Effective Bible Reading and Study Principles
To those with effective and faithful Bible study habits whom these things are basic and elementary to, this is still something you might use to help others in developing faithful and effective Bible study habits.
If we can’t understand a Bible passage, looking at the verses before and after should help a lot and maybe even clear up the matter. It’s been said that it’s safe to read the Bible with 20/20 vision. That is, especially consider the 20 verses before and 20 verses after the verse in question. Every passage will be best understood in light of the previous chapters and books, taken with the following chapters and books.
Therefore, it’s good to read the books of the Bible in order from Genesis to Revelation. Yet also never neglect either Testament. One solid Bible study plan then is to start in Genesis and start in Matthew at the same time. You’ll finish the New Testament first. When that happens, go over the New Testament again and again (while you simultaneously continue to read through the Old Testament) until you finish the Old Testament. Now you’re back where you started and ready to do it all again with everything you learned before with you to further build on.
Randomly reading certain passages in the Bible, in addition to reading the Bible in order, will give some variety to Bible study. Plus, it will help connect passages from books you likely wouldn’t have considered together before. This can also help you see things from a perspective that you may not have seen things from otherwise. A good time to do this is when you need to wait for a few minutes with nothing to do otherwise, like when waiting for a bus or waiting in the car.
Remember that the books of the Bible were not written with the chapters divided, so to understand the context of any chapter consider all that was in the chapter before that. And when you start a chapter, read again the closing verses of the previous chapter that lead into the chapter you’re currently reading (and if it’s the first chapter of a book, even then consider how the previous book ended as you start the book).
Much understanding and many lessons can come by considering how different phrases are either contrasted or equated to each other. Here are some examples.
Lesson: Forgetting God= not keeping His commandments. Deuteronomy 8:11: “Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day.” And another obvious lesson we can derive from Deuteronomy 8:11 is that properly remembering God equals, or is at least inseparable from, keeping His commandments.
Lesson: The opposite of the righteous (the wicked) are those who offend and work lawlessness. Matthew 13:41-43: “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity (anomia in the Greek, which means lawlessness); And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
Another key lesson from carefully considering a Bible verse: Authentic belief in Christ is incompatible with seeking the honor of men. John 5:44: “How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?”
It is good to go back and understand all references to the Old Testament as we read through the New Testament and Old Testament references come up. The two Testaments are in perfect unity, as Jesus made clear in Scriptures like Matthew 5:17-18 and John 5:45-47. When an Old Testament passage is referenced in the New Testament, we need to know what that Old Testament passage says, and understand the context it was said in, in order to properly understand the New Testament passage at hand.
When we see a Bible verse referenced in a book, a tract, or elsewhere that we are not familiar with we should look it up right then if possible. Or at the very least, make a note and look it up later.
There is no need to have great intelligence, a title, or a Bible college degree to understand the Bible. You need to be obedient to the revelation you already have, humbly and sincerely pray to God for revelation, be willing to put away your own ideas, be ready to change, and pay close attention in your reading. Those who truly learn of the Lord with an obedient heart will eventually be able to testify honestly with David (as simply a matter of fact- not a boast) that they have better understanding than many notable ancient theologians and people who have taught the Bible to them. Psalm 119:99-101: “I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts. I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word.”
There is no doubt also that David refraining his feet from every evil way that he might keep God’s Word was a key ingredient in how he gained such keen insight that he had more understanding than his teachers and the ancients.
We should seek instruction from the Lord every day and consider that as important as eating, if not more.
Matthew 4:4: “But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
Job 23:11-12: “My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.”
If you find yourself struggling to read Scripture at all, it may be that you need a spiritual checkup. Yet everyone has days where they don’t feel like reading the Bible at all. Don’t feel the need to read a lot of Scripture on days where it seems very difficult to read any Scripture at all. If you can only do a handful of Bible verses at a time, then that is way better than nothing. Get all you can out of a handful of Bible verses and maybe you’ll be able to handle more after you’ve done that. Likewise, if we really have very little time, we can still make room to read something from the Bible daily (or in the absolute worst-case scenario we can at least meditate on Scriptures which we already know well). It is essential to go forward in seeking God- and that is inseparable from living by His Word. And to live by His Word, we must seek the Word and let it confront us and instruct us continually. Even if we can only go forward slowly on our hands and knees, that is exceedingly better than being stagnant or going backwards. The Bible should be regarded as our home since it is the revelation which God has given of Himself and expects us to live by. Those who are hoping for heaven but don’t deal with God through the Scriptures continually are hoping for something which is not congruent and fitting with the way that they are living. Many read the Bible though without actually dealing with God as they do so.
Psalm 19:7-14 is the Bible’s commendation of the Bible. This passage describes the tremendous blessing and protection that come from taking heed to God’s Word. It is perfect, reliable, a treasure worth more than gold, a necessary warning, and gives great reward when obeyed. Psalm 119 is another commendation of the excellence of God’s Word. It is the longest chapter in the Bible, yet it contains great jewels. A true prayer regarding the right approach to reading Scripture is shown there, one that we should adjust our hearts to and make ours when we come to the Bible. Psalm 119:18: “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” For those who want to understand the truth, this prayer said honestly is a great place to begin. It also reflects the right attitude to have in going forward no matter how little or much we already understand. When we ask for sight, we need to look at and heed that which is before our eyes. Those who ask God for revelation while rejecting the revelation already in their range of sight mock Him. Yet those who are faithful to follow these principles in their Bible reading and study over a long period of time, while accordingly living out the Scriptural understanding which they have, will get an education which is better than the education which even the best two or four-year Bible college could ever in itself provide (though most Bible colleges do more harm than good through the falsehood and unnecessary confusion which they spread).
Matthew 24:35: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”
Isaiah 40:8: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”
Aaron’s email is: [email protected]