Introduction: As Christians, reading the Bible can be one of the most empowering and rewarding activities, not only as a way to strengthen and enrich one’s faith, but also to learn more about the life of Jesus Christ, the center of Christian faith.
Gospel Narratives: To begin, the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) provide an in-depth narrative of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. As stories of Jesus’ life are one of the most important aspects of Christianity, reading the Gospels is a great place to start.
In a study done by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, it was noted that two-thirds of the Bible contains narrative and/or history, and this percentage is even higher in the Gospels than many other books. The stories in the Gospel provide incredible insight into the life and teachings of Jesus.
Additionally, the Gospels contain some of the most influential parables and teachings of Jesus Christ. The parables of the Good Samaritan and Prodigal Son are two of the most famous stories in the Bible, and they can provide more than just entertainment- they provide insight into Jesus’ teachings and what it truly means to live a Christian life.
Old Testament & Wisdom Books: After immersing oneself in the Gospels, exploring the Old Testament is the next step to strengthen a Christian’s faith. The Old Testament contains a wealth of stories that can offer just as much insight into Christian faith as the Gospels. They tell of the creation of the world, the battles between good and evil, and the power of God’s covenant with Israel.
Readers may find themselves drawn to some books in the Old Testament more than others. For those looking to gain a deeper understanding of the different emotions and conflicts that arise with life and faith, the Book of Psalms and the wisdom book of Proverbs can provide ample understanding.
The Psalms contain the emotions and thoughts of those praying, ranging from joy and passion to fear and searching. Together, the Psalms help create a type of prayer book full of stories that can be used to enrich one’s faith and encourage prayer. Proverbs can be interpreted as both stories of wisdom and reflections of God’s power in the world.
Pauline Epistles: The Pauline epistles found in the New Testament are written letters from the Apostle Paul to churches and individuals. They teach core Christian truths, such as the nature of Jesus, the meaning of faith,and the expectations of the Christian believer in society. Paul’s epistles offer important lessons about living a Christian life and how to spread the Gospel to others. They are also a source of personal inspiration and direction in faith for many believers.
Knowledge of the Bible: It should also be noted that although reading and understanding the Bible can be difficult and lengthy at times, the more one reads the more likely they are to be understanding of the scriptures. As Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina noted in his book How Jesus Became God, “To read the Bible well requires more skill than to read any other book. But the more you read it, the better you will get at understanding its many nuances.”
Comparisons Between Testaments:
Purpose of the History: In comparing the two Testaments, one could argue that the purpose of their histories is significantly different. While the Old Testament is largely focused on the physical world, the New Testament is more aware of the spiritual world, particularly that of Jesus and the creation story.
In addition, the Old Testament is very focused on God’s role in history and the importance of laws, whereas the New Testament is focused more on grace and forgiveness, along with the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Progressive Nature of the Bible: As discussed by theologian Charles Hodge, the Bible can be seen as a progressive narrative.
In the Old Testament, God reveals himself to be a gracious father, providing guidance to his chosen people, the Israelites, in the form of the Law. This law, however, is incomplete, with the ultimate fulfillment coming in the New Testament.
In the New Testament, Jesus completes the law, offering a fuller expression of God’s grace as well as a pathway to redemption and ultimate salvation. This progressive narrative makes it easier to understand the Bible’s underlying theme and meaning, and provides a helpful starting point for further study.
Benefits of Bible Reading:
Strengthens Christian Identity: One of the most fundamental benefits of reading the Bible is its ability to strengthen one’s Christian identity. By immersing oneself in the stories, parables, and teachings found in the Bible, readers find strength and comfort in the power of Jesus.
Simply put, reading the Bible makes it easier for a Christian to stay aware of their role in Jesus’ story and to delve deeper into the source of their faith.
Improves Prayer Life: Another significant benefit is that reading the Bible will often improve one’s prayer life. As noted earlier, the Book of Psalms is a compilation of all types of prayers, reflecting the complex emotions of life and faith.
Reading the prayers and meditating on the meanings can help readers gain insight into their own feelings and emotions, leading to more personal and powerful prayerful experiences. As a result, the quality of one’s prayers can be greatly improved by taking the time to read the Bible and reflect on its power.
Deepens Understanding: Finally, taking the time to read and study the Bible will also provide a greater depth of understanding when it comes to the stories and teachings of Jesus. By reading the Bible, readers gain an appreciation for the life, ministry, and teachings of Jesus, and further establish and strengthen their own faith.
Reading the Bible also allows readers to gain insight into the meaning behind each story, allowing them to deepen their understanding and knowledge. As a result, those who take the time to read and study the Bible have an advantage when it comes to engaging in meaningful conversations with others and deepening their own relationship with Jesus.
Analyzing Bible Passages:
Guided Interpretation: When analyzing a bible passage, it is important to recognize that interpretation can be a difficult and complex process. To help with this, it can often be beneficial to use a guided bible study resource such as the “Transformative Bible Studies” from the Center for Biblical Studies.
This type of resource provides a framework for understanding the meaning behind each scripture, beginning with the historical context, understanding the structure of the passage, and exploring the implications of that scripture for the reader. It also emphasizes the importance of applying the scripture to our lives, which can be a powerful exercise in deepening one’s faith.
Practical Interpretation: Beyond using a guided resource, it can also be helpful to look at the practical implications of each bible passage.
In other words, what can this scripture teach us about faith and what can it offer us in our daily lives?
For example, the parable of the Good Samaritan can teach us about sacrificial love and how to help those in need, while Paul’s letter to the Ephesians can teach us about humility and unity in the body of Christ.
Taking the time to provide a practical interpretation of bible passages can be a rewarding exercise to strengthen one’s faith and deepen one’s understanding of scripture.
Making Bible Reading Easier:
Devotionals & Commentary: One of the most beneficial methods for making bible reading easier and more enjoyable is to use devotionals and commentaries. Devotionals are short, easy-to-read books that provide short comments on different bible stories and verses, while commentaries are longer books that offer in-depth analysis and interpretation of passages.
Using one of these resources can be a great way to help readers better understand what they are reading.
For example, a devotional on the Parable of the Good Samaritan might provide insight into the meaning behind the sacrifice of the Good Samaritan, while a commentary on the same parable could provide an in-depth analysis of the practical implications of this parable on a believer’s life.
Bible Study Groups: Another way to make bible reading easier is to join a bible study group. Being part of a group of like-minded believers can help to provide support and encouragement as one navigates through the bible.
In addition, group members can share their own interpretations and insights, leading to a more in-depth understanding of scripture. As a result, bible study groups can provide an invaluable resource for those looking to deepen their faith.
Start Now: Whatever the approach, taking the time to read and understand the Bible can provide many important benefits for Christians.
From providing insight into the stories and teachings of Jesus to deepening one’s faith and understanding, reading the Bible can be a rewarding and enriching activity.
And with so much to gain, now is the perfect time to pick up a bible and begin reading!