How readest thou?
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): I am always unhappy when a man comes to me and says, “I am a great Bible student.” I believe, of course, that all Christians should study the Bible, but not in that way. Every man should come to the Bible because it is the bread of life, food for the soul, something which is essential to our well-being. But when a man says in a glib way, “I am a Bible student,” it suggests to me that it is more than likely that he has nothing but a purely theoretical and academic approach to truth. That, in and of itself, may be a snare of the devil.
A. W. PINK (1886-1952): Some read it inquisitively, to satisfy curiosity and feed intellectual pride―they specialize on prophecy, the types, numerics, and so on. Now, one may read the Bible from such motives as those until he is as old as Methusalah―and his soul be profited nothing!
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: To approach the Bible in a purely intellectual manner, to take it as a text-book, to divide up its chapters exactly as if you were analyzing a play of Shakespeare, is a very interesting pursuit…It is possible to have an intellectual enjoyment even of the Bible. I’ve known men who’ve had that; it’s simply been their way of doing crossword puzzles. You can use the Bible like that―there is no greater intellectual treat than reading and studying the Bible―and there they are with their concordances, and they’re working it out, and others get interested in figures, and prophecy, and things like that. My dear friends, that can be purely intellectual―the unregenerate can do that; this may be the hobby they take up.
RICHARD BAXTER (1615-1691): Study frequently, study thoroughly, this one word: eternity―O that the sinner would study this word, methinks it would startle him out of his dead sleep!
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES : If you ever find yourself approaching the Bible in an intellectual rather than a spiritual manner, you are already on the wrong road. Now, let’s be still more particular—I’m talking about a spiritual enjoyment.
“What do you mean by a spiritual enjoyment?” says someone, “How can I test whether my enjoyment is intellectual or spiritual?” Well, here is one of the best tests I know. What effect does your study of the Bible have upon you? If it just puffs you up with pride because of your great knowledge and understanding―well, you’d better examine yourself again. But if it humbles you―if it makes you doubt whether you’re a Christian at all, well, then I say you’ve got very good evidence that you’re a child of God.
In other words, when the Spirit leads us to the Bible, and when the Spirit is illuminating the page and our minds at the same time, as He does with a child, the first thing you’re conscious of is that the Bible after all is speaking to you…When the Bible speaks to you like that, you’re a child of God. He never does that with a hypocrite. He never does that with a man who only has an intellectual interest in it. If you feel therefore that the Bible is speaking to you about yourself, speaking to you directly, that it’s not merely some general truth, or the gathering of doctrines, but is a living word that’s saying something to you, upbraiding you, condemning you, increasing your hunger and thirst, and so on―well then, that’s a living spiritual relationship that the Holy Spirit alone can produce. The tragedy of the other man, is that he can read his Bible all his life and still be the same at the end as at the beginning.
C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): You do not know the truth, my brother, because you have read “Hodge’s Outlines,” or “Fuller’s Gospel worthy of all Acceptation;” or “Owen on the Spirit,” or any other classic of our faith. You do not know the truth, my brother, merely because you accept the Westminster Assembly’s Confession, and have studied it perfectly. No, we know nothing till we are taught of the Holy Ghost, who speaks to the heart rather than to the ear.
ROBERT MURRAY M’CHEYNE (1813-1843): What is Divine teaching? It is not mere head-knowledge of the Bible. Many have great head-knowledge of the Bible, have read it through and through—studied it all. They know the catechism well and have a just notion of systematic Divinity. Some have much book-knowledge, have a relish for the best books; are great judges of sermons; are able to distinguish an evangelical ministry—yet all this may be without a spark of Divine teaching.
WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): Education cannot render needless the teaching of the Spirit.
GEORGE MÜLLER (1805-1898): When the Spirit teaches, through the instrumentality of prayer and meditation, the heart is affected.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Beware then of becoming a student of the Bible in a wrong sense. Personally, I have always disapproved, for these reasons, of all examinations in Biblical knowledge. The moment you begin to approach the Bible as a “subject,” you are already in trouble. We should never approach the Bible theoretically; the Bible should always preach to us, and we must never allow ourselves to come to it in any way but that.