If you have ever read theological writings from the sixteenth century (or before), you will notice something about the Scripture references used in the writings. For example, in Luther’s masterpiece, The Freedom of a Christian (1520), arguing for the Spirit’s role in freedom, he says: “As Christ says in John 4[:14], it is a ‘spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” The reason verse 14 is in brackets is because verse 14 was not what Luther wrote. An editor supplied the verse number in brackets. It is not that Luther was lazy with Bible references. It is that he did not have readily available verse divisions. It was not until the mid-sixteenth century that our modern system of verse numeration was adopted. And before then, chapter divisions were not put in the Bible until the thirteenth century.
With this background, we have at least three reasons to praise God for chapters and verses:
1. Chapters and verses help us navigate the Bible.
Can you imagine hearing a sermon where the preacher says: “Turn to Exodus!”? That’s it. Without chapters and verses, we would have a hard time finding where the preacher was reading from in such a large book like Exodus.
2. Chapters and verses help us read the Bible.
It is sometimes easier to read the Bible with chapters and verses. In a Bible reading plan, for example, we might read Daniel 2 and Romans 6 in one day and read Daniel 3 and Romans 7 the next day. Without chapter and verse divisions, it would be harder to follow a published Bible reading plan.
3. Chapters and verses help us derive doctrine from the Bible.
As Protestants, we say that the Bible is the infallible rule for faith and practice. Thus, we peg our beliefs, not just to the Bible, but to specific chapters and verses in the Bible. For example, when I want to show the love of God, I might reference a passage like John 3:16. But without chapter and verse division, we do not have “John 3:16.” We would only have the gospel of John, which contains, about 15% into the Gospel, these beloved words of Jesus: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
We praise God for guiding human hearts and hands to include chapter and verse divisions in the Bible. The divisions help us navigate the Bible, read the Bible, and derive doctrine from the Bible.