Bible reading is a natural part of most Christian’s lives, and for good reason. But how should one read the Bible? Here are some principles that I have found from the Bible itself:
- View the Bible as what it really is. It is God’s Word. Insofar as the translation adequately translates the original words, every single word is a word from God. Every time that you hear or read God’s Word, God is speaking to you. Furthermore, view the Bible as your spiritual food. The Lord Jesus Christ once quoted a Scripture that said, “man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” God’s Word is the believer’s spiritual food. With it, we are sustained. With it, we grow up in respect to salvation. With it, we are nourished.
- Use the Bible for its intended purposes. As your spiritual food, and God’s Word, you should look to no other written source for the pure milk of God’s Word. Therefore, use it as your spiritual food. Feed on it, and do not look to any other source for God’s Word to you. Do you want God to speak to you? Then read or listen to God’s Word. Do you want spiritual food? Eat God’s Word. Take it as food. Get it into your mind. Chew it. Enjoy it. Taste the different flavors of God’s Word, feel the textures that it brings into your mind. Then, swallow it by believing it. Accept it. Embrace it. Let your mind digest its content, its implications, its nutrition for you. Then, use the energy that it gives you to live it out. Use it for the verbal fuel of your life.
But what exactly does this look like? First of all, you should pray, if you remember, before you even read God’s Word. Remember, if you don’t have what God has promised to you if you ask for it, then it is because you don’t ask for it. If you ask for something, but do not receive it, then you are asking with the evil motivation of spending that thing on your pleasures. However, God commands us in His Word to pray without ceasing, to devote ourselves to prayer, to pray at all times with all prayer and supplication and thanksgiving. Without prayer, Bible reading may be simply reading words. With Christlike prayer, Bible reading is actually feeding on spiritual food, and learning directly from God.
Secondly, devote yourself to the apostles’ doctrine, as the early church did in the book of Acts. As the Holy Spirit commands us through the Apostle Peter, long for the pure milk of the Word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation. You must actually have a longing to learn God’s Word before you can use it as your spiritual food to grow in becoming more like Christ. You must live your life on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. If you are longing for God’s Word, then you are going to set aside time to read it. Devote yourself to it.
Thirdly, plan out your reading very carefully. Be wise about what exactly you read from the Bible. The basic order that I suggest is this: The gospel of John, 1 John, Mark, Luke, Matthew, Acts, the rest of the New Testament in its normal order, and the Old Testament in its normal order. In addition, make sure you are reading the Bible every day. After your daily prayer time, try to devote yourself to reading the Bible before you do anything else. When you actually read the Bible, try to read as little as possible without breaking up the flow or argument of the book.
Fourthly, take your time with reading the Bible. Attempt to completely understand what the passage that you’re reading meant to the human author(s) that wrote it. Attempt to understand every word, every relationship that every word has to every other word, the relationship that every sentence has to every other sentence, the relationship that every paragraph has to every other paragraph, and, if relevant, the relationship that every natural section of a Bible book has to every other part in that book.
Fifthly, if you don’t understand everything, use cross references to see how the Bible explains itself, and/or use more good translations of the Bible. I recommend the NASB, but the ESV, the NIV, the HCSB, the CSB, the KJV, and the NKJV are all okay to use. Before you look at any commentaries or study notes, use God’s Word itself to understand God’s Word. The Holy Spirit has provided us with everything that we need to understand His Word in His Word. Remember, the Holy Spirit is the author of every single word of the original languages.
If you still don’t understand a passage completely, then use a Greek or Hebrew lexicon, or another resource like Strong’s concordance, that will allow you to understand the original meaning/meanings of the original Greek or Hebrew words. Remember not to take just any definition as the correct definition. You must be able to reconcile the meaning of a word with the grammatical context, the structural context, the literary context, the Scriptural context, and the historical context. If you need help with figuring out the meaning of a word, try Scripture first, and man’s words second. If you need help after trying Scripture, try good commentary, study notes, and/or sermon transcripts to attempt to understand the meaning. However, always seek to compare all assertions/truth claims to God’s Word. Never accept a truth claim without finding clear support from God’s Word.
After you have understood a passage as best as you can with the time that you have, seek to apply it to your life. Try to answer these questions: how does this passage apply to me? How does it relate to me? What should I do in response to it? What are its implications in my life?
Finally, don’t just leave it at the knowledge of how you ought to apply the passage to your life. Be a doer of the Word, and not a hearer only, deceiving yourself. Obey the commands. Believe the truths. Live in light of the implications. In short, conform yourself to God’s Word by striving to be more like Christ. Let the word of Christ richly live within you, and think on things above, dwelling on things that are pure, lovely, praiseworthy, good, true, and right, always being ready to pray.