The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy with this request:
“When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.” (2 Timothy 4:13)
This is an amazing request. Even though Paul is in prison awaiting execution, he still desires to read and study so that he can continue to work for the sake of the gospel!
Paul’s example is a major rebuke to all with an unteachable spirit. No one, regardless of their knowledge and experience, is beyond the need to learn (e.g., Paul had been preaching for 30 years, he had been caught up to heaven, he had personally seen Jesus and wrote the majority of the New Testament!).
Paul’s request also challenges all who give a myriad of excuses for why they don’t read. John Calvin, commenting on Paul’s request to Timothy, writes:
“It is evident from this, that the Apostle Paul had not given over reading, though he was already preparing for death. Where are those who think that they have made so great progress that they do not need any more exercise? Which of them will dare to compare himself with Paul? Still more does this expression refute the madness of those men who- despising books, and condemning all reading-boast of nothing but their own divine inspirations. But let us know that this passage gives to all believers a recommendation of constant reading, that they may profit by it.” (Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol. XXI, 2 Timothy, p. 266)
When asked about the importance of reading good books, Charles Spurgeon answered:
“As the apostle says to Timothy, so also he says to every-one, ‘Give yourself to reading.’ …He who will not use the thoughts of other men's brains proves that he has no brains of his own… You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers, and expositions of the Bible… the best way for you to spend your leisure is to be either reading or praying.”
Paul’s request highlights the important role the reading of sound books play in the believer’s spiritual growth and effectiveness in gospel ministry. Every believer should be seeking to build a personal theological library. At Arlington Baptist Church, we love to read and give away books!
To help you get started, below are brief lists of recommended books we believe will help you grow in your understanding and practice of the Christian faith and life. Many of these books are available at the Book Nook at Arlington Baptist Church.
*A recommendation does not mean we agree with everything in the book or with the author's total theology. We believe we can learn from other brothers and sisters even though we may disagree on secondary or tertiary matters. We encourage everyone to follow the example of the Bereans (Acts 17:11) and test everything by Scripture and hold fast to what is true (1 Thessalonians 5:21).