God Wrote The Book:

Do You Know How To Read It?

A Layman Teaches A Preacher How To Read The Bible

Like many Bible scholars, James M. Gray, president of Moody Bible Institute from 1904 to 1935, began full-time Christian service as a preacher. Before entering the world of Christian academia, he was pastor of the Reformed Episcopal Church in Boston for 16 years.

Amazingly, however, Mr. Gray makes this confession about his early years in the pastorate:

“For the first eight or ten years of my ministry, I did not know my English Bible as I should have known it, a fact to which my own spiritual life and the character of my pulpit ministrations bore depressing witness.”

This man later spent 43 years at one of America’s premiere evangelical Bible institutes, serving as summer guest lecturer, dean, executive secretary, editor of Moody Monthly magazine, president (for 31 years) and president emeritus.  He authored 25 books and served as editor of one of the first reference Bibles ever published. Spanning parts of two centuries, his expositions of the Word blessed nearly 20,000 students.

And yet this is the man who spent at least eight years as a preacher who did not know the Bible as he should have known it.  Is this not an incredible confession?

Fortunately, Mr. Gray realized this deficiency and decided to do something about it:

“My heart was greatly burdened in prayer about this for more than a year.”

He was wise enough to recognize the problem, and he took the matter to God in prayer.  Obviously this was causing him much concern and he was eager to find a solution.

I’ll let Mr. Gray tell you how God answered his prayer in a very unexpected manner:

“My heart was greatly burdened in prayer about this for more than a year, when God answered me through a layman I met at a Christian convention. We were fellow-attendants at a certain Christian conference and thrown together a good deal for several days.  I saw something in his Christian life to which I was a comparative stranger – a peace, a rest, a joy, a kind of spiritual poise I knew little about. I so much coveted his peace and joy in Christ, I asked him how he had obtained the blessing. He told me it came to him ‘By reading the letter to the Ephesians.’

‘I was going to spend a Sunday with my family in the country,’ he said, ‘and I carried with me a pocket copy of the letter to the Ephesians. In the afternoon I lay down under a tree and read it . . . . When I arose, I was not only in possession of Ephesians, but Ephesians was in possession of me, and I had been lifted up to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.’

What did this layman know about reading the Bible that this preacher did not know?  How could this man read the Bible and experience peace, rest, joy and spiritual poise, and the preacher miss out on this?

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