Throughout Christianity today, there is a growing problem of Bible ignorance.
Often in letters from Civil War soldiers, you will read some incredible insight into the Scriptures. The average person of the 1860s had a theological knowledge that outshines many ministers today.
Moving forward to the twenty-first century, I have written columns pleading with Christians “to know what they believe and why they believe it.” Many churchgoers know the fundamental church doctrines, but an explanation greater than “That’s what the Bible (or preacher) says,” is beyond them. Today, some Christians do not own a Bible; believing the verses flashed on the screen each Sunday is enough to get them through.
God wants more from you than that. He commands, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God…” (2 Timothy 2:15).
First off, no matter your education level, you can study. Also, do not sell yourself short, thinking the Bible is too difficult. If Christ is your Saviour, the Holy Spirit will open the Bible up to you. If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Saviour, the deeper meanings of Scripture are unattainable (1 Corinthians 2:9-16). Not understanding the Bible is more often a spiritual problem than an intellectual one.
The study of Scripture will take patience. Reading through the Bible once will not make you a scholar. Think of it this way — imagine you have a math book covering everything from one plus one to the stuff Albert Einstein used. This math book, however, is not in any particular order. All grade levels from first through graduate school appear mingled throughout the pages.
As you read through it the first time, you will get some value out of it, learning as you go. There will be much you do not understand or even notice, but the second time through, you will grasp more, the third time, even more. I have read the Bible dozens of times, preached thousands of sermons, studied for countless hours, and hardly a day goes by where something new does not jump off the page. The Bible is an endless well of growth.
Reading and study are not the same. God commands us to study (2 Timothy 2:15). The Bible has examples of people reading Scripture, but I have not seen any place where God commands us to read. With that said, reading is implied in the command to study.
If you wish to read the Bible through in one year, you can accomplish this by reading five chapters on Sunday and three chapters on all other days. This method can lead to extreme variables in time each day — chapters of the Bible range in length from two verses to 176.
The method I use, which takes roughly 20 minutes each day, is to read 100 verses. Count forward and round off at the end of the chapter closest to 100 verses. Some days you may only read 80; on other days, you may read 120; again, round to the end of the chapter that gets you the closest to 100 verses. With this 100 verse method, if you read six days a week, you will finish the Bible in just under a year. I read Monday through Saturday. Sunday would be a good day to take notes of the sermons preached in church and checking out the verses used by the speaker.
When it comes to studying, I like to explore by topic. Sometimes, the idea of the topic will come through your daily reading. Sometimes God will lay something on your heart. Sometimes, life situations will guide your study. If you are having financial difficulty, studying what the Bible says about money is a good idea. Maybe a sermon or Sunday School lesson raises your curiosity about a topic encouraging you to dig deeper. Perhaps someone else has a need, and you wish to help; this may cause you the see what the Scriptures say about his or her life situation.
How to study a topic? A concordance is a tremendous help. If you are old school and enjoy turning a page, Strong’s exhaustive concordance published in 1890 is still widely used. Many Bible apps can look up a word, and everywhere it occurs in the Bible. As mentioned above, if you desire to study finances, look up related words like money, debt, usury, gold, silver, and the like. Read every passage about said topic. You can follow this method with places, people, life situations, and more.
Reading outside books is also helpful, but caution is needed there. There are good teachers and false teachers. Ask your Pastor or another spiritual leader you trust for the authors they trust. When reading books outside of Scripture, have your Bible handy; read the passages the author uses.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” — 2 Timothy 2:15.