Book Review: Reading the Bible Supernaturally

Have you ever felt like your Bible reading is not what it should be? Reading the Bible Supernaturally by John Piper (Crossway, 2017) may be the book for you. There have been seasons in my life when I hardly read the Bible at all, and others when I did it simply because I knew I should. Reading the Bible Supernaturally teaches us to read the Bible successfully. Reading the Bible can be a rewarding experience if we learn to do it well.

The Ultimate Goal of Reading the Bible

This section takes up half the book, and is a very detailed treatment of what our purpose is in life and how that leads us to conclude that we must read the Bible well. Piper states, “Our ultimate goal in reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation” (41).

He goes on to write about God, the meaning of existence, and worship. His message? If we don’t understand why we should read the Bible, we probably won’t. Savor is a word he uses often in this section. Savor the text, savor relationship with God.

The Supernatural Act of Reading the Bible

What does Piper mean by “supernatural reading”? “In essence it is a reliance on God, and the Spirit, and Christ to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves as we seek to see what is really there in Scripture, and as we seek to savor it and be transformed by it” (189, italics original).

Satan doesn’t care if we know all the facts in the Bible. “Let them make A’s on a hundred Bible-fact quizzes as long as they can’t see the glory of Christ in the Gospel” (185). Piper titles Chapter 12 “Why the Pharisees Couldn’t Read and the reasons are some of the same ones that keep people from really reading the Bible today. Ignorance, Piper points out, is not our greatest problem. It is simply the hardness of our hearts.

The Natural Act of Reading the Bible Supernaturally

Piper then spends the last portion of the book talking about the paradox of the natural act of reading supernaturally. He defines “natural” as anything within our nature that we can do physically. This would include things like getting enough rest to stay alert while reading, making connections between passages, and evaluating what we read (226).

He offers several practical ways to help us read naturally. A.P.T.A.T. is an acronym that he devised – Admit that I can do nothing without Christ, Pray for God’s help, Trust specific promises, Act in obedience, and Thank God for whatever good comes (244-245).

He also presents “arcing” as a helpful way to understand the relationships between ideas in the text, and in finding the central message of a passage (375). This method is explained at length in the appendix as well as online. I have not tried it, but I think it will be helpful and look forward to using it.

Notable Takeaways

Piper presents a strong emphasis on experiencing a relationship with God. Relationship that is more than just coming with our needs and asking for favors. He also makes it clear that relationship with God cannot be based on what we decided he should be to us, but rather “Emotions for God that do not spring from seeing God cannot honor God” (96).

I have found myself guilty of reading the Bible mechanically in the hope that some of the goodness will still rub off on me. Piper says that is of limited value. “I do not mean that we should read the Bible in a natural way, and then hope that it has some spiritual, supernatural effect at a later time” (228).

“One good, solid grammatical argument for what the text means outweighs every assertion that the Holy Spirit told me the meaning” (266). To which I say Amen, and stop blaming the Holy Spirit for everything you do.

Summary

This is a great read as far as content is concerned. It offers valuable and useful tools for every student of Scripture. I enjoyed the new concepts that I uncovered, and his emphasis on joy and delight in God and His Word.

The first section felt like it could be about half as long, and some readers may wish to skim through it if they are already familiar with the concepts.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. I didn’t find Piper’s style extremely scintillating, but definitely accessible. The content alone will make this a great read for those looking for ways to enhance their Bible reading.

 

Daniel Daniel Yutzy lives in Huntsville, Arkansas with his wife. For fun, he teaches music at a local church school, conducts choirs or ensembles, and dabbles in finger-style guitar and choral composition. He is as passionate about learning as he is about teaching. He enjoys being with people who know what is important and act accordingly. Alternately, a well written biography, novel, or history will keep him occupied for hours. He loves soft rain and beautiful corners of this marvelous world. God has blessed him beyond necessity.

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