This is the time of year people begin to think about their goals for the coming year. If one of your goals is to be a better student of the Bible in the New Year, here are 10 things to consider:
- Read the Bible through during the year. If you’ve never read the Bible all the way through, this should be your number one goal for the coming year with regard to your Bible study. It’s impossible to rightly understand God’s word apart from a holistic view of the Bible. If this seems intimidating, remember that it can be done by reading less than ten chapters each day. The key is to have a plan. Don’t just start with Genesis 1:1 and say “I’ll read a little each day until I’m done”. Have a plan and follow it. One of the best is Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System.
- Choose one book of the Bible and read an in-depth commentary on it. When you visit a new city for the first time, you don’t want to explore it totally on your own, you need a tour guide. Commentaries perform much the same function for books of the Bible. It’s like having a tour guide to show you the best places to eat or the most important sites – theologically speaking. If you need some suggestions, try here.
- Read without stopping to look up things you don’t understand. This helps get the flow of a passage or book. Paul’s epistles, for example, were originally letters and would have been read in one sitting.
- Read stopping to look up things you don’t understand. As a pastor at our church is fond of saying, the Bible was not written to you but it was written for you. Those to whom it was written lived in a different era and sometimes we need to understand things about that era to best understand a passage or book. So if you don’t understand a word or a custom, take time to investigate.
- Invest in a good systematic theology book. Two of the best are Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem and The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way by Michael Horton.
- Familiarize yourself with BibleGateway.com. This site allows you to view a Bible passage in multiple translations (even multiple languages if you like) as well as view notes from several commentaries (click the “Study This” button in the upper right when you’re in a passage). One of the most powerful features is the ability to find something in the scriptures using key words. Great for those “I know it’s in there somewhere” situations when all you can remember is a few words from a passage.
- Study the Bible with a friend. You can put any of these tips into practice along with someone else. For example, if you and a friend each buy a different commentary for a book study, you can benefit from two commentaries for the price of one. Partnering up is especially helpful if you’ve decided to read the Bible through during the year. A bit of accountability or even friendly competition makes reaching your goal much more likely.
- Attend a Bible-believing and teaching church each week. To be a serious student of the scriptures, you must belong to a church that takes them seriously as well. Look for a church where the pastor exposits the Bible each week. This will be a powerful supplement to your individual or small group study.
- Do a teaching outline of a passage or book. Even if you never intend to teach the Bible to others, thinking about how you would teach a particular passage if you had to will help you learn it as well. Write down the main points of the passage and then think about how best to explain those to another person. Who knows, if you practice this one enough, you may begin to desire to teach the scriptures to others.
- Pray. Lastly and most importantly, remember that the best resource for understanding and studying the scriptures is God Himself through the Holy Spirit. Ask God to open your eyes to the truth of His word and for the things you read to sink deeply into your heart and mind making you more and more like Christ.
What has been most helpful in your study of the Bible? I’d love to hear some other ideas.