How to read the Bible with purpose

TRAVIS WILLMANN, CONTRIBUTING WRITER

As he entered his local Christian bookstore, Jacob saw a woman standing there gazing upon row after row of all the different types of Bibles that the store had for sale. At the time, Jacob did not think much of it and went on to find the book he was looking for. After finding the book, he headed toward the checkout line and he noticed that the same woman was still standing there amazing the different types of Bibles. Jacob, being a Christian for several years, had already well established himself in the reading of the Bible and thought he would offer his assistance to the lady. He introduced himself and discovered that her name was Mary and that she had recently become a Christian. Mary explained that she had a deep conviction to read the Bible but did not own a copy and that all the different types of Bibles were confusing to her. So, Jacob explained to her some easy steps to learn what the Bible has to say.

First, make sure that you choose an easy to read Bible. The Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek. Since this is true, you will want to start with a translation that is easy to understand. “Translations such as the English Standard Version (ESV) and the New Living Translation (NLT), are the easiest to read with keeping to the literal meaning of Scripture”, according to Crossway. The ESV is best for studying scripture because it contains a plethora of study material and it will give the importance of factors such as time, date, location and much more, according to The Bible Project. The NLT is best for reading scripture, because of its readability. However, both translations are great for anyone who is reading the Bible for the first time or for the 10th time.

Next, set time aside each day to read and study the Bible. This time can be in the morning or in the evening, but make sure it is enough time to really dig into the Bible and understand what you are reading. You do not have to start at the beginning of the Bible but do start somewhere. According to Crossway, the best place to start is the book of John, which gives John’s eyewitness account of the life of Jesus Christ. It may be hard to start at the beginning of Scripture because it can be difficult to understand. It is best to get in the habit of reading the Bible, then dig into the more difficult sections afterward. When you start reading the Bible on a daily basis you will find it easier to read and questions will come more easily to you. The time you spend reading Scripture will change your life and lead you closer to God. Elena Cooke, a student at Greenville Technical College, said, “More time that I spend with God, the closer I feel to Him and the more I understand how amazing He is.”

Third, start asking yourself some important questions while reading Scripture. Donny Mathis, a professor of Christian Studies at North Greenville University said, “There are a couple of important questions to ask when reading Scripture.” The first two of those questions are “What does this passage say?” and “What did this passage mean to its original audience?”. Mathis stated, “Words are important and the way the authors worded ideas in Scripture can give us context to what the authors were trying to convey.” Such as in the Lord’s prayer when Jesus starts off by saying “Our Father who are in Heaven, hallowed be your name.” The reason behind Jesus wording the Lord’s prayer this way is because he is showing and teaching the sacredness of the Lord’s name. As in today’s society and in Biblical times, words are important, and the way Biblical authors worded ideas meant just as much as the way we word ideas today. “These ideas also take new meanings when we look at who the author of the text was writing to”, said Mathis.

The ideas that authors of Scripture were trying to get across meant something to the original audience and it is important to keep that audience in mind when trying to discover the meaning of a Biblical text. After asking these questions, other questions that you should ask will start to jump out at you, like asking for the location of an event, who wrote the text and how this text applies to my life. Asking these questions is important because it will show you what the author originally intended the message to be, according to Mathis.

Next, have a notetaking tool ready when you read the Bible. You never know when the Lord will reveal a question or answer to you when reading Scripture, so it is always important to have a tool ready to take down that question or answer. It is also good to take general notes when reading Scripture, according to Crossway. This will not only help you study the Bible but also to learn more about the God you serve. You will be able to hold more information and go back and study the notes you have taken.

Finally, pray about what you have read. Mathis said, “Reading the Bible should bring about conviction in your prayer life. Our prayer lives can become so routine that we pray the same prayers every day and praying through scripture will help us get out of that routine and pray what the Spirit wants us to.” Praying is our direct communication with God and that communication should not cease as it says in Scripture. Praying through Scripture will show us what needs to be said during our prayer and help us to pray more truthfully.

After about a 30-minute conversation, Mary had chosen her first Bible and Jacob had made a new friend. After three months of listening to Jacob’s advice and reading Scripture daily, Mary began to see her life change. She learned more about God in the coming months about all that He has done for her. As for Jacob, he discovered that a new study Bible was needed and decided to start learning more about his Christian faith as well. Both Mary’s and Jacob’s faith grew stronger as so did their relationship. Three years later, Jacob and Mary got married and had kids of their own and are now teaching them the same steps to reading Scripture.