the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ held out to us in Scripture. So, “cling you to Scripture. Scripture is not Christ, but it is the silken clue which will lead you to him.”
“It will lead you to him.” That was the point of the Bible, as Spurgeon saw it. Indeed, it was the point of all his theology.
It’s that last point that I want to emphasize. If I could only convey in words just how profitable Scripture reading is! But the reason why it’s so profitable is especially worth noting: “It will lead you to Him,” and this is the very center of Christianity, as Reeves explains in a later chapter:
Our problem as humans is that, having been made to find happiness in God, we instinctively (and vainly) look for it elsewhere. “Since man fell in the garden, he has too often sought for his enjoyments where the serpent finds his.” Yet the richest gladness is found only in communion with the happy God...
By rejoicing in the Lord, we “commence our heaven here below.” Christians rejoice in the Lord always. We rejoice in the privileges and blessings of the gospel, and will know a special joy when we walk in holiness and close communion with Christ. Above all, though - above all the blessings of salvation and adoption - it is God in himself who is the great object of our joy.
When you read your Bible, you gain knowledge of, are transformed by, and come into the very presence of our triune God. Are you motivated yet? See “A Long-Term Plan to Know Your Bible” for ideas on how to get started.