Understanding the Bible

1. Pray before you read.

In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul tells us that we can only understand the things of God through the power of the Spirit. We can read and read and read the Bible all day long, but only the Spirit can reveal to us the wisdom and truth that God has for us. We should come to the Bible humbly, first admitting that we need the Spirit to help us understand.

2. Read more than a few verses at a time.

This goes back to the Bible not being an encyclopedia. Books of the Bible were written to be read in only a few sittings (at most). In fact, it is a rather modern idea to that take isolated verses or passages and apply them to our lives; books of the Bible were often read in large chunks. Paul’s letters, for example, were read aloud in their entirety to churches. It is always beneficial to read at least the chapter before or after the passage to help you understand the broader idea. Buying a reader’s bible might help you here, because it removes the chapters and verses (which the original Bible manuscripts didn’t have), allowing you to read it like a book and get lost in the story rather than simply trying to meet your verse/chapter quota for the day.

3. Use a study Bible.

I cannot stress this point enough: buy a study bible to pair with your reading. Study Bibles contain tons of notes that help explain each passage of the Bible. Not only that, but they offer cross-references to help you see other passages that relate to or are the foundation for the passage you’re reading. You don’t have to look at every note and study the Bible like a textbook, but this will help you better understand confusing passages and words. Study Bibles take some of the mystery out of Bible reading, and help relieve some of the anxiety we all feel when we open its pages.

4. Read in community.

The Bible is not meant to be read alone. The original audiences both heard and read the Scriptures in group settings as communities. God’s Word is for us. There is no such thing as solo Christianity, and therefore there is no such thing as solo Bible reading. Yes, we should read alone and in private prayer, but we should also read with others, soaking in the wisdom and encouragement God has given them through the same Word. Reading God’s Word with God’s people is an opportunity for every part of the body to consider how we should function together on Christ’s mission.

Whatever you do, just read the Bible. Try starting in the Psalms or the Gospels, which are rather straightforward books. The Psalms teach us how to worship God and pray to him, even in the distress of life. The Gospels tell us stories about our Savior. But eventually, don’t avoid Leviticus, Revelation, and other more “peculiar” books. They are all meant to transform you by setting your eyes on their ultimate Author.

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