How to Read the Bible – First Things First
Any study on how to read the Bible, must first discuss the reasons for why reading the Bible is important. First Timothy 3:16 says that the Bible is “God breathed,” which means that it is God’s words to us.
The Bible is reliable and inerrant. Unlike other holy books, the Bible gives us numerous ways to check its accuracy through the numerous prophecies, scientific facts, and historical details it contains. The Bible is also relevant to our lives today. It answers the big questions of life: why am I here, what is my purpose, how can I find meaning, is there life after death, why is the world full of evil? The Bible also gives us a measuring stick to identify false teaching and error.
The Bible is not simply a book to be read. We are called to study it and allow it to influence our lives. “Keep on being obedient to the word, and not merely being hearers who deceive themselves. For if anyone hears the word but is not obedient to it, he is like a man who looks at himself in a mirror and studies himself carefully, and then goes off and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the one who looks at the perfect law of freedom and remains committed to it—thereby demonstrating that he is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of what that law requires—will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22-25).
How to Read the Bible – Basic Steps
There are some basic steps to take when learning how to read the Bible. It is a unique book!
Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand. John 16:13 says, “Yet when the Spirit of Truth comes, he’ll guide you into all truth. He won’t speak on his own accord, but he’ll speak whatever he hears and will declare to you the things that are to come.”
Read the context of the verse. The context (the verses surrounding the verse you are studying) is very important. In it, you will find to whom the verse is written, why it was written, who wrote it, and the issue the author was addressing.
Understand cultural differences. Depending on what section you are reading, the Bible was written 3400 to 1900 years ago. Try to remove your 21st-century lenses and remember the culture of that time.
Recognize the type of literature you are studying. There are portions of the Bible that contain history, law, songs, prophecy, letters, poetry, and so on. If you read poetry the same way you read history, you will become confused.
Discover the application. How do the verses you are studying apply to your daily life? What did you learn about God or Jesus? What questions did it raise?
How to Read the Bible – Where should I start?
A common question we receive from those who are just learning how to read the Bible is, “Where should I start reading?” As I said earlier, the Bible is a unique book. It doesn’t read smoothly from cover to cover without a basic knowledge of its message. Instead, it is a collection of books that were written by several authors. If this is your first time reading the Bible, we encourage you to start in the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. If you choose Mark, you’ll find a fast-paced book about the life of Jesus and what He did. In John, you will find out what Jesus said and who He is. Any of the Gospels will help you understand Jesus’ life and ministry.
When you are finished with the Gospels, read some of the Epistles—Romans, Ephesians, Philippians. You’ll find helpful direction on how to live a life that honors God. Next, consider reading Genesis, where you’ll learn how God created the world and the impact of sin on the world.