How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
For all of you who grew up in Sunday School, you have probably heard of and sang these words many times before: “read your Bible, pray every day and you’ll grow, grow, grow”. And in obedience to the song and your teacher, many of you probably started and tried to read your Bible.
In my case, I started reading my Bible at age 8. I chose to read the book of John because my favorite verse, John 3:16, can be found there. After reading the very first chapter, I was scratching my head because it was too hard to understand.
As I grew into teenage years, the encouragements to read God’s word from preachers and teachers were still there. However, like many of you, my problem of understanding what the Scriptures truly meant, also, never left. I knew that the Bible was God’s word but it was like an encyclopedia of hidden meanings written in otherworldly words which only pastors can uncover.
Indeed, the Bible is of great importance in a believer’s life. In fact, it is invaluable. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us of its importance for believers of Jesus Christ:
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (NLT)
However, many of us are struggling hard in reading God’s word. How can we then be taught, trained, and corrected by the Bible if we do not understand what it means? Let me boil down this struggle of many believers to a question; how should we suitably read the Bible in order to get the most out of it?
To answer this question, here are 5 Noteworthy Steps to Suitably Read the Bible.
- Begin with a Prayer
The Bible reveals that our God is the ultimate standard of generosity. This generosity was on display when He sent His own Son to this world dying for sins of unworthy humanity and offering the gift of eternal life to those who believes. The book of James also tells us that He gives wisdom to those who asks of it: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)” Therefore, when we read God’s word, we should always ask the generous Giver of wisdom so that it will be given to us.
- Understand the Historical Background of the Book
Before jumping right away into a verse or group of verses, it is always a good practice to read the historical background of that book you want to read. Many of the Bibles today have this background written at every beginning of a book. If your Bible does not have one, you can always check online and visit reliable websites.
Historical backgrounds are key to understanding books in the Bible because it tells us of (1) who the original recipients of this letter, (2) the situation that they are in, and (3) the intention of the author in writing to them. This knowledge will prevent us from having the wrong understanding knowing that every verse in the Bible is written primarily for someone else, not us.
To give an example, Ron Cabagnot preached to us about the book of Hebrews. He said that it was written specifically to a group of Jewish Christians. At that time, they were experiencing intense persecution from their community because of their faith. The author of Hebrews then wrote this letter to encourage them not to give up for this will verify the genuineness of their faith in Jesus. Knowing all these things will then shed a guiding light to the chapters that are written within the book of Hebrews.
- Read the Book Chronologically
Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason writes these words, “Never read a Bible verse. That’s right, never read a Bible verse. Instead, always read a paragraph at least.” (Koukl, Never Read a Bible Verse). There is a high possibility of taking a verse out of context if we read a verse out of context. It usually results to misinterpretation which would cause far greater damage to our lives.
The best way to understand a book of the Bible is to read it starting from the 1st chapter and onwards so we may understand the whole story. The basic rule is this: for books that contains stories, read the whole story, and for other genres, at least read a paragraph. Our goal in Bible reading is always to keep the author’s intention in mind and empathize with the situation of the original recipients.
- Construct the Biblical Principle
Knowing that we are not the primary recipients of the Bible should tell us that every words in the Bible is not directly applicable for us. Instead, we must construct a Biblical principle that is applicable to all believers regardless of culture, time, and geographical location.
An example of this is in the famous verse of Philippians 4:13, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” We have heard of countless people, including preachers, applying these words directly into their lives, families, and careers. Knowing the original recipients’ situation and the author’s intent through reading the previous verses and chapters (context), we will realize that the biblical principle is not about being able to do everything for personal gains. Instead, the biblical principle is this: “Faith in Jesus will give a believer the strength to be contented and persevere in whatever life brings.”
A good biblical principle is one, understandable sentence brought out from a story or paragraph in the Bible. This principle can be applied to every believer of Christ living, whether he/she is living in the slums of New Delhi or in a Penthouse in New York.
- Make Personal Applications
Having done the work mentioned above we can now personalize the Biblical principle so that we may apply it in our lives. Howard Hendricks writes that, “Observation and Interpretation without Application is Spiritual Abortion!” (Hendricks, Living by the Book). Without application, our brains will be full of knowledge that will result into pride instead of having a wisdom that produces humility.
It is important to personalize the biblical principle so that we may live out God’s principles in our day-to-day life and decisions. This calls for a lot of reflection and evaluations of our character, choices, and goals in life. God calls us to “live by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). This means that believers should live out what we have heard, read, and understood about God, Jesus Christ, and faith.
We have heard that the Bible is described as the Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. I find these to be an insufficient definition, but it does give weight to its importance. The Bible is irreplaceable in a believer’s life. Therefore, we must get the most out of our reading of it so that we may lead lives of righteousness that brings glory to God.