Ever since the age of five, I’ve been reading my Bible. I fell in love with theology at the age of thirteen. Reading my Bible and reading good books has been a big part of my journey of growing in God’s grace personally and with God’s people. Reading my Bible and reading good books has also fueled my growth in grace and my service in ministry. When I find myself spiritually dry from faithful service to Christ, I often spend extra time in the evening reading my Bible (which I do every morning) and reading good books, which always help me to be refreshed in the grace of God. Reading has a central place in the life of the Christian to grow in godliness and be faithful in His service.
The Place of Reading in the Christian Life
Reading is an important discipline for every Christian. Towards the end of his letter to Timothy and the end of his life also, Paul makes this request to young Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:13, “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.” The “books” would be papyrus scrolls, while “parchments” were a new sort of book, made of sheets and bound together. A prototype of modern books, these parchments could be Paul’s notebooks or copies of Scripture.
Reading good books falls within the means of grace in the Christian life. The means of grace help the Christian to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus and include regular Bible reading or any tool or media that might help a Christian grow in biblical knowledge. Whether reading books or listening to podcasts, lectures, etc., the Christian ought to analyze the content against the standard of Scripture.
Reading the Bible and Good Books
Theology is the study of God, so every Christian should be growing in their knowledge and handling of both Scripture and theology. But, no matter their skill level or education, every theologian needs to handle rightly the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:15).
Reading is a vital ministry. Following Paul’s example of asking for his “books and the parchments” Christians ought to develop the habit of reading our Bibles and godly books. Making time to read and delight in the Bible regularly is one of the chief ways Christians grow in grace. And by taking up books written by godly men and women, we learn from the teachers God has given to the church (Heb. 13:7) how to read and delight in the Bible.
We are fortunate in our day to have access to many resources that aid in selecting good books grounded in Scripture. Some of us are not prolific readers; we may not read 50 or 100 books in a year. That is ok. It is more a matter of what you read and how well you read than of how much. Resolve to love God with the mind He gave you.
We read in Matthew 22:37-40 and Luke 10:27 and rightly note that we are to love God with all of our heart and strength but may miss that He also commands us to love Him with our minds. Loving God leads to loving Him with the mind that He has given us. Exercise the life of the mind in your loving of God and the results of regularly reading the Bible and godly books will begin to flourish. For example, when you have that opportunity to speak, write, or minister to someone, you’ll have a growing biblical and theological knowledge base to speak into the lives of others. You’ll be able to contend for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3), to preach the Word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:1-5), and to give an answer for a reason for our hope with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). The Holy Spirit will use what you’re learning and how you are growing to impact the lives of others for His glory.
Avoiding the Pitfalls of Pride and Pursuing Humility in the Local Church
One aspect of the life of the mind that we need to consider briefly is the local church. We are not saved to live life apart from the local church; we are saved, in part, to be members of local churches. We need each other; and this is true for reading as well. As we read our Bibles and read good books, we need to have open dialogue and discussion and share insights from our Bible reading and any other edifying reading we are doing with others.
As we engage the life of the mind and loving God in our local churches, we need to pursue humility with one another. We not only need one another in our local churches for prayer, and fellowship, and the study of God’s Word. We need one another to walk alongside one another. As we share with one another, let’s do so from a place of humility, not to push what we know down others’ throats but to learn and grow from one another. One person shares, for example, and the other listens. The person listening then asks for clarification, or makes a follow-up comment, and together each is mutually encouraged and built up. In this way, we fight against pride and pursue humility by mutually edifying and growing together in community.
Reading the Bible and reading good books is one of the best ways to grow in the Christian life. But don’t only do this individually; do it with others in your local church. Let’s grow together in our Bible reading and our reading of other godly books, all for the glory of God. And as you do, you’ll grow together with God’s people, which ought to be our aim as Christians since the Church is essential, and I need you, and you need me.
Dave Jenkins (MDiv, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary) is the executive director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the executive editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and the host of the Equipping You in Grace Podcast and Warriors of Grace Podcast. He is also the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What to Do About It (House to House Press, 2021). You can follow him on Twitter at @davejjenkins, find him on Facebook at Dave Jenkins SOG, Instagram, or read more of his writing at Servants of Grace.