I am a great skimmer. My grandma taught me that trick when I was still in elementary school. “Read the first and last sentence of each paragraph, and if it makes sense move on,” she said. She shared that and other great tips (that I won’t share here, lest you employ them while reading this article) that helped me read a lot more books than I would have been able to otherwise. But the attention I give a work of fiction, or even the greatest theological tome out there, can in no way compare to the attention I must give the only book ever written by a divine Author. The Westminster Larger Catechism unpacks that attention for us:
Q. 157. How is the Word of God to be read?
A. The holy Scriptures are to be read with an high and reverent esteem of them; with a firm persuasion that they are the very Word of God, and that he only can enable us to understand them; with desire to know, believe, and obey the will of God revealed in them; with diligence, and attention to the matter and scope of them; with meditation, application, self-denial, and prayer.
For the Bereans, their attentiveness to the Word is described not just in terms of how they read the Bible but also how often they read it. They examined the Scriptures daily. Perhaps some people feel that there is an artificiality to insisting that one should have regular time in God’s Word, reading it and meditating on it. This may be a reaction to a forced (and empty) practice of the fundamentalism of yesteryear. But there is no denying it, and we shouldn’t try to excuse our way out of the reality that both Scripture and experience attest to: the best of Christians, the most faithful of Christians, the most mature of Christians, have spent more time in God’s Word, not less.
The Authority We Recognize in the Word
Finally, we can learn from the Bereans in the authority over men that they recognize in God’s Word. The Bereans “examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” What “things”? Paul’s preaching. Even someone like the great Apostle is not over or above the Bible. This perspective was recovered at the time of the Reformation, in response to the medieval church that had elevated the authority of the church to be equal with the authority of God’s Word. In response, Martin Luther said: “We must make a great difference between God’s Word and the word of man. A man’s word is a little sound that flies into the air, and soon vanishes; but the Word of God is greater than heaven and earth, yea, greater than death and hell, for it forms part of the power of God, and endures everlastingly.”
That’s why true churches strive to emphasize the Word of God in every aspect of the ministries, but especially in their preaching. When the Bible is preached faithfully, we can be certain that what we are hearing and receiving is true.
So let us believe that we are wretched sinners. Believe that the wages of sin is death. But also believe that the grace of Jesus is greater than all our sin, and that through faith in Him we can have everlasting life. Don’t believe it because I’m telling you; believe it because God tells us this.