“… our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand…” (2 Peter 3:15b–16a, NIV)
I smile every time I read these words. If you’ve ever read through something in the New Testament and sat there scratching your head, you’re not alone. Even the great Apostle Peter had a difficult time understanding some of the things the Apostle Paul wrote! There is much in the Bible that seems clear to us, but there is also much that is difficult to understand. So, to help us get started on this journey of discovery in God’s Word, here are 11 tips for reading the Bible.
- Pray before, during, and after you read. Reading the Bible is having a conversation with God. He inspired the book, so why not talk to Him about what it says? Remember, we’re not just reading historical stories, we’re interacting with a living God who still speaks today.
- Get a Bible buddy. This will not only help you be accountable and stay on your reading, but you can also read the same book/passage and discuss it together.
- Get a study Bible. Study Bibles are filled with a wealth of information that will help open the meaning of God’s Word to us. Read the introductions to each book before you read the book, and look for the major themes and ideas. When you come to a difficult passage, read the footnotes for additional insight. My #1 recommendation is the Life Application Study Bible, which you can buy in many different English translations.
- Be consistent. Reading the Bible can be hard, and learning to recognize God’s voice in Scripture takes time and practice. The more you read and re-read, the more you’ll begin to see the flow and meaning of the text, and over time, it will become more apparent. Don’t give up!
- Look at a passage in its context. What came just before this passage? What follows immediately after? How does that affect the meaning?
- Stick with a translation. There are many different English translations, and it’s important to stick with one that you can easily engage with. To save money, try reading the same chapter in several different English versions for free here. When you find one that resonates, that might be your version to buy. My top recommendations are the NIV, NLT, ESV, or CSB (we mostly use the NIV in worship at LakeView).
- But browse others from time to time. Even though you’ll have your primary translation (mine is the NIV), it’s still a good idea to sometimes read a passage in another version. Sometimes a different English translation can open up the meaning of a passage from a fresh perspective.
- Try listening, not just reading. It’s only been in the last 200 years or so that Bibles became affordable and available to a majority of people who could read. For most of Christian history, most Christians engaged God’s Word by listening to it. My favorite audio Bible is Inspired by the Bible Experience, although you can get others for free.
- Get an app. There are many Bible apps available, and one of the best is YouVersion.
- Use a devotional. Devotionals often unpack a verse or phrase in a thought-provoking way. My favorite devotional is My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. The Daily Audio Bible is a great podcast & app audio-devotional.
- Search online, but be careful. Google will find everything, good and bad alike. In my experience, there’s more bad than good. The best biblically sound online resource I’ve found for Bible and theology questions is GotQuestions.org. You can type in a question about a specific verse or topic, and almost always find at least one answer.
My prayer for the week is that we all get inspired to dig into God’s Word!