We have seen that there are five things we are to do with the Bible if we are to enjoy its full medicinal properties in restoring our soul. The first is that we need to hear it. It may surprise some that we start here, rather than with the need to read the Bible. But the early church began with hearing. After all, they, like so many through history, had nothing to read yet!

From the beginning they gathered to listen to the Word of God (see Acts 2:42). Even if the Old Testament was available in written form, they had no personal copies on their i-phones. Paul stressed the need for the public reading of Scripture, and with it, teaching (1Tim 4:13).
The Bereans were certainly commended for their private searching of the scriptures to see if the preaching was true to the Word of God. But notice, even here they heard first, and then checked it out in what they read. Why is “hearing” so important?

Firstly, the need to hear addresses the issue of our independence. We are fiercely independent – we don’t like to be told and we don’t like to listen. We like to figure it out for ourselves. And when we hear alone, we allow ourselves the freedom of determining for ourselves what is true – a modern form of the ancient trap that Adam fell into: eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Bible, from the beginning, was not a matter of private interpretation; there was such a thing as “the apostles’ doctrine”. While the Bible is simple enough that a child can read it and benefit, it is complex enough that the greatest minds in the church have been wrestling with it for centuries, striving to maintain a fragile orthodoxy. We dare not approach the Bible alone.

So, secondly, the need to hear accentuates the importance of our interdependence. I have my own Bible and it’s a sunny Sunday: why not just go to the beach and read my Bible myself? But the eye cannot say to the hand ‘I don’t need you’ (1Cor 12:21). We need teachers. Why? Not because large parts of the body of Christ are too stupid to read for themselves. But because many people in the Body of Christ are called to function in too many vital ways to be able to have the time necessary to study Scripture in sufficient depth. All of us are to apply ourselves to the study of scripture with whatever aptitude or opportunity we have. But a preacher can devote ten hours to prepare one hour of teaching for hundreds of listeners who will be both fed with the Word of God in a readily understandable form, and freed up to fulfill their calling without each of them needing to devote ten hours each to the same task.

The first place that the medicine of God’s word is to be applied is in context of regular biblical teaching, especially expository teaching, if we are to get the most out of the prescription that God has given us for our healing. Outside the Body of Christ we are vulnerable to health-damaging dangers of error and distortion of the truth.

For a fuller treatment of these ideas, a couple of audio resources are available on our web site: How to Read the Bible, and How to Study the Bible. See also a free pdf file of a booklet on how to approach the scriptures: The Bible – God’s Life Word.