The Bible is not the easiest book to read. In fact, it can be extremely difficult for someone new to its contents.
For example, if we read, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'" (Jeremiah 29:11) by itself, we will just see a motivational Bible verse. We would miss the significance behind the promise God makes to His people as they are conquered, captured, and thrown into exile.
If we take the time to look carefully at the Bible, that's when we begin to understand what God is really saying to us through His Word.
Here is a concise step-by-step guide to reading the Bible for all its worth:
1. Understand the Context
Who wrote it? When? Who was the intended audience? Build a bridge from Biblical times to the 21st Century so that you can understand what the author is saying and why. You can do this by consulting a good Study Bible, or by researching what experts have said about the passage you are currently reading.
2. Read Carefully
Howard Hendrix once said that we must read the Bible like we are reading a love letter: word-by-word, and over-and-over again. If you read the book of John as carefully as you read your note from Susie down the street, you’ll have a better understanding of who Jesus is than you ever have before.
3. Make Connections
Right now, you are reading an article on the All About Jesus blog. The whole reason we have this name is because we have come to understand that all of Scripture points to Jesus. Use John 1:1-18 as your framework to understand how God interacts with His people throughout salvation history.
"In the beginning was the Word [The Word refers to Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." (John 1:1-3)
Now go read Genesis 1 with this passage in mind.
4. Discover the Meaning
You are now prepared to begin drawing out what the text means. Use what you learned about the author, the time period, the audience, and the context of the verses to find out what God is saying to His people. This will also propel you down the path of understanding what it means for us today.
5. Find out Why it Matters
This is the part of the process where all the things you learned moves from your head to your heart. 1 Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." We need to discover how the truths of the Old and New Testaments apply to our daily life.
6. Read it Again
If you don’t quite understand what you’re reading, read it again. If it's still unclear, read it again. Sooner or later, the pieces will fall into place, and you’ll know more about that passage of Scripture than anything you’ve ever read before.