The Holy Bible is to a certain degree the biography of God in this world. In it the Indescribable, to a certain degree, described Himself. The Holy Bible, the New Testament, is the biography of the incarnate God in this world. In it is described how God, that He might tell man of Himself, sent God the Word, who was made incarnate and became man and as man told man all that God has, all that God wants with this world and man in it. God the Word revealed Godʼs plan about the world and Godʼs love for the world. God the Word told man of God with the help of words, to the extent that manʼs words can comprehend the incomprehensible God. All that this world needs, and man in it – the Lord told in the New Testament. For all the questions, He gave the answers in it. There are no questions that consume manʼs soul that are not answered, whether directly or indirectly, in the Holy Bible. Man cannot think of more questions than what is already in the Holy Bible. If you do not find the answer in the Holy Bible to your question, it means that you have either asked a senseless question or you havenʼt managed to read the Holy Bible and from it read the answer.
In the Holy Bible God tells us:
1) What the world is; where it comes from; why it exists, where it strives for, with how it will end;
2) What is man; where he comes from; where he is going; from what he comes; why he is; with what he will end;
3) What are animals; what are plants; what are they for; what do they serve;
4) What is good; where is it from; where does it lead; for what reason is it; how is it attained;
5) What is evil; where is it from; how does it exist; why does it exist and with what will it end;
6) What are the righteous and what are sinners; how can a sinner become righteous and how can a prideful righteous man a sinner; how are we to serve God, how are we to serve the devil; the entire path from good to evil, from God to the devil;
7) All – from beginning to the end; manʼs entire path, from body to God, from conception to resurrection from the dead;
8) What is the history of the world, history of the heaven and the earth; what is the history of mankind; their path, goal and end.
God, in general, told man in the Holy Bible everything that there is to tell. The biography of every man is found in the Holy Bible, everyoneʼs without exception. In it each one of us can find ourselves, described and illustrated in detail: all of our virtues and faults that you have and could have or not have; youʼll find the paths which the soul should take, and every one goes from sin to eternity and the entire path from man to God and from man to the devil. Youʼll find the ways to free yourself from sin; youʼll find, in a word, the entire history of justice and the righteous. Are you sorrowful? In the Holy Bible youʼll find comfort; are you sad – joy; are you wrathful – rebuke; are you lustful – chastity; are you foolish – wisdom; are you bad – goodness; are you evil – mercy and justice; are you a hater of men – love. In it youʼll find the cure for all of your blemishes and faults and food for all of your virtues and podvigs. If you are good, the Holy Bible will teach you how to become better and the best: if you are sensitive, it will teach you the angelic mildness; if you are smart, it will teach you wisdom. Do you love beauty and musical styles and words? There are none more beautiful, nor touching, than that which is found in Job and Isaiah and Solomon and David and John the Theologian and the Apostle Paul…. There music, the angelic music of the eternal and Divine truth has clothed itself in human words.
The more man reads and studies the Holy Bible, the more he finds reasons to study it more intensively and ceaselessly. It is, according to the words of St. John Chrysostom, as a sweet smelling root, which smells all the sweeter the more it is rubbed.
How Should We Read the Holy Bible
As important as knowing why we should read the Holy Bible, is how we should read the Holy Bible. The Holy Fathers, beginning with St. John Chrysostom, are the best leaders in this. St. Chrysostom has, so to say, written the fifth gospel. The Holy Fathers recommend a serious preparation for the reading and studying of the Holy Bible. What does that preparation consist of? First of all, prayer. Pray to God that He enlightens your mind – that you might understand the words of the Holy Scriptures, and fill your heart with grace – that you might feel the truth and life of those words. Be conscious that these are Godʼs words which He personal said and speaks. Prayer in connection with the other evangelic virtues frees man for understanding the Holy Scriptures.
And how are we to read the Holy Scriptures?
Prayerfully, with fearful respect, for in every word is a drop of eternal truth and all the words make up a boundless ocean of Eternal Truth. The Holy Scriptures are not a book, but life; for its words are spirit and life (John 6:63); that is why they can be understood if we make them the spirit of our spirit, and the life of our lives. It is the book that is read by living it – putting it into practice. First we need to experience it, then understand it. Here is applicable that word from our Savior: whoever will do it will understand that this doctrine is from God (John 7:17). Perform it so that you might understand it. That is the basic rule of Orthodox exegesis. In the beginning man usually reads the Bible quickly, then more slowly, until finally he begins reading it word by word, for in every word He reveals the eternal truth and the indescribable mystery. Every day read at least one chapter from the New Testament, but together with that practice one virtue. Practice until it becomes a habit. First of all, letʼs say, the forgiveness of offences. Let that be your daily duty. And besides this, pray to God: O good Lord, grant me love towards my offenders… And when you transform that virtue into a habit then every other one after it will become easier; and so on until the last one. The main thing is: read Holy Scriptures all the more. What the mind doesnʼt understand, the heart will feel; but if the mind canʼt comprehend and the heart canʼt feel, continue reading all the more for you are sowing the words of God in your soul: and they will not be destroyed there, but will gradually and unnoticeably enter into the nature of your soul, and you will be like the man from our Saviorʼs story who scatters seeds on the ground and sleeps and wakes night and day, and the seed comes up and grows, though he does not know how (Mark 4:26-29). The main thing is: sow, and God is the one who will give and grant that what has been planted will grow (1. Cor. 3,6). Only, do not rush success, lest you be like the man who sows today and already tomorrow wants to reap.
By reading Holy Scripture, you are bringing yeast into the dough of your soul and body, which gradually spreads, permeating the soul, until it saturates all of it and leavens it with evangelic truth and justice. At any event, the Saviorʼs story about the sower and the seed can be applied to each of us. In the Holy Scriptures we are given the Divine Truth. Reading it, we sow that seed in our souls; and it falls on both the stony and the weedy places of our soul, and partly on the good ground of our hearts – and it brings forth fruit. And when you look at the fruit and taste it you will zealously and joyously rush to reclaim the stony and weed-filled places of your soul, re-tilling and sowing with the seed of Godʼs word.
Do you know when man is wise in the eyes of our Lord Jesus Christ? When he listens to His words and does them. The beginning of wisdom is – listening to the word of God (Matt. 7:24-25). Each word of the Savior has the power and strength to heal physical and spiritual diseases. “Say the word and my servant will be healed” (Matt. 8:8). The Savior said the word and the servant of the centurion was healed. As it happened then, so it happens now. The Lord is ceaselessly speaking His words to you and me and to all of us. We only need to settle ourselves, immerse ourselves in them and receive them –with the faith of the centurion. And miracles will happen with us and our souls will be healed just as the centurionʼs servant was healed. For, in the gospels the following is written: “They brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick” (Matt. 8:16). He does this today as well, for the Lord Jesus is the one who is the same yesterday, today and for all ages (Heb. 13:8).
At the dread judgment it will be more difficult for those who donʼt listen to the word of God than it was for Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt. 10:14-15). Mind you, at the dread judgment you will be asked for an account, what you did with the words of God, did you listen and adopt them, did you rejoice in them or were you ashamed of them. If you were ashamed of them the Lord will be ashamed of you when you come to the glory of His Father with the holy Angels (Mark 8:38). There are few human words that are not barren and empty, and for that reason there are few for which we will not be judged (Matt. 12:36). In order to avoid this, we should study and learn the words of God from Holy Scriptures, make them ours, since that was why God gave them to man, that he might adopt them, and through them Godʼs very Truth.
In each one of the words of our Lord there is more eternity and permanence than in all of heaven and in all of the world with its entire history. For this reason He said: “The heavens and the earth will pass, but My words shall not pass” (Matt. 24:35). This means: God and everything of God is in the words of our Savior, and for this reason they cannot pass. If man adopts these words he becomes more lasting than the heavens and the earth, for in him is the power which strips death from man and makes him eternal. Studying the words of God, and fulfilling them, makes man a relative of the Lord Jesus. He Himself announced this when He said: “My mother and My brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:21). This means: if you listen and read the word of God – you are halfway to being the brother of Christ; if you fulfill the words – you are fully the brother of Christ. And this is joy and privilege greater than that of the gospel. In studying the Holy Scriptures a certain blessedness is poured on the soul which resembles nothing earthly. Our Savior spoke of this when He said: Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it (Luke 11:28).
The Mystery of Words
Great is the mystery of words. So great is it that it is only the second Person of the Holy Trinity – the Lord Christ – who is called in the Holy Scriptures: Word = Logos. God is Word (John 1:1) – all words that come from that eternal and absolute Word are filled with God, the divine Truth, Eternity, Justice. If you listen to them – you listen to God. If you read them – you are reading the direct words of God. God-Word became body, became a man (John 1:14) and the mute and tongue-tied man uttered the words of Godʼs eternal truth and justice.
In the words of our Savior there is a certain juice of eternity, which, in reading His words, drop by drop drips in manʼs soul and enlivens it from death to life, from the transient to the everlasting. The Savior announces this when He says: Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life….and has passed from death into life. (John 5:24). This means: by listening, studying the word of God, you are learning of immortality and eternity, you are learning of the immortal and eternal life and by believing in them with complete faith you have already learned what is life eternal and have passed from death to life. For this reason does our Savior conclusively claim: if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death (John 8:51). Each word of Christ is filled with God and for this reason when it enters the soul of a man it cleanses it of sin. This is why our Lord, at the Last Supper, told His disciples, those faithful listeners of His words: You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you (John 15:3). Christ our Lord and His Apostles call all that is written in the Holy Scriptures: the word of God, the word of the Lord (John 17:14; Acts 6:2; 13:46; 16:32; 19:20; II Cor. 2:17; Col. 1:15; II Col. 3:1). And if you do not read it or receive it as such, it will remain in the darkness of mute and tongue-tied men, empty and barren.
Each word of God is filled with Divine Truth, which when it enters manʼs soul, consecrates it to all of eternity. For this reason does our Lord address His heavenly Father in prayer: Father! Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is Truth. (John 17:17). If you do not receive the word of Christ as the word of God, as the word of Truth, then it is falsehood and the father of lies who is in you, who is revolting against the word.
In each word of the Savior there is much which is supernatural and grace-filled; and that is what fills manʼs soul with grace, when the word of Christ visits it. For this reason does the Apostle Paul call the entire dispensation the “word of His grace” (Acts 20:32); “the word of truth” (Eph. 1:13); “the word of life” (Phil. 2:16). As the living, grace- filled energy, the word of God acts in man, working miracles and life, if man listens to it with faith and receives it in faith (I Col. 2:13). All is defiled with sin, but all is cleansed with Godʼs word and through prayer, everything – every creature from man to the worm (I Tim. 4:6). The Word of God, with truth, which it carries inside of itself, and Power, which it has in itself, is “sharper than any sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and the joints and the marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). There is nothing secret before it and for it. Because each word of God has in itself something from the eternal Word of God – the Logos – it possesses power to spiritually give birth and renew men. And being born of this word, man is born of Truth. Hence, the Apostle James writes to the Christians that God will bring them forth by the word of truth, (1:18), while St. Peter tells them that they have b e e n b o r n again through the word of God, which remains for eternity (I Peter 1:23). All of Godʼs words, which God spoke to men, come from the Eternal Word – the Logos, who is the Word of life and grants eternal life. Living by that Word, man enlivens himself from death to life; fulfilling himself with eternal life – man becomes victor over death and a participant in the nature of God (II Peter 1:4) and there will be no end to his blessedness.
Important, most important, in all of this is faith and the feeling of love towards Christ our Lord, for it is under the warmth of this feeling that the mystery of every word of God opens up, just as the sweet smelling flowers blossom under the warmth of the sunʼs rays. Amen