How Do I Read the Bible?
A Purpose with a Plan
The bible has self-proclaimed purpose. 2 Timothy 3:16 reads, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness”. (ESV) There are at least two enormous takeaways from this text. First, the bible is “breathed out by God”. It is God’s Word to us. Second, the bible is “profitable”. It is God’s Word for us.
But the even the greatest purposes can be pointless without a good plan. So it is with the bible. Scripture won’t benefit you unless you believe it. And you can’t believe it if you don’t know it. You won’t know it if you don’t read it. Which leads us to the question of the day, “how do I read the bible?”. I suggest you start by reading the bible widely and deeply.
The bible is a collection of sixty-six smaller segments (often called books or letters) compiled in two larger volumes (Old Testament and New Testament). It is diverse and complex. However, it is a book that is unified in theme. The bible isn’t merely a book of principles to live by. Instead, the bible is a book about the Person to live for: his name is Jesus. And in order to see Jesus on every page of the bible, it is most helpful to read through big sections of the bible daily. Personally, I prefer to read passages from various parts of the bible daily in order to see the powerful way in which Jesus unites all the pieces together.
I would suggest you begin with a daily reading plan that enables you to cover the entire bible in a year. My favorite reading plan is the M’Cheyne Reading Plan (http://static.esvmedia.org/assets/pdfs/rp.one.year.tract.pdf). It takes about twenty to thirty minutes a day if you read deliberately and slowly. I encourage you to read through the plan with a reliable study bible (ESV is my preferred version) so that you can get help in understanding some of the harder texts. Also, use a journal (electronic or hard copy) to record your impressions. Annotate the text to mark the verses you want to study further. Then, dive deep into those texts.
I would encourage you to set aside one day a week and give an extra half hour to your bible reading. For many people, this works best during the weekend. Go deeper with a meaningful passage you uncovered while reading through your plan. This could be a single verse or a longer paragraph or even an entire chapter. First, summarize the passage in your own words with a single sentence. Identify the big idea of the text. Then, run that meaning through a framework of questions that will help you apply the truth to your life. Are there new attitudes to adopt, affections to feel or actions to take? Also, how does the truth impact your worship (relationship with God), your community (your relationships with other christians) or your mission (your relationships with those who don’t yet know Jesus)? Write down specific and measurable action items. Then, with the help of the Holy Spirit, be a doer of the word.
The most challenging aspect of reading the bible can be just getting started. If this plan doesn’t work for you, make another. There are many different strategies that can be helpful. Pick one. Then stay with it. Don’t give up because you miss a day or even a week. Over the course of a few months, you will establish a lifelong routine that will bear fruit for all eternity.