This is the first post in a special two-part series on reading the Bible. In these posts, we include helpful excerpts from books by Watchman Nee and Witness Lee that provide insight about reading the Bible.
The Benefits of Reading the Bible
The Bible is the foundation of Western civilization—morally, politically, literarily. Even the secular world recognizes the Bible as the most influential book in the world. It is the highest in its record of the origin of mankind, human history, and prophecies and in its wisdom, profoundness, ethics, and morality.
While these qualities are compelling enough reasons to read the Bible, they cannot compare with the amazing fact that God Himself is embodied and expressed in His Word. But God does not want His words to remain confined in a book, and He tells us so in the Word:
“If you abide in Me and My words abide in you.”—John 15:7
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”—Colossians 3:16
Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “the word of God is living and operative” within us. When we read the Bible in a consistent and prayerful way, the Bible becomes a subjective and practical part of our daily living. It reveals God’s person and fills us with life, truth, and light. Our spiritual life depends on the nourishment we receive from the supply of life in the Word. By contacting the Lord through our reading of the Bible, we are washed, filled in spirit, and infused with faith. Furthermore, as we receive more of the Word, the Lord Himself increases within us, and we mature to become full-grown fully-equipped men of God.
What the Bible Is
1. The Word Is God
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”—John 1:1
This verse indicates that God and the Word are not separate, but one.1 Christ is the living Word of God (John 1:14), and the Bible is the written Word of God. Although Christ is not physically with us, He is the Spirit, embodied and expressed in the written Word of God.
“Ultimately the word in the Bible is God Himself. It is the embodiment of God Himself. This does not mean that we consider the words in black and white as the living God. What we mean is that the words in black and white contain God Himself.”2
“God is mysterious. He needs the Word to express Him. Christ, as the Word, defines, explains, and expresses Him. Therefore, Christ as the Word, is the definition, explanation, and expression of God. This Word is actually God Himself, not God hidden, concealed, and mysterious, but God defined, explained, and expressed.”3
2. The Scripture Is God-Breathed
“All Scripture is God-breathed.”—2 Timothy 3:16a
God’s Word, the Scriptures, is the breathing out of God. When we touch the breath of God in the Bible, we touch the very essence and substance of the Bible, which is nothing less than the Spirit. In John 6:63 the Lord Jesus said that “it is the Spirit who gives life” and that the words He has spoken are “spirit and are life.” The Word of God is spirit, or breath. When we receive His Word with our spirit, we get God into us.
“God’s Word is God’s breathing out (2 Tim. 3:16). The Bible is God’s breathing out; that is, it is the breath breathed out by God. The Bible is God’s breathing. To God it is a matter of breathing out; to us it is a matter of breathing in. Through God’s breathing out and our breathing in, God’s word enters into us and becomes our life and life supply. Therefore, when we read the Bible, we must understand that the Bible is not merely black and white words on paper, but it is the breathing out of God. It is full of spiritual breath.”4
“As Christians, our greatest joy, or shall we say, our greatest blessing, is to be able to contact God and taste Him daily through the word of His breath.”5
3. The Bible Is the Complete Revelation of God to Man
We must read the Bible to know God’s revelation to man. In addition to revealing God’s Person to us, the Bible also reveals God’s plan to accomplish His heart’s desire. God’s heart’s desire can be seen in His economy, which is His plan to dispense Himself as life into us so that we can become His expression. The center of this plan is Christ, and the goal of this plan is the church. The Old Testament contains types, shadows, and figures that show us God’s economy. All these types, shadows, and figures are fulfilled and realized in the New Testament.6
When we read the Bible, more of God’s economy is revealed to us, and this revelation becomes a controlling vision that guides our entire Christian life. Reading the Bible brings us into God’s economy.
“The Bible, composed of two testaments, the Old Testament and the New Testament, is the complete written divine revelation of God to man. The major revelation in the entire Bible is the unique divine economy of the unique Triune God (Eph. 1:10; 3:9; 1 Tim. 1:4b). The centrality and universality of this divine economy is the all-inclusive and unsearchably rich Christ as the embodiment and expression of the Triune God (Col. 2:9; 1:15-19; John 1:18). The goal of the divine economy is the church as the Body, the fullness, the expression, of Christ (Eph. 1:22b-23; 3:8-11), which will consummate in the New Jerusalem as the union, mingling, and incorporation of the processed and consummated Triune God and His redeemed, regenerated, transformed, and glorified tripartite people. The accomplishing of the divine economy is revealed in the Bible progressively in many steps, beginning with God’s creation in Gen. 1—2 and consummating with the new Jerusalem in Rev. 21—22.”7
4. The Content of the Bible Is Truth and Life
“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”—John 17:17
By reading the Bible, we come to know the truth. The Lord Jesus said that God’s word is truth. Truth brings us the knowledge of all the realities in the universe, particularly the reality of Christ and the church, and reveals God in His Person and economy. This is God’s desire for us.
“Our Savior God, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the full knowledge of the truth.”—1 Timothy 2:3b–4
God desires for us to know the truth, but as the above verse implies, fully knowing the truth is a progressive matter. The Bible always has more to speak to us concerning the truth. Therefore, we must regularly read the Word so that we can be filled more and more with truth and revelation.
“The content of the Bible is both extensive and inclusive; the two main aspects of this content are truth and life. Truth brings us revelation and knowledge of all the realities in the universe, such as the reality of God, the reality of man, the reality of the universe, the reality of the things of the present age, the coming age, and the eternal age, and in particular, the reality of the Christ appointed by God and the church chosen by Him.”8
5. The Bible Is Life
The Word of God is also life; when we read it with our spirit, we get life.
“The words which I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”—John 6:63
Life is God Himself coming to be our life. As we read the Bible, which is the embodiment of God, He comes into us as life. The more this divine life grows within us, the more we become His expression. Hence, we need to read the Bible so that we may continually receive God as life into us that we may express Him to fulfill His heart’s desire.
“The Bible is a book of life. This life is nothing less than the living Person of Christ.”9
“Life is God coming to be our life that we may be regenerated, grow, be transformed, and be conformed into the image of Christ, who expresses God, that we may become the expression of God.”10
The Functions of the Bible in Our Experience
Now that we understand more of what the Bible is, we can see that it is unique among all books in that we can experience it. The Bible is a book of divine revelation, truth, and life. What other book is filled with divine life—life that we can obtain and enjoy? By God’s mercy, we have a tangible book that opens the way to all spiritual experience. By reading the Bible in a habitual and proper way, we can enter into the depths of its reality.
1. Being Part of Our Initial Experience of God
In our initial experience of God, the Bible testifies concerning the Lord Jesus, makes us wise unto salvation, and causes us to be regenerated:
“It is these [the Scriptures] that testify concerning Me [Christ].”—John 5:39
“The sacred writings, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”—2 Timothy 3:15
“Having been regenerated not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible, through the living and abiding word of God.”—1 Peter 1:23
Some people have come to believe in the Lord Jesus simply by reading John 14:6, which says, “I am the way and the reality and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.” This kind of salvation experience attests to the power of the Bible as the embodiment of God to make a person “wise unto salvation” and to regenerate a person with the divine life it contains.
2. Being Our Food
“As newborn babes, long for the guileless milk of the word in order that by it you may grow unto salvation.”—1 Peter 2:2
“Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out through the mouth of God.”—Matthew 4:4
We must read the Bible because our spiritual life depends upon it. As with all life, if our spiritual life does not receive nourishment, it will weaken and wither. The Bible is our spiritual food. It is both our spiritual milk and bread of life. We must daily nourish our spiritual life by reading the Word.
“Just as our physical life needs nourishment, so also our spiritual life needs nourishment. The nourishment of our spiritual life can only be supplied by the word of the Bible. In order to be living and strong before God, we cannot depend on bread alone, but on every word, that is, the word of the Bible, that proceeds out through the mouth of God. We must take the word of God as food and eat it (Jer. 15:16), even regarding the word of the Bible as more important than our food. (Job 23:12b).”11
Many verses speak of God’s Word being our food and the experience of those who have taken in the Word as their sustenance:
“Your words were found and I ate them, / And Your word became to me / The gladness and joy of my heart.”—Jeremiah 15:16
“I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my apportioned food.”—Job 23:12
When we eat physical food, it becomes a part of us metabolically, through our metabolism. Similarly, our taking in the Bible as food produces a change in our inward constitution. The more we eat God’s Word, the more we are filled and constituted with Him.
“Just as the food we eat and digest nourishes us from within, metabolically changing and transforming us, so the Word of God transforms us by inwardly teaching, reproving, correcting, and instructing us.”12
“According to the entire revelation in the Holy Bible, God’s words are good for us to eat, and we need to eat them (Psa. 119:103; Matt. 4:4; Heb. 5:12-14; 1 Pet. 2:2-3). God’s word is the divine supply as food to nourish us. Through the word as our food, God dispenses His riches into our inner being to nourish us that we may be constituted with His element. This is a crucial aspect of God’s economy. When we eat God’s words, His word becomes our heart’s gladness and joy.”13
If we don’t eat physical food, we will grow weaker and eventually die. Similarly, when we neglect the Word, we feel spiritually weak, dry, and dead. But this unhealthy situation can be reversed when we return to His Word and take in the proper nourishment. When we eat the Word, we are revived, supplied, and strengthened spiritually.
3. Giving Us Light
“When God’s word is opened, or unfolded, to us, it gives us light, shining inwardly over our heart and our spirit to impart wisdom and revelation to us.”14
“When God’s word says, ‘God is light,’ it carries God as light in it.”15
Many times we have the experience that when we spend time in the Word, we receive the shining of God as light in our being, making us clear and full of light and revelation.
4. Watering and Refreshing Us
“Let my teaching drop like the rain; / Let my speech distill like the dew, / Like raindrops upon tender grass, / And like abundant showers upon herbage.”—Deuteronomy 32:2
When we live apart from the Lord and His Word, or when the dust of the old and common things settles on us as we go about our daily activities at work or in school, we feel dry and stale. But because the Word is living and new, when we read it we are watered, refreshed, and invigorated.
“God has sent forth His word to water His people.”16
5. Enabling Us to Have God’s Instant Speaking
Without God’s written word, it would be difficult for us to have His instant word, His instant speaking to us. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word.” Here the Greek word for Word is logos, which denotes the constant word, the eternal and unchanging word of God. In John 6:63 the Lord Jesus said, “The words which I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” Here, the Greek word for words is rhema, which denotes the instant and present spoken word.17 The constant word, logos, is necessary in order for us to have the instant word, rhema. The logos is outside of us, and when we receive it into our being it becomes rhema within us, which is spirit and life.
Often we experience the word that we previously read moving within us as the Spirit, speaking to us, teaching us, reproving us, and correcting us. This speaking is the instant word of the indwelling Christ, the rhema word, which issues from our receiving the logos word. Colossians 3:16 tells us that we need to let the logos word of God dwell in us richly. If we do, we’ll have the Lord’s instant speaking to us, and we’ll have the promise from the Lord Jesus in John 15:7: “My [rhema] words abide in you.” The more we have God’s instant speaking, the more we enjoy His presence, see His revelation, and have His leading.
“God’s speaking to man today is based upon what He has already spoken in the past. God rarely speaks things which He has not already spoken in the Bible…If a person does not know what God has spoken in the past, it is difficult for him to receive His revelation in the present because he lacks the basis for God’s speaking. Moreover, if God wants to speak something to others through us, He will also do it on the basis of what He has spoken in the past. If we do not know what God has said in the past, He cannot speak through us to others, and we are useless in the eyes of God. This is why we need to let the word of God dwell in us richly. By letting His word dwell in us richly, we know His past ways and hear His present speaking.”18
The Results of Reading the Bible
To live the Christian life we need to read the Bible. We cannot survive without the provisions in the Word. Moreover, through reading the Word, all of our spiritual problems—our real problems—are solved. The Bible is the answer to our questions. How do I enjoy the Lord? How do I escape the world? How do I live the proper life? So many questions about our daily life and experiences as a Christian are cleared up just by reading the Word every day. We may not receive outward, instant answers to these questions, but inwardly, over time, we receive more and more of God as the Answer. Simply by reading in a proper way, the Bible supplies us to live both a normal Christian life and human life. We experience these marvelous consequences by getting into the Word daily.
1. We Are Filled in Spirit
At times we may feel spiritually empty and dry, unsure of how to satisfy the discontent within. But according to the Word, we can be those who are filled in spirit. By reading the Bible we are filled in spirit, satisfied to the point of overflowing. What a joyful condition is expressed in the following verses! Our being filled in spirit, speaking the truth, singing with grace in our hearts—all are results of our getting into the Word.
“And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissoluteness, but be filled in spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and psalming with your heart to the Lord.”—Ephesians 5:18-19
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to God.”—Colossians 3:16
2. We Are Infused with Faith
Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is the substantiation of things not seen. As physical beings, we may doubt the unseen spiritual things and even the existence of God. However, when we read the Bible, we are infused with faith as our believing element. If we are discouraged by doubts and feelings of unbelief, we should turn to the Word. The more we read, the more we believe.
“So faith comes out of hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”—Romans 10:17
“This only I wish to learn from you, Did you receive the Spirit out of the works of law or out of the hearing of faith?”—Galatians 3:2
3. We Are Nourished and Supplied
“If you lay these things before the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, being nourished with the words of the faith and of the good teaching which you have closely followed.”—1 Timothy 4:6
“But He answered and said, It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out through the mouth of God.’”—Matthew 4:4
The Bible is the food that sustains our spiritual life. When we eat a hearty spiritual meal by getting into the Word, we are nourished and supplied with the riches of Christ as our food and life supply. We then have the strength to continue our Christian life.
“When we contact the Word in spirit, we are actually contacting the Lord Himself as the living bread. When we receive the Word in spirit, we are receiving Christ Himself as the abundant supply of life. Now, day by day, we are participating in this wonderful, resurrected Christ as our food, life, and life-supply.”19
4. We Are Cleansed and Washed
“That He might sanctify her, cleansing her by the washing of the water in the word.”—Ephesians 5:26
According to this verse, in the Word is water that washes us. This washing is not the washing of the blood of Jesus, which cleanses our sins, but the washing of the water of life that washes away the blemishes of our old man.20 Through reading the Word, our old nature is cleansed and purified, and we are made new. We need to stay in this washing process by consistently reading the Word.
5. We Partake of the Divine Nature and Escape the Corruption in the World
“Through which He has granted to us precious and exceedingly great promises that through these you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption which is in the world by lust.”—2 Peter 1:4
The divine life contained in the Word includes as a virtue the energy and strength that enable us to escape the corruption in the world. By escaping the corruption in the world, we can partake of the divine nature of God and thus enjoy all the riches of what the Triune God is.
“Having escaped the corruption of lust in the world and having thus removed the barriers to the growth of the divine life in us, we are freed to become partakers of the divine nature and to enjoy its riches to the fullest extent in its development by the virtue of God unto His glory.”21
6. Our Soul and Spirit Are Divided
“For the word of God is living and operative and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit and of joints and marrow, and able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”—Hebrews 4:12
Our spirit is deep within our soul.22 At times it may be difficult to discern between the two because of the doubts and wonderings in our mind. The Word has the power to divide our spirit from our soul, releasing our spirit so that we may enter into the full enjoyment of God, and strengthening our capacity to discern our spirit from our fallen thoughts, intentions, and emotions.
7. The Enemy Is Defeated and Slain
“And receive the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which Spirit is the word of God, by means of all prayer and petition, praying at every time in spirit and watching unto this in all perseverance and petition concerning all the saints.”—Ephesians 6:17-18
In Matthew 4 Satan tempted the Lord Jesus in the wilderness. The Lord, a sinless and perfect man, defeated Satan by quoting the Bible to him. The Word is a sword, a weapon, with which we can defeat the enemy’s attacks and temptations. As with any weapon, we need to know how to use the Bible and practice using it by daily prayerful reading and study so we may be fully equipped in all situations.
“The sword, the Spirit, and the word are one. When the constant word in the Bible becomes the instant word, that word is the Spirit as the sword that kills the enemy.”23
If you missed our last special series, “The History of the Bible,” you can find the first post here.