“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” -John 1:1
In the Beginning?
One of the biggest challenges I faced as a new Christian was how to approach reading the Bible. It can be very intimidating. And there are many schools of thought when it comes to what book a newbie should start with. So what’s the best way to go about getting into God’s Word when you have never even opened a Bible? I feel you should always start with Jesus.
This isn’t a new idea, it’s just a really good plan. Start with John. Even Billy Graham thought this was a good idea for new Christians. He said, “Begin by reading the Gospel of John, for it tells us of Christ, of the ‘greatest life ever lived,’ and what He has done for us. Next read Acts, for it tells us what His first disciples did in the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Then perhaps the letters of John and the letter to the Philippians. Then you may want to read Romans, which sets forth the great doctrines which Paul taught.” So it can’t be a bad idea if one of the leading members of the Christian church thought starting with John was a good way to approach God’s word.
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” -John 1:17
Why Start Reading the Bible With the Gospel of John?
The gospel of John is the story of Jesus. In the first chapter, John prepares the reader for the ministry of Jesus. He gives evidence that Jesus is the Messiah and the living promise God spoke of in the Old Testament.
What better way to start your journey into the Word of God? It’s almost like reading the end of a good book and then going back and having a deeper understanding of why things were told in a specific way.
From there John talks about the details of Jesus’ ministry. His instructions on how a person could be saved. The guidance He gave to his apostles before His trial and eventual crucifixion. John then details His resurrection and His gift of the Holy Spirit to believers.
So you’ve read John, now what? I would follow Reverend Graham’s advice, as it is very sound reasoning. From there it’s really a matter of preference. Do you continue forward or go back to the beginning?
I personally plan on going back to the beginning. You’ve got the outcome, now you need all the details leading up to that. Now you know that the “begots” were genealogical proof of God keeping his promise to Abraham. “Spoilers, dahling”.
Some Things to Keep in Mind
Now that you’ve mapped out how you’re going to approach reading the Bible, it’s time to talk about how to understand what you’re reading. No matter what edition of the Bible you are using the language can still be a little confusing. But the one thing I noticed after converting was that my understanding of reading the Bible completely changed. Truly, when you take on the Holy Spirit, it’s like having your own interpreter whispering in your ear guiding you along the way. Things I had trouble understanding before started to become so clear in their meaning. Understanding that when Jesus healed the blind and deaf it wasn’t always meant to be literal. As in my case where once I was blind I now saw and where once I was deaf to the Word, now I hear it clearly.
Some of the most common arguments against reading the Bible are that it has been translated too many times, it is full of contradictions, or not even the gospels agree with each other. These are arguments made by people who do not understand that the Bible is the infallible word of God. He will not allow His word to be altered and it is not contradictory if you know how to read it. The biggest problem people have with understanding the Bible is they take verses out of context. It’s like taking a single note or lyric and using only that to explain the beauty and meaning of an entire song. The Bible is like a beautifully complex puzzle that God wants us to crave to understand. Because when we finally get it, it’s clarity and purpose will take our breath away.
Tips for Your Time in the Word
These are some of the best tips I’ve gotten from other Christians on how to get the most out of reading the Bible.
- Read every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s a verse or two or a whole book. As long as you get some time in the Word, that’s what really matters.
- Try to find some time in your day when it’s quiet or you know you won’t be interrupted. It doesn’t even have to be at home, you could listen to the Bible on your commute.
- Schedule your Bible time for the same time every day if possible. This is the type of behavior that develops a habit, and this is a habit you want to have.
- Journal about your Bible reading for the day. It really helps give deeper meaning and understanding if you can go back and read your thoughts on what you read.
- ALWAYS highlight or write notes in the margin! I know, this was a hard one for me too! I was a librarian so this goes against everything I believe about the treatment of books. But make an exception. Being able to go back to a specific scripture and seeing a note you wrote about what it meant to you will really deepen your understanding. They call it the living Word for a reason. How a scripture applied to your life a month ago can completely change it’s meaning for you today. It’s not that the meaning changed, it just has more depth. What you thought was a single note can actually be a chord.
- Talk to your spouse or your Christian friends about what you read. Sometimes getting other viewpoints can really compliment your study.
“I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” -John 14:6
One of my favorite thoughts about reading the Bible is, “We treat Bible study like it’s homework, something we procrastinate on doing. But when we finally sit down and do it, we crave it and wonder why we ever put it off”. As a new Christian I know I have a lot to learn. I may not always get it right. And some may disagree with my approach. But for me starting my journey in the Bible really has benefitted from starting in the gospel of John. And if I can help someone else develop the love and desire to study the Word that I have, then I think that’s a beautiful thing.