Have you ever heard that the Bible is meant to be food to Christians? Yet many of us frequently experience feeling spiritually dry, thirsty, hungry, and even empty deep inside. We can even experience this feeling right after we’ve finished reading or studying the Bible. Why is that?
What the Bible isn’t
In our reading and studying the Bible, we might learn something new, pick up some good advice, or receive some inspiration. But it doesn’t satisfy us. Despite our studying, we still feel hungry inwardly, and we continue to feel weak in our Christian life. We may even feel that we’re not just spiritually weak, but dead.
We know, of course, that books are meant to be read. If the book is a textbook for a class, we read it, study it, and possibly commit some of it to memory. Or we might read the biography of a renowned person for inspiration and encouragement.
But what about the Bible? Is it a book we read simply for inspiration, or a textbook for us to learn about God and the Christian faith? Is it a book that instructs us how to be a good person, or how to have a happy life?
As Christians, we certainly should read God’s Word regularly and even study it. But the Bible is not simply a work of literature, a textbook, or a self-help book. God’s aim in giving His written Word to us wasn’t that we would learn more doctrines, ethics, and “how-tos,” or even that we’d only be inspired. It was that we’d be fed.
Physical eating and spiritual eating
Our lives consist of many matters, but the foremost matter for our physical survival is food. When we haven’t eaten in a while, we become very clear that everything else is secondary. Only eating food satisfies our hunger and nourishes us. Without eating, we simply can’t continue to exist.
In the same way, the foremost matter for believers to be healthy and grow in the divine life is to eat spiritual food. But what is the food for our spiritual life?
God gave His Word to us to be our spiritual food. So even more than studying the Bible, we actually need to “eat” it. Nothing is more important to our Christian life than our being nourished with the Word of God. Biblical knowledge can’t help us if we’re spiritually famished, and consequently weak and dying. God’s primary concern for us is that we would be living and growing by eating the Word of God as our food.
Similarly, what mother would insist that her child first, above all, study hard and behave well, yet never prepare food for her child to eat? On the contrary, a mother knows that the primary matter concerning her child’s well being is that the child eat nourishing food to be healthy. Then all the other things can be taken care of.
In the same way, God’s real concern for all of us, His children, is that we be living, full of His life, and growing in His life by eating His Word.
How do we know the Bible was given to us to be our food?
By verses such as these in the Bible:
1 Peter 2:2—“As newborn babes, long for the guileless milk of the word in order that by it you may grow unto salvation.”
“Milk” and “nourished” are words related not to study, but to food. They show us God intended His Word to be our food.
By testimonies of people in the Bible—In the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah said, “Your words were found and I ate them.” In the New Testament, the apostle John also testified in Revelation 10 that he ate the words of God.
By the word of the Lord Jesus Himself—Matthew 4 gives us the account of the Lord being tempted by the devil. In verse 4 Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Jesus plainly told us that just as we live on physical bread, we are to live on God’s words, our spiritual bread.
What is eating?
Let’s take a moment to discuss physical eating, an excellent picture of spiritual eating. To eat is to take something into us that satisfies our hunger, nourishes us, and energizes us. What we eat supplies our bodies with nutrients, so we’re sustained and even grow. Our bodies are made up of what we’ve taken in.
And what we eat—food—must be derived from living matter. Inorganic matter, like a rock for instance, can’t nourish us, but an apple can. What we eat must have the element of life for it to nourish us.
Similarly, spiritual eating is to take in something of the divine life. Real spiritual eating inwardly satisfies us, and we’re strengthened to live a normal Christian life. As we take in spiritual food, we grow in the life of God.
And just as our physical food must be something of life for it to nourish us, spiritually what we eat, or take in, must be something of life and that gives life. The Word of God is of life and gives life:
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words which I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”
The Word of God is spirit and life; because His words are life, they can give life to us.
Coming to the Bible as food
God gave us His Word, the Bible, not to be our textbook, but to be our food. It’s full of life, having been breathed out by God Himself, and His words give life.
Whether we end up empty and unsatisfied after we’ve read or studied the Bible depends on whether we come to the Bible as life-giving, nourishing food or not. If we view the Bible simply as a book from which we can accumulate biblical knowledge, and we don’t get to the Spirit and life in the Word of God, we won’t receive the nourishment we need to grow in God’s life and to live a normal, healthy Christian life.
In fact, reading or studying the Bible without touching the life in the words can actually hurt us. Paul warns us about this in 2 Corinthians 3:6:
“The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
Every time we come to the Word, we need to exercise our spirit to touch the Spirit, who gives life, in the Word. In this way, we’ll experience being satisfied and enlivened when we come to the Bible as food, as God intended.
How do we eat the Bible? Watch for an upcoming post with practical points on how to be nourished with God’s Word.
For more on this subject, you can read chapter 3 of Basic Elements of the Christian Life, vol. 3 for free here.
All verses are quoted from the Holy Bible Recovery Version. You can order a free copy of the New Testament Recovery Version here.