Reading the Bible Supernaturally may turn out to be one of the most important books I read this year. If you have grown up in Christian culture you are familiar with the concept of having your “quiet time”. Unfortunately, the term has become such commonplace that many have forgotten the true purpose for such a time of quiet and prayerful reflection over the Word of God. As a teenager, I used to believe that reading the Bible every day was like rubbing a lucky rabbit foot. If I read in the morning, then God was going to be happy with me. I would get better grades, score more goals in that evening’s soccer match, and win a date with a pretty girl. If I failed to read in the morning I might as well throw in the towel on God’s blessing for the day. Bible reading became this superstitious/ legalistic routine through which I could secure God’s blessing.
While in seminary, there was always the temptation to make Bible reading solely intellectual. It was easy to turn the morning quiet time into simply the morning learning time. More knowledge became the goal and though it is a good goal, it cannot be the ultimate goal.
Years later I have a much healthier understanding of daily Bible reading, but I still lose sight of what I am really doing each morning. There are often seasons of devotional box checking. Bible reading plans are wonderful, but they can so easily become just another task on the to-do-list each day paired with self-guilt when you fail to complete the day’s reading. Finishing the reading becomes the goal. With all these temptations, distractions, and misunderstandings surrounding one’s daily Bible reading routine, what really is the goal? Why is spiritual maturity so closely tied to reading, understanding, and enjoying God’s word as a spiritual discipline? John Piper answers,
“Our ultimate goal in reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation.” (55)
In short, we always read the Bible in order to see, savor, be transformed by, and show the glory of God. We should, therefore, always read God’s word to see his supreme worth and beauty. (66) We are aiming, by that seeing, to savor the God we see. We aim to experience spiritual affections in our heart wakened by the spiritual sight of truth in our minds. (102) This spiritual seeing, however, is a supernatural miracle of God’s revelation of himself. There is a way to read the Bible which brings no supernatural revelation. The Pharisees read the Bible this way. Non-Christians read the Bible this way and sometimes, even Christians read the Bible this way. As John Owen states, “There is a sacred light in the Word: but there is a covering and veil on the eyes of men so that they cannot behold it aright. Now, the removal of this veil is the peculiar work of the Holy Spirit.” (195) Piper argues that the miracle of seeing is something that happens at salvation, but it is also something that happens again and again throughout ones sanctifying and illuminating exposure to God’s Word.
Piper masterfully argues for the supernatural work of God in revealing himself through his word while also maintaining the absolute necessity of our natural act of reading. He encourages the reader to deep dependence on God. He also stirs the reader to exert all of their effort and attention to the natural act of reading without which there is no supernatural act of understanding. (226)
At this point, the book becomes wonderfully practical. Piper provides an acronym to help one remember how one should approach Bible reading – A.P.T.A.T (Admit, Pray, Trust, Act, and Thank). It is rare that a book has such deep and immediate impact in my daily walk with the Lord, but this acronym frequently reminded me of how I as a pastor must approach both reading and teaching the Word of God. It calls us to a humble confession that we are helpless apart from God’s grace to further reveal himself to us and through us. It is a call to prayer and to active trust in God’s promises to us. It is a call to action with all the wisdom and will God has given us. And finally, it is a call to thank the Lord for every good and perfect gift he reveals to us in his word.
Piper concludes his book by transitioning from the frame of mind one must have in their approach to God’s word to the actual hermeneutical practice they must embrace in reading the Bible. He emphasizes that the meaning of Scripture is always what the author intended to communicate and he provides applicable principles for reading that seeks to discover that meaning. Piper is a masterful expositor of God’s word because he is a masterful student of God’s word. He is prayerfully attentive to detail, conscious of Biblical argumentation, and is determined to not only understand the text of Scripture but to delight in the text of Scripture. The last several chapters give tangible keys to Bible reading that will enrich your devotionals for a lifetime.
I highly recommend this book to any reader of the Bible no matter your familiarity with the Scriptures. It is well-written. The logic is followable and it is outlined clearly throughout. The content is presented in bite-sized chapters perfect for accompanying one’s daily reading of the Scriptures. Reading the Bible Supernaturally has the potential to make a lasting impact on your seeing and savoring the glory of God in the Scriptures for years to come.