1. Never read a Bible verse. Always read at least a paragraph, preferably more. Best is reading a whole book (more on that below). You can make any one verse mean any number of things, but considering the larger context of passage places that verse within a more meaningful narrative, making it easier to understand what the verse is saying. So always read verses within their larger narrative context.
2. Keep a couple of different versions on-hand. Having two or three different Bibles around serves as a reminder that English Bibles are translations and that, whatever you may believe about inerrancy and inspiration, translations are neither. Having multiple versions around also enables you to draw upon different renderings of a passage when you try to understand what’s being said. Not all translations are created equal, of course, and which translations you choose will vary based on your preferences and Bible knowledge. But keep a couple different versions around.
3. Read the Bible aloud. This is something that I have been trying to do more myself. Much of the contents within the books of the Bible were delivered orally before they were ever written down. And once they were written down, they were often read aloud for hundreds (or thousands) of years before the invention of the printing press made personal copies readily available.
4. Read large chunks of the Bible. And I mean large chunks. Sit down and read the Gospel According to Mark in one sitting. Read the Torah over the course of a weekend. So often we read a chapter and think to ourselves, “Ah, that was a big portion of scripture there. I’ll stop now.” With a few exceptions, Biblical books were meant to be digested as wholes, not broken up into smaller and smaller parts. If you never read the entire Gospel of Matthew at once, how are you ever going to notice the literary and theological features that Matthew includes?
5. Don’t be afraid to consult commentaries. And no, I don’t mean study notes. I mean book length engagements with a specific book of the Bible, deep forays into the context, meaning, and history of a certain passage. You are not the first person to read Obadiah or 3 John. And, if you’re anything like me, there are plenty of insights to be missed if you assume you can get everything out a passage of scripture. So don’t be afraid to consult a commentary or two (or three) for insights into the deeper meaning of a passage. It goes without saying that not all commentaries are created equal. I would suggest looking at the Best Commentaries, a helpful website for determining the right type of commentary for you.
6. Make a plan and stick to it. Find or create a plan for your Bible reading. This has never been easier. Websites like the BibleGateway and apps like YouVersion can remind you every day to this. There’s simply no excuse for not remembering to engage the words of the Word of God everyday. If you have trouble remembering, consider finding an accountability partner, someone who you can check with and who will check on you on a regular basis to ensure you’re staying on track.
7. Don’t just read, meditate. Psalm 1:2 tells us that those who meditate on the laws of the Lord are blessed. If that’s not reason enough to meditate upon the scriptures, then I don’t know what is. Of course, there are always the benefits of better recall and application when you actually think about things instead of just checking them off your list of things to do, but you already knew that.
8. Learn how other (older) Christians read and interpreted the Bible. This is similar to consulting commentaries, but different in that I suggest you consult living, breathing human beings. Preferably older, more mature Christians, those saints who have a lifetime of experience reading and applying the Bible to their lives. You might be surprised at all the knowledge that you sit behind every Sunday and are missing out on.
9. Read something other than just the Bible. And I don’t mean the study notes. This might be the most counter-intuitive suggestion on a list of thoughts on reading the Bible. However, if we only read the Bible, there’s a lot that we can miss, even within the Bible. As a professor of mine once said, “The Bible has all the answers. But unless you read outside the Bible, you might miss the questions.”
10. Apply it. Don’t just read the Bible. Apply it lovingly. Spread the Good News that you’ve read.