Posted by: Billy Marsh | July 26, 2009

Less Books and More Scripture

It’s a battle I fight daily because of the nature of my education. It is very easy to read a lot about Scripture, but to actually read little of the Bible itself. This doesn’t take away from the necessity of the rigorous aspect of theological education. I believe it is needed and is unavoidable. However, as fallen and finite human beings, we are always prone to bring an unbalanced approach to everything, one in which the scale will always tip in favor of the flesh rather than what is of the Spirit.

That’s why we must be careful in what we choose to read. Reading is an immersive activity that can be extremely time-consuming. Thus, we must be wise as we choose what to devote ourselves to in this task that requires great quantities of time and effort. In terms of reading Christian literature, I have labored to surround myself with writers who ignite my heart to delight in the Lord and to savor his Word. My favorite authors are the ones who get me excited about the gospel and who cultivate my appetite for the Word of God. They are the ones who, while I’m reading them, I can’t wait to put down so that I can turn to the Scriptures. This experience does not diminish my enjoyment of their own works in the least bit; in fact, it has quite the opposite effect. I am eager to have them pour into my soul knowing that the Holy Spirit will use them to increase my love for Christ.

To find an author who writes like this is to find one who loves the Bible this way. And I have read many writers who do not seem to love the scriptures very much, nor do they appear to know the scriptures that well either. I’ve read authors where I found myself extremely let down by their failure to rest upon God’s Word for their claims and content. These books are the ones that are expectantly more man-centered and subjective. With these thoughts in mind, it is no wonder then why I love to read Martin Luther. Here is a man who bound himself to the Word of God with heart and soul. John Calvin comes in as a close second which has nothing to do with his passion for Scripture. I just identify more so with Luther’s unpredictable personality. Luther is some of the most colorful writing you’ll ever read.

It was a comfort to find out that this type of approach to Christian reading was exactly what Luther had in mind regarding the purpose of his own works. In the “Preface to the Wittenberg Edition of Luther’s German Writings” (1539), Luther tells that it “was our intention and hope, when we ourselves began to translate the Bible into German, that there should be less writing, and instead more studying and reading of the Scriptures.” He viewed his efforts in providing the Bible to the people in the vernacular as a means to increasing the study of Scripture rather than causing the need for more books which rival it for authority and attention in the lives of others. Admitting his high regard for and love of the Early Church Fathers and the councils, Luther still confesses, “yet all of them together would not have improved on what one finds in the Holy Scriptures.” In this Preface to an edition of his own writings that someone else was preparing, Luther continues to testify to the supremacy of Scripture by asking the reader not to let his books keep him or her from reading and studying the Bible. He writes:

Very well, so let the undertaking proceed in the name of God, except that I make the friendly request of anyone who wishes to have my books at this time, not to let them on any account hinder him from studying the Scriptures themselves.

There is hardly a time at any point in my reading of Luther where that man does not set my heart on fire for the Lord and cause me to salivate for more of God’s revealed Word. Luther imparts his zeal for the gospel to the reader on every page, and he never fails to make it clear that a zeal such as his comes only from one source: the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God. Men who author work such as his (and Calvin’s) are the result of total and complete Bible-saturation. When I read Luther, I see and hear the fruit of the power of God’s Word coming to life off the pages of a man who has been radically changed by the gospel of God in Christ Jesus. This in turn causes me to return to the Bible with eager expectation for the same Spirit who worked so wondrously in Luther’s life so many years ago to do the same Christ-exalting transformation in my own heart.

I pray that you will encompass yourself with works that point you to the wonder of the Word and the beauty of Christ that it reveals. This was Luther’s desire not only for his German translation of the Bible, but even for all of his writings. I pray this over my own dissertation which is not exempt from serving Scripture in this way. I pray this over my blog, namely, that I would write in a manner that would encourage all who read my posts to see the Bible in a new and fresh light; one where God is the center and is worthy to be praised because there is none like him in heaven and on earth. How do you read other books in comparison to Scripture and how do your own teachings, writings, blogs, facebook, and so forth serve to direct others to God’s written Word?


  1. Luther’s lectures on Genesis are amazing! I have used them some in my Genesis class, but be forewarned- he is even more wordy than me! Likewise his lectures on Isaiah. And everybody ought to read Bondage of the Will.

  2. I have spent most of the day asking about this very subject marshman. It blows my mind how he lead me to your blog. I was remembering your bday past (I am a horrible friend, forgive me) and I came here to see if there was any info. When I opend the page I saw the post. What is so amazing about this blog’s discovery is there have been some discussions(off-hand comments really) around the house about the this and we have been seeking him in how to patiently and kindly encourage the believers in this subject, namely the supremacy of Scripture. Be astonished and amazed brother. I love you and miss you…don’t post this or it will show the world that I forgot your birthday

  3. Red,

    That’s great to hear. It’s amazing how the Lord works things out like that in his providence. Sorry I haven’t gotten back up with you through email or skype. I just keep putting it off. I know that yall are praying for us, and please continue to do so. We need your intercession. I hope this post continues to be helpful and edifying in some way for you.

    Don’t sweat the birthday thing. I think I’ve forgotten yours more than once in the past few years. But you can still send me a gift if you want:)

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