Investing in the Word
By Pastor Josh Wamble
As 2018 has gotten off to a start, it is only natural for people to begin to evaluate 2017 and set goals for 2018. Many people make one or more “New Year’s Resolutions.” Others are not as formal but still have in mind ways that they want this year to be better than the last. For believers, often we look back, evaluate our use of the spiritual disciplines over the past year, and resolve to be more disciplined in prayer, evangelism, bible reading, and the like in the year to come.
Often this takes the form of a plan to read all or part of the bible during the new year. Sometimes this looks like reading the entire Bible by the end oft he year. Sometimes this looks like reading just the New Testament or some other portion of the bible by the end of the year. I personally have made it a goal to read through each of the minor prophets multiple times during this year. The minor prophets are a portion of scripture often overlooked, so that will be my focus this year. There are 12 minor prophets and 12 months in the year, so I have made a schedule to read each one 5 times during this year.
This renewed focus on the bible and on reading it has made me think through again the purpose of reading it. We do not read the bible simply to know what it says—to memorize it or to learn it like we would some other subject or trivia. We are committed to reading it because we believe that it is one of the means the Holy Spirit uses to make us who God would have us to be. We believe that the very words of the bible are the very words of God himself, and we believe that through reading them we are transformed into different kinds of beings—we gradually take on the characteristics of the new creations that we are in Christ.
When we start to think about what the bible says about itself, a few prominent passages come immediately to mind. In Isaiah 55, Isaiah tells us that God’s word is effective—it is guaranteed to accomplish the goal that God has set for it. Perhaps no passage of the bible speaks of scripture itself in a more comprehensive or moving way than does Psalm 119. Yet, another passage that comes to mind is 2 Timothy 3:16-17. In these two verses, Paul tells us that the entire Bible is breathed out by God himself. As mentioned above, it is literally God speaking to us. Paul goes on to say that because it is God’s word, it is profitable—it accomplishes its goal—in at least 4 ways:
1. It is profitable for TEACHING
Because the bible is literally God speaking to us, it is our only authoritative source of truth. Whatever it says is absolutely true. Because it is the source of truth, we learn from it. In it, God tells us everything that he deemed it important for us to know. Everything god wanted to say to us is written in the words of scripture. The only way for us to know what God thinks about any topic, how he would have us to live, or what he would have us to trust in is for us to faithfully read it, and learn from it.
2. It is profitable for REPROOF
Because the Bible is the source of truth, it is the standard that we must measure ourselves against. When we read the bible regularly, it becomes evident to us the many ways in which we do not measure up to that standard. The bible acts like a mirror. As we read it, we cannot escape the truth of who were are and what we are like. It reproves us—shows us that we are wrong.
3. It is profitable for CORRECTION
Not only does the bible reprove us—or show us that we are wrong; it also corrects us—or shows us how to be right. The 66 books of the bible contain everything that we need to know in order to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord. Most importantly, it corrects our default belief that we must find a way to make ourselves measure up to God’s standard and shows us that God desires humility, repentance, and a heartfelt devotion to him.
4. It is profitable for TRAINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS
Finally, the bible is said to be profitable for training in righteousness. This happens because the bible is not like any other book that has ever been written. When we read the bible, we learn new pieces of information; we progressively understand how those pieces of information fit together; we see ourselves in a new light; but those are not the only things that happen. In addition to these benefits, there is a supernatural dimension to our reading the bible. When we read the bible, the Holy Spirit is working in it and through it and in us to train us in righteousness—to make us more like Jesus.
Finally, at the end of this passage, Paul tells us that all of these benefits are meant to work together to accomplish a unified purpose—the scriptures teach, reprove, correct, and train in righteousness “that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
Our goal in reading the bible should not be to simply gain more knowledge of what the bible says—although that is one good goal. It should not be to mark off each section in our “read through the bible in a year plan”—although having such a plan is a good thing. It should not be to become bible trivia masters. Our goal in reading the bible should be that we would be competent and equipped for every good work that God has prepared for us. This competency is acquired as the Holy spirit goes to work through our prayerful reading of the Bible asking the questions:
1. What is this passage TEACHING me?
2. How is this passage REPROVING me?
3. How is this passage CORRECTING me?
4. How is the Holy Spirit TRAINING ME IN RIGHTEOUSNESS through this passage?