Reading the Bible cover-to-cover each year is a resolution that is both noble and realistic. Today we have many apps and guides to help us with the process of our Bible reading. But at the start of our new year it’s helpful to look at the aim of our Bible reading. Why do we read the Bible?
In addressing biblical counsellors in 2002, Pastor John [Piper] explained it this way:
I have a burden for my people right now, just like I do for myself, that we get beyond propositions and Bible verses to Christ. I do not mean “get around” Bible verses, but “through” Bible verses to Christ, to the person, the living person, to know Him, cherish Him, treasure Him, enjoy Him, trust Him, be at home with Him. I want to count Him more to be desired than all other things — wife, husband, children, success in career, leisure, vacations, health, food, sex, money. He’s more precious.1
And Bible reading is meant to deepen our personal relationship with Christ.
Ideally, reading Scripture in communion with God makes it possible for our objective response to God’s word to merge with our personal response to him, as Pastor John explained in his article on Bible reading published in the back of The ESV Study Bible:
When we seek to enjoy communion with the Lord — and not to be led astray by the ambiguities of religious experience — we read the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, God’s words and God’s deeds reveal God himself for our knowledge and our enjoyment. Of course, it is possible to read the Bible without enjoying communion with God. We must seek to understand the Bible’s meaning, and we must pause to contemplate what we understand and, by the Spirit, to feel and express the appropriate response of the heart.
God communicates with us in many ways through the Bible and seeks the response of our communion with him.
- If God indicts us (2 Cor. 7:8–10), we respond to him with sorrow and repentance.
- If he commends us (Ps. 18:19–20), we respond to him with humble gratitude and joy.
- If he commands us to do something (Matt. 28:19–20), we look to him for strength and resolve to obey with his help.
- If he makes a promise (Heb. 13:5–6), we marvel at his grace and trust him to do what he says.
- If he warns us of some danger (Luke 21:34), we take him seriously and watch with a thankful sense of his presence and protection.
- If he describes something about himself (Isa. 46:9–11), his Son (Mark 1:11), or his Holy Spirit (John 16:13–14), we affirm it and admire it and pray for clearer eyes to see and enjoy his greatness and beauty.2
Reading the Bible from cover to cover in 2013 is a noble goal. And it’s a goal that positions us well to commune with God. Keep communion as your aim, and remember the words of Scripture are there for us to know God’s heart, to commune with the Living Christ, and to respond appropriately to his beauty and to his voice.
1 John Piper, “God’s Glory Is the Goal of Biblical Counseling,” The Journal of Biblical Counseling, 20/2 (Winter 2002), 8–21. This article is not online but will be added to the DG archive shortly.
2 John Piper, “Reading the Bible in Prayer and Communion with God,” in The ESV Study Bible (Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2570–2572. Bullet points added.