Reading the Bible is perhaps the most important thing a person can do. But how do we read the Bible effectively? People come to so many different conclusions as to what the Bible means that it can seem impossible for an individual to read the Bible and find the truth. Let’s look at the three most common ways we approach Bible reading and then consider the one question that as at the heart of effective Bible study.
Three Common Approaches to Reading the Bible
- The most common way to approach reading the Bible is to treat the Bible like an instruction manual. We turn to it looking for guidance on what to do. The Bible gives us many commands that are to be obeyed. But if this is all we look for, we are left wondering why follow the instructions in this book and not one of the so many others that offer us guidance.
- Another common approach to reading the Bible is to treat it like a yearbook. When we open an old yearbook the first thing we usually do is look for our own picture. We turn to the Bible to find out what it says about us. We cannot properly understand ourselves apart from knowledge of the Bible. But if all we look for is what the Bible says about ourselves, we are missing the most important parts.
- Sometimes we approach the Bible like a history book. This happens when we read to learn about what God has done in the past. Now we are starting to get to the heart of the matter. The Bible is about God after all.
But what if the Bible can help me understand how God is at work in the world, and even in my neighbourhood, today?
While each of these approaches has value, none of them get to the heart of how to read the Bible. The Bible contains instruction, but it does more than tell us what to do. The Bible is more than a yearbook, and reveals so much more than just who we are. And while the Bible contains a tremendous amount of history and shows us what God has done, it is still more than that.
The best way to read the Bible is to look for what it tells us about God. We will understand the message of the Bible most clearly when we realize who it is all about. While the Bible tells us a great deal about ourselves, we are not the main characters in its story. God is the main character of the Bible’s story. We will get the most out of our Bible reading when we read to learn about who God is.
So the next time you open your Bible, why not choose a passage from the New Testament and start reading with this question in mind:
What does this passage of the Bible tell me about who God is and what he is like?
I find when I ask this question first of whatever passage I am reading, the message of the Bible becomes more clear to me. However you choose to read the Bible, the most important step is to get started. I encourage you to open your Bible today and ask God to help you get to know who he is.