Richard Greenham On Reading the Word of God Well

Richard Greenham (1542-1594) was a Puritan pioneer in spiritual counseling according to God’s Word, and for establishing a seminar devoted to theology and its practical application. Greenham was much respected in the later Puritan movement, and often quoted in their writings. Greenham was a master of practical divinity, or the gift of applying the Scripture to the lives of God’s people.

How do we profit from reading the Word of God? We are to use these eight ways together.

1. Diligence: Dig in the Word of God with more zeal than a man digging for treasure in a field. Come to the Word with zeal. Open the Bible expecting treasures to jump out of you! Diligence will make the “rough places plain.” Seek the “Pearl of Great Price” (Matt. 13:46).

2. Wisdom: Be wise in the choice of matter, order, and time.

a. Matter: Don’t spend the bulk of your time on difficult portions of Scripture. Accommodate the reading to your own capacities (e.g. Gospel of John probably will be easier for you than Ezekiel).

b. Order: Be firmly grounded in all the principle points of doctrine by reading all of Scripture, seeking to know the “whole teaching” of the Bible, or the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). As you go on reading the Bible, seek to try to read all the way through (“A whole Bible makes a whole Christian”). Read along with sermon series that the congregation is going through in weekly worship.

c. Time: Read a little bit in morning, noon, and in the evening (Read with every meal, or connected to every meal time if possible). As you nourish your physical person, take time to nourish your spiritual person. Doing this can accomplish at least three chapters a day. Read some scripture each day. On the Lord’s Day, when you are able to read more scripture, seek to read as much Scripture as possible

3. Preparation: Approach Scripture with a reverential fear of God in His majesty. Determined to listen and lay up God’s Word in our hearts. Approach Scripture with faith in Christ who will open the book of God by His Spirit to help us. Let us believe He will teach us (Hab. 2:1-4). Approach with a sincere desire to learn with a good and honest heart. We don’t profit from Bible reading because we come “without a heart” (Psa. 63:1-5).

4. Meditation: A “half-way house” between Word and prayer. To read so that we can pray. You meditate and reflect, then you allow that to move you to prayer. Pray the Word. Meditation helps you digest the food of Scripture. Fill your mind with a portion of scripture, a verse, and/or an image, then ponder it, and think about how God in Christ is revealed, how much you need Him, how wonderful He is, and how this can be applied to your life. Then pray these truths about God and yourself, then read more, and meditate, and find new and fresh prayers!

5. Conference: Proverbs 2:7- Iron sharpening iron is the idea. These were called ‘conventicles’ where one would read the Scripture, talk about their experiences related to the scripture, and the Holy Spirit often blesses these meetings for spiritual gain. After you read it, talk about it, and this helps you to the remember all that you have learned, and it will bless others. Remember how often we are called to “stir up” or “edify” one another! (Heb. 10:24-25; Eph. 4:32; 5:19, 21; Col. 3:16).

6. Faith: Faith is the key to the profitable reception of the Word. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:1, 6).

7. Practice: Go out and obey, and do it. Practice will bring forth increase of faith and repentance. Practicing the Word is the best way to learn the Word: “Doers as well as hearers” (James 1:22).

8. Prayer: Prayer is indispensable from beginning to the end: precede our reading, accompany it, follow it. In private reading, we can pray and read and meditate, and meditate, and pray, and read. Pray as we read and think about what is being considered. For example, if a scripture teaches about idolatry, reflect on one’s own idolatry, and how God can help us, then pray that He will and that we will repent and live more faithfully.