By Dick Blackford
The Bible has stood the test of time and persecution, yet it continues to be the best seller year after year. One would think that the world would be in better shape than what it is, since there are so many Bibles in print (some families own several). But that is not the case. There must be some explanation for this seeming inconsistency. One way to find out is to examine the reasons some purchase and/or read the Bible, as well as why it should be read.
I. Some read the Bible just to be able to say they have read it. One is considered to have a well-rounded education if he has a general knowledge of the Bible. In the English departments at most universities, portions of the Bible are required reading, but merely as another piece and style of literature, not as the Word Of God! “A knowledge of the Bible without a college course is more valuable than a college course without a knowledge of the Bible,” (William Lyon Phelps). There is a big difference between the books that men make and the Book that makes men.
Others read the Bible because they know their preacher or pastor is going to ask for a show of hands on Sunday from all the daily Bible readers. Prizes are often awarded to those who read it through. In many cases very little is learned when the Bible is read from this motive. The important thing is not that you went through the Bible, but did the Bible go through you?
Il. Some own a Bible as a status symbol. In spite of the fact that interest in spiritual matters seems to be approaching an all time low for modern society, it is still the “in” thing to display a Bible on the coffee table as a “conversation piece” – provided the conversation is about the beautiful cover and not the contents. It is also “in” for the bride to carry a pretty Bible at her wedding for “good luck.” Lip service is given to the Bible as a good book to live by, but most discussions of it are of a shallow nature (usually to satisfy some curiosity – the answer to which would profit little in many cases). Surely, there is a better reason for owning a Bible than this.
III. Some read the Bible for argument’s sake. Certainly much of the Christian’s life will be spent in controversy if he is truly doing the will of God. However, this is not to be confused with a love for strife. Every person should want to be right about what the Bible teaches, but not for the sake of winning an argument. The mere desire to win an argument is motivated by pride. An haughty, arrogant spirit is condemned in the Scriptures. “Pride goeth before destruction and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). Love is not arrogant (1 Cor. 13:4). There are those who would make a game out of Bible knowledge. A church out west sponsors a “Bible Bowl” in which contestants compete against each other for carnal prizes. When our desire to know what the Bible teaches comes from a purely academic interest rather than a desire to go to heaven or to save a soul, then it matters not how great our knowledge may become. An argument never yet answered by an unbeliever is a godly life. It is possible to “win” an argument and lose a soul. Sometimes when great men with much Bible knowledge depart from the faith, it was because their knowledge was purely academic. Their heart was not in it.
IV. Some read the Bible to put something into it. They may read with prejudice, attempting to prove a theory. Some see salvation by faith only in John 3:16. But the idea of “only” is not there. Others see the “rapture” theory in 1 Thess. 4:16-18. They believe the righteous will be raised to meet the Lord while a seven year period of tribulation is occurring on the earth for the unrighteous. But the rapture is not there, the unrighteous are not mentioned, and the seven years is unheard of. John 5:28, 29 ruptures the rapture theory, as do many other Scriptures. Further, there are some who see church contributions to benevolent societies in James 1:27. But neither the church nor the institution can be found in the passage. The Psalmist said “Forever, O Jehovah, thy word is settled in heaven” (Ps. 119:89). Our Lord did not ask us how the Bible should be written. It is presumption on the part of man to try to tell Him how the Bible should read. “For who hath known the mind of the Lord and who hath been his counselor?” (Rom. 11:34).
V. There are those who read the Bible to get something out of it. It is an inexhaustible mine of treasure. It deals with the loftiest and most sublime questions that a man can raise – Where did I come from?, Why am I here?, and Where am I going? It answers the most serious question that could ever cross the mind of a human being, yet it deals with them in simple terms that all can understand. The Bible was not written merely for the critics and philosophers. It touches on a vast number of subjects and covers several thousand years of history, but it is brief when one considers the vast area of subjects with which it deals. It has that ring of genuineness about it (to all fairminded people) that overwhelms the reader with the evidence that its author had the total welfare of its hearer; in mind. When one reads with this attitude, he is sure to find in it a richly rewarding experience. Still, the Bible is the textbook of life, not merely a book of texts.
VI. The best motive for Bible reading is to get to someone – Christ. Concerning the Scriptures, Jesus said “They are they which testify of me” (Jn. 5:39). The Bible is history – His story. The Bereans were commended for they “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). They were not reading the Scriptures just to say they had read it or to try to, put something into it. Their interest was not merely in winning arguments or in status symbols, for “many of them believed.” Their interest was more than the curiosity of the Athenian philosophers. They, as the many believers today, regarded it as “the chart of life.” Other books are given for our information, but the Bible was given for our transformation. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” (Ps. 19:7). “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Ps. 119:9).
The Bible is not only the world’s best seller; it is man’s best purchase. However, no one is saved by buying a Bible he does not read, nor is one saved by reading a Bible he does not obey.
Truth Magazine XXIV: 44, pp. 713-714
November 6, 1980