HOW TO READ THE BIBLE
"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16,17).
PERSPECTIVES WHEN STUDYING GOD'S WORD
A proper approach to God's Word requires a certain frame of mind. This involves humility, honesty, and fervency--but goes beyond that. Every person is prone to read the Bible through an intellectual filter. For some, it is the particular emphasis of their denomination. For others, it is a private view that reflects personal opinion rather that Divine will. In a sense, God has provided us the templates through which the Word of God is viewed. When read with these realities in mind, the Word of God comes home to our hearts. These templates have been revealed in Scripture, and reveal the thrust of revelation.
Studying the Word with Jesus, or the Gospel, in your mind
The Bible, or Word of God, is the rational expression of the mind and purpose of God. The Lord Jesus Christ is the embodiment of that expression. The ultimate exhibition of the Living God is Jesus Christ Himself. By this I mean Jesus is the fullest revelation of God. In Him dwelt "all the fulness of the Godhead" bodily (Col 2:9). Because of this situation, Jesus is called "The Word," or expression of God. The closest of all associations is that of a word to the reality it portrays. That association is made permanent when discerned, impacting upon our thought. For instance, the word "apple" summons certain thoughts to our minds. Images of the fruit, together with considerations of taste, color, etc., are tied to that word. It is much the same with the Lord Jesus. When He is properly perceived, thoughts of God are engaged by our minds. His love and mercy are contemplated, as well as His tenderness and longsuffering. In addition to these things, Jesus is the ultimate expression of God. There we behold His love, power, and grace. They are all personified in Christ Jesus, making them accessible to humanity! The Scriptures (as the expression of God's mind and purpose) and the Lord Jesus (His ultimate Expression) are perfectly harmonious. This is a truth most glorious! I want you to see that Jesus can be seen in every section of God's Word. He is there in type, prophecy, and promise. Let us explore this aspect of our subject--reading the Bible with Jesus in mind.
The Word made flesh
The idea of an enfleshed word is foreign to human thinking. Yet, this is precisely what is found in the Lord Jesus Christ. Scripture puts it this way; "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:1,14). The glory, or magnificence, of God is seen in Jesus. There we see the real nature of God. Until Jesus came, the world--even the Jewish world--was abysmally ignorant of the Living God. But when Jesus "dwelt among us," we saw what God was really like. The record of the Gospels reveals how God responds to sinners, to needy, to arrogant, and to the helpless. Grace and truth were poured into Jesus, the incarnate, or enfleshed, Word. I will tell you that grace and truth toward men cannot be united outside of the Lord Jesus Christ! Without Him grace and truth are at enmity so far as humanity is concerned. The truth prohibits the reception of grace. However, praise the Lord, they are united in the Son. Therein is the Scripture fulfilled, "Lovingkindness and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Psa 85:10). You will find a perfect correlation of Scripture with the Lord Jesus. What you perceive in His Person will also be found in the thoughts and concepts of Scripture. Read the Bible with Jesus in mind.
Scripture testifies of Christ
Here is a revolutionary thought: the Scriptures really speak about Christ. He is their dominating Theme! This was not known by the Jewish leaders of Christ's day. Sadly, it is not known by many religious leaders of our day. Christ said this to His critics, "You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life" (John 5:39). The Scriptures are not an end of themselves. They point to Christ, and without Him, they are a dead letter. We are not to be guilty of Bibliolatry, or the worship of the Bible. Often we have been perceived as Bible worshipers instead of Bible proclaimers. Some of this is unjustified, and yet we are not altogether innocent in the matter. If Christ is not the dominant theme of our preaching and teaching, we are not proclaiming the Word correctly. Scriptures bear witness to, or testify, of Christ. Those that do not come to Christ to appropriate the salvation of God have not heard or read Scripture correctly! If the Word of God bears witness to Jesus, it imperative that we read it with Him in mind. It is possible to emulate Phillip's preaching to the Ethiopian eunuch. When confronted with that political dignitary reading the Bible, Phillip "beginning from this Scripture . . . preached Jesus to him" (Acts 8:35). Read the Bible with Jesus in mind. He is there, it is our duty and privilege to behold Him there!
Makes wise unto salvation
When we talk about "salvation," we must consider Jesus. He is, after all, the "Captain" (or "Author) "of our salvation" (Heb 2:10). Regarding this matter, Paul told Timothy the Scriptures were able to produce an understanding of salvation. The "Scriptures" to which he referred were what men call the Old Testament. They were filled with references to the coming Lamb of God, that would take away the sins of the world. Here are Paul's words to the young evangelist. ". . . from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim 3:15). You can see the association of Jesus with Scripture. Read the Bible with Him in mind! You will then become an expert in salvation, both personally and conceptually!
The testimony of Jesus is Spirit of prophecy
Prophecy, or the articulation of the mind of God, has an animating principle. It is a living Word, with life-giving properties. Hebrews 4:12 states that it is "is living and active." As such, the Word of God produces spiritual life in the believer. On the Isle of Patmos, John heard from the exalted and glorified Jesus. The revelation was delivered to him by "an angel" (Rev 1:1). The sight and message was so glorious that John actually fell at the feet of the angel. Quickly and sharply the angel summoned John to "not do that." He was to worship God, not angels. The angel reminded John that Christ was the point of Scripture. "And I fell at his feet to worship him. Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Rev 19:10). Here is revealed the nature of Scripture; the secret to its power. The "testimony" or witness of Jesus is the "spirit" or life of prophecy. What God has to say becomes effectual through Jesus Christ. Jesus is to Scripture what the spirit is to the body. The Bible without Jesus is like a tree with sap, or a lifeless carcass. Read the Bible with Jesus in mind, and it will come alive!