How to Read the Bible

For new and even established Christians, taking the time to read the scriptures is a key part of building and maintaining a healthy relationship with God. Getting to know God’s word means creating a plan to dig into his message for you. To keep growing as a Christian, you need a plan to spend time in the Bible daily.

Why exactly is it important to take time for this study? There are a few primary reasons why you should consider this habit an essential part of daily habits:

  • The Bible was inspired by God
  • The Bible provides a moral anchor for life
  • The Bible serves as a personal love letter written by God to his children and creation
  • The Bible shows us the character and nature of God
  • The Bible provides the explanation of both creation as well as the origin of man
  • The Bible explains why evil behavior and human suffering exists
  • The Bible tells us the story of Jesus Christ, our Savior
  • A study of the scripture contributes to our personal Christian growth

If you’re not familiar with studying the Bible, it’s important to build a plan in order to include a study of the Bible into your schedule. There isn’t one particular “best way” to go about this but these methods are a good way to get started.

Getting Started

Many people find that even opening their Bible is intimidating. But what exactly have you done in the past when you first started reading a book? Maybe you start by opening it and looking at the table of contents. This is a good way to approach a Bible study.

The Bible is made up of two sections: the Old Testament with 39 books and New Testament with 27 books. The first section, the Old Testament can be thought of as being in 4 parts:

  1. The Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. These five books were written by Moses and are known as the law. They work to provide the basis for the commandments that God gave to his people and also the promises that were provided.
  2. Historical: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther. These 12 books tell a history of early Israel. They are covering the story of how Israel was established in the land, how Israel continued to turn to sin against God, and finally, how God punished them into exile.
  3. Poetical: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon. This group of books is based on the earthly experiences that the Israelites have in various parts of their lives.
  4. Prophetic: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekial, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. These are 17 books that cover the prophets God called to speak on His behalf. The prophets were responsible for speaking for God and provided the role of a conscience to Israel. The messages in these books are designed for two primary purposes: local prophesies for the current time and prophesies outlining God’s purpose in the future, especially the birth and life of Jesus.

Moving ahead, the New Testament tells of Jesus’s birth and then covers the history of the founding Church. There are five primary parts of the New Testament:

  1. The Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These books cover the human life of Jesus on earth including his birth and death.
  2. The Lives and Acts of the Apostles: Acts. This book includes what occurred in the early church and the actions of the early apostles.
  3. Letters of Paul: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. These 14 books are Paul’s letters that address the most common questions that were asked in new churches. Although each letter is addressed to a particular church, he was also representing the primary doctrines of Christ for the entire world for future generations.
  4. General Epistles: Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, Jude. These 8 books were general epistles and are separate from the epistles or letters of Paul. They were written by various authors and addressed to the general church.
  5. Prophecy: Revelation. This final book in the Bible points to the triumph of Christ as the fulfillment of God’s plan for man. The book covers Christ’s second coming, the doom of those that reject God, and the reward of those that accept Him.

Begin with a Basic Framework

You can consider a Bible study similar to taking a road trip for an extended period. If you travel by car around the country, you’ll have to develop certain skills as well as habits that will allow you to get through the journey. Some of the skills you may know automatically but others you’ll have to acquire. Just like you’ve probably read a book before, you can use some of your skills and adopt new ones to improve your studies.

Although this guide is going to cover how to read through the Bible from beginning to end in a year, this isn’t the only way to study this book. Bible study topics can range from covering a specific book to a section of books:

  • Bible study books may also be valuable, especially if you are taking part in a study group.
  • Bible study for kids may focus on topics that they can easily grasp or some of the popular stories of the Bible, such as the life and acts of Jesus.
  • Bible study for women may focus on the women discussed in scriptures or other areas that are applicable to their lives.

Before you decide to start on a study, decide how you’re going to approach the study. Are you using a study book to guide your reading? Will you have a goal to read a certain number of passages or pages each day? While your study may change, build a basic plan that you can commit to on a daily basis.

If you decide to read the Bible entirely in a year, plan to spend 15 minutes a day reading through the Bible and another 15 minutes reflecting on what you’ve read. In many local bookstores as well as online, you can find a Bible schedule that will lead you through reading through the entire Bible in just a year. The benefit of using a premade schedule is that they already contain specific dates and do most of the work for you as far as the planning. This is a good way to stay on track if you want to stay on track and make your study easier for yourself.

Bible Study Tools

Just like any other job, you may find that you’re better off using certain aids in your study. For example, a study guide is a great way to stay on track and provide insight into your study. There are numerous study guides available that may cover a theme in the Bible or a specific book. The benefit of using a study guide along with reading the Bible is that it can bring up points or ask questions that you haven’t considered.

You may also want to choose a study guide that coincides with an area where you need help. Many people will choose a study guide that covers grief, family life, encouragement, or others. This type of guide won’t usually cover one specific book but will various sections of the Bible together to form a theme.

Additionally, a Bible Concordance is also a great tool regardless of your approach. It may help you uncover deeper meanings to each passage.

Another tool that’s good to use for a study of the Bible is friends or like-minded people. Staying on track with a Bible study isn’t easy for many of us. Life can get in the way and we let the Bible study fall by the wayside. If you also want to gain greater insight into each passage, you should consider enlisting a few friends to join in a Bible study with you. For practical purposes, this is often done on a weekly basis but should be a combination of both individual and group study.

Decide on a passage or section of the Bible that you’re going to cover each week. Spend time individually throughout the week studying and reading through this section. When you come together as a group, discuss the passage and its meaning as well as application to your life.

Finally, consider using a journal or study notebook. You can do this on your computer or mobile device as well. Document the passage you’ve read and any thoughts or insights that you have about the passage. This will help you to consider what you’re reading daily.

Approach Passages with Four Questions

There are two basic ways that you can plan for your study. Both of these contains four parts and is easy to remember. The first plan asks four questions to consider as you read the passage:

1. What is the passage saying?

This question helps you to think through what the general theme of the passage and the setting is. Consider when the event occurs and any notable characteristics of the characters in the passage.

2. What is the meaning of the passage?

From the basic facts you’ve just covered, you can then use this to explore what the text means. Identify any main principles and lessons that are being learned. In order to understand any areas that may not be clear, use cross-references and study aids that you have on hand. A good study Bible will often be a great reference in this situation. But you can also read through a good Bible study book for additional context.

3. How can this passage be applied to my life?

Consider how the passage should change the way that you live your life. Each principle and lesson that’s being outlined in the chapters should lead you to a greater insight into improving your life. This is a good time to write down a few points to pray about applying these lessons in practical ways.

4. How does what I’ve just read fit into the rest of the Bible?

No section of scripture ever stands alone. Each one should fit into the theme of the book, the chapter, and also the entire scripture as a whole. Read any other portions of the Bible related to this passage if you want to understand how they fit together. You can also do a quick scan of the entire book to get an idea of how your passage fits into the entire Bible.

Another approach uses a simple method to help guide your study. It covers much of the same material but you may find this method easier to use:

  1. Then: Write down or consider what the passage would have meant for the people it was written for.
  2. Timeless: Consider any principles that would transcend the period when the section was written.
  3. Today: Apply the truth that is timeless to day’s life.
  4. To Me: Consider how you can apply this timeless theme to a specific area of your life.

Regardless of the study that you use, these four areas can help you to unravel even more complicated passages. They provide a great framework on how to study every passage. You can use these methods in an individual study or even in a group setting.

Pray at the End of Each Study

Although this habit may come intuitively to many people, it’s a good one to develop if you’re new to Bible studies. Taking the time to pray allows for even greater meditation on what you’ve covered in the study. It’s also a good way to transition from the study back into your normal activities. Your prayer can be short but try to include this at the end of each study.

Final Thoughts

Most Christians will tell you that knowledge of the Bible is important. However, they often fail to make a deep study of the scriptures a priority in their lives. When you commit to reading and studying God’s word, you will not only gain a greater knowledge of the Bible but also grow in your faith. For those that may be new to Bible study, the above framework will prepare you to start studying the scripture on a regular basis. Use this general guide to help you on your Christian journey.

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