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Why It's Better To Study The Bible A Book At A Time

Topical Studies. Random verses. Random chapters. Whatever the Pastor preached on Sunday. Whatever you're thinking about. Whatever's the most practical.

These are all inferior ways to study the Bible.

Why? It's not because God requires another way or that you're morally worse-off for studying the Bible one way over another; opening the Bible and reading it is always rewarding! However, certain ways of digesting the Bible are simply spiritually better than others. You will absolutely get more benefit when you read the Bible according to its terms instead of your own.

The best way to do this on a daily basis is by taking in the Bible a book at a time, whether that be in smaller daily doses or larger chunks. Here's why:

  • The Bible was written and organized by book, not by chapter or verse.

Did you know that chapter and verse markings aren't original to the autographs (original writings) of Scripture? They weren't added until the 1500's and were put there to make it easier to find a certain spot in the Scriptures. They were created for reference only and are not inerrant or inspired like we believe the words of Scripture to be.

Does that make them wrong or unhelpful? Absolutely not! But they may be a hindrance to you in your Bible reading if you understand them the wrong way.

If you believe, for instance, that you can study a verse of the Bible per day and receive a full word from God, it's similar to saying you can read one sentence from a letter from a loved one and get a full message from them. Sometime's it'll be true, but other times it will leave you wanting and confused. Why? Because that's not how the letter (or the Scripture) was meant to be received.

We believe the Bible was written by God through men (2 Peter 1:21) and, because of that, we believe each "book" of the Bible was written with an individual purpose and message to fit into the whole of Scripture. All of Scripture has one unified message (that is, Christ), and that is expressed in 66 books. It's almost as if it's one Bible divided into 66 unique chapters.

If we view the Bible this way, it will change how we read and study it. Even if we read one "chapter" a day as outlined in our Bibles, we can read in the context and anticipation of the whole book (and canon) that surrounds it for the full meaning and context. We don't have to be confined to just one "verse" or "chapter" to receive a word from God.

  • Through the Holy Spirit, God will give you the message you need on His timing.

Have you ever faced a particularly tough and specific circumstance that you think requires a certain section of Scripture for your daily reading? I have! It can definitely be comforting to Google "verses about _____", read those Scriptures, and know that God is with you in your trial.

That is not wrong. However, sometimes it is better just to continue through where you're reading regardless of whether it seems applicable to your situation or not, because oftentimes God uses those "un-applicable" passages to show you another perspective that you never would have otherwise considered.

The Holy Spirit is powerful and omniscient enough to know your situation and set you up in a book of the Bible long enough in advance for a passage to hit you right when it supernaturally needs to hit you. In other words, we need to let God talk to us in the way He feels it best to talk to us.

To use an analogy similar to the one from earlier, what if a mentor was talking to you and giving you lessons over a number of weeks and, one day, you told him to stop his/her progression and hit another topic? That may be appropriate at some points but, overall, it would probably be rude and a little presumptuous.

How much more so with God! Sure, you should absolutely seek out Scriptures to particularly minister to you at a time of need, but not at the expense of your daily devotional time with him.

  • You will have a better understanding of Christ when you read the whole of the Scriptures.

Why do we study books like Colossians and 1 John more than Numbers and Amos? There are good reasons: we live in the New Testament age, these books talk about how to live in the "church age", and they generally seem more applicable for our lives. However, there are also bad reasons: we consider Numbers and Amos to be less applicable for our lives, and we think of those Old Testament books as less useful and more out-of-date.

If we believe all Scripture to be inspired by God and inerrant (2 Timothy 3:16), then we further believe that God can speak to us now and for all time through all of the books of Scripture.

Furthermore, if we believe that to be so, then we believe that we can (and will) see Christ in all of the Scriptures.

Those seemingly obscure Old Testament books weren't kept in the canon simply for historical record. They are kept through today and for all time because they are a crucial part of the revelation and the story of God, one that culminates in Christ. Even though we don't live by the Old Testament law today as there is a better way (Romans 10:4), the law is crucial to understanding the full color, purpose, and character of Christ.

So, be encouraged today -- we are completely free under Christ to read and study the Scriptures. There is a wealth of knowledge and spiritual impact to be had when we truly listen for God in the Scriptures, not just look for personal answers or check off a box. Our God is present, active, powerful, and eternal! We can trust him to speak to us even today.

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