Before considering different ways of studying the Bible it’s a good idea to get the big picture first. How do we do that? By reading it all the way through while asking ourselves, “What does this tell me about God?”
One of the biggest benefits you’ll get by reading the Bible completely through is you’ll see how God relates to people over an extended period of time. Baptism of the Holy Ghost I always tell people to reserve judgement about what they read, and not to be impatient when they come across parts that are hard to understand. Things become a lot clearer when the Bible is taken as a whole.
This is the exact way Jesus did it when He appeared to the men on the road to Emmaus after He’d been crucified, and had risen from the dead. The Scriptures say, “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Luke 24:27
This means that Jesus, rather than turning to a couple of “proof texts” to explain the events which had occurred in Jerusalem to Cleopas and his friend – took them on a broad tour through the entire Bible.
It says, “beginning at Moses and all the prophets” He expounded to them… “
Let’s see – Moses wrote Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and possibly Job. Add in “all the prophets” and you’ve got most of the Old Testament (the NT hadn’t been written yet). This is saying Jesus gave a Bible study on a certain topic (His birth, life, death and resurrection) which took Him through most of the Bible which was in existence at that time.
TAKEAWAY TIP # 1: A great way to go through the Bible – whether you’ve read it before or not – is to get a chronological, one-year Bible. This type of Bible makes it much easier to read through because it’s broken down into daily readings. That’s the 1-year part.
Also, by getting one which is chronological it takes the events from start to finish in the order in which they occurred. Many people aren’t aware that the Bible isn’t compiled in the exact order in which the events occurred. The chronological comes as close as possible to exact order, with some speculation about the exact time of certain books, e.g., Job.
The second thing that makes it easier is the translations. There are 2 versions of a Chronological, 1 Year Bible. They are the New Living Translation (NLT) and the New International Version (NIV). I much prefer the New Living Translation because it reads like a story and makes it really easy to stick with it. I’ve gone through the NLT twice this way and thoroughly enjoyed it each time.
# 2) Get the Right Mindset
Another aspect of “Getting the Big Picture” is having the right mindset before you begin your study. Doing this takes an understanding of what makes the Bible different from any other book – so let’s look at that.
Here are a few interesting facts about the Bible that make it unlike any other book in human history:
First, the Bible claims to have been inspired by our Creator – think about that!!! (more on this below)
- It was written over a period of 1500 years
- It had 40 different authors
- The authors were from 19 different occupations
- It contains history, poetry, drama, & prophecy – all telling the same story from start to finish
- The Bible tells us who we are, i.e., where we came from; why we’re here; and where we’re going
- Unlike other books of antiquity the Bible records the true record of it’s heroes and it’s nation. It’s honest about their defeats when they happen and it openly discloses the faults of it’s heroes. Again, this is different from other books of antiquity, which “doctored” their stories, covered up their defeats, and ‘deified’ their heroes
INSPIRED BY YOUR CREATOR
Before going on I’d like to elaborate on the first point I made above – the claim of inspiration.
The Bible claims it was inspired by God, i.e., the One who made us. Rather than take it for granted wrap your mind around that for a second then ask yourself –
Q. What if that’s true? What if the Bible really is a communication to us from our Creator? Wouldn’t that have profound implications?
A. I believe it would.
Here are some fascinating quotes I’ve taken from Isaiah chapters 45 & 46. What’s amazing about them is they claim to be God Himself speaking to us in the first person. Did you catch that? God Himself speaking! The Bible, several times in Isaiah chapters 40-46, is filled with incredible claims. It claims our Creator is speaking. I’ve gleaned just a few to give you a sample of what’s said in these chapters:
“Thus says the Lord who made you, And formed you from the womb, who will help you.” Isa 44:2
“I am the Lord, and there is no other; There is no God besides Me.” Isa 45:5
“I have made the earth, And created man on it. I – My hands – stretched out the heavens, and all their host I have commanded.” Isa 45:12
“Look to Me and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of my mouth in righteousness, And shall not return, That to Me every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess.” Isa 45:22,23
TAKEAWAY TIP #2: We lead busy lives and it’s so easy to treat the Bible as an ordinary book, or to view its reading or study as a routine task we’ve obligated ourselves to do. So here’s a tip… Before you begin get the right mindset.
Stop and think about the book you’re about to open. Before you open it, say a short prayer to God and ask Him to guide you in your understanding. Use God’s Word as the focal point of your prayer.
For example, in Isaiah 55:11 God’s Word says, “My word shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and prosper in the thing for which it was sent”. Ask Him to accomplish in your life exactly what He wants His word to accomplish, and to prosper His word in your life for the exact purpose for which He sent it. That’s how you make the Word the focal point of your prayers. You’re praying for what He said in the text to happen in your life.
So one way you can do a topical study through Scripture is to compile a list of texts referring to your topic.
In the above example I used God’s Word as a topic, so, if you wanted to get creative and dig a little deeper you could go through the Bible and compile a list of texts on God’s Word. There are TONS of them you can use but here’s a few for starters: Mt 4:4; Prov 2:1-6; Ps 119:49-50, 67, 81, & 130.
Besides all the great Scripture you’ll be learning and applying in your life this can help keep you from feeling daily Bible study is too routine.
# 3) Get Objections Out of the Way
Sometimes when I mention studying the Bible people will raise objections. Here’s a few of them, which I’ll follow afterwards with suggestions on to deal with them:
- The Bible’s too intimidating
- It doesn’t make sense to me
- No one knows what’s right, that’s why there’s so many different denominations
- The Bible isn’t relevant to our culture today
- and many more
TAKEAWAY TIP #3: Deal with any objections you may have to studying the Bible.
Write down any thoughts you’re having that can affect you in a negative way, then think them through. For example, here’s a few responses to the objections listed above.
“The Bible’s too intimidating”. That’s OK! We feel intimidated about a lot of things we do when we’re first getting started. Did you feel intimidated the first time you drove a car? Had to give a speech in school? Asked a girl out on a date (or agreed to one if you’re a gal)?
“It doesn’t make sense to me”. Hmmm. Did chemistry make sense the first time you attended? Or algebra? Or a foreign language you learned? Of course not! The Bible is like everything else. The more you spend time with it the more sense it’ll start making to you.
“No one knows what’s right, that’s why there’s so many different denominations.” You’re right, there are a lot of denominations. But you don’t need to join them all. Nor do you need perfect understanding. What’s more important than that is having a right heart and a right spirit. Just concentrate on what does seem right, and stack the odds in your favor by going on the weight of evidence.
For example. Let’s say I want to know what happens when a person dies. I can take a Bible concordance (basically an index) and trace my topic through all of Scripture. If I find 30 texts on my topic, and 24 of them are saying one thing, but 6 of them seem to be saying something else, I can go by the weight of evidence and feel safe going with the 24, and use them to try to better understand what the other 6 are saying in their context.
One reason for so many denominations is people not using the weight of evidence to formulate a doctrine, but going on maybe 1-6 texts on a topic while either being ignorant of or ignoring everything else.
“The Bible isn’t relevant to our culture today.” Really? When was it ever relevant? Just joking (kind of) but think about it like this – there always has been, and always will be, a tension between the ways of God and the culture around us. The Bible says, “Come out from among them and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing”. 2 Cor. 6:17. It also says, “we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth” 1 Pet. 2:11 And, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” Rom 12:2 While cultures are different principles will always remain the same. As will the tension between the church and the world (just as it is for the individual – see Gal 5:17 “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh“)
I hope you feel you got some good tips on how to study the Bible. If so, be sure to comment below and share your input.