How to Read the Bible

Posted On January 06, 2021

Written by Dr. Ben Shaw, professor of Old Testament at Reformation Bible College

The Bible is a challenging book to read. There are many stories that perhaps you know from Sunday school; but there are large portions of the Bible that regularly are omitted in Sunday school lessons for young people. As teenagers, though, it is probably time to start reading the Bible on your own. And that means not skipping over the hard parts. Here is some advice on how to read the Bible.

First, read it prayerfully. If we want to understand what someone has said, we ask them to explain it. As the Bible is God’s Word, it is only right for us to ask Him to explain it to us.

Second, read it regularly. It is easy to skip reading for days at a time, yet, in doing so, you lose the sense of where you are in the story. Follow a regular reading plan, such as the one included in Tabletalk magazine.

Third, read it meditatively. As you read, select a verse or verses that really stood out to you. Make them part of your thinking throughout the day. Ask yourself why those verses stood out and what they said to you. Ponder them in the larger context of what you have been reading.

Fourth, read it corporately. We are not simply individuals. As Christians, we are part of a body. There are two ways to read the Bible corporately. First, read along with what your pastor is preaching. Find out week to week what passages he will be preaching from. Read and reflect on those passages before he preaches on them. Then continue to think about them after you have heard his sermon. What did you learn? What did he help you to see? A second way of reading corporately is to do so with your family and friends. Join together in reading the same plan. Then set aside time regularly to discuss what you have read.

Finally, read it expectantly. Read it expecting to learn to know God better. Read it expecting to learn more about who you are as one of God’s creatures. Read it expecting that you will not understand everything that you read. After all, “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all” (WCF 7.1). But read it knowing that the essential things are clearly set out in some place or other. So read your Bible. Expect to meet God in His book.

If you are looking for a new Bible reading plan, you can browse this list of effective plans on Ligonier.org.


Dr. Ben Shaw is professor of Old Testament at Reformation Bible College.