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An open Bible spread open on a table.

Read the Bible

There are all sorts of ideas out there for those who want some guidance in how to read the Bible. Here are a couple that I hope that may give you some ideas to get started. The idea, though, is to get started! Be in the Word, God’s Word, and enjoy your communion with God.

A Brief Overview

The Bible is made up 66 books, divided into two Testaments. There are 39 books in the Old Testament, and 27 books in the New. They make up six types of literature.

The books in the OT contain the Law, Wisdom Literature (poetry, proverbs and wise sayings) History, and Prophecy.

Books in the NT contain the Gospels, History (the Acts of the Apostles—a history of the early church), Epistles (letters) and Prophecy.

The Bible was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which means that reading this Book is the best way to get to know our God, the Author. Scripture says that we humans may get to actually learn to know the Holy, Eternal God of forever.

We can find Him! He is there, for those who will seek Him. He promises to be found. And when we find Him, we find joy such as we’ve never known.

The Bible speaks for itself, when it comes to the benefits of knowing God. Read with me this one passage (of many) extolling the benefits of knowing God, from 2 Peter, the last letter Peter wrote before He was executed for his faith:

Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,

as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,

by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

2 Peter 1:1-4

Bible Reading Plans

The Gospel

If you are new to Bible reading, here is a great way to get familiar with the Bible: get to know the Gospel! The word “gospel” means “good news”. Interestingly, the term was used by Augustus Caesar, right before the birth of Christ.

This Caesar was pretty excited to usher into the world a brand new idea, a “gospel”, of well, himself (whom he touted as a son of the gods). His “gospel” was the Pax Romana; the Roman peace.

God’s Gospel was peace with God, through Jesus Christ. Funny thing is, nobody thinks about Caesar in that context today. The Gospel is such amazingly Good News, that anything Caesar had in mind has been mightily pre-empted!

Note how Mark utilized the term as he opens his Gospel, the Gospel of Mark:

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Mark 1:1

Notice what Jesus says, as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew:

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Matthew 24:14

So a great way to learn about Jesus is to read the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Early Church

Dr. Luke wrote both “Luke” and “Acts”–both of them were letters to the same guy, “Theophilus”. These two books seamlessly follow the life of Jesus, then march forward right into the early church events. What happened after Christ ascended into heaven? Then what happened? Well, Luke tells us in his history, the Book of Acts.

So for this plan, you’d start with:

  • Luke, followed by
  • Acts, followed by
  • Matthew
  • Mark
  • John, and then
  • the Epistles.

This plan allows you to start right out with the story of the Jesus (Gospel of Luke), then get an introduction to the early church. You then get to read more about Jesus’ life and work from the other three Gospels. Finally, by reading the Epistles, you get to read the letters written to the places you read about in Acts. These letters were written to us, as believers in Christ. Essential learning, these, in living out our Christian lives for God.

Bible in a Year

A popular way to read the Bible is using a “Bible in a Year” reading plan. These plans are widely available online. There are “Bible in a Year” Bibles in both print and auditory form. These are also available in apps.

The idea is that the entire Bible is split for you into somewhat even chunks of about 5 or 6 chapters each day. This is an easily accomplished goal, reading the Bible in a year, in less than 30 minutes a day. It’s a good option for helping readers stay “up with” their daily reading, and has the added bonus of fulfilling the goal of reading the whole Bible within a year’s time.

Chronological Reading

A fun way to read is to get yourself a “Chronological Bible”, whereby you read the story of the Bible as it unfolded in time, instead of the order as they books appear in our modern Bibles. That is a fascinating way to get the historical flow down well.

A nice feature of this program is that you would read the prophecy books at the same time that you are reading the historical events that the prophets were speaking about. For example, in the histories of Israel’s and Judah’s kings, most of them were wicked. So, God would patiently send yet another prophet to warn them of the consequences of their idolatry. The prophets would warn the kings to turn from their evil ways. So in a chronological system, you’d read the prophetic book interspersed with the historical books. Pretty cool.

Categorical Reading

My personal favorite way to read the Bible, is to take into account the various kinds of literature that make up the Bible. Some years ago I heard about this plan, and it has become my go-to for quite some time. (Maybe it’s because I’m sort of a global learner, and I like my finger in lots of pots at the same time.) You do what works best for you!

The idea is this: You read 1 chapter in each the 5 of the types of literature that make up the Bible. You read just these 5 chapters every day, if you want to go through the entire Word in about a year. (If you combine the Law with the History, then that counts for one section, and that is how you get just five sections from the six.) I keep one marker in a History section, one in Prophecy, one in Wisdom Literature, one in the Gospels, and One in the Epistles.

I wish I knew who the genius people were who invented this method, so I could thank them and give them credit!

When I learned about this idea, I bought some ribbons. Then I taped/glued the five ribbons to a piece of cardboard. My Bible has a soft-bound leatherette sort of binding, so I was able to slip the narrow piece of cardboard into the spine of the Bible. Those ribbons, plus the two ribbon markers that came with my bible, gave me 7 ribbon markers! (The extra 2 ribbons are for whatever passages I am enjoying in addition to the five category ribbons).

It has been super useful, to have bookmarks that won’t fall out when you move your Bible around from room to room, or take it outside the house.

The reason that plan works so well for me, long-term, is that I am never too far away from the value that each category of Scripture offers. At any given point, I can be regularly reminded of the lessons in the Law and History, while also continually reading the words of Christ in the Gospels, while I am never far from good solid teaching in the Epistles, hearing the heart of God in the Prophets, and remaining edified through the Wisdom/Poetry sections.

Make It Work!

The most important thing, is to read. No matter how you approach the Bible, the thing is to approach it!

Once you’ve read the Book through, and you get an idea of what is in it, you gain a familiarity with the Word. Bible studies are more fun, and sermons make more sense, since you read the “Whole counsel of God” by reading the whole book.

Sadly, many Christians go on sort of a “hunt-for comfort-scriptures”, or perhaps a “claim-my Scripture-promises” search. You don’t want to read and re-read the same familiar verses, out of context. You want to become so familiar with the truths of Scripture that you become a student of the Word, and begin to want to study the Word for yourself.

The Next Read-Through

At this point in my life, my practice of Bible reading usually involves a meditational approach. After you’ve read the whole Word, it’s then super valuable to slow down, sometimes reading only a few chapters, or maybe only a few verses a day. That is because they are that impactful. One slows down, and meditates on the truths, following up perhaps with research. What did Jesus mean, when He said that? What might this bit mean?

Reading the Word in Communion with the Holy Spirit

This brings me to the invitational aspect of reading the Word. Here is verse in the Psalms that is a good prayer to recite when you sit down to read your Bible. It is this:

Deal bountifully with Your servant,
That I may live and keep Your word.

Open my eyes, that I may behold
Wonderful things from Your law.

I am a stranger in the earth;
Do not hide Your commandments from me. Psalm 119:17-1

Inviting the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to His Word is a really great prayer. Someone showed me these verses when I began my study of the Book many years ago. I encourage you to read the Bible in a conversational way, asking God to help you understand those passages you don’t get, or showing you where you can grow in Him.

Tell Him what feels hard, or confusing. If, as you read, the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin, just confess right then and there, and accept the forgiveness and the fresh start He offers.

Eclectic

Another great way to start reading the Bible, is: just start! Any ole way you choose! Peruse the book. What seems intriguing? What catches your eye? What is your pastor currently preaching on? Is Romans being studied? Then, dig into Romans! It’s a great book!

Daily Wisdom

Here is a fun way to read the Psalms and the Proverbs: if you read 5 psalms a day, and 1 chapter of proverbs a day, you will go through both books in just a month! (There are 150 psalms, and 31 proverbs, so it works well for most months!) I’ve enjoyed that plan quite a bit. Staying in the Proverbs increases your wisdom input, while familiarizing yourself with the Psalms introduces you to many heartfelt human emotions expressed to God in song.

How do you read the Bible? What is your practice? What would you recommend to someone just starting out, or who is in a sort of “slump” regarding their devotional time? Please share!