I am thoroughly enjoying reading a four-volume set by the Dutch theologian Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635-1711)called The Christian’s Reasonable Service (also in Kindle)(first published in 1700). Joel Beeke, the editor of these works, rightly states:
The uniqueness of à Brakel’s work lies in the fact that it is more than a systematic theology … à Brakel’s intent in writing is inescapabale. He intensely wishes that the truths expounded may become an experiential reality in the hearts of those who read. In a masterful way he establishes the crucial relationship between objective truth and the subjective experience of that truth.
The readability of these works is remarkable, considering that the depth of any writers of that era is significantly deeper than many on the bestseller list at a Christian bookstore. But he (in my opinion) achieved an accessibility that brings these deep truths home to the heart of the believer.
One way he accomplishes this is to make his case by asking a question of a topic that propels him into an answer. Then, he moves into answering foreseen objections (much like the Apostle Paul did in the book of Romans), and answers those. This method provides a movement through the work that is a delight.
Now, after burying the lead sufficiently, let’s press on to a particular matter à Brakel address: the reading of the Holy Scriptures by every member of the church.
The church is the recipient of the Word of God. “He hath not dealt so with any nation [as with Israel]; and as for His judgments, they have not known them” (Psa. 147:20); “Chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God” (Rom. 3:2); “… to whom pertaineth… the covenants, and the giving of the law” (Rom. 9:4); “. . . which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:5).
He thus sets the stage for a question: May and must God’s Word be read by everyone? He follows by setting the stage again, then giving a five-paragraph answer, which I will distill below. But first, the setup:
Since the Word of God has been given to the church and thus to every member of the church, it follows that it must also be read by everyone.
First, since the reading of Scripture is nowhere forbidden, who would muster the courage to forbid this practice? . . .
Secondly, from the time of Moses until Christ and from the time of Christ until this present day the Bible has always been read by every member of the church. Yes, some were so diligent in this practice that they were able to quote the entire apostolic letters from memory.
Thirdly, God has expressly commanded the common man to read His Word (Deuteronomy 6:6-9; John 5:39; Colossians 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; 2 Peter 1:19).
Fourthly, those who read the Word are commended in Scripture, and a blessing is pronounced on them (Psalm 1:1-2; Acts 17:11; Rev. 1:3).
Fifthly, the nature and purpose of Scripture are such that it must be read by everyone.
(1) It is the testament or will of God; a will may and must be read by the heirs.
(2) It contains letters addressed to everyone in the church, this being evident at the beginning of every letter; a letter may and must be read by everyone to whom it is addressed.
(3) The Word is the sword with which every believer must defend himself against spiritual enemies (Eph. 6:17). Would one then rob a spiritual warrior of his weapons?
(4) It is the means of conversion, the seed of regeneration (1 Peter 1:23), as well as the source of spiritual illumination (Psalm 19: 8), instruction, comfort, and the means unto spiritual growth (Rom. 15:4; 1 Peter 2:2).
(5) It is written for the very purpose that everyone would read it (Hab. 2:2).
From all this is has been incontrovertibly demonstrated that every individual may and must read the Word of God.
After this, he does answer objections which I hope to cover next week at some point. But God gave us His Word to read—not to sit on a shelf and gather dust, nor simply to pull down off that shelf on a Sunday morning. We have His revelation given to us to show us who He is, what He has done, and what He aims to do in and through us!
So yes, Christians may and must read the Word of God.