There are enemies and friends of Bible engagement. But the Friend of Bible engagement who surpasses all others, is the Holy Spirit.
Bible engagement isn’t a solo activity. None of us can go it alone. Bible engagement is always a joint affair. As a bare minimum, Bible engagement requires a relationship in order to exist – a friendship between a person and the Holy Spirit.
Because God is unique, as well as being the creator and ruler of all humanity, the friendship between a person and the Holy Spirit can’t be like a human relationship. When a person, together with the Holy Spirit, engages with the Scriptures, it’s not as equals. The friendship is more like a student- teacher relationship with the person being the student and the Holy Spirit the Teacher (cf. Nehemiah 9:20a, John 14:26).
For a friendship to grow and flourish, friends must know and understand their roles. If a person tries to take charge of the process of reading, reflecting, remembering and responding to God’s Word, the process will fail. It’s disastrous in human affairs when a student tries to usurp the teachers role, and even more so when a person takes charge of the biblical text in a way that takes over or negates the role of the Teacher. “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”1 Corinthians 2:16.
Gods Spirit and our spirits need to be in open communion in order for Bible engagement to thrive (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:12-16). Yet remarkably, many people try to engage with the Bible unaccompanied by the Holy Spirit. In our ignorance we do what we were taught to do in school; we take charge of the text – subjecting it to our scrutiny and critique – deciding whether or not we’ll accept or reject what we’re reading. We’re the master of the text – period! But that’s not the way to engage with the Bible. The Bible must read us. And this only happens when we humbly open our hearts and minds to be shaped and moulded by the Teacher.
“No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” 1 Corinthians 2:11. It’s imprudent to try and understand the Bible without the Holy Spirit. Spiritual matters need to be spiritually discerned. Biblical comprehension requires the insight and wisdom that comes from God (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:14). Only the Spirit of truth can guide us into all truth (cf. John 16:13). Or, stated differently, we require “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16) in order to understand God’s Word.
So how do we adopt the role of the student with the right environment for the Teacher to teach us?
To begin, we must recognize that we are powerless. “The flesh counts for nothing” John 6:63. “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” Isaiah 64:8.
Next, to receive God’s wisdom we must empty ourselves entirely of any worldly wisdom. We must become “fools” in order to become wise (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:18). Why? Because God frustrates the intelligence of the intelligent and “turns conventional wisdom on its head” 1 Corinthians 1:19 (MSG).
Then, as we prayerfully and expectantly ask the Holy Spirit to teach us we must remember that his anointing is in us (every believer) to teach us “about all things” 1 John 2:27. This doesn’t mean, of course, that we can’t learn from others who are taught by the Holy Spirit. It’s a matter of first priorities. We should look first and foremost to the Teacher to help us engage with the Word.
Finally, we must give the Teacher time and space in our lives if we want Him to instruct us in the Word. Basically, we must read the Word as a prerequisite for the Teacher to teach us the Word. That’s what friends do – they spend time together. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly …” Colossians 3:16.
© Scripture Union Canada 2017