You’ve probably heard the saying, “The Bible is the only book whose author is always there when you’re reading it.” If you are yourself an author, then you know it’s not always true. But there’s a lot of truth in this saying. Christians have the privilege of always having the Person who wrote the text be with us as we approach it. Jesus promised a Helper that will aid us in understanding and keeping His commandments (John 14:15-18), who “…remains in [us] and will be in [us]” (John 14:17).
Here’s the thing: having the Holy Spirit, the true author of Scripture (1 Peter 1:21), with us as we approach the Bible is absolutely necessary. In fact, it is the only way we can understand the Bible correctly. The Apostle Paul explains:
But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually. The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone. For who has known the Lord’s mind, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:14-16)
Did you catch that in the middle? Paul says that those without the Spirit of God cannot understand spiritual things. Is there anything more spiritual than Holy Scripture? So we can say with confidence that without God’s Spirit, it is impossible to understand (and to correctly apply) the Word of God. We need help!
Three Reasons Why We Need the Holy Spirit
Allow me to emphasize this point of our dependence on the Holy Spirit before I give some practical advice on how to approach the Bible with the Holy Spirit’s help.
We need the Holy Spirit because the Bible is a supernatural book.
We already hinted at this when we saw Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians. Given that the Bible is the “Lord’s mind”—thoughts and deeds—it is essentially and immutably higher than us. So, while the Bible is a book (so the rules of reading a book apply), it is a Supernatural one (so there’s a whole other set of rules that transcend us.) Thankfully, the Holy Spirit knows them.
We need the Holy Spirit because Satan is on the prowl.
This is something we don’t usually talk or write about, but Satan and his hosts are opposed to everything God says and does, particularly the Bible. Have you noticed that the two times that we see Satan personally tempting someone (Genesis and the Gospels), he is taking God’s words and twisting them? Satan is the father of lies (John 8:43-44), so we need the Spirit of Truth (John 15:26) to understand the things of God.
We need the Holy Spirit because we are insufficient.
The Bible is a mountain high enough that it would take all of the best climber’s strength to get to the middle of it. But we’re not the world’s best climber. We are sinners, who fall short of God’s glory. We are self-centered, always thinking about ourselves and our desires. And we are also affected by the sins (and sinful teachings) of others. We need God’s help!
How Then Shall We Read?
The good news is that we already have everything we need! “All those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons” (Romans 8:14). Because of that, let me close by giving four points of practical advice in order to truly depend on the Holy Spirit in our Bible reading.
We may not “feel it” as we’re reading every day. And yet, because we know that the Author is right there with us, let’s do it confidently, and constantly. Reading God’s Word will never be in vain.
How many times have we gone before the Bible without going before God in prayer? Our prayer doesn’t need to be long, but it needs to be true, from our heart to God’s. “Lord, help me see you as I read your truth. Help me be honest with myself, and see Christ’s love for His glory and His people. I need you.”
Don’t cave to the rush of day-to-day, and don’t go immediately for the easy answers (or get frustrated if you don’t find them.) God is not in a hurry. Set aside more time to spend in smaller chunks of text, quietly looking at the Book in prayer.
Evaluate your spiritual life.
You might know all the tricks, and done the chronological plan through the Bible 100 times. But if you truly want to be edified and energized, you need to evaluate your life before the Lord. Me too. We need to come clean and ask for His forgiveness, and make whatever change the Holy Spirit might be prompting us to. One thing is for sure: God is not playing hide and seek. If we seek him, we shall find him.