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Spurgeon on how to read the bible

I was so inspired by the sermon titled “How to read the bible” that the “Prince of Preachers”, Charles Hadden Spurgeon preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in 1866 that I just had to share his jewels of wisdom with you. I’ll just hit the main points of his sermon here, but you can find the entire sermon linked to the bottom of this message. I’ve used brown font where I’ve quoted Spurgeon verbatim.

The wrong way to read the bible

The Pharisees of Jesus day were avid readers of scripture. They made notes of very little importance, but still very curious notes—as to which was the middle verse of the entire Old Testament, which verse was half-way to the middle, and how many times such a word occurred, and even how many times a letter occurred, and the size of the letter, and its peculiar position.

And yet, Jesus insinuated that, even though they read the holy scriptures numerous times, they hadn’t really read them at all because they didn’t understand what the scriptures said. Like so many of us today, their eyes passed over the words of holy scripture, but because they lacked understanding, the words didn’t affect their lives as God intended. I was guilty of this when I first read the bible cover to cover. I merely skimmed over much of the word of God, rather than really reading it.

He goes on to say that reading the bible in your native tongue without understanding what it says does as much good as reading it in a language that’s unknown to you. It does as much good as turning the bible upside-down and looking at the letters in the opposite direction.

Now that we know how not to read the bible, let’s now look at how to read the bible the right way.

The essence of true reading

To paraphrase Spurgeon; If your soul doesn’t grasp the truth of God’s word and stay there. If the way you read your bible is like a bird that flies over the landscape  but builds no nest and finds no rest there, then it’s not reading.

In so much as our human intellect is able, we must try to understand what God is saying to us through His word. Otherwise, we will lack knowledge of God, and therefore devotion to Him. How can you find comfort for your soul or find guidance for your life if you don’t comprehend God’s word?”

Pray before you open your bible

You would do well to go to God in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate the scriptures to you before you begin to read His word. Ask Him to guide you to the scriptures that will bless you. You need to settle your mind before you approach God’s word. After all, you have just come in from careful thought and anxiety about your worldly business, and you cannot immediately take that book and enter into its heavenly mysteries. Pray the Lord to strengthen your eyes before you dare to look into the eternal light of Scripture.

Do you wish to begin to be true readers? Then you must get to your knees. You must cry to God for direction. He will not work a miracle, but he will elevate our minds, and he will suggest to us thoughts, that will illuminate our understanding. After all, reading the bible is not like reading a magazine, or poetry, or a book of fiction. When you read the bible, you’re reading a holy book. In fact, it’s the only book that can change your life and eternal destiny for the better.

Meditate on the word

If you are to understand what you read, you will need to meditate upon it. We’re not talking about the kind of meditation that’s practiced by eastern religions, where they clear their minds and chant the same word over and over in order to enter into a trance. That kind of meditation can open you up to demons. Rather, to meditate on God’s word is quite the opposite. It means to slow down and really think deeply about what God’s word is saying to you. All too often, because we rush through the scriptures, we quickly forget what we’ve read, and lose what little effect it seemed to have.

While there are many texts of scripture that are easy to understand, there are also texts of Scripture which are made and constructed on purpose to make us think. By this means, among others, our heavenly Father would educate us for heaven—by making us think our way into divine mysteries. Hence he puts the word in a somewhat involved form to compel us to meditate upon it before we reach the sweetness of it. Meditation and careful thought exercise us and strengthen the soul for the reception of the yet more lofty truths.

Spurgeon then uses an analogy that compares how reading the bible is like the life of a squirrel. Just as the squirrels live inside and feast upon the food of a tree, with God’s word it is well for us to be like squirrels, living in it and living on it. Let us exercise our minds and find our rest and food in it, and make it our all in all. May the Holy Ghost lead us to do this and make the Word thus precious to our souls.

Let the Holy Spirit teach you

How does the Spirit teach? He teaches, no doubt, mainly through the Word and through our own experimental acquaintance with that Word. It is always best to drink at the well and not from the tank. This is Spurgeon’s way of saying how absolutely necessary it is to read the bible for yourself.

If you’re on a path of spiritual maturity in your walk with Christ, you already know how necessary it is to feed on the truth of holy scripture. You should think of scripture reading as your spiritual food. In the modern age, the use of scripture is so sparse in many sermons, that it’s all the more important we read the bible for ourselves. If this was true in Spurgeon’s day, more than 100 years ago, how much more is this true in our day?

Be willing to learn from others

The Holy Spirit gives us the spiritual gifts that he desires us to have. So, don’t be afraid to learn from someone who has the gift of teaching God’s word, because if he gives to some of his servants more light than to others—and it is clear he does—then they are bound to give that light to others, and to use it for the good of the church. To refuse to learn from others is to imply that there is a mistake somewhere in the economy of gifts and graces, which is managed by the Holy Spirit.

When the apostle, Philip asked the Ethiopian eunuch whether he understood the prophecy of Isaiah, he replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.” (Acts 8:31-32 NKJV) Philip then opened the eunuch’s understanding of the scriptures which led to the eunuch being saved and baptized.

Therefore accept of the light which God has kindled, and ask for grace that you may turn that light upon the word so that when you read it you may understand it.

A word of warning

Today, we’re surrounded by a great horde of false teachers. Not only are the Christian cable channels filled with them, but false teachers, who preach false gospels are leading a number of mega churches all across America. How could this happen? There are many reasons for this but a major cause for it is that many people desire it. The Apostle Paul warned that this would happen.

In the last days people will not endure sound doctrine.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NKJV)

Jesus also warned that in the last days “many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.” (Matthew 24:11 NKJV)

Select your teachers carefully

As you can see, it’s of absolute importance that we select our teachers carefully. This is why it’s so important to read the bible for yourself, and to read it with understanding. This is how we can discern whether we are being taught by false teachers or by those who are rightly teaching the truth of God’s word. We need to be like the Bereans, of whom the Apostle Paul said;

These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
Acts 17:11

Final thoughts

Now that you know how to read your bibles the right way, please do so. You will learn to love your Bibles which will make you want to search them for every nugget and jewel of God’s divine wisdom and truth!

Make it a priority to spend time in your bible every day. Find a time when you’re free from distractions. Even if it means you have to take your bible to bed with you or get up a half hour earlier in the morning to spend time in the Word before you start your day.

References

I first professed my belief in Jesus as the Son of God and accepted Him as my Savior more than 40 years ago. Since that day, I’ve never doubted that Jesus is who He claims to be. However, that belief didn’t keep me from living my life on my own terms for several years, which resulted in repeating the same sins over and over. In 2013, I became determined to make Jesus the Lord of my life. It was then that the Holy Spirit gave me an insatiable appetite for God’s word. As I turned more and more of my life over to Jesus and cooperated with the Holy Spirit, He has helped me break free of the sins that once enslaved me. Since then, I’ve been strongly compelled to share God’s word and to warn others that we need to get ready because Jesus is coming soon.

2 Comments
  1. Ron S.

    The Holy Bible is the most important book ever written because it was authored by God Almighty Himself through the Holy Spirit who had it written down by trusted saints and prophets. It is the instruction manual for life, and how to obtain eternal life. It also reveals that God is not only a loving, kindle, merciful, gracious, forgiving God who is slow to anger and quick to forgive, so long suffering toward us, but that He is also a Holy, Righteous, and Just God who cannot permit sin in His presence, and therefore must punish it and anyone who is sinful. The Holy Bible reveals that God loved us so much that He actually sent His only Begotten Son to the Earth in the form of human flesh so that we could have our sins washed away forever through His Son, Yeshua ha Mashiach (Jesus Christ) to become His Holy, righteous, pure, perfect, sinless sacrificial lamb for the sin of all mankind. He did this for us because God knew that there was nothing that mankind could do to wash away their sins. Only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ could that be accomplished. Jesus’ sacrifice cleansed us of all unrighteousness and made all who accepted Him as their personal Savior and Lord in complete sincerity, sons of the living God, and a part of His Bride. He not only washed our sins away by His blood, but took the complete and total punishment, penalty, judgment, and wrath that we deserved on His own Body, even unto death on the cruel cross of Calvary. He also provided healing in our mortal bodies by the wounds that were inflicted upon Him when He was tortured by whips all over His Body, and beat upon by fists of those who hated him, even allowing a crown of thorns to be jammed unto His skull, and a purple robe tossed around His shoulders in total mockery of His true Kingship – for He is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. He allowed Himself to be crucified as a criminal and a blasphemer even though He was the ONLY human being who ever lived a perfect, holy, sinless life. So that, by death, we would die to our old life, and through His resurrection, He gave us eternal life, and through His ascension back to Heaven, we too, as His Bride will rise to meet Him in the air, very soon, and be taken home to Heaven in our immortal, incorruptible, perfect bodies, minds, souls and spirity without spot wrinkle or blemish, and be wedded to Him as His Wife, and rule and reign with Him forever. All of this information was given to us by the Holy Spirit through the Holy Bible to demonstrate how much God Almighty loves us, for His word declares that He desires that NONE should perish, but that all should come to repentance and be saved. And finally God gave His Holy Spirit to indwell us to comfort and guide us into all truth. By this information, we, who have accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior will have great Hope for the future, and be comforted by the fact that we will live with our Creator, Lord, Savior, Redeemer and Comforter FOREVER in perfect peace, harmony, contentment, satisfaction, joy, laughter, abundance and bliss. This is why it’s the most most important Book anyone can and should read. God created mankind in His Image so that we could have fellowship with Him and He with us. And that’s why He went to so much trouble, pain, agony, sorrow and shame to provide a way back to Himself.

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