How to Read Your Bible
How to Get the Most
From your Bible Reading!
Personal Advice from One who Cares
· Do you want to know your Bible better?
· What practical steps will help you to read and study the Bible?
· Are you willing to invest quality time to understand Gods Word?
· Do you want a relationship with the God of the Bible?
Most of us own a Bible but too often it simply lies on a shelf, unread. Some may carry it to a Bible study or class, but they dont really read it frequently. Nearly every American home owns at least one Bible and many possess several. However, the reality is that the majority dont make Bible reading a regular practice. Beyond this, those of us who do read the Bible dont really know how to get the most out of our Bible reading.
Are there any principles and rules that will help us in this worthy activity? I have been an incessant Bible reader since I was about fifteen years of age, and I would like to offer some advice that I consider helpful. This comes from my own life and the experience of other serious Bible readers and students of the Bible. Consider the following suggestions.
Choose a convenient time to read your Bible.
For some years, I would do my Bible reading and study late mornings and early afternoons since I had a work shift that allowed this. Presently I read my Bible in the evenings for this fits more conveniently into my schedule and it is also the time that my wife reads hers. Each persons schedule is different, thus it is important for you to find the ideal time for you. It may be early morning, just after awaking and before you eat breakfast. It may be during your lunch hour, when you have a period of uninterrupted time. It may be in the evening, when others would normally be watching television. Or perhaps it will be late at night before retiring. It should offer you a period without competing activities. Probably the early morning is the wisest choice for most people for this is before the busy activities of the day begin and it may be quieter in the house. Just make sure that you are fully awake! Jesus arose before dawn and spent time with God, His heavenly Father. You may want to do this also. Whatever time works best for you should be the time you choose for this vital activity.
Find the best place and circumstances for your Bible reading.
During one period, I had a job that allowed me to read, study, and write about 25 hours a week. This was the ideal opportunity for study of the Bible. Therefore, I was able to study each evening at a desk without very many interruptions. This was rich and rewarding fellowship with God and I grew in my knowledge of His word so much during these years. I realize that few people have such an opportunity. You may want to choose a place in your home where you can read. The kitchen table may be convenient, however that may be a place where you are distracted by noises and conversations. It may be a wiser choice, if possible, to locate a quiet room, with a desk or table, and good lighting. Let this be your daily location and try to eliminate any distractions.
Choose a Bible translation that is accurate and readable.
When I was a youth, I was given a King James translation as a gift from my parents, which is the common version that has been in use for about four centuries. Then, after I learned more about manuscript evidence and various translations, I began to read the American Standard Version. Later, when this translation was extensively revised, I began to use the New American Standard Bible, which is based on better Hebrew and Greek manuscripts and has eliminated the earlier archaic language. About a decade ago, I began to use the updated version of the New American Standard Bible which offers even a better language choice. Of course, I also compare other translations, especially the New International Version, which is not as literal as the NASB. Perhaps this is the best decision: choose a literal translation for your careful study but also compare another translation for further insights. Whatever you choose, make sure that it is a translation that meets two criteria: accuracy and readability.
Locate, purchase, and use an edition of the Bible that will aid in your Bible study.
I chose a study Bible that provides a concordance, a set of maps, column references, and extensive footnotes. These features will not only make your Bible reading interesting, but they will help you to actually study your Bible as you read it. These study helps will enable you to understand the Word of God better than you have in the past. Of course, it will be important for you to choose a Bible with a size of type that is large enough for you to read without strain. You may also find a red letter edition helpful for this will show the words of Christ in red print. Some Bibles have notations in the margins or at the bottom to help in your understanding. (But beware: many false teachings are conveyed to unsuspecting readers through such notes and comments found in certain editions!)
Another helpful feature would be to buy a Bible with a durable binding which will generally be some form of leather. This will enable you to use your Bible for some years before it needs to be replaced. To have all of these features, you may need to invest $100 or more for a quality Bible edition. It will be worth it! Weve always been dismayed that some will refuse to invest in a good, usable, study Bible while they do not hesitate to spend 200 times that much to purchase a new car.
Determine a method of reading.
I have tried various Bible reading schedules over the years. Sometimes I have begun at the first book of the Bible, Genesis, and continued through the Bible to Revelation, the last book. Sometimes I have read the New Testament portion over and over again, from Matthew to Revelation. For some years, I followed a different reading the New Testament books, using a system that I devised which was very convenient, orderly, and instructive. One year I followed a chronological scheme of reading the entire Bible.
I might point out that one of the worst methods of Bible reading is to close your eyes and allow the Bible to fall open at a given place and start reading. We never read any other book in this way and neither is it wise to read the Bible like this. Each book of the Bible is written in a reasonable and logical way and it is best to read through a book the way the writer or author intendedfrom the first to the last. Occasionally, it may be good to read here and there in the Bible, but this should not be your normal method.
Determine how thoroughly you want to read the Bible.
Sometimes you may wish to read directly through the Bible without careful study. It takes about 20 to 25 hours to read the New Testament and about 80 hours to read the entire Bible in this way. On the other hand, you may want to stop and examine interesting points more closely and this will slow your reading to some extent. At other times, you may want to carefully study a book, along with looking up parallel verses, checking the meaning of words, and examining a map. In this case, you may only read a chapter or even only ten verses at a setting. You can read chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, and word by word. All of this depends on the depth and carefulness you want to find in your reading. You may wish to vary your readingsometimes reading fairly quickly through a book, while at other times studying a book of the Bible more intensely.
Record the results of your reading.
If you have an edition of the Bible with wide margins, you can make notations with the use of a pen or pencil. You can use a ruler to underline words or portions of a verse that you find important. You can purchase a special highlighter to mark verses you wish to remember. Some Bible readers have found it helpful to use a journal to write outlines of the Bible books, list characters in the chapters, and make note of the leading doctrines and teachings you discover. These techniques will help to fix the truths of Scripture in your mind and will also enable you to go back and review what you read from month to month. This will assure that what you learn is not transitory.
Invest in certain reading and study tools.
It would be wise for you to invest in certain tools that will make your reading and study more fruitful. Have a reliable English dictionary for those difficult words you find unfamiliar. Obtain a thorough Bible concordance, which is a word index that will help you to locate any verse in the Bible that uses a given term. You may also wish to have a book of maps to check on locations, a handbook of the Bible that will give you help with outlines of the books, and a Bible dictionary for definitions of Biblical words. Colored pens or pencils, a ruler, and a notebook will all come in handy when you read your Bible.
It is good to read your Bible each day.
Some days you may be able to read for an hour. Other days you may only be able to devote ten or fifteen minutes to this worthy activity. Some people try to read the entire Bible in a year, while others may read through the Bible two, three, or four times in a year. Each person must find what is best for them under their given circumstances. By the way, if you read three chapters a day and five chapters on one day (perhaps the Lords day), you can read the Bible through once in a year; this should take about fifteen or twenty minutes a day, reading at a steady pace. At one time in my life, I was able to devote three to five hours a day to careful Biblical research, but we know that this is not feasible for most Bible readersand it is not possible for me either with my present limitations.
Always ask God’s help and enlightenment when you read.
Since God is the ultimate Author of Scripture, He is the one who can help you to understand its contents. If a human author were to sit at your side and read his story with you, you would pay close attention to His explanations. Likewise, God will give you the wisdom and understanding as you sincerely, honestly, eagerly, and openly read His divine Word. Always pray to the Lord of Scripture when you open your Bible and begin your daily reading and study. The psalmist wrote, Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law (Psalm 119:18).
I would encourage you to commit parts of the Bible to memory.
Do not limit your exposure to the Bible to merely reading or even careful study. The psalmist wrote, Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You (Psalm 119:11). The Lord Jesus also said, If you abide in Me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you (John 15:7). We need to allow Gods words to abide in our soul.
For some years of my life, I had a job that allowed many hours of free time. During those hours, I would carry a pocket of index cards on which I had printed Bible verses. Night by night, I would memorize verses and review them. In this way, I was able to memorize hundreds of favorite and usable verses. In time I had some 3,000 verses in my mind and heart. Since that time, it hasn’t been possible to follow this practice and you may not be able to devote very much time to it either. However, you may find the opportunity to memorize some verses during your daily drive time, while you are exercising, at the dinner table, while washing the dishes, or when you have your family Bible teaching period each evening. Do what is best for you. Also encourage your husband or wife, as well as your children, to memorize and quote Bible verses. Let it be a family project!
Actively use the truths that you learn in your Bible reading.
It has been said, If you dont use it, youll lose it. I have found this to be true. During my life, I have had the opportunity and privilege of learning much of the Bible, but I have discovered to my dismay that if I did not use what I was learning, in time it would disappear from my memory. The key is to use in your daily life what you are learning in your daily Bible reading. Be willing to share with others some of the Bible verses that you have memorized. Or talk to others about the wondrous truths that God has revealed to you in your daily Bible reading. Share these spiritual truths with your spouse, your children, and your brothers and sisters in Christ. In fact, share it with anyone you meet, whether in the supermarket, in the park, at the laundromat, at school, or over the backyard fence.
Meditate on the word of God that you read.
You can increase the effectiveness of the Scriptures in your life if you meditate on what you readand especially what you commit to memory. This means that you think through the meaning and application of these divine truths in your mind. This activity will help to root the word of God in your soul and will help you to live out the truths in your life. The psalmist describes the blessed man as one whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night (Psalm 1:1-2).
Always recognize who is speaking to you in the Bible.
The Bible is the Word of God. He gave this priceless gift to us so that we might believe it and obey it. Jesus said, Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). We live by Gods own wordsrevealed to us in the Holy Scriptures. The Lord Jesus made a startling statement one time. He declared, He who rejects Me and does not receive my sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day (John 12:48). One friend pointed out that he finds Jesus words at this place utter sobering. Jesus said that we will be judged by His words in the coming Day of Judgment. The shocking and dismaying fact is that vast numbers of the worlds population will be judged by words that they never had a desire to read, listen to, or study. How sobering is this fact! Let us remember this as we daily read Gods written word. Let us approach the Bible as Gods words to us: The word of God is living and active and is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
As we have noticed, there is a place for the careful, detailed reading and study of Scripture, even consulting the meaning of words in the Hebrew and Greek originals. There also is a place for a simple reading of Scripture. All of this should reveal our sin and spiritual need, as well as stimulate our faith in God. Further, the Bible is like a telescope, pointed to the stars at night. We use the telescope to observe the heavenly bodies; we use Gods Word to see God Himselfthe majestic, infinite, eternal, holy, and loving God. Reading the Bible is not an end in itself. It is a means to a wondrous endthe God of Scripture Himself!
Finally, come to the Bible with a passion to know the will of the Lord.
Here we are speaking about your heartfelt motivation in reading the word of God. If God has given us the Scriptures for our benefit and spiritual blessing, you should have a deep desire to know His Word. You should love Gods Word! The psalmist had this kind of passion: O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. . . . How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:97, 103). David had the same desire. He said that the word of God is more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold (Psalm 19:10). In another place we read this passion for Gods wisdom found in Scripture: If you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God (Prov. 2:3-5).
During the long Dark Ages, the Bible was not available in the common languages of the people but was locked up in Latin which few could read. Today you can take a copy of the Scriptures in your own hands! You have the blessing of reading the very words of Almighty God! Love the word of God and the God of the Word. Desire the truths of Scripturethat which will set us free and set us apart for God (John 8:32-33; 17:17). Let us be like Job who could testify, I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food (23:12). Pursue the word of God with all of your heart! Remember this: Only those who do the will of God will enter the kingdom of God (Matt. 7:21). Only the one who does the will of God will live forever (1 John 2:17) and receive the many promises of the Lord (Hebrews 10:36). This should stimulate an insatiable desire to read, study, learn, and apply what we discover in Gods amazing written Word!
I will leave one more thought with you. Our God is a holy God, thus His words are holy. Our God is a righteous God, thus His words are righteous and just. Our God is a God of truth, thus His scriptures are words of absolute truth. And our God is a God of grace, mercy and love. This means that His words are an expression of His love to us. They are Gods love letters sent from heaven to us on earth. Lets open our heart and mind to receive Gods wondrous words of holiness, righteousness, truth, and love. Let your Bible reading be more than an intellectual activity. Let those words touch your heart, stimulate your mind, form your character, and change your life! Begin to read your Bible with renewed interest today!
See also: How to Really Enjoy Reading the Bible!