June 5, 2007 by David Cloud, wayoflife.org; The following is excerpted from the Advanced Bible Studies Series volume on "How to Study the Bible," which is available from Way of Life Literature.
"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" 2 Timothy 2:15
Following are some things that God Himself has emphasized to us as requirements for understanding the Scriptures. Though we do not yet get into the practical side of Bible study in this section, the things that we will say here are crucial and will challenge the Bible student about the spiritual requirements of this blessed endeavor. No Bible student has progressed so far that he has no need to be reminded of these foundational things.
1. Effective Bible study requires SPIRITUAL LIFE (1 Cor. 2:14 - 3:3). The first and foremost requirement for fruitful Bible study is a godly life. There are three types of people described in 1 Corinthians chapters two and three: the natural man, the spiritual man, and the carnal man. The natural or unsaved person is spiritually dead and blind (Eph. 2:1-3; 2 Cor. 4:4). He cannot understand the things of God. "The deepest biblical scholar, if he fails to find Christ, knows less of the real meaning of the Gospel than the humblest Christian who is living in the faith of the Son of God" (Pulpit Commentary). When the heart turns to the Lord, though, and receives Jesus Christ, the blindness is lifted (2 Cor. 3:14-17). The spiritual man (1 Cor. 2:15-16) and the carnal man (1 Cor. 3:1-4) refer to believers. The believer is either spiritual or carnal depending on his walk with Christ. The carnal or worldly believer can understand the simple things of the Scriptures but not the more difficult things. He can take milk but not meat. Milk is predigested for the one who drinks it, whereas meat requires that the eater himself digest it. (See also Hebrews 5:12-14.) Thus, spiritual life is more important in Bible study than technical skills. "A person who understands the language of the Holy Spirit, but who does not understand a word of Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic, will get more out of the Bible than one who knows all about Greek and Hebrew but is not born again. It is a well-demonstrated fact that many plain men and women who possess no knowledge of the original languages in which the Bible was written have knowledge of the real contents of the Bible. Their understanding of its actual teaching and its depth, fullness, and beauty far surpasses that of many learned professors in theological faculties" (R.A. Torrey).
Proverbs 17:16 contains a serious warning: "Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?" If a person's heart is not right with God, he cannot obtain wisdom regardless of how much money he spends and regardless of how much education he obtains.
Dear friends, if we want to study the Bible fruitfully, we must make certain that we are born again and that we are walking in close fellowship with the Author of the Book. This is the first and foremost requirement.
Studying the Bible is something like tuning in to a radio channel. Heaven is far away, but God broadcasts His glorious message to earth on a clear and powerful station with the call letters BIBLE. If the believer is in fellowship with Christ, he has an open channel to Heaven through the Scriptures. The closer the fellowship with Christ, the sharper the reception and the more plainly the Bible speaks. If, on the other hand, a believer walks in carnality and in fellowship with the world, the reception becomes increasingly poor, because the Holy Spirit is grieved (Eph. 4:30), and the static of the things of this world hinders the reception. Child of God, don't let unconfessed sin and worldliness rob you of the blessing of being tuned in to Heaven's glorious channel!
2. Effective Bible study requires FAITH (Heb. 11:1, 6). The one who benefits from the study of the Scriptures must approach this important business by faith. Bible faith means confidence in God and His promises, and there are many things of which the Bible student must be confident. (1) He must be confident that the Bible is God's inspired, preserved Word and that he can depend upon its every utterance (1 Thess. 2:13). (2) He must be confident that God loves him and wants him to understand the Bible. The Bible is a revelation, not a hiding, of the truth (Deut. 29:29). (3) He must be confident that the Holy Spirit will help him understand the Bible (1 John 2:27).
3. Effective Bible study must have THE RIGHT GOALS. To properly understand the Bible, one must have the right motive and objective. There are many wrong motives. Some read the Bible merely to learn something new and curious, like the Athenians of old to whom Paul preached (Acts 17:21). Some want to be entertained and have no intention to obey God, like those who heard Ezekiel (Eze. 33:31-32). Some read God's word simply to find errors and to seek an excuse to disbelieve, as did the Pharisees and Sadducees, scribes and lawyers when they vainly and foolishly attempted to catch Christ in some mistake (Lk. 20:40-47). Some show interest in the Bible only in the hope of gaining worldly advantage, such as those in poorer countries who think that Christianity is a ticket to America or a way to make money. This was similar to the motive of the Jews who heard Christ because they hoped He would provide them with food and clothing and protect them from their enemies (Jn. 6:14-15). When they learned that Christ was not merely a ticket to worldly prosperity, they turned away from the Word of God (Jn. 6:66).
Thus, we must be very careful that we come to the Word of God with the right motives, some of which are as follows: (1) The first and foremost goal of Bible study is to know the Lord. An example of this is Mary sitting at Jesus' feet to hear His word (Lk. 10:39). Her desire was to know Christ himself. That is how we must approach the Bible. God did not give us the Scriptures to entertain us but that we might know Him, as Adam and Eve, when they walked with God in the garden of Eden (Gen. 3:8) and as Enoch, who walked with God in an evil age (Gen. 5:24). (2) Another proper goal in Bible study is to know the Lord's will (Rom. 12), so that we might please Him in this life. The believer has the privilege of knowing the very mind of Christ for all aspects of his earthly walk. (3) Another important objective of Bible study is to help others. According to Hebrews 5:12, it is God's will that every believer become a teacher of the Scriptures, not in the sense of leading a church but in the sense of helping others privately in our daily lives. It is therefore pleasing to the Lord that we study the Bible in order to instruct others. Every Christian should be able to do what Philip did with the Ethiopian eunuch, when he started at Isaiah and preached Christ to him (Acts 8:30-35). The older women are to teach the younger ones (Titus 2:3-4), etc.
4. Effective Bible study must have THE RIGHT PRIORITY. God requires first place in our lives (Matt. 6:33); and since He has magnified His Word above even His name (Ps. 138:2), it is evident that He intends for us to make the study of His Word the very highest priority. Following are some of the ways that we can do: (1) The study of the Bible should come first in the day when we are still fresh and our minds are uncluttered with the concerns of life. Some have vowed to the Lord that they will not eat breakfast until they have eaten God's Word. That is a noble and wise thing. For many years, I determined before the Lord that I would not read any other material until I had first read His Word. When I was engaged to my wife and she was still living in a foreign country and our only form of communication was the mail, I determined before the Lord that I would never read one of her letters until I had first spent my time studying His Word. I believe such things please the Lord, because they demonstrate our zeal toward spiritual matters. (2) The study of the Bible should be given sufficient time. It is not honoring to God to apply only a tiny amount of time to the study of His Word, or to read some little two-minute devotional in the place of serious Bible study. (3) The study of the Bible should be a priority above the study of other books. It is not honoring to God to spend most of one's time reading about the Bible while neglecting the actual study of the Bible itself. While we do not despise the value of sound doctrinal books, they should never take the place of the Bible.
5. Effective Bible study requires HUNGER FOR GOD AND HIS TRUTH (Ps. 63:1). Job lived long ago and did not have all of the Scriptures as we do today, but he had a great hunger for God's words. He testified, "SI have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food" (Job 23:12). Likewise, for a Christian to make Bible study the priority it must be, requires that he have a great hunger to know the Word of God. Be careful not to spoil your appetite! If you find that you have lost your appetite for the Bible and that it has become boring, you might be feeding on the wrong things in your life. The believer has both the flesh and the spirit, and if he feeds the flesh, he will be carnal and will lose his appetite for spiritual things (Gal. 5:16-25). It is like eating candy and junk food and spoiling one's appetite for wholesome food. The solution to such a problem is to stop eating the junk and to separate oneself to good food and soon one regains a healthy appetite.
6. Effective Bible study requires CONCENTRATION AND MEDITATION. The Bible speaks of the importance of meditating on God's Word, which refers to focusing one's mind upon the Scriptures so that God's words become central to one's affections (Josh. 1:8; Ps. 1:1-2; 19:14; 49:3; 119:11, 97, 99). If you can't concentrate completely upon the Bible, your study time will not be very profitable. It is so easy for the mind to wander as you read the Bible, and we must do whatever is necessary to keep our thoughts on the Scriptures, to hold the words of God in our hearts so that they bring forth good fruit. Not only do we live in a weak, fleshly body (called the "body of this death" in Rom. 7:24) that gets tired and sick, and not only do we dwell in a world full of cares and woes, but we have an aggressive enemy that seeks to hinder our spiritual development. His name is Satan, meaning the adversary, the one who stands before us to resist us. Bible study is spiritual warfare, and we must do everything possible to win this war.
The parable of the sower teaches us that a man must make the effort to understand and apply the Scriptures, or the truth will be stolen away from his heart by the Devil (Matt. 13:19). We must capture the truth by meditating on it and finding out its meaning.
This is why MEMORIZATION of Scripture is so important. When Scriptures are memorized, the believer can then meditate upon them at any time. It is good to write Scripture verses down on cards and keep them with you so that you can spend time memorizing Scripture when you have opportunity, such as when you are waiting on someone or something. Redeem the time!
Following are some suggestions to help you concentrate upon the Word of God: (1) A quiet, private place is required. I have seen Christians trying to study the Bible in a room where other people are talking and a radio is blaring, etc. That is not wise, and it is not honoring to the Lord, who deserves our undivided attention. The Bible is the very Word of God. Would it be proper to invite God over for a visit and then have many other things going on at the same time as He was talking to us? On some occasions when I have visited people in their homes to talk to them about spiritual matters, they have kept the television on and have continued watching it even while I was trying to talk with them. That was very disrespectful to me personally and, more importantly, to the message that I was bringing, and surely God feels the same way when we fail to give Him our full attention. There have been occasions when I have gotten into my car and driven out to a country road or, if in a city, to the backside of the parking lot of a large shopping area in order to have a quiet and private place for my Bible study time. (2) Ask the Lord to help you keep your mind on His Word. If you find your mind frequently wandering during Bible study, lay the matter before the Lord. Tell Him that you desire to grow in knowledge of Him and His Word, explain your problem to Him, and beseech Him to help you concentrate. (3) If you are particularly worried about some matter, cast it upon the Lord (1 Pet. 5:7) and trust Him to take care of it for you; then turn your full attention to His Word. (4) Have pen in hand as you read. Just the action of picking up one's pen and being ready to write things down or to mark in one's Bible causes the mind to focus more on the reading. (5) Remove things from your Bible study area that are distracting. I know a pastor who removed all of the bright colored covers from the books in his office, because they distracted him when he was trying to study the Bible. (6) Be careful about using a computer during Bible reading time. I use my computer to study the Bible, because it is so efficient, but I do not use my computer when I have my daily devotion time in the Scriptures and when I am just reading the Scriptures. It is too easy to get distracted with other things on the computer. (7) Be careful about extraneous thoughts. When you are studying the Bible, it will often happen that thoughts about other things will rush in and you will be tempted to leave the study of the Bible and to rush off and take care of those things. For this reason, it is a good idea to have pen and paper handy and to jot down thoughts so that you can take care of them later. This way, you can put them out of your mind for the time being and proceed with your study. If you get in the habit of allowing yourself to rush off and take care of other things, you will be crippled in your ability to study the Bible fruitfully. (8) Go back and read the passage again. When you find that your mind has wandered during the reading of the Scripture, it is important to go back and read that passage again until you understand what you are reading, even if it takes several readings. It is better to read one verse with clear understanding than to read an entire chapter with the mind drifting to other things. (9) Try not to read the Bible when you are tired. Sometimes this cannot be avoided, and it is better to read the Bible when you are tired than not at all. But the wise Bible student will arrange his schedule in such a way that he can study the Scriptures when he is alert. (10) If you find your mind wandering, it might help to put the Bible reading first before you do anything else in the day. I have found that if I start reading and studying other things first, it is much more difficult to concentrate on the Bible. (11) Sometimes it is helpful to read the Bible aloud if you find your mind wandering. This can help you maintain your concentration. (12) A larger print Bible can also help with concentration because it is easier to read and the pages of the Bible are not as cluttered with type. (13) Be persistent. Don't let the devil defeat you in your Bible reading. If you find yourself unable to concentrate for a period, don't quit. Just go back at it the next day and the next and the next. There are ups and downs in Bible study as there are in everything else in life. The best tip for effective Bible study is to just keep on keeping on!
7. Effective Bible study REQUIRES HARD WORK (Prov. 2:1-5). God likens the search for wisdom to that of searching for silver. Men do not ordinarily find silver lying on the ground in easily accessible places. Some has been found that way, but it is more commonly found in the precipitous mountains, deep in the solid rock, so that it must be obtained through very strenuous labor. Likewise, while there are treasures everywhere one looks in the Scriptures and some of the treasures can be found through even the most casual reading of it; much labor is required to draw out the best treasures from the Scriptures. "Most great truths do not lie on the surface. They must be brought up into the light by patient toil" (Frank Charles Thompson). A lazy person will never understand God's Word very well. To rightly divide the Word of God requires workmen (2 Tim. 2:15). It is one thing to own concordances and commentaries; it is another thing to USE them! You must apply great diligence in this endeavor. Many are seeking some "secret key" that opens up the Bible; but while there are many important keys and rules of interpretation, as we will demonstrate in this course, there is no "secret key" that bypasses the requirement of hard work. There are no shortcuts for the lazy person.
8. Effective Bible study requires PRAYER (Ps. 119:18; Prov. 2:3; Eph. 1:17-18). As we search the Bible, we must cry out to its Author for understanding. We must trust the Lord and "lean not unto thine own understanding" (Prov. 3:5-6). "Prayer will do more than a college education to make the Bible an open and glorious book" (R.A. Torrey). As the Bible student grows in his understanding of the Scriptures and has success in applying the rules of interpretation, he is ever in danger of becoming lackadaisical. The old heart can deceive me into thinking that I have "arrived" and that I no longer need to cry out to the Lord for understanding. One way to resist this is to remind myself of what I don't understand in the Word of God rather than focus on what I do understand. No man will ever truly master the Scriptures. The Bible, as God's Word, is an eternal book containing endless truth. A man could study any one book of the Bible for his entire life, studying it diligently every day, and never completely master even that portion of Scripture. In some ways, the more I study the Bible, the less I realize that I really know about it. You know many things, but you realize that your knowledge is only superficial, that there is much that still lies beyond your grasp. The Bible has that quality, and we never come to the place in our Bible study whereby we do not need to cry out to the Author for help and understanding.
9. Effective Bible study requires PATIENCE and PERSISTENCE (Jn. 8:31; Col. 1:23; 1 Tim. 4:16; James 1:6-8). "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter" (Prov. 25:2). The Bible is the Word of the eternal God, and it is not possible that we will understand all of it in a short time. It is to be the Book of a man's life, his entire life, and no man will ever exhaust its treasures. A few years ago, for example, I finally found the meaning of one of the Proverbs that I have been studying for 23 years. And this week I found the answer to something in the Bible that had puzzled me for 29 years. Study your Bible with patience. The fruit is there for the one who just keeps on keeping on, plodding along in his study, day by day, year by year, onward, forward, with patience. "But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience" (Luke 8:15).
Persistence is crucial in the Christian life. Feelings come and go. The child of God must continue in the things of Christ whether he feels like it or not, whether the situation is difficult or easy. Certainly, this is true for Bible study. There will be periods in which your heart will sing and the meaning of the Scripture will literally leap off the pages of the Bible and it will come alive. There will be other times in which everything is dull and dry, even the very study of God's word. We must remember that we live in a "body of this death" (Rom. 7:24) and we are much affected by our physical condition. I remember a pastor friend who had kidney failure. Before his illness, he had a vibrant Christian life. He would memorize entire books of the Bible and the Scriptures were his delight. After his illness, he testified to me that though he continued to read the Bible, it only mocked him. David spoke of such a condition in Psalm 119:83. "For I am become like a bottle in the smoke; yet do I not forget thy statutes." David was saying that he felt all dried up like a leather bottle that was left over a fire. The child of God will go through times like that experientially, and he must do what David did, "yet do I not forget thy statutes." Even if Bible study becomes monotonous and discouraging, just keep on keeping on and the blessing will return. One preacher wisely said, "Read the Bible when you feel like it, and when you don't feel like reading it, read it until you do."
10. Effective Bible study requires PAYING ATTENTION TO THE DETAILS (Matt. 4:4). To benefit the most from Bible study, one must understand that every word of the Bible is important. In fact, the Lord Jesus Christ spoke even of the jots and tittles, which are tiny parts of the Hebrew letters (Matt. 5:18). The wise Bible student pours over the pages of Scripture looking at every detail, knowing that nothing in the Scripture is there by accident. Every word of Scripture has a divine purpose. It was purified seven times (Psalm 12:6). Thus, it is imperative that the student have an accurately translated Bible that brings out the details of the Hebrew and Greek.
11. Effective Bible study requires OBEDIENCE (Ps. 119:133; Lk. 11:28; Jn. 7:17; 8:31-32; Heb. 5:14; Jam. 1:22-27; 1 Pet. 2:1-2). The Bible is not given for entertainment, but that we might know and do the will of God. The person who has no intention to obey God will never understand the Bible properly. A Christian who is worldly and spiritually careless, who is unfaithful to the house of God, who is not busy in the service of the Lord, will not have a strong understanding of biblical truth. Such a one is also vulnerable to the wiles of false teachers, who "by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple" (Romans 16:18). "It is remarkable how clear, simple, and beautiful passages that once puzzled us become when we are brought to that place where we say to God, 'I surrender my will unconditionally to Yours. I have no will but Yours. Teach me Your will.' A surrendered will does more to make the Bible an open book than a university education. It is simply impossible to get the largest profit out of your Bible study until you surrender your will to God" (Torrey).
For this reason we must apply Bible study to our daily lives. Don't read and study the Bible as a mere intellectual exercise. Continually ask the Lord to show you how it can be applied to your life. The Bible should "reprove, rebuke, exhort" (2 Tim. 4:2). It should be profitable "for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16). It should produce patience, comfort, hope (Rom. 15:4). It should admonish us not to sin (1 Cor. 10:11).
12. Effective Bible study requires CONFESSION OF SIN (Ps. 66:18; Pr. 28:9). As we have seen, the carnal believer cannot understand the deep things of God. How does the believer deal with the sin problem in his life? By repentance and confession (1 John 1). Thus, it is crucial that the believer confess his sins so that he can grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Word of God.
13. Effective Bible study requires HUMILITY (James 4:6; Matt. 18:3). The proud person will not learn anything from the Lord. God requires child-like humility. The believer must submit himself to God and accept that which God has spoken, not trying to search beyond the Scriptures to find out things that are still hidden (Deut. 29:29), not haughtily thinking that he can fully understand all of the things of God and rejecting those things that he cannot understand. There are many things in Scripture that are exceedingly difficult to understand, such as the deity and humanity of Christ and the sovereignty of God and responsibility of man. It should not surprise us that we are unable to fully understand such things in this present fallen world, and living, as we do, in the weak flesh. The proud person, though, demands that he understand everything in the Bible and that he explain every seeming difficulty, or he refuses to believe it. The proud person comes to the Bible merely to find confirmation of his own opinions, and he rejects that which does not suit his own thinking. The humble man, on the other hand, simply believes everything God says. In Mark 9:31, Christ told his disciples that he would be killed and would rise the third day. Verse 32 says they did not understand his saying. Why not? The words were plain enough. They didn't understand because they had other ideas about what Christ would do and they could not therefore receive the plain word of God. "What will a pious, obedient, loving child do when he hears the father make a remark which on the surface appears objectionable? Instead of criticizing him and condemning his utterance as wrong, the child will ask him for an explanation. If we find stumbling blocks in the Holy Scriptures, let us take the attitude of such a loving child" (William Arndt).
14. Effective Bible study requires both READING (Deut. 17:19; Rev. 1:3) AND STUDYING (2 Tim. 2:15). Reading and studying are two different things. It is crucial, first, simply to READ the Bible. There is probably no other one thing that can help a believer better understand the Bible than simply reading it and reading it and reading it. If you learn nothing else from this course, I challenge you to make the reading of the Scriptures a big part of your Christian life. It is necessary, also, to STUDY the Bible. This involves slowing down the pace, doing word studies, analyzing individual passages, doing topical studies, outlining books, using commentaries, etc. This is the point at which we begin to use Bible study tools.
SOME TIPS ON READING THE BIBLE:
a. Read it systematically. That means read it all of the way through. Why should the Bible be read systematically? First, the Bible is not merely a series of writings; it is one Book; and to be understood it needs to be read and studied as one Book. Each individual book of the Bible complements the other books, and as the Bible is read systematically the pieces gradually fit together.
I supposed I knew my Bible, Reading piecemeal, hit or miss, Now a bit of John or Matthew, Now a snatch of Genesis, Certain chapters of Isaiah, Certain Psalms (the twenty-third) Twelfth of Romans, First of Proverbs-- Yes, I thought I knew the Word! But I found that thorough reading Was a different thing to do, And the way was unfamiliar When I read the Bible through. You who like to play at Bible, Dip and dabble, here and there. Just before you kneel aweary, And yawn through a hurried prayer; You who treat the Crown of Writings As you treat no other book-- Just a paragraph disjointed, Just a crude impatient look-- Try a worthier procedure Try a broad and steady view; You will kneel in very rapture When you read the Bible through! -- Amos R. Wells
"Such as read the Bible by fits upon rainy days, not eating the book with John [Rev. 10:9-10], but tasting only with the tip of the tongue: such as meditate by snatches, never chewing the cud and digesting their meat, they may happily [haply, i.e. by chance] get a smackering for discourse and table talk; but not enough to keep soul and life together, much less for strength and vigour" (Samuel Ward, 1615, cited from David Daniell, The Bible in English, p. 552).
(1) This is why it is good to have a Bible reading plan. By reading three and a half chapters a day one can read through the Bible in a year. By reading one chapter a day one can read the Bible through in three years and three months.
(2) Following are some suggested Bible reading plans:
(a) By the following 52-Week Bible Reading Plan you will read the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice in a year:
Week 1 -- Genesis 1-26 2 -- Genesis 27-50 3 -- Matthew 4 -- Mark 5 -- Exodus 1-21 6 -- Exodus 22-40 7 -- Luke 8 -- John 9 -- Leviticus 10 -- Acts 11 -- Numbers 1-18 12 -- Numbers 19-36 13 -- Romans, Galatians 14 -- 1 and 2 Corinthians 15 -- Deuteronomy 1-17 16 -- Deuteronomy 17-34 17 -- Ephesians to Philemon 18 -- Hebrews to 2 Peter 19 -- Joshua 20 -- 1 John to Revelation 21 -- Judges, Ruth 22 -- Job 1-31 23 -- Job 32-42, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon 24 -- 1 Samuel 25 -- 2 Samuel 26 -- Psalms 1-50 27 -- 1 Kings 28 -- 2 Kings 29 -- Psalms 51-100 30 -- 1 Chronicles 31 -- 2 Chronicles 32 -- Psalms 101-150 33 -- Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther 34 -- Proverbs 35 -- Matthew 36 -- Isaiah 1-35 37 -- Isaiah 36-66 38 -- Mark 39 -- Luke 40 -- Jeremiah 1-29 41 -- Jeremiah 30-52, Lamentations 42 -- John 43 -- Acts 44 -- Ezekiel 1-24 45 -- Ezekiel 25-48 46 -- Romans, Galatians 47 -- 1 and 2 Corinthians 48 -- Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos 49 -- Ephesians to Philemon 50 -- Obadiah to Malachi 51 -- Hebrews to 2 Peter 52 -- 1 John to Revelation
(b) The Perpetual Bible Reading Schedule is a system whereby you read one portion from four different parts of the Bible each day: Historical (Genesis - 2 Kings), Devotional (1 Chronicles - Song of Solomon), Prophetical (Isaiah - Malachi), and Doctrinal (New Testament). The average amount read each day in this plan is less than four chapters. It is available on the web at http://rejoicing.com/bread.html.
(c) The Good Book Company Bible Reading Plan also uses a Bible portion from four parts of the Bible, the history and prophets of the O.T., the wisdom books of the O.T., the N.T. Gospels, and the N.T. Epistles. This is also available on the web at http://www.olywa.net/mmccahan/gbbiblereadjan.html.
(d) Back to the Bible has five different Bible Reading plans: reading the Bible by the Chronological order of the books; reading the Bible by the Historical order of the books; reading the Old and New Testament together; reading from beginning to end of the Bible; and a blended plan which is a combination of the others. These can be found at http://www.backtothebible.org/devotions/journey.
(e) Place a bookmark in the Bible at three places: Genesis, Job, and Matthew. By reading one chapter from each of these sections every day, you will read the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice in about eighteen months.
(f) Read three chapters every weekday and five chapters on Sundays, and you will read the entire Bible in less than a year. In January and February, read Genesis through Deuteronomy. In March and April, read all of the New Testament. In May and June, read Joshua through Esther. In July and August, read Job through Song of Solomon. In September and October, reread all of the New Testament. In November and December, read Isaiah through Malachi.
b. Read an individual book of the Bible repeatedly until the theme and meaning become clear. Well-known Bible commentator G. Campbell Morgan read a book of the Bible 50 times before commenting. Evangelist R.A. Torrey advocated reading a book 12 times. Dr. Bruce Lackey advocated reading it at least 10 times in order to get the right meaning. The exact number of times is not the essential thing; what is essential is that you read the book or passage enough so that its meaning becomes clear and its individual parts begin to fit together and make sense.
c. Keep a pocket Bible or New Testament handy so that you can make the most of any extra time during the day by reading a portion of Scripture. So much time is wasted that could be better spent. One well-known secular writer read an entire large history of Britain during the minutes he had to wait each day for his meal to be brought to the table.
d. One can also have some of the benefits of reading the Bible by listening to it on cassette or CD in the car or at home or elsewhere.
e. Divide your Bible study time into two parts: the first part just for reading and the last half for studying. It doesn't take very long to read the three to four chapters required for one to read the N.T. through twice in a year and the O.T. once.
(1) You can do your reading and studying at one sitting.
(2) Or you can divide them into two separate times during the day.
(3) You can also focus on reading during the first part of the year, while focusing on study the second part of the year. For example, during the first part of the year you could read 10 chapters a day and thus read the Bible all the way through in a mere four months (the Bible contains 1189 chapters). That would leave eight months in the year in which to apply yourself to the study of the Bible.
f. Divide your Bible reading into morning and evening portions (Psalm 119:147-148). A good habit to develop is to read a portion of Scripture in the morning and in the evening. Some possibilities:
(1) Read a portion of the Old Testament in the morning and a portion of the New Testament in the evening.
(2) Read the Scriptures systematically in the morning, three or four chapters a day, proceeding through the Bible; and then read more devotionally in the evening, allowing the Holy Spirit to lead to various passages.
g. Divide your reading time between the Old and New Testaments. I have also found that it is good not to read continually in the Old Testament without also reading some in the New. One can forget that we no longer live under the Mosaic Law and that it was given only to lead us to Christ, and the Law can actually hinder rather than strengthen the spiritual life if it is used improperly. Always be careful to look at the Old Testament through the eyes of the New. It can be helpful, though it certainly should not be made into a hard and fast rule, to read the New Testament at least twice as much as the Old. There are two ways to divide your time between the Testaments.
(1) First, you can read a section in the Old Testament and a section in the New Testament every day.
(2) Second, you can read an Old Testament book and then a New Testament book, or any combination thereof. As already noted, a good plan is to read the New Testament through twice in a year while reading the Old Testament through once. That is 1449 chapters, so one only has to read an average of four chapters a day to do this.
15. Effective Bible study requires the help of A GOOD CHURCH. "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11,12). "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation" (Hebrews 13:7). "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churchesS" (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3: 6, 13, 22). The church is the institution God has ordained to be the pillar and ground of the truth. It is to that institution that He has given ministry-gifted men for the edification of the saints, and it is crucial for the child of God to benefit from this wisdom. There are places in this dark world in which there are no sound churches, but in general, it is not God's will for a Christian to be a "lone maverick." The biblical pattern is for a Christian to join himself to a sound Bible-believing church. That is emphasized throughout the New Testament. It is particularly in the church that the Christian is to hear the Word of God. Seven times in Revelation chapters two and three we read that we are to "hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." We believe there is a special sense in which God speaks to the believer in his own assembly through his own pastors. As the Lord had a special message for each of the churches of Asia Minor in the first century, he has a special message for each church today. Each church is a body, and the members are to be taught and edified together by the Lord through the pastors and teachers. In addition to this, the Christian can avail himself of other sound teachings through books and tapes. He should take advantage of every avenue of sound teaching available to him, but the first place for sound teaching is in one's own church, assuming, of course, that the church is a good one. When I was a new Christian, I didn't know where to go to church at first. I was led to Christ by a Christian man while traveling, so when I was settled down from that trip I started visiting various churches. In the mean time, I obtained some books by various false teachers that were confusing to me. One was by a Seventh-day Adventist. Others were by Pentecostals. Soon the Lord led me to a little fundamental Baptist church in Bartow, Florida, and the pastor and mature Christians there were exceedingly helpful to me and assisted me in becoming grounded in the truth.
Don't waste the precious opportunity of learning from your church. So many Christians are so incredibly careless about the preaching and teaching they sit under. They don't seem to be there to get as much help as possible in understanding the Scriptures and in being better prepared to serve Jesus Christ. They sit so casually under the sound of the teaching, hardly looking at their Bibles, never taking notes, making no effort whatsoever to capture something that will benefit them later. They don't come prepared with paper and pen. Don't follow this unwise example. Use every opportunity of sitting under good preaching and teaching to capture as much as possible for your spiritual life and ministry. Even dull preachers and teachers usually have something worthwhile to say, if the student will make the effort to get it. Come prepared to capture the things the Lord shows you during the preaching and teaching. Don't come complaining; come praying, beseeching the Lord to speak through the preaching. Come with pen and paper. Come with a Bible that has a margin wide enough to jot things down. Come with pencil or colored pens to mark your Bible. Underline important things. Jot down cross-references that you find during the teaching. Jot down definitions of words. Jot down good outlines that you can use later. Jot down good thoughts and helpful sayings. As you sit under preaching in an expectant manner, earnestly seeking something from the Lord, you will find that many thoughts come to you and that the Lord will give you many things. Don't let these slip away. Jot them down in a notebook or on slips of paper. I am thankful to the godly example of a Christian friend the Lord gave me when I was first saved. His name is Richard Tedder, and he was saved only a short while before I was, but he had become a diligent Bible student and had grown spiritually. Soon after I was saved in the summer of 1973, I joined a newly started independent Baptist church in Bartow, Florida. Richard was one of the members, and he befriended me and was a great help in my early Christian life. One thing I learned from Richard, and I don't know if he even knows this, was to have a proper study Bible with me when I came to church and to take notes during the preaching. His wise example in this matter got me off to a strong start in my Christian life and helped establish me in the path down which I have gone in my ministry.
16. Effective Bible study requires THE HELP OF OTHER GOOD TEACHERS (Acts 8:30-31; 2 Tim. 2:2). God has ordained that we learn from teachers. As already noted, all things being right, your primary teachers will be your own pastors and teachers in the church (Heb. 13:7). At the same time, it is not wrong to receive help from good Bible teachers who are not in your own church. One way to do this is through books. Thus, good commentaries and doctrinal books can be very helpful. We deal with this in a separate section.
17. MEMORIZE THE BOOKS of the Bible. A good starting point for effective Bible study is to memorize the names and order of the 66 books of the Bible. This will greatly help you as you search the Scriptures, run cross-references, and use a concordance.
18. DON'T GET STUCK IN A RUT. There are few binding laws of Bible reading and study that God has given us. Each believer is at liberty to follow the Holy Spirit's lead and to try different things. If you find yourself bored with your Bible study, it might be time to try something different. Also, as much as I believe in reading the Bible through every year, it is not something that should necessarily become an unbreakable law. http://www.wayoflife.org