Learning how to read the Bible can be a daunting task, especially for new Christians. Despite its challenges, learning to interpret and digest Biblical text in an effective way is arguably the most important part of the Christian life. God uses the Bible to speak to us, and we as Christians will never be able to understand who God is if the only time we hear Scripture is during church. One big reason that people step away from the truth is because people are told false truths by people they trust, such as pastors or well respected Church members. In order to combat the lies Satan puts in the heads of believers, Christians must read Scripture for themselves so they can distinguish God’s truth from falsehood. Although the importance of studying the Word is often stressed by the Church, new Christians are often left without a clue where to begin.
This is a guideline of how to begin reading through Scripture and understanding it as God meant for it to be interpreted. Keep in mind, that this is not a foolproof method. Every person learns differently; there is not a standard method for learning about the Bible. This is just a starting point for those who are looking to learn more and dig deeper into the Word!
1. Pray over your time in the Word and ask God to speak to you. It is important to remember that ultimately, it is through the Holy Spirit that humans are able to understand the Word of God to begin with. His Word is alive and never returns void.
Therefore, we must remember that it is ultimately not our interpretation that matters, but what God reveals to us in our studies.
2. Read the text several times. It is important to read the text several times because it helps you process what you are reading. I find that sometimes reading the text more than once helps me focus on the text what it is intending to say.
3. Consider reading the texts in several different translations. This allows the reader to gain perspective when reading a biblical text. Some translations are closer to word for word translations from the Greek. This means that each individual word was translated from the original language to the language of the reader. This can help a reader gain clarity on the exact words that were used in the text, but the downside is that readers may lose the connotation of the words in translation. This is where thought for thought translations come in. Instead of translating a word directly, thought for thought translators decided the text made more sense if the idea as a whole was translated. This perspective can be helpful because it allows the reader to see what the general theme of the text may have been. Both translations are great and incredibly helpful for studying the Bible.
4. Brief yourself on the historical context. Sometimes it helps the reader understand the text when they also know what was going on at the time it was written.
5. Read from the beginning of the book or chapter so you understand the context of the passage. This is helpful because it allows you as the reader to understand what God was saying in relation to what was going on at the time.
6. Determine the genre of literature the section of the text is. The Bible contains many genres of literature, and it is important to understand that while poetry or parables may have metaphors, law and historical contexts will not have as much figurative language. This would influence how the reader interprets the text. For instance, Jesus telling sinners to chop off a hand if it causes them to sin is not intended to be obeyed literally, but it calls a believer to recognize that it is better to lose something that seems good than to continue living in sin.
7. Read the text from the perspective of the people originally reading it. Although it is important for Scripture to be applied to our lives, not everything needs to be made into a devotional. Sometimes, in order to apply the Scriptures to our lives we must first understand what God was saying and the weight it carried to the people he was speaking to at the time the Scripture was written.
8. Compare the passage to other passages in Scripture. Comparing the passage you are currently reading to other Scripture allows you to gain even more context on the subject you are reading about.
9. Ask God what He wants you to do as a result of the truths in the passage. Does God want you to fix a habit? Repent? Adopt a new mindset? Embrace what the Lord is telling you!
This may seem overwhelming, but remember that none of these things are requirements for understanding the Word of God. These points are just ideas to help you start looking deeper into God’s Word. It is important to remember that Scripture is a large part of the Christian life. Studying God’s Word allows a believer to draw close to God and experience his love in new and fresh ways. Although interpreting the Bible comes with its challenges, studying the Bible is never in vain because God comes through every time.