Before we begin talking about ways to read the Bible, let’s stop and think about what the human authors of the Bible books had in mind when they were writing what we have as the books of the Bible.
How did the writers expect the people who received the books to treat them to get the information they were communicating? Did they expect each person to get a photocopy, take home and spend some time on it?
Every book of the bible was a real communication that was written by a real human being to a specific audience that they had in mind. The authors had in mind how the message was going to be delivered to the people. They also had expectations or hopes of how the audience would treat it.
The Bible was written to be read aloud
Both New and Old Testament scriptures were written to be read aloud to the people (Nehemiah 8; Luke 4:16-20; Timothy 4:13; Revelation 1:3). Notice that John Gutenberg invented the printing press in the middle of the 15th century. Before that time, printing did not exist. It took a lot of hours and money to copy the bible by hand and few people could afford it. So up until that time (only 400 years ago) believers still learned the word of God by hearing it read to them. The writers of the Bible knew that their audience was going to have the Bible read to them because they was no way everybody could own a copy. In fact, some of Paul’s letters were read in one church and then the copy sent to a different church in a different city to be read there. That’s why when you read the old testament and even the new, there is some level of repetition build into it that helps people who are listening to it read. Today many of us have not only one bible, but several. In my house of two adults and a 1 year old and a three year old, we have over 10 different Bibles! That doesn’t include the many other Bible study resources. Does this make us better? Do we get the word of God better than the believers who lived before us? I will argue, NO!
There is something that is more important to understanding the Bible than having many versions of the Bible and spending hours a day studying the Bible. That is completely surrendering one’s will to God and obeying all of his Word.
The Books of the Bible were written to real people
They were not directly written to us. God knew that we were going to benefit from it. But the letters were written to the people stated in them. So when you interpret the Bible in your study methods, remember not to make a mistake that is commonly made–which is to jump to application without first interpreting it. When you interpret, put yourself in the shoes of the people the letter was written to, say the Corinthians. Interpret the words said as being said to them. After you are done, make applications to yourself when appropriate. The Holy Spirit will help you in that process. If you just apply everything to yourself directly, then you will be forced to apply what Paul said to the Galatians to yourself. Here is what he said “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2 This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish?” Galatians 3:1-3 NASB. You may want to read before and after to get the context. This doesn’t apply to you because you are not a Galatian Christian living at the time that Paul wrote. You didn’t do any of those things that they did wrong. You have to interpret the text as belonging to the Galatians. Then apply it to yourself, if you are doing what the Galatians did, then you need to repent because that rebuke may apply to you. We interpret and then apply the same way for both good sounding portions (blessings) and these rebukes. Otherwise, we can rush to claim a promise without interpreting it well.
How to read the Bible
Reading the Bible is not the same thing as studying the Bible. Studying starts with reading. Martin Luther read the Bible through twice every year. George Mueller read the Bible 200 times from cover to cover and about 100 of those times where on his knees. Hudson Taylor read it 40 times in 40 years. Cathrine Booth read through the Bible 8 times by the time she was 12. Dr. Charles Feinberg read the Bible from cover to cover four times each year for a period of many years. The result is that it changed their lives and God used them mightily. I’m not suggesting that you should start off trying to read the Bible through twice a year like Martin Luther did. But, it is true that with the Bible, the more you read it, the better for you. You can never over read the Bible. In fact, later in his life, George Muller is quoted as regretting not having read the Bible more!
It is important for you to develop the habit of reading large portions of scriptures daily (at least one chapter). Here we are talking about devotional reading. And there is a difference between devotional reading and study reading. In devotional reading, you follow a plan (see right plan below). Study reading on the other hand is done when you want to study a passage of scripture. With study reading, you read the passage repeatedly as part of studying the passage.
We advise that you don’t start memorizing verses or studying a particular portion of the Bible until you know the main theme of the book–and that can only be obtained by reading the entire book. If you don’t read the entire book, chances are high that you will study or memorize the verse outside of it’s intended context.
Reading the Bible Profitably
To read the Bible profitably, you need to choose the following A right Time: You need to pick a good time and put it on your schedule to read the Bible. For most people, early in the morning is the best time to read the Bible. Most people in the Bible and throughout church history have done their bible reading and devotion in the morning. However, the best time is when you are most awake and can offer God the best of your focus and attention. If that is later in the day for you, then by all means do it then. It is crucial that you put that time on your schedule otherwise you would forget. Satan is very active at helping Christians miss their Bible study times.
A right Place: You also need to pick a good place. A quiet and secluded place in the house that has good lighting and good seating is a good place to meet with God.
A right Plan: There are many reading plans available. A common plan is the plan to read the entire Bible in one year. With that plan, you read about 4 chapters every day. You simply read through the chapter once as part of your devotion for that day. You may choose a plan to read one chapter a day and will finish the Bible in 3 years 3months. It is important for you not to bite more than you can chew. If you are new to reading the Bible, we recommend that you start with only one chapter per day. You can then increase the pace from there.
A right Pace: The plan you choose will determine the pace. It is crucial to read the Bible daily. The Bible is as important to our spiritual lives as food is for our bodies. So regardless of how many chapters you choose to start with, endeavor to read daily.
A right Purpose: It’s important to have a good motive when you go to study God’s word. The Bible is our food. We need to go to it to get food for our souls.
The right Tools: You need a pen or pencil, a notebook for a daily journal, and a good study Bible. And important part of Bible reading is journaling or recording what you are learning from God’s word.
Procedure for Bible Reading
Step 1. Choose a book of the Bible that you want to read. If you are new to the Bible, we recommend starting with the Book of John.
Step 2. Do the reading. Many people do their Bible reading as part of their personal daily devotion when they meditate on a brief passage of Scripture and pray. If you combine your Bible reading with your personal daily devotion or quiet time, then you could spend about 5 minutes per chapter reading your daily number of chapters. Then after that you proceed to select a brief passage for your personal daily devotion or daily meditation.
Step 3. Memorize a verse, pray, and journal. If your Bible reading is not part of your daily meditation, then you may choose to either memorize your verses with your Bible reading or your daily meditation. But in either case, you need to pray and journal.
Step 4. Application. Select a lesson you have learned from your reading and apply it to yourself.
What to include your daily Journal.
1. What is God teaching me? Write down what you believe God is teaching you through the passage.
2. PRECEPTS: Use this mnemonic to to guide you as you record and take action on what God is teaching you. PRECEPTS stands for Prayer to pray, Reason to praise, Error to avoid, Command to obey, Example to follow, Promise to claim or Promise to follow, Truth to believe, Sin to Confess.
3. Application. Write your application in your journal as well. This will help you as you come back to review.
You don’t need to write everything from the mnemonic in your journal everyday. Only use it to guide you. For example, if there is no error to avoid, then don’t write in your journal for that day.