How to Read the Bible Effectively : 9 Basic Reading Rules
The Bible is not an ordinary book. It is the only revelation of God’s nature and will; it alone is “profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteous” (2 Timothy 3:16).
Who needs to read the Bible? Kings were commanded to read the Scriptures all the days of their lives (Deuteronomy 17:19). The Scriptures have been read aloud for the benefit of various groups of people (Exodus 24:7; Deuteronomy 31:9-13; Joshua 8:34-35; Nehemiah 8:1-3, 8, 18; Luke 4:16-21; Acts 15:21; Colossians 4:16). God’s word needs to be taught to families (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 2 Timothy 3:15). It must be read individually as well (Psalms 1:2; 119:11, 105; Acts 8:28-32).
The rules are;
We ought to read the Bible regularly. John Stott was right when he wrote to preachers, “Sporadic and haphazard dipping into the Scriptures is not enough” (1982). Neither is it enough for any Christian. Any child of God who needs to be convinced that he ought to read the Bible regularly is in spiritual peril already.
We need to read the Bible analytically. God intends for us to understand the Bible, and we ought to analyze the word’s component parts to better understand it as a whole. For example, the Bible student needs to understand the two major parts of the Bible—the Old and New Testaments. The differences between the Old and New Testaments are critical to “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
We would profit more, I believe, if we read the Bible systematically. A well-organized plan facilitates any objective—even Bible reading. Reading calenders, study aids, and valuable suggestions are numerous (see Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s [1813-1843] calendar for daily Bible readings, which averages four chapters a day from four different parts of Scripture.
We must read the Bible persistently. Bible reading can be discouraging for some, especially the new Christian. He may be distracted by what is not readily understood, rather than absorbing what could have been easily grasped. I recommend that you keep a notebook nearby while reading the Bible. Write down the reference of a verse that perplexes you, and keep on reading.
The previous guidelines help us accomplish this one: read the Bible completely. A plan best accomplishes this, and it certainly ought to be our resolve. Some books of the Bible captivate our attention more than others. Some are more immediately relevant to our spiritual needs. Yet neglect none of them. Read it; read it all—1,189 chapters. And read it over and over again, for “man does not live by bread alone” (Matthew 4:4).
The next several suggestions involve a mind set more than a methodology. They are vital for effective Bible reading.
We must read the Bible reverently. Bible reading is not a matter of Pharisaic self-congratulation. It should not degrade into a mere routine. For reverent readers, Bible reading and prayer are inseparable (see Acts 6:4). The regularity of our reading should not diminish our respect for the words breathed out by God. To the contrary, I believe that the persistent reader will become more reverent through the passing of time.
Because this book is from God for our utmost good, we ought to read the Bible expectantly. We must realize that the Bible will do for us what it can do for any person (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Read the Bible fervently. Mortimer J. Adler in his work, How to Read A Book, begins his chapter on “How to be a Demanding Reader” with a yawning observation. By the way,
We need to read the Bible collectively. As friends, dating couples, married couples, entire families, small groups, congregations, we can read the Bible together and all be better for it. On October 4, 1982, Ronald Reagan signed a joint resolution passed by the United States Congress. While it is worthy of being quoted in its entirety.
Resolve, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President is authorized and requested to designate 1983 as a national “Year of the Bible” in recognition of both the formative influence the Bible has been for our Nation, and our national need to study and apply the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.
We desire and pray that our nation’s leaders would resolve to do what this august body resolved. We, however, who are not wavered by infidelity nor distracted by the entanglements of the world, what have we resolved? The Bible demands more than lip service from members of the Lord’s church. It requires our attention in addition to our affection (Psalm 1:2). Become, or continue to be, an effective Bible reader. That is exactly what God wants you to be.