One in ten respondents (41%) of the 2022 State of the Bible report from the American Bible Society said they read the Bible because it brings them closer to God. This finding is remarkable: Bible readers recognize a link between reading the Bible and a relationship with God. There is something about reading the Bible that transcends mere intellectual knowledge to meddle with the human experience and relationships.
This article pushes further and goes beyond the usual reasons for studying the Bible. In fact, it might surprise you that there is but one primary reason for reading the Bible, and that is not a relationship with God, growing spiritually, or any of the usual answers.
Bible Reading is a Means to an End
Why do you study for a test? This question is simple, and the answer appears straightforward. However—I suspect you saw this coming—the correct answer is not what many assume it is.
If you answered that we study for a test so we can pass the test, your answer is correct; however, you have assumed the unimportance of an intermediary step, and so you ignored it, just like every one of us.
Think about this again. Why do we read or study for a test? What does reading do to us before we sit for a test?
Reading Brings Knowledge
We read or study to gain knowledge of the material we study. It is the knowledge we have achieved that enables us to pass the test. In fact, we might read for a test and never take the test, but the knowledge gained remains with us.
Reading does only one thing, nothing more and nothing less: acquire knowledge. It is a means to get knowledge. Passing the test is the fruit of having that knowledge.
Although the truth above is simple, it is essential in our relationship with the Bible. The immediate or primary purpose for reading the scriptures is to acquire knowledge of the Bible, which is the knowledge of God. That knowledge at work in us causes changes, such as drawing people closer to God.
Grow in Knowledge, not merely read more
So it is not reading the Bible that directly brings people closer to God; instead, it is the knowledge of the Bible that people receive, understand, and believe that causes changes.
You rarely find much exhortation in the New Testament for believers to read or study the Bible; instead, you see repeated commands to grow or increase in the knowledge of God (2 Peter 3:18, Colossians 1:10, etc.). Besides, in 1 Corinthians 15:34, Paul was appalled that some Christians had little knowledge of God.
The Knowledge of the Bible is also a means to an end
Reading or studying the Bible is a means of acquiring knowledge of God. However, that knowledge of the Bible is also a means to an end; it is not the ultimate purpose of reading the scriptures.
Reading and Relationship
For example, the respondents in the survey above mentioned a closer relationship with God when they read the Bible. They read the Bible, acquired God’s knowledge, and something changed in their lives, resulting in greater intimacy with God.
Bible reading is a means to gaining the knowledge of God, and that knowledge is a means to a divine experience (intimacy with God).
That experience—relationship with God, comfort, wisdom, transformations, etc.—is God’s ultimate purpose for giving us the Bible; knowledge is the intermediary, and reading is the trigger.
To experience God in the scriptures, we must have the knowledge of the Bible; to know what the Bible says, we must read or study it.
Why Read or study the Word?
When God speaks, He sends forth His words to accomplish a specific task. This imagery is a little odd because none of us usually think we send out words when we speak.
But God’s words are different; they are a living thing; in fact, they are not only a living thing, but they are a Person, God Himself (John 1:1). Accordingly, when God speaks, He goes out as His words to do His good pleasure.
“For as the rain cometh down, And the snow from heaven, And returneth not thither, But watereth the earth, And maketh it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: It shall not return unto me void, But it shall accomplish that which I please, And it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10–11, KJV)
What the Bible is
The Bible is God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16). This simple truth is earth-shaking. Yes, the Bible is that same eternal and powerful Word of God (1 Peter 1:25).
As the words of the Almighty God, the Bible went forth out of the mouth of God: it shall not return to Him void but shall accomplish that which He pleases and prosper in the things whereto He sent it.
This, then, is the question: why did God give us the Bible? What did He send the Word as the Bible to accomplish? I have a simple but astonishing answer to help you see why God sent the Bible as His Word to us—Jesus!
Experiencing God in the Scriptures
The Bible is God’s Word as a Book; Jesus is the same Word made flesh (human being). Although Jesus the Man and the Bible the book look so different outwardly, they are fundamentally the same thing—the eternal Word of God.
He Sends His Word
As we saw in Isaiah 55:10-11 when God speaks, He sends His words. The Psalmist repeats the same truth and says:
“He sent his word, and healed them, And delivered them from their destructions.” (Psalm 107:20, KJV)
Jesus repeated the same pattern when He spoke of Himself:
“If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.” (John 8:42, KJV)
What a word is this!
Jesus on Earth
Jesus is God’s Word sent to earth for a purpose. If you understand why Jesus came to the world, you will understand God’s purpose for the Bible: the Bible is the Word of God as a book doing what Jesus the Word as a Human Being began during His earthly life.
Why did God send Jesus?
It is challenging to summarize Jesus’ mission as scripture presents various facets of it, but we know the significant points. Jesus came to reveal the Father, bring people back in fellowship with God, deliver us from all bondages and restore God’s kingdom on earth. Brethren, these summarize the reason the Bible is on earth! As Jesus the Man, so is the Bible the book.
The Word as the Bible
In practice, the ultimate purpose for reading the Bible, God’s original intent for sending His Word, is:
- Relationship with God.
- Transformation of our hearts (1 Peter 1:23, 2 Corinthians 3:18).
- Flourishing in life (Psalms 1:1-3).
- Victorious daily living (Psalms 119:105).
- Doing His will( Isaiah 55:11, James 1:22).
To these five personal purposes, there is an important fifth one:
Ministry in this context is using God’s Word to bring others to experience what we have experienced in the Word—the four personal points mentioned above. It includes preaching to the unsaved, teaching the saints, and equipping Christian ministers.
Attitude to the Word and Personal Revelation
In my Christian life and ministry, I have observed that until a believer receives a revelation of what the Bible is and God’s purpose for it, they will read or study it reluctantly if they read it all.
Levels of Revelation
As a young Christian, I heard a sermon that was such a powerful revelation to me then. The preacher said the Bible is God’s manual for life, like the manual of your TV set; you read it to know what to do or how to do it.
This revelation is not wrong; instead, it is inadequate. Scriptures tell us plainly that God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet (Psalms 119:105). However, God did not send His Word primarily to help you make decisions in life. In fact, some Christians only study the Bible when they have questions or face debates. How tragic! This is one consequence of seeing God’s Word primarily as a book to tell you the right thing to do.
Beyond a Manual for Life
God’s Word is not just a manual for life. It is your life ( John 6:63, Matthew 4:4).
Whenever believers discover what is in the Bible, they hardly need any encouragement or constant reminders to read it.
I often pray that the Lord will open the eyes of the saints to see for themselves what the Bible really is!
The Purpose Chain for Bible Reading and Study
We have identified three tiers of activities above:
- The Trigger: Reading or studying the Book.
- The intermediate: knowledge (cognitive)
- The ultimate: the experience of God in diverse ways.
These three tiers form a perfect chain: trigger-intermediate-ultimate. Can you see why reading or studying the Bible to God is of little to no value in itself? Reading triggers what God wants—that relationship, transformation, flourishing, daily living, and impact on others.
When this divine chain is broken, problems inevitably result. Sadly, these joints are often broken at its two joints, reading-knowledge, and knowledge-experience.
The Religious breakpoint
When we read or study the Bible without acquiring the knowledge of God, we break the hinge between reading and knowledge; we are engaged in an activity but not achieving the purpose of the action. It is form without substance: emptiness. When Christians read the Bible because “good Christians” have to read it, yet do not understand what they read or grow in their knowledge, they find themselves in an empty religious merry-go-round.
Paul aptly spoke about this attitude:
“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7, KJV)
The Scholarship paradox
While the religious breakpoint severs the link between reading and knowledge, the scholarship paradox shatters the hinge between knowledge and experience.
The Spirit of God works through scholarship. I know some Pentecostals or charismatics (I am one of them) reading this statement will cringe. As a young Pentecostal, I knew scholarship quenches the Spirit. Today, it is my utmost prayer that God will deliver us—Pentecostals—from this erroneous idea. However, the scholarship paradox is the opposite spectrum of this charismatic conundrum.
It is possible for someone to have the knowledge of the Bible but never come to experience what that knowledge intends to give. Think of the Pharisees and doctors of the Law who searched the scriptures but did not recognize Jesus (John 5:39). I have often been utterly amazed at this spiritual reality. Perhaps, the charismatic problem mentioned above was an attempt by Charismatics to avoid this problem, though our effort to fix one problem created another.
Putting it Together
So why does God want you to read the Bible? Reading or studying triggers the knowledge of the scripture. And that knowledge is a means to God’s ultimate purpose for His Book: a relationship with Him, the transformation of hearts, flourishing, daily living, and ministering to others. Reading, knowledge, and experience form a divine chain; if any of its hinges are broken, we run into serious trouble.
What would you do after reading this article? Did you hear the voice of the Spirit telling you what He wants you to do? I hope you heard Him well. I pray
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,” (Ephesians 1:17–19, KJV)
Please comment below to let us know what you plan to do or if you need further guidance on reading and studying God’s book effectively.
These online articles also provide valuable information to help you grasp why we read or study the Bible.
- 6 Reasons to Study the Bible and 7 Excuses We Make from the Gospel Coalition.
- Why Read the Bible? from Got Questions.
- Why is it important for me to study the Bible? from John McArthur.
- 9 Reasons Why Bible Study for College Students Can Help with Better Grades from Geneva College.