“The Bible is the greatest of all books; to study it is the noblest of all pursuits; to understand it, the highest of all goals.” – Charles C. Ryrie. Yes, the Bible is the most remarkable book the world has and will ever have. It is not easy to read it, let alone understand it. However, all who have the Holy Spirit in their hearts have the mind of Christ. Since the Bible is the word of God, we need the Holy Spirit, who knows God deeply (1 Corinthians 2:10;16), to understand it. Christians receive the Holy Spirit so that they can understand the freely given and revealed truths about God in scripture (1 Corinthians 2:12)
It Is Profitable and Desirable.
To want to read and understand God’s word is a very noble intention. However, until action is taken, this intention will remain an intention without any substantive value to you. Billy Graham said, “I have never seen a useful Christian who is not a student of the Bible.” A student is not one who desires to go to school but one who is in school. The Bible is so profitable that Paul wrote to his young friend Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 saying, “All scripture is breathed out by God, and it is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
The word of God is not only profitable but also valuable and sweet. The Cambridge Bible for schools and colleges renders Psalms 19:10 in such a captivating way; it says that the word of God is a treasure to be coveted, the sweetest enjoyment when received into the heart.
It Is Hard Work
Reading the Bible is work, and as such, we should be ready to be diligent and disciplined enough to read and study the scriptures. D. A. Carson said that when we read the scriptures, we are dealing with God’s thoughts; we are obligated to take the greatest pains to truly understand them and explain them clearly. In his opinion, it is not enough to understand God’s word but to also share what you have understood. Jesus left a command with his disciples and, by extension, all who believe in him, in Matthew 28:20 to teach all his commands to all whom we make disciples.
How Do You Read the Bible?
- Find a Good Translation – First, find a Bible written in a language you understand and one that you can read well. I recommend the English Standard Version; it is written in modern English, and it is essentially a literal translation. It tries to emphasise the word-for-word translation of the texts (Read more here).
- Find a Good Time – Secondly, to profit from your Bible reading, you should set aside time daily to read the scripture. Some people choose a time in the morning, others during lunchtime, and others in the evening. Choose a convenient time for you and set it aside daily for reading the Bible; if possible, let this time be the same for each day of the week. It is not the length of time that is valuable but the richness of mining the nuggets of God’s wisdom from the scriptures. This will help you develop consistency and discipline in reading.
- Journal as you Read – Thirdly, as you read the Bible, have a pen and a notebook beside you. Journaling what you read that day helps you track your studies and offers future reference. Always keeping that journal is beneficial; Oswald Chambers kept his bible study journal for a whole year, and later it was published into a book for profiting the body of Christ. Had some of the authors of the Bible books who had an express interaction with God not written down what they had heard from him, we wouldn’t have the Bible as well preserved as it is today.
- Ask WH Questions – Fourthly, as you read your Bible, learn to make observations. Get into the habit of asking the “WH” questions: who, when, what, and why. Who wrote this passage? Who is he addressing? When was this passage written (historical context)? What were the practices of the people during that time? Why did he write this passage? These questions move you from just reading to studying the Bible. As you ask these questions, you will start to notice sentence connectors like “for”, “however”, and “therefore”. You will find yourself paying attention to the punctuation of the text, and you will suddenly find yourself digging deep into the word of God. You will also notice that you are getting the answers to the “WH” questions. You will often read a passage more than once as you attempt to answer these questions. At the heart of this process is the attempt to establish what the author of this message is teaching (doctrine).
- Ask “What Does This Teach Me About God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit?” – Fifthly, there are two questions to ask yourself as you study the Bible. First, ask yourself, “What is the scripture teaching me about God (theology)?” In every passage in the Bible, there is something we can learn about the character and the person of God (John 5:39). Then, after establishing what the passage is saying about God, you should ask, “How is God expecting me to respond to what he is teaching me in this passage (doxology)?” This is the application bit of reading the Bible. In application, you are making the word of God come alive in your life. That word may be an encouragement, a correction, a rebuke against a besetting sin, a direction, or an understanding of God you did not have before. At this point, you will seek to worship God from what he taught you.
- Memorise the Main Point – Sixthly, go back to the passage and read the potion of verses with the main message. There is always a section in the passage that has the main message. Look for it and memorise it. Remember that when you hide God’s word in your heart, you will not sin against him (Psalms 119:11). Memorising scripture is a practice we should continue till we die. It is the greatest weapon against temptations. We see Christ using it against the temptations the devil put before him in the wilderness in Matthew 4:4;7;10.
- Meditate Upon the Main Point – Lastly, meditate on what you have studied. Take some time to think through what you have studied and learned. Ponder it in your head, and make it sensible and applicable to your situation and life. Think of God’s righteousness and glorious character as revealed in that passage. This is meditation. Meditation will lead you to a prayer of thanksgiving, confession, or supplications. Meditation must be continuous; you should continue meditating even after your studying time is completed. Meditate on the word of God all day and all night (Psalms 1:2).
A few words of caution: please remember that you are not seeking to research and write a paper but rather to learn and hear from God. Don’t be so absorbed in all the details that you forget that you are seeking to see God revealed in the scripture. Secondly, when you study God’s word, you must do so for yourself, not your friend, Bible study group, or church. Finally, avoid every temptation by the devil to think that what you are reading and studying is more suited for another person than you. You are the one God speaks to, so listen to him.