Q. 5: May all men make use of the Holy Scriptures?
A. 5: All men are not only permitted, but commanded and exhorted to read, hear, and understand the Holy Scriptures.
(John 5:38, Revelation 22:18-19, 1:3, Acts 8:30)
God is the first and chiefest being. Everyone should believe in Him. Knowledge of this first and chiefest being is found within the Holy Scriptures, the Old and New Testaments. Now we come to the practical purpose of Scripture: its use by human beings.
God has provided us the Scriptures. Who can use them? Everyone! All men, the Catechism teaches us, is permitted for all men. This language is generic, meaning that the use of Scripture is not limited to men only, but to humanity.
We are not only permitted, but commanded to use the Scripture. That is, it is expected for humans to use the Scriptures. This thought will be elaborated throughout the rest of the Catechism, but for now, let’s focus on the aspect of commandment. We are to read, hear, and understand the Scriptures.
What if I cannot read? The Scriptures are a perfect way to learn how to read! Assuming that you can read, read the Scriptures regularly. We know God through the Holy Scriptures, the Catechism discussed in questions 3-4. If you are not regularly reading the Scriptures, you are not following Jesus Christ.
Furthermore, we are to hear the Word of God. This obviously involves the preaching of God’s Word, but it also necessitates the teaching and regular reading of God’s Word. We should attend church for the public preaching and teaching of Scripture, as well as the reading of Scripture (1 Tim. 4:13).
Lastly, we are to understand the Scriptures. This involves more work than the first two responses. We are expected to understand the Scriptures. We need to grasp the original meaning to the receiving audience. We need to understand what the Scriptures are teaching as well as what they are not teaching. We need to study!
The applications are self-evident. We need to read, hear, and understand the Scriptures. We need to purpose to read the Scriptures regularly (daily, at least). We spend time on all sorts of endeavors, so we have no excuse not to read the Bible.
We also need to hear the Word of God. That is, we should attend church to hear the Word of God preached. In fact, this brings up a discussion of how we hear. As I preach through the Scriptures, I notice who listens and who does not. I see people sleeping, and it is not limited to one Sunday. We can prepare to hear by getting the necessary sleep. We can prepare to hear by being comfortable so as not to lose focus, but not too comfortable to where we do not drift into dreamland. We can also actively listen. That is, we can take notes about the text of Scripture. I provide sermon outlines, and those are good tools. But you are not limited to this. You can purchase a journal and fill it with your own notes. The key point is to listen actively.
Finally, understand the Scriptures. As I mentioned, this one requires a little more work on our part. However, several points can alleviate that work. A solid study Bible will help clarify the majority of the confusion associated with Scripture. Additional books are also informative as to the original message. Of course, others who know the Scriptures better will also be helpful. With all of this said, a follower of Jesus Christ is equipped, through the Spirit of God, to understand the Scriptures. (More on that soon!)
The only thing left is to read, hear, and study the Word of God!