How to Read the Bible

“Optimal health requires optimal nutrition. The same is true spiritually speaking. Without sufficient and regular biblical nutrition, our inner lives begin to suffer the consequences. We become shallow and selfish, more demanding and less gentle, and quick to react impatiently, rashly, and angrily. These are telltale signs of inner malnutrition.”

—Excerpt from Tyndale’s description of Swindoll’s book Searching the Scriptures

Have you ever felt lost when wanting to start reading the Bible? So much that you just choose to not start at all? Reading the Bible is an essential element of learning more about God and getting the spiritual nourishment that we need. The problem is that many of us don’t know where to begin. Just to look through the average Bible is overwhelming. It is often thick with tiny print, and it contains many different sections. Where do we begin?

The best suggestion is to get a Bible that is comfortable to handle, in a translation that is easy to read and understand. This may be a physical Bible from your local bookstore, or an app, such as YouVersion, on your phone or tablet. Some translations that are good choices are New International Version (NIV), English Standard Version (ESV), or the more readable New Living Translation (NLT). If you want to know more about which Bible translation to choose, visit this helpful link.

Where to Start

First, you need to know how to get around your Bible to study it. All Bibles are then divided into the Old Testament (before Jesus was born) and the New Testament (after Jesus’ birth). Those testaments are sectioned by books, then chapters, and finally by verse. The New Testament is a great place to start. Here are a few suggestions:

  • • James: This book is practical and down to earth.
  • • Mark: This book is one of the four Gospels and is more action-oriented. “Immediately” is an operative word throughout this book.
  • • Other New Testament Suggestions: John, Luke, Acts, and the letters written by Paul (I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I and II Thessalonians, I and II Timothy, Titus, and Philemon).

Save Romans, Hebrews, and Revelation to wait to read later. Remember to read thoroughly and consider each word. The Bible is better understood when you take the time to truly reflect on each verse.

Start a Reading Plan

Once you have started reading the Word it is good to move into some formalized reading plan because it will be more systematic. The Bible does not have to be read cover to cover like a novel. Some of the best plans give a wide variety of themes and contexts each day. Choose the one you are comfortable with or that speaks to where you are in your faith journey.

Before reading, begin by praying, “God, let your Holy Spirit show me what I should take away from this passage today.” It’s handy to keep a notepad to jot down Scriptures that stand out, or simply copy verses into a notes app for reference later. Make a personal observation about why the passage spoke to you and how you can apply it. In other words, the goal is to hear God in the passage and then take an obedient step to what you hear. Some days it is more clear than others, but as you read and study, look for steps to have your life look more like Jesus.

Don’t Go Alone

This Bible verse found in Ecclesiastes 4:9 is a valuable principle in life and even in Bible reading: “It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth.” It’s always better to be walking with someone as you read. Find a friend to follow the same plan as you, then meet weekly and discuss passages that stood out or spoke to you. Doing this provides a deeper understanding and accountability for obeying what God is telling us. To go even deeper, consider joining a Home Team or other small group where the Bible is the focus to grow in your understanding and application.

Reading the Word of God is always where we begin to improve our spiritual health. These verses are good ones to memorize and guide you as you begin your reading journey.

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” –Psalms 119:105 NIV
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” –2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV

Resources for Deeper Study

Additional & Resources for Individuals:

Resources for Small Groups:

Author’s Reading Plan Recommendation:

M’Cheyne Reading Calendar—It has Scriptures (from different sections of the Bible) in four columns for each day, which will take you through the Bible in a year. If it is overwhelming, you can do two columns one year and two the next.

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Milt Pippenger, Ed.D.

Milt Pippenger is a retired school administrator and educator. He has taught The Bible and Bible study methods to adults for over 50 years. This includes teaching Bible study methods at a Christian college. He continues studying the Word and developing Bible study lessons in his retirement. He attends the Westlink Campus with his wife Maribeth.