8 Tips for Reading the Bible

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
John 5:39-40 ESV

It is safe to assume that few people have much experience in reading ancient documents like the Bible; therefore, in concluding this series, I hope to provide some advice on how to read the Bible.

First, it is important to understand that the entire Bible has one great theme: Jesus Christ. Even though He is never mentioned by name in the Old Testament, Jesus is the center and purpose of all Scripture. In fact, He said so Himself: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life (John 5:39-40).” In that context, only the Old Testament had been written; therefore, Christ explicitly stated that the Old Testament is entirely about Him.

Second, consider the genre. Though the Bible is a united book, it is also a library of books. Books like Genesis, Samuel, Matthew, and Acts are narratives. They tell history and should be read as such. Psalms and Proverbs are collections of poems and wisdom respectively, so they are unique from the other books of the Bible. Ecclesiastes is a philosophical treatise. Song of Solomon is an epic love poem. Romans and Hebrews are letters systematically explaining the gospel to western and eastern mindsets respectively.

Third, love it, memorize it, and meditate on it. If anything could be said about reading the Bible, fill your life with it. Psalm 119 is the longest chapter of the Bible, and it is dedicated to declaring the excellence of the Scriptures. As you read, pray that God would give you delight in His Word. Make an effort to store it in your heart by memorizing it. Do not read for a few minutes and go on with your day. After memorizing, meditate upon the Word. Roll its words around in your mind, thinking deeply upon God’s thoughts.

Because the Bible is God’s Word to humanity, we should strive to know and understand it more and more. From a human perspective, the Bible is gigantic, so it can be quite intimidating to begin reading the Bible. Here are some suggestions for how to begin your journey in the Scriptures.

First, resolve to read the Bible every day. Even if you find yourself not understanding much, continue to read it. The more time you spend with the Bible, the more you will learn.

Second, begin with the New Testament. The entire Bible is crucial for us as God’s people, but some books are easier to read than others. Start with the New Testament, reading the life of Jesus, the history of the church, and the letters of the apostles.

Third, ask questions about what you’ve read. Paul’s list of the profitability of Scripture from 2 Timothy 2:2 is a good guide. If the Bible helps us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training in righteousness, ask those types of questions. What does this text teach me (about God, humanity, sin, etc.)? Does this passage reveal any sin or faults in my thinking? How might God use this text to correct me? How might He use it to train me toward righteousness?

Fourth, buy a good study Bible. There are many good study Bibles in book stores, but the best currently is the ESV Study Bible. Study Bibles provide comments, notes, articles, and other resources side-by-side the Bible to help you better understand what you are reading. Other study Bibles worth considering are: the NIV Zondervan Study Bible, the John MacArthur Study Bible, and the Reformation Heritage Study Bible.

Fifth, and most important, pray for God to help you understand His Word. This literally cannot be overemphasized. There is no commentary, study Bible, or sermon that will ever replace the heart transformation of prayerfully reading God’s Word for yourself.


Exhaustion, Sermon Prep, & Leviticus (Jan. 13, 2017)

I’m Exhausted- How Do I Recharge My Body Without Neglecting My Soul

This episode of Ask Pastor John deals with how we spend our leisure time to the glory of God.

The Necessity of Prayer in Sermon Prep

Do we give our study proportional prayer? I often hear ministers ask for prayer for their preaching, but rarely do I hear requests for their study. I am guilty of doing this very thing. Furthermore, we tend to weight our own prayer for the sermon towards the delivery of it.

No More Channel-Flipping Sermons

So pick a section of scripture, and stick to it. Put down the clicker. Maybe change the channel once, from Old Testament to New, or vice versa. But hunker down. Tell the story, make the argument, sing the song. If I had to make a rule of thumb, I’d say three different texts is plenty, but two is ideal.

Read Scripture: Leviticus

This video is certainly not new, but as I recently began reading Leviticus in my personal time in the Scriptures, I found it very helpful and worth sharing.

Why Are Bible Reading Plans Important?

A yearly systematic reading of Scripture is full of wisdom and benefit, so even though it is not commanded in the Bible, I thoroughly suggest resolving to do it. Thus, I will attempt to briefly outline some benefits and suggestions for Bible reading plans here.

1. Having a plan is helpful.

While there is no mandate to follow a reading plan, it can be incredibly helpful to do so. The Bible is composed of sixty-six books of various times and genres, so the simple task of choosing which book to read can be quite daunting.

Also if we do not have a set plan, we are likely to read certain books heavily while ignoring others entirely.

I mean, who would turn to Leviticus over James if given a choice?

We believe, however, that all of Scripture is God breathe and profitable (2 Tim. 3:16), even the difficult to understand parts. Therefore, for most people, it is beneficial to make a plan and stick to it throughout the year, committing ourselves to read all of Scripture.

2. Don’t give up.

If we let them, reading plans can be massively discouraging whenever we fail to complete them. Genesis and Exodus are interesting reads for beginning the year, but Leviticus is often the reading plan killer. Let me offer a few suggestions.

First, when things seem to get boring, keep going. Buy a good study Bible or find other resources to help understand difficult books like Leviticus better. Just don’t stop reading.

Second, make a set time of your day for reading and defend it. There is literally nothing more important than listening to God speak, which is what happens when we read His Word. Make your reading time a non-negotiable piece of your schedule.

Third, if you miss a day, keep going. Either catch up or be a few days off. Both options are better than stopping entirely.

3. Some suggested reading plans.

In the digital age, there is no shortage of plans from which to choose. For a massive selection, go to bible.com or download the Bible App. Personally, I have gone through both the Blended Plan and Chronological Plan.

Also, I have created my own reading plan, called , which has daily readings in both Testaments, Psalms, and Proverbs. You can download or print the pdf here: Wisdom & Worship Reading Plan.

This year I will be following along with the Bible Project as they go through their Read Scripture series. It goes through the storyline of the Bible with a daily Psalm to read, and they will create videos to watch throughout the year to help better understand the books being read.