Today’s post in the series Reading the Scriptures – How, When and Why? focuses on how to study the scriptures.
When I first became a Christian in Australia, I was introduced to Scripture Union and the wonderful resources they make available for scripture study. I loved the encouragement they gave me to read through the whole Bible over a three year period. Then I was introduced to J Sidlow Baxter’s Explore the Book a wonderful, single volume overview of each book of the Bible that greatly enriched my understanding of the Biblical story. Over the years I have participated in a variety of Bible studies, read numerous commentaries and listened to innumerable lectures expounding the scriptures but I will always be grateful to that initial prompting I received to read every book of the Bible. I encounter a number of Christians who have never read huge portions of the scriptures. They focus only on what they enjoy reading and that often gives a very distorted view of what God is saying
So here are my recommendations:
- Read through the entire Bible at least once ever five years. Do this in conjunction with a good overview book like Explore the Book (though I am sure that there are many other more recent ones available). Alternatively attend a class that provides this overview.
- Enter into a regular Bible reading discipline that integrates Old and New Testament readings. Over the last few years Tom and I have read the daily readings from the Book of Common prayer. What I most enjoy is the way that they link the gospel stories to the historic passages from the Old Testament that Jesus referred to and his audiences knew well. This juxtaposition has provided many aha! moments for me and have given me a deeper understanding of the gospel story. You can download the entire year’s readings here
- Do in depth studies of at least one book a year in conjunction with a good commentary. I recently received Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes by Kenneth E Bailey, from IVP and am really looking forward to getting into this in depth “uncommon” study of 1 Corinthians. I not only like to get into a good commentary, I like to explore ones like this that stretch my understanding and so expand and enrich my faith
- Study together with friends. Join or form an inductive bible study group. The bible is not meant to be studied alone. It is a book for reading aloud, for savouring together, and for discussing together how to apply what you have learned.
- Put feet on your study. What we read and study will take up residence in our minds alone if we do not apply what we are learning to our daily lives. Mark Scandrette’s book Practicing the Way of Jesus: Life Together in the Kingdom of Love is a great example of a book that helps us do that