The Spiritual Discipline of Engaging with Scripture

Engaging with Scripture as a Spiritual Discipline means to study, read, meditate on, be shaped by, and connect with the Person that Scripture proclaims. This practice includes the very familiar disciplines of hearing and reading the Bible.  But it doesn’t stop there. Engaging with Scripture also includes study of the Word, memorization, meditation on Scripture, attending organized Bible study, praying God’s Word, and the journaling of verses and passages along with many other ways of interacting with Holy Scripture.

Engaging with Scripture is a relational process. Much more than the mere calling out of words as one’s eyes cross the page; it is the primary means by which God engages the believer

Engaging with Scripture Defined

In a previous post, we discussed the fact that there is no comprehensive list of the Spiritual Disciplines. Additionally, we noticed that within the different lists we might come upon, the Disciplines are grouped and named to fit the list.

Some lists identify reading the Bible and studying the Bible separately. Others categorize biblical meditation separately. And even when these disciplines are grouped together, they are often labeled differently. For example, there are many who refer to this discipline as Bible Intake.

As we said before, groupings and titles are not our focus. What matters to us is the discipline itself. Is it found in the Bible? Did Jesus model it? Does it lead us to increased knowledge of God and closer conformity to Christ?  

Personally, I have chosen to call this discipline Engaging with Scripture because of its purpose and relational aspect.

So, by definition, what is Engaging with Scripture?

Here’s an excellent definition provided by Dr. Fergus Macdonald of the Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement.

“Scripture engagement is interaction with the biblical text in a way that provides sufficient opportunity for the text to speak for itself by the power of the Holy Spirit, enabling readers and listeners to hear the voice of God and discover for themselves the unique claim Jesus Christ is making upon them.”

Notice the emphasis on interaction between the text and reader. Observe the relationship between the reader and the Person that Scripture proclaims. 

This is the key. Engaging with Scripture is all about developing a deep, meaningful, and engaging relationship with God. And this is how we come to know Him more intimately and grow in likeness to Christ.  

In Scripture

While we do not find the words, Engaging with Scripture, in the Bible, the concept is woven throughout.

Measure the definition provided above by the following words of Scripture:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly

Colossians 3:16

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

2 Timothy 3:16

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

Acts 17:11

Notice the relationship-building interaction between Bible text and reader in these instructions relating to Scripture and found in Scripture:

  • meditate on (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:2)
  • consider (Psalm 119:95)
  • dwell in (Colossians 3:16)
  • think over (2 Timothy 2:7) and
  • look into (James 1:25) 

Modeled by Jesus

There is no question. Jesus lived by Scripture. Throughout the Gospel accounts, we find Him spending large amounts of time interacting deeply with Scripture. He read, studied, memorized, meditated on, and prayed the words of God. His life was saturated by Scripture.

In fact, Jesus went far beyond simply having a daily quiet time.  And because He saturated His life with God’s words, these words (among many other things) provided His life mission statement, strengthened Him to resist Satan’s temptations, inspired His wisdom to develop and live out the Sermon on the Mount, and helped Him to endure the cross.

The Importance of Engaging with Scripture

Engaging with Scripture is foundational. Our right practice of all the other Spiritual Disciplines flows from the time we spend in the Word of God.

For example, Engaging with Scripture complements and strengthens our time of Solitude. Also, the discipline informs and guides our prayers.  Engaging with Scripture is the bedrock.

We can rely on God’s Word, take comfort in it, be corrected by it, find hope in it, and receive direction through it.  Engaging with Scripture is foundational to our Spiritual Transformation into Christlikeness.