How we read Scripture depends on how we view Scripture–we read Tom Clancy through a different lens than a scientific textbook, and different still from our favorite news sites. Whenever we read, the perspective we take depends on the source and the content of what we are reading.
So, what lens allows Scripture to come into the clearest focus? Because both the source and content of Scripture are unique, Christians believe Scripture is in a category by itself. We read Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments, with the anticipation that the Lord would speak straight to our hearts, and that we would see Jesus glorified through it. But before we pick up our bible, answering these three questions will shape our perspective as to what it means to read the living Word of God.
How do we approach Scripture?
So the first question that I want us to look at is, how do we approach scripture? I think the answer is probably one of those that’s so simple, sometimes we forget it.
The answer is: with absolute humility.
This is the living word of God, and that means we need to be ready to receive. That means we need to be ready to open our hearts and our minds to what the Lord is actively doing in his Word, and that we need to be ready to be shaped by that Word, as opposed to trying to put our spin on things, to put our own emphasis over it. We need to recognize that our limited perspective flows through the cross from beginning to end of Scripture. Scripture is speaking from beginning to end, Genesis to Revelation, one overarching story, and that’s the redemption narrative of God.
What is the story of Scripture?
Now, the question is, what exactly is that story? I want to propose to you that that story is the story of God for the glory of God.
“To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him…know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.”
Now, a lot happens in Scripture: people, nations, kingdoms, destruction, birth, rebirth, redemption–all sorts of things are happening. But we cannot forget that above all else, when we approach Scripture, we are reading the very story of God that he himself is writing. This is God’s story.
The second part of this is that it is a story for God’s glory.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 3:17-18
This is the whole idea. This is what God is all about, that his glory might be magnified, and magnified and magnified, and we get wrapped up into that story. We actually get so wrapped up into it that our very identity is formed by this story of God for the glory of God.
But we need to make sure we understand the difference between purpose and result. The purpose is that God might be known. God has chosen to reveal Himself to us that his glory might be magnified. The result is that we are defined; our very identities and everything that we know is shaped. So that’s how we approach scripture.
Why does it matter?
Now, you might be asking, what’s the point? The point is that our approach to Scripture shapes our perspective of Scripture. We have a couple of different ways that we can treat the Bible. We can stand on top of it and make our point saying, “Scripture says this,” or “Scripture says that.” But that is not a very humble approach to what the Lord has done, or what he is actively doing. This is the very Word of God, and we should tread carefully.
Instead, I recommend that we lift that word up so that we live underneath it, and that we call others to see what it says and to live underneath it themselves.
This applies both to the Old and the New Testaments. We are a two testament people. The New Testament has all the fun stuff that we like to read about: Jesus, the miracles, the disciples, the Gentiles coming into the fold. All of that is really fun. But unless we know what happened in the Old Testament, then that is a lesser picture–a full picture still, but yet a less full picture than if we were to know and to understand what was happening in the Old Testament. So we are a two testament people, and we are under authority.
The Christian perspective on reading Scripture is this: we do so humbly, recognizing that the source is God himself, making himself known for the sake of his glory, telling one overarching redemption narrative that leads through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Scripture is the very foundation of all that can be known, including ourselves, and the result of reading Scripture is that our very identity is shaped by its content.