Suggestions On How To Read The Bible
Posted by Job on March 15, 2007
It is my belief that the Holy Bible, no matter what version that you use, is not for the lost, but rather for the found. Why? First, if you are unsaved, the only thing that you need (or that does any good) is the prayer to be saved, and that does not require any knowledge or belief other than the contents of the prayer itself. (There are plenty of other versions of the salvation prayer, including some in the Bible itself, which can be easily found with a little research or by asking someone else who is truly saved.)
Next, the Bible simply cannot be understood without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Realize that much in the Christian walk is paradox. The Bible’s text should be literally read, taken, and believed, true. But it is also true that the Bible has allegorical meaning. The Bible is the Word of God. But it also represents the Word of God, which God himself will reveal to you while you are reading it, and while you are not. There is One God, One Word, One Faith, and One Baptism, and everyone who is truly saved will have the same understanding. Yet, some understandings of the Bible and the Word of God that will be different for different people; indeed saved, fire – baptized people WILL read the same scripture and get different meanings, understandings, and revelations. As a matter of fact, the SAME person may read the same scripture over and over again, and often get a different meaning, understanding, or revelation. Despite the differences – and because of them – it is all one continuous consistent unchanging Word of God, which is God himself. It and it alone should you put your trust, and that trust should be total, absolute. Not only that, you are duty bound by your God to obey his Word and put it in action at the time and in the manner that he tells you to, no matter what it is, no matter what the consequence.
The Bible is more than just a set of instructions, stories, parables, and explanations. Through the Bible God reveals to you Himself. Knowledge of God gives a person great power, and God is not going to give that power out to people who, knowingly or unknowingly, will use it to do harm. For that reason, the true meaning and power of the Bible is hidden to all except those who it is revealed to by God himself through the Holy Spirit. Even if a person with the Holy Spirit tried to reveal the meaning to someone without it, they would not understand it even if they sincerely wanted to and sincerely want to be saved. As a matter of fact, there are many instances where a person with the Holy Spirit cannot reveal certain meanings to others with the Holy Spirit! Indeed, even among fire – baptized completely dedicated individuals, there are going to be some things that will be revealed to some but not others. And yes, there are some things in the Bible and of God’s word that will never be revealed to anyone on this Earth.
And that is why though Satan, his demons, and his human agents on Earth may know every word in the Bible and will use it against you; to tempt you, it will not and cannot work unless you allow it. No matter how familiar they become with the Bible and all its translations, interpretations, and implications, it will have no power. It will have no power because they are walking outside of the source of the power, which is God Himself. And it will have no power because despite all their knowledge and understanding, they truly have no knowledge and understanding.
So, to read the Bible, you must first get saved and receive the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, the things that you will read in the Bible – and the things that others tell you is in it – has the great potential to confuse you, and even become a source of temptation and detriment. I am not saying that you should not read it, but rather read it knowing that you need something else in your life, heart, and spirit to truly understand. I would liken it to an elementary school student reading a college textbook. You may – indeed you most likely will, if you are sincere about your desire to love God – get some level of understanding and benefit, but you will still be wanting.
After you are saved and receive the Holy Spirit (or perhaps after you get saved) you should ask the Lord to guide you in what you should read. You should pray before you start reading, pray during your reading, and pray after you finish. If there is something that you do not understand, pray and ask God its meaning. If you do not get an answer (or are unsure) just continue reading.
Now when you are specifically being led by the Holy Spirit, God will tell you what to read and when. Otherwise, there is no set way to read the Bible. Despite what you may have heard, there is absolutely nothing wrong with starting from the beginning and reading the Bible cover to cover. In fact, I strongly recommend it! If you are newly saved and looking for a place to start in lieu of or in addition to reading the Bible cover to cover (which I do believe that all Christians should do at some point and also more than once), I highly recommend the Book of Psalms. The reason is that much of the Psalms contain clear, easy to understand prayers to God and praise to God that are intense and powerful. Indeed, you can recite many of the Psalms to serve as your own prayers and worship! If you are new to praying or have concerns about whether you truly know how to pray effective, I recommend that you start with The Lord’s Prayer and then go to the Psalms.
I recommend for the newly saved to stick with the same version of the Bible. There will be plenty of time to read other versions. Going from one to another, especially when trying to cross – reference, may be time – consuming and confusing. I do recommend, however, occasionally checking another version or two in order to try to attain a better understanding of selected passages that you really desire to get a better grasp of before you move on. Which version to read? More on that later. Bible study guides, references, concordances, interpretations, and the like will be helpful, but be aware that they are no substitute for what the Holy Spirit will reveal to you. Indeed, the potential for being mislead into spiritual harm by those is much greater than reading the Bible itself without any reference, so watch and pray.
That brings us to the many versions of the Bible. There are two great Internet references to help you among the competing Bible versions: http://www.biblegateway.com and http://www.bible.cc. The former has the many versions of the Bible. The latter lists several versions (at the time of this writing 7) simultaneously a verse on a page at a time.
As you can probably already tell, I strongly prefer the King James Version. I also sincerely believe that some Bible translations are misleading, some to the point of harming even a sincere reader. However, I will not go so far as to recommend the King James Version or tell you which versions to avoid. That is something between you and your God and is definitely an issue to pray on. I will only say to use care, caution, vigilance, and due diligence, especially if you are newly saved and/or not yet fire – baptized with the Holy Spirit with evidence thereof. (If you wish to know about the evidence of having the Holy Spirit, the Book of the Acts of the Apostles is an excellent starting point, and you will arrive to the first mention very quickly).
Last but not least, be both unmovable and humble. No matter what level you have obtained in your walk with Christ, have complete confidence that not only is the Word of God entirely true, it is all the truth that there is. Have a strong level of faith in what you have personally read for yourself and what understanding you have received, and have faith that what you have read and received is sufficient for you to put your trust in and live by. God knows that you haven’t gotten the whole story yet; indeed he is expectantly waiting and desirous to reveal it to you! Furthermore, do not engage in any dispute or disagreement on the Bible, and do not arbitrate any dispute. Fighting over the Bible and its meaning is one of the main ways that Satan has used to prevent people from becoming true Christians. Further, true Christians who engage in such behavior run a great risk of their own spiritual destruction. The Bible itself says in Timothy 3:9 “But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.” The Word of God is completely true and absolute. There is nothing to debate over. There is nothing to arbitrate. The Bible itself stands on its own, and so does what the Holy Spirit reveals to any and all that has it. Sincere questions and discussions on the Bible and its meaning are fine, indeed highly recommended and may be extremely beneficial. In many cases (but not all) there is nothing wrong with hearing someone else’s beliefs on God’s word. After all, true preachers, teachers, evangelists, etc. impart God’s word to the world, and God commands all of us to do so. But do not argue. Do not try to force your opinion. People have to freely accept the Word of God AND earnestly seek it themselves! Indeed, only attempt to correct someone if God himself through the Holy Spirit tells you to.
So go forth, read the Bible, and receive all that God has for you in it. Father in the name of Jesus Christ, I ask that all who seek and desire you and read the Bible be saved, filled with the Holy Spirit, and receive guidance, understanding, and revelation from you and you alone. I ask that their reading the Bible be an integral part of pleasing you to get into heaven, and that such be their only goal in reading the Bible and of all that they do. I ask that everyone who desires to follow you will have access to the Holy Bible, and I have faith that for those sincere who lack access that you will make a way. In the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.