Christians Should Only Read the Bible

In my studies of Scripture and theology, I occasionally run across someone who sees me reading a systematic theology or commentary, who says to me, “I don’t need all those other books, I only need the Bible.” This statement is troublesome because, in one sense, it is arrogant. Does this person really think they have enough brain power and spiritual fortitude to gain as much understanding and wisdom as the whole community of faith combined, without their assistance. I realize they do not mean it this way because they have not thought through the logical implications of their statement so grace needs to be extended, but the statement is dangerous.

There is one sense, however, that the statement is true, and it is this sense that causes them to make the statement in the first place. If we did not have access to any other books and only had the Bible, it would be enough. We could still be saved and experience growth in the Lord, but the Lord never intended us to live our lives shunning the wisdom of other believers. Building each other up is one of the reasons He calls us to be part of a local church.

The Lord has given us many books, which are simply the written thoughts of the community of faith, to help us to grow in the grace and knowledge of His word. Wayne Grudem, in his systematic theology says, “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers (1Cor. 12:28). We should allow those gifts of teaching to help us understand Scripture.” To think that we, somehow, do not need these God ordained teachers, or that none of the books they have written could be any help to us, rejects God’s word which tells us he has given us these teachers.

They also seem to be using a double standard when it come to books. I was once told I should not read commentaries because they were all fallible, and I should only read the Bible. When I asked the if he went to church to listen to sermons, he said, “of course I do.” He began to stumble when I asked him if his pastor was fallible. A good commentary and good pastor often do similar things, they explain and proclaim the meaning of the text. If you are going to reject one, you will have to reject the other. I suggest embracing both as gifts from God.

I do realize that some neglect the scriptures in order to read all these other books and that is equally dangerous, but we should utilize what the Lord has given us through men and women who have been given the gift of teaching. Though, unlike the Bible, they are fallible, just like the the teaching of the man who says we do not need other books, there is truth in there from which we should benefit.

And let us not forget Spurgeon who said: “The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own.”

Post Script: I realize that someone who refuses to read Christian writings other than the Bible will not be reading this blog, which means I am preaching to the choir. However, if you run into one of them, maybe you can pass the message along.

-D. Eaton

6 thoughts on “Christians Should Only Read the Bible

  1. I agree I think other texts can be extremely helpful. Of course, we should be guarded, but as long as it points to scripture and Christ, it can be helpful. I like the point you made about a pastor and a sermon. I’m going to spotlight this post on my Community Spotlight which will appear in a few hours.

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  2. Thanks for sharing that Spurgeon quote. It definitely gave me something to consider.
    And, I definitely agree that saying we only need the Bible can carry some arrogance with it. Absolutely, Scripture is all-sufficient and inerrant! However, we are not. We make mistakes; we have our own biases which can cloud our understanding of the text. That’s why it can be so helpful to evaluate the words of other sources, gleaning truth from them, in order to interpret the Bible properly.

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  3. Absolutely, this has thrown more light to me, I also had similar struggles when people made me feel using commentaries and listening to sermons whiles you have not finished reading your bible is wrong.
    I believe there is a place for that though non replaces the word of God but certainly if God gave gifts to men, then certainly he had in mind that He would speak through these vessels to equip us.

    Thank you, God bless you too.

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  4. I didn’t really know what commentaries were when I first started reading the Bible with an actual intention of studying it (back in 2016). I had been told by the Baptist side of my family that the Bible was accessible and simple enough for every person to understand, so I sat with my Bible, a highlighter, and confidence that I could do this on my own. And sure…I could have.

    I made it through Lamentations (where the reading plan I chose started me for the month I began in), and worked through a few minor prophets, two Gospels, and Genesis through Judges. It was tough in a lot of places, but I was getting along fabulously.

    Then, I got sent to Ezekiel.

    I learned what a commentary was really quickly after that. We glean more TOGETHER. We are made to be together in community, to worship in community, to find support and correction and accountability in community. We are also told in many places that we are to share knowledge and sharpen one another’s understanding.

    Anyone who believes commentaries are problematic probably needs one, and badly. The gift of teaching is given because we need to be taught. The gift of discernment is given because we need to be corrected.

    The Bible comes first. Always. That should go without saying amongst Christians, but it doesn’t. Commentaries, theologies, dictionaries, concordances, teaching sermons, and other forms of aid and support I’m forgetting or failing to mention are all there in pursuit of increasing each other’s knowledge of God’s Word. That’s not a bad thing.

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