BSM: It seems like the Bible is a lot easier for you to understand than it is for most people. Is that true?

PIPER: I suppose that’s partly accurate and partly inaccurate. The accurate part is that when you’ve lived with a book for 50 years and it has been your main job to understand it and explain it, you have a head start. It’s not rocket science to understand that a man who spends his life meditating on a book in order to explain it to other people is probably going to see connections that others don’t see. And I think it’s seeing connections that makes the Bible live.

On the other hand, just because you’ve had a lifetime of exposure to the Bible doesn’t make you necessarily a better seer of what’s there. There are scholars, no doubt, who study the Bible more than I do and see less than lay people do of real truth, because they’re not born again.

What is inaccurate about the statement is that I don’t necessarily have a leg up on seeing the glorious truth of the Bible. In fact, there might be people who don’t know any Greek or Hebrew and haven’t spent a lifetime studying this Book who will see things in texts that I have not seen, because the Holy Spirit has simply attuned them.

I’ll give you an example. Psalm 119 talks about suffering as being one of the instruments that God uses: “It was good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Psa 119:71 ESV). There is learning that comes through suffering. Therefore, a person who has walked through deep waters that I haven’t walked through will probably see things I don’t see and experience them in depths that I don’t experience.

So I don’t want to elevate scholarship, knowledge of the biblical languages, or even length of exposure to the Bible as the only or even the main way by which we see glorious things in this book. God prepares people for seeing things in His Word in His own way, and there are people who will see things I’ve never seen.

BSM: How would you counsel someone to begin anew who hasn’t read their Bible in a long time?

PIPER: I would encourage them to get a fresh Bible — I’m not too concerned about what version — and then begin a reading program in the New Testament with some passages from the Old Testament. They should also get into a good church or small group that loves the Bible. And these two things — your personal encounter with the Bible and exposure to what God is teaching you through other people about the Bible — will cause the Bible to come alive again as you pray and ask God to make it come alive.

John Piper’s 5 Pointers for Approaching the Bible:

  1. Be open to the fact that it is the Word of God.
  2. Revere the Bible when you discover that It’s God’s Word.
  3. Have a sense of conviction that you are a sinner in the view of this Word.
  4. Know that the Bible meets you with forgiveness because Christ is at the center of the book.
  5. Have hope that you can press on in life because the Bible will give you all the guidance you need.

For more by John Piper, visit Logos.com/Piper

John Piper’s sermons, articles, blogs and tweets are available at DesiringGod.org.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Each issue of Bible Study Magazine provides tools and methods for Bible study as well as insights from people like John Piper, Beth Moore, Mark Driscoll, Kay Arthur, Randy Alcorn, John MacArthur, Barry Black, and more. More information is available at http://www.biblestudymagazine.com. Originally published in print: Copyright Bible Study Magazine (Sept–Oct 2009): pgs. 8–12.