A Complete and Easy Guide: 8 Steps to Reading Through the Bible
God's Holy Word
"My son, keep my words, and treasure my commands within you. Keep my commands and live, and my law as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; Write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, 'You are my sister,' and call understanding your nearest kin."
Proverbs 7:1-4 (NKJV)
I have a confession. For 25 years, I learned about God from my parents’ wisdom and experience. From Bible “studies” that required reading snippets of the Bible. I’d read daily devotionals. And when I had a question for God, I’d use the reference sections in my Bible to search the Bible like an encyclopedia. Through these things and through faith, I had seen God work in beautiful ways in my life. I accepted Christ as my Savior and the Lord of my life. But something was missing. Sound familiar?
Well, there is certainly nothing wrong with those things. In fact, I write a daily devotional right here in Hubpages. We as humans can grow and learn from one anothers’ wisdom and walks with Christ. But all this wisdom needs a basis for discernment, no? There is no greater discernment for truth, no greater avenue for growth and no greater reference for questions, than digging in, and reading God’s word from start to finish.
God wants us to know His law, love it, and live it. But how do we learn His law? Learn the nature of His love and how we are to interact with others? Well that one is easy. We read His Word. We write it on our hearts. But many people, Christians or not, look at this gigantic book with archaic wording and get overwhelmed before Genesis 1. So today I'm going to tell you how to read your Bible in 8 easy steps you can follow for a lifetime.
Step 1: Get a Bible
With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, any Bible will bring your spirit understanding. But one you understand to begin with will help you convey that understanding to your gray matter and your life. I chose the New King James Version (NKJV) because it is the King James Version (thee’s and thou’s), just without the…well, thees and thous. New King James is also what my Pastor uses when teaching at church, and in my opinion it retains the poetic feel intended for the bible. A few people close to me prefer the English Standard Version (ESV). At times, I also refer to it when a passage is cloudy to me. It is in more “modern” English. Both convey the same message, and leave out nothing for the sake of fitting it in. There are other viable versions, but I do feel that some are a bit too "hip" to keep with the poetry. I am no expert, and have certainly not read through each version in its entirety. These are simply my suggestions based on my own discernment and that of trusted fellow Christians.
In case you are looking at me like I’m speaking Greek, here are some examples from different versions of the same lovely verse. 1 Corinthians 13:13
“And now abide faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” New King James Version (NKJV)…Highly Recommend to anyone in any walk.
Also love this version: “So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” English Standard Version (ESV)…Recommend to New believers, but also good for anyone to understand.
This is similarly both respected and understood: “But now faith, hope, love abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” New American Standard Bible (NASB)…Good for new Christians/ and or youth. Also for Bible studies.
“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” King James Version (KJV)…This can be hard to understand. For instance, if one does not know that there are four different words to describe “love”, in the Greek, one might interpret that giving to the needy is more important than anything. In reality, “charity” is the sacrificial kind of love God displays for us. Also known as Agape. So this version is great for a poet or a scholar, but not necessarily a New Believer.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” New International Version (NIV)…This version is sound, but better versions have come out since then. My husband has one of these…and then bought an ESV…
I’m not scared of controversy, so I’m going to show you this version since you now have a reference for my claim: “But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” The Message (MSG)…I do NOT recommend this as a daily dose of God’s word. It is some lovely writing, and most of it is probably true. And while it inspires and leads to some understanding, I feel it strays from the pure message of the bible, which can lead to an even deeper understanding, allowing God to speak in the simplicity. Adding descriptors into the actual text can lead someone to sin. For example, what if someone perceives “extravagant love” as a justification for sexual immorality…hmmm.
"For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."
Revelation 22:18-19 (NKJV)
That verse is the reason that any person who seeks to publish their own meaning, doctrine or false religion should think twice…or not at all about tampering with the Bible. Any version that adds to or takes from the Bible is absolutely not OK. I’m a writer. And my favorite Book is the Bible. I will probably reference and write about it my entire life. But be assured I will never publish my own version with my minuscule knowledge.
If you can find a study bible, it will help tremendously. I have The Woman's Study Bible. It has a glossary, a reference guide, maps, explanations of more difficult verses on each page, topical discussions with scriptural references and highlights of women in the bible. But PLEASE be aware that anything used as a guide is written by a human, and should not by any stretch of the imagination be regarded with the same truth and reverence as the actual Bible, which is God's only approved Word.
Technology is wonderful! I have the Bible on my smart phone. My favorite version is YouVersion. It is free and allows you to use pretty much any version of the Bible imaginable. Or flip between them. A verse is just a few finger taps away, and the Bible is with you as long as your phone is. LOVE it.
However…I do recommend having an old fashioned paper bible for note taking and because…well you’ve got a few more steps to go… But do get tabs that identify the book of the bible along the pages. They are a pain to put on, but they provide easy reference when looking up a passage. Which leads me to….
Step 2: Know Your Way Around
You may be way beyond this knowledge, but I want to include it anyway. A good friend of mine was confused when confronted with a bible reference and didn’t know how to begin to look up a verse. The day I taught her the meaning of a reference was the same day she accepted Christ. They say knowledge is power. Well in this case, I have to agree.
The Holy Bible is divided into two testaments. And 66 books. Each book is divided into chapters. The Chapters into verses. It is important to know how to reference a verse, even though you are going to be primarily reading through. It is good for memorization, witnessing and encouragement of yourself and others. Scroll to the top of the page and look at my reference. Better yet, here it is again.
Proverbs 7:1-4 (NKJV)
Proverbs is the name of the BOOK in the Old Testament because of when in was written, though you’ll see in your reading it is a good idea to separate it a bit. My parents taught me that if you open the Bible to about the middle, you’ll get to Psalm. Proverbs is just to the right of Psalm. Like I said, get some tabs. I’ve been using the Bible most of my life and still use them to help me find my way. Anyway…
Proverbs 7 means the seventh CHAPTER of the book of Proverbs. Chapters are labeled as Chapters throughout a book. You can’t miss them.
Proverbs 7:1-4 is in reference to theverses. These are labeled with little numbers just before the verse starts. In this case, I used the first four verses. Sometimes a part of a verse can be used, and those are divided by letters (a and b).
I will say it now, because this drives me crazy. Never use a Biblical reference out of context. False doctrines, cults and entire religions have been built on this. Here’s an Example.
I recently finished the Book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a prophet of God. He was given words, directly from God to pass on to people. He prophesied things that came to pass just as he said they would. These things can be backed up with earth’s history. If you think Jeremiah had a nice gig…read Jeremiah and Lamentations. Anyway, Here’s my example:
“Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will cast you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have taught rebellion against the Lord.’” Jeremiah 28:16
Does that mean everyone that teaches false doctrine will die within a year? No. Otherwise it would be easy to find Jesus Christ in a world that twists everything. Jeremiah was speaking specifically to Hananiah, a false prophet. Who died that year. It validates Jeremiah’s prophesies. But does not condemn ALL false prophets within a year. If you quote, quote in context so that God can be glorified righteously.
Now, let’s find you some context.
Step 3: A Quiet Place and Time
Find a time each day, 15 min to an hour, to pick up that bible and read it. It can be on your lunch, before you get out of bed, right before you sleep, when the kids are napping, or whenever you can find the time. You have the time. How do I know you have the time? Well, because if you are reading this, you are on the internet…reading stuff. Maybe even on your phone, which, as I mentioned before, can house any number of FREE bible apps. Do you commute? Guess what? My Bible app TALKS to me in some versions. Press play and be blessed during your commute. Now you have the time and the Bible and the training.
Here’s my Plan. Because there is no greater way to be fed than by God's word, I’ll use a good square meal to illustrate it. Beverage. Meat. Veggies. Carbs. Dessert and Tea. Got it? Let’s go.
My Quiet Place
Step 4: Pray: The Milk/Beverage
I hate milk. Likewise, when I sit down to a meal having forgotten to get something to drink, I don’t always get up to retrieve it. I know these two are not lumped together on the food pyramid, but for my purposes, they are. Milk and water are both necessities for life. Just like prayer.
Prayer before diving into your Quiet time in the Word is important. It puts you where you need to be spiritually. And invites God to speak to you through His own Word. Ask for Wisdom. Understanding. Ask Him to hide the words in your heart. Thank Him for the day He’s given you. And ask it all in Jesus name, Amen.
Step 5: The Old Testament: The Meat/Protein
The Old Testament is the protein that strengthens us. Without it, we grow faint and have no footing or foundation in the Word. It is our reference point. The energy that sustains us. And the rest of the meal is based on it.
The Old Testament runs from Genesis through Malachi. It teaches the origins of the earth, God’s law and covenant with Israel. It can be difficult to read spiritually. Sometimes it seems like a list of names or an endless hammering of religious ceremony. I will never tell someone that the Old Testament is “light reading”. It is heavy, often dry, and it will shake the foundation of your world. But I can guarantee that it is the truest, most beautiful history lesson you will ever receive. Parts of it will entertain. But all of it will teach. You will grow in wisdom. You will be brought to tears. Convicted and blessed.
I suggest you read two CHAPTERS of the Old Testament in a day. Do not include Psalm or Proverbs in this section! Trust me, they are different. Many of the rest can be long, so two chapters a day is a reasonable goal. Any more and you’ll feel quite heavy afterwards. Any less and it’ll just take you longer to get through the Bible. But don’t take those warnings as a mandate. You should always read at your own pace for what your time and spirit can handle. Two is good, because I’m about to tell you to read more.
Step 6: The New Testament: The Vegetables
In comparison to the Old Testament, the New Testament is a relief and a joy. In my personal assessment, fruits and vegetables were originally intended as our sole diet in the Garden of Eden. Today we know they give us health. Vitality. They are sweet and pleasant to eat. An indisputable necessity, even if you are vegan. Anyone else hungry? Good. Let’s keep getting fed with God’s word.
The New Testament is Matthew through Revelation. The first four books are referred to as the Gospels, and tell the story of the life of Christ from different accounts. The rest elaborates on the New Covenant and the love and forgiveness of God. The New Testament brings life and purpose. It is also historical. The Old Testament is the law. The New tells of salvation through Jesus Christ….the ONLY salvation from sin and death. Read this and LIVE. A chapter a day of the New Testament should do it. But just like veggies, the more the better.
Step 7: Psalm: Carbs
A bone of contention and a controversy, carbs (bread, pasta, etc…) are thought to be not as essential as the rest of a meal. I beg to differ. Carbs are the quickest way to gain energy (though it must be sustained with that meat and those veggies). They are also tempting, easy to eat and almost too good to be true.
The book of Psalms is the same. They are primarily praises to God. A sinner crying out to a steadfast God. Psalm is technically part of the Old Testament, but if read daily as a separate entity, you will see the passion you should have for worship. We need wisdom, knowledge and history of God. The vitality of Jesus. But we must also worship our loving and powerful Maker and pour out our hearts to Him. I love carbs. I require the Psalms. One Psalm a day will get you through them about twice in a year.
A Hearty, Balanced Meal
Step 8: Proverbs: Dessert
In my world, dessert (within strict moderation) is much more necessary than a perfectly trimmed waist. The way I see it, God created the cocoa bean, allowed someone to make it chocolate, and that means I should eat it. It provides a few bites of something sweet after a good meal. Sending me on my way with a smile and a pleasant and true direction on my lips. You might disagree, and that’s fine. But you shouldn’t when it comes to Proverbs.
The book of Proverbs was written by a man who, when asked what gift he’d like to receive, requested wisdom. People came from all around just to ask this man questions. The Lord had gifted him directly with wisdom. When reading proverbs, one can be convicted (like the aftermath of too much dessert…) But one will more likely be blessed. There are 31 Chapters in Proverbs. Read One Proverb a day, based on the date of the month. A little wisdom for your way. A “taste” of truth to think about at the end of your Quiet time.
With my dessert, I like a cup of tea. What does that mean in my beat to death analogy? Just say another quick prayer for God to help all those words sink in.
Step 1: Get a Bible (I've provided some helpful links below)
Step 2: Learn your way around that Bible
Step 3: Find a Quiet time and place
Step 4: Pray
Step 5: Read 2 Chapters of the Old Testament
Step 6: Read One Chapter of the New Testament
Step 7: Read a Psalm (One Chapter)
Step 8: Read a Proverb and pray again
I mark the sections with different colored ribbons and keep a list of books to cross off as I move along. This is God’s love letter, and I purpose myself to read it daily. Because in years of experiencing God through circumstance and devotionals, nothing began to bless me like when I read the Bible. My faith is unshakable. My spirit full. Oh, and when you are done reading it through, start again. The Bible is a book that keeps on blessing.
God Bless you on your way. Thanks for reading.
My Electronic Bible
The Bible App. Contains a lot of great features such as the verse of the day, reading plans, and multiple versions of the Bible. Best of all? It's FREE.