In Christianity Today, Bryan Chappell wrote an article as part of a series on Christ-centered preaching. What he says is really insightful about how to read the Bible with benefit, particularly with regard to two major questions. If one consistently asks these questions, that person will greatly benefit from reading the Bible:
1. What does this text teach us about the nature of God who provides redemption?
In the Bible, God is the savior. God is the hero of every story. Look at the passage in its larger context. What does it teach about the God who saves? If the passage is a story, read the entire narrative. If it’s a poem, read the entire poem; if a letter, read it through paragraph by paragraph.
See God in his goodness, kindness, mercy, justice, holiness, and wrath, while seeing God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as the savior of mankind. God the Father in love sends the Son. The Son wins eternal life for us through obedient suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension as King over a new created order. The Son sends the Spirit who brings us into eternal life with God.
2. What does this text teach us about the nature of humanity that requires redemption?
When we read Scripture, we need to read it as realists. We need to see Scripture reveal humanity in all its brokenness, as corrupt and needing salvation. We need to let the Bible reveal to us how we act, how we fail, and how the world is chaotic. We need to learn that our best works are as filthy rags compared to God’s perfect story. Humanity needs saving.
When we read Scripture we need to learn to use it as a mirror to see our warts and blemishes. Only when we perceive the real tragedy in creation, history, and salvation can we see that God is saving us foolish people from our sin and misery. Bryan Chappell summarizes what God is communicating to us through Scripture:
These simple questions are the lenses to “reading glasses” through which any preacher (without exegetical or allegorical acrobatics) can look at any text to see what the Bible is revealing of God’s nature and/or human nature. Inevitably these lenses enable us [to] see that God is holy and we are not, or that God is sovereign and we are vulnerable, or that God is merciful and we require his mercy.