The Bible can be confusing. Overwhelming. Intimidating. From new Christians to long-time believers, I hear, "How do I read the Bible?"
I have a high view of this text we call the Holy Scriptures. I believe it to be authoritative. Here are some points on how to read the Bible. I didn't make any of them up. They are general guides that Christians have used for generations.
Big Story: When you’re in the thick of the jungle, a map tells you where you are. With the Bible, the grand, sweeping summary of the creed is like the 30,000-foot view. This helps us when we come down into the terrain of a particular book or verse of the Bible. No matter what part of the Bible you’re in, understand that it fits within the larger narrative of creation, redemption, and sanctification.
Christocentric: Jesus is always the center. He is the ultimate key to the whole story of Scripture (Luke 24:26,27). Even where Christ is not explicitly mentioned, we have him in mind. Whether in the Old or New Testament, we ask, “How does Jesus fit here?” “How does Christ relate to this?” Even without mention of his name, we see his work – presence, pardon, and power.
Scripture Interprets Scripture: Biblical texts, as diverse as they may be, are always woven within the larger body of the Bible. Scripture itself helps us understand specific texts (Acts 7). If you’re struggling with one verse, examine what’s around it. Compare it with similar or related verses elsewhere in the Bible (use a concordance).
Context: A healthy approach to the Bible takes its context into account. What’s around the text we’re reading? Who wrote it, who was it written to, and under what circumstances? It helps to know what it meant before we ask what it means.
Nouns and Verbs: Go back to English class. The Bible is language, consisting of nouns and verbs, subjects and objects. We believe that the Bible is first about God’s action, with him being the subject. So ask, “What is God doing in this particular text?” And second, “What are humans doing (or failing to do)?”
Scripture is the Church’s: Scripture is best understood, spoken, and read within the context of the community called the church (Acts 8:26-40). Reading, studying, listening, and discussing the word communally is vital. These words have always belonged to the Christian community, so listen to the word within these relationships. Don’t default to the internet. Discuss with a Christian friend, study in a small group, ask a pastor, or refer to a Biblical scholar who has devoted years of their life to understanding the Bible.
As we live with these sacred words, they change us. Whether in quiet reading or public preaching, they carry an undeniable power. By them, God reveals who he is. As we come to know him, we discover who we are.