Each one of us should be a student, a careful student, of God’s word. Numerous passages emphasize this point (e.g. Psalm 1:1-3; 119:104; Hosea 4:6; Matthew 7:21-23; 22:29; John 12:48; Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:15-17; Hebrews 5:12-14; 2 Peter 1:3; 3:14-18). Roy Deaver wisely mused, “If there is a life after this life – and there is; and if there is a judgment to come – and there is; and if every accountable person shall stand in judgment before the Christ – and each shall; and if this life is given us that we may prepare for the life to come – and this is the case; and If the Bible is our only and all-sufficient guide in making preparation for the judgment, and for the life to come – and it is; then, it has to be the case that a knowledge of the Bible is the most important factor in the education of an individual” (Deaver, How to Study the Bible, p. ix).
It is amazing, how few, who claim to be Christians, have actually read the whole Bible, cover to cover. This is my observation from my years as a preacher. Guy Woods wrote in 1992, “A typical survey has shown that nearly two-thirds of members of the churches of Christ have never read the Bible through; well over half of them have no regular plan for daily study ..” (Woods, How To Study The New Testament Effectively, p.14). I suspect that things have not improved since he wrote these words.
It is important to read. Paul told the saints at Ephesus, “When you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4). He placed reading as a means to their understanding.
Make it your aim to spend time reading God’s word. Take 15 or 20 minutes a day to read. This should be sufficient to read the Bible, completely through, in a year. The average reader can read through the Bible each year, by reading 11-12 minutes per day.
If you have never read through the entire Bible, do so. Begin today! Do not get side-tracked “chasing rabbits.” Do not get “bogged down” on things you do not fully understand. Keep a notepad with you, as you read. Make a note that you want to later, return to this point for more study. However, keep reading. It is possible that your question(s) may be answered if you’ll just keep reading.
It is important that you find time for this. Likely, you will not have to change much in your schedule. However, if you do, it will be worth it (cf. Psalm 119:147-148; Mark 1:35).
A word of caution: Do not read only your favorite sections of scripture. If you truly want to learn the Bible, read all of it. Moreover, read it in context. Do not randomly skip around. Imagine trying to understand a Tom Clancy or John Grisham with this approach of randomly skipping around.
It is essential that one approach scripture, genuinely desiring to know and do God’s will. Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness? (Matthew 5:6). Do you will to do His will?
Many people want to be religious, on their own terms. Their interpretation of scripture is distorted by what they want (cf. 2 Chronicles 18; 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; 2 Peter 2:18). D.R. Dungan observed, “Many things are believed because men wish them to be true, while others are disbelieved for a like reason” (Dungan, Hermeneutics, p. 8).
All need to be on guard. Let us soberly ask: “Is this what God meant? Or, is this only what I want Him to mean?”
Moreover, try not to read the Bible through the lens of others. Read it fresh, for yourself. Alexander Campbell wrote, “I have endeavored to read the scriptures as though no one had read them before me; and I am as much on guard against reading them today, through the medium of my views yesterday, or a week ago, as I am against being influenced by any foreign name, authority or system whatever” (West, The Search for the Ancient Order, Vol. 1, p. 56).
Some shy away from trying to understand the Bible, because they do not believe that they can. They may believe that one must be a scholar to understand it. They may believe that the Bible is a book of contradictions which cannot possibly be understood.
Read the Bible expecting to understand it. (1) God desires that all men come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). It is reasonable to believe that He gave us a book which mankind is able to understand. (2) It does not seem to require scholarship or special intellect to understand. The common people heard Jesus gladly (Mark 12:37). Timothy knew the Holy Scriptures from childhood (2 Timothy 3:15). He understood at least some things from scriptures, at even a young age. (3) There is an expectation of understanding implied in the scriptures. Ezra believed that he could understand the law well enough to do it and to teach it (Ezra 7:10). Jesus taught, “If you abide in My word… you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). Paul wrote to the saints at Ephesus, “When you read, you may understand My knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:3-4). We are commanded to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). The command implies that knowledge is attainable.