So you want to start reading, understanding, and applying the Bible to your life! That’s wonderful! Here at the Vineyard, we believe the Scriptures are a gift from God and help us to know who Jesus is and how God’s acted throughout history in order to redeem and reconcile people! Therefore, we are committed to the careful study and interpretation of the Bible, and to the faithful preaching of its message.
But if you are new to the church or it’s been awhile since you’ve read the Bible, it might feel a bit scary! So where should you begin?
Here are a few helpful steps and resources that we recommend:
Get a Bible you can understand.
For many people, the biggest challenge toward their reading of the Bible is which translation they choose. There are a number of translation theories, but two accurate and readable translations that we recommend are the New Living Translation (NLT) and the New International Version (NIV) (Pastor Luke preaches from the NLT). A great Bible to get is the Jesus-centered Bible (NLT), as it has great little devotional readings and poses excellent questions to consider while reading!
Get a couple Bible resources.
The Bible contains 66 separate “books” broken into two sections, the Old and New Testaments. It was written by numerous authors over the course of hundreds upon hundreds of years in several ancient languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek). Because of this, admittedly the Scriptures can be challenging to understand given that we live 2,000+ years since it was written! Yet because the authors of Scripture were “inspired by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21) and because the Bible communicates the “wisdom to receive salvation” (2 Tim. 3:15), it makes sense to work hard toward reading, understanding, and applying it. Here are a couple helpful resources:
Unlocking the Bible: A Unique Overview of the Whole Bible, by David Pawson. Pawson is a leading Bible teacher from England and this book provides a summary of every book of the Bible! It’s highly readable and provides all of the background information required in order to pick up the Scriptures and have a better understanding of them. Highly recommended!
The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible, by Scot McKnight. This book introduces how we should interpret the Bible and why some people have such different understandings of the same book! The author contends that parakeets make delightful pets because we can cage them or clip their wings to keep them where we want them. Unfortunately, many people attempt to do the same thing with the Bible. The book calls Christians to stop taming the Bible and to let it speak anew for a new generation.
Evangelical Theology: A Biblical & Systematic Introduction, by Michael F. Bird. This is a great place to start in order to understand Christian beliefs, doctrines, and theology. Bird is a leading biblical scholar from Australia and a hilarious writer! In addition to providing theological clarity, Bird has a lot of “comic relief” throughout this book that’s extremely helpful!
There are a lot of other resources that we’d recommend, but these three are a good start. You might not agree with everything in these books and that’s totally okay! They will just help you understand the Bible better!
Ask a lot of questions!
When you read the Bible, remember that it’s totally okay to ask questions! In fact, the best way to move toward understanding and applying the Scripture is done by asking questions. For example, when you read a passage of Scripture, you can ask the following:
- What does this passage teach me about Jesus?
- What is the cultural context in which this passage is written?
- What did the original author intend for his readers to understand?
- What would the original audience understood?
- How does this passage challenge me to live?
- Why was this passage written?
These are just a few of the questions you can ask yourself and those you are reading the Bible with and answering them will sometimes take some time and study (for answers related to the cultural background, you mine as well pick up The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament and The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament).
When you read Scripture, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you.
When we read the Bible, we’re not simply looking for information; rather, we’re engaging the Scriptures to experience spiritual transformation alongside our desire to learn more about God and his kingdom. This is why we should both do our best to understand what the Bible meant by its author and to the original audience and ask for the Holy Spirit to show us how it applies to our lives now!
One of the best ways to prepare our hearts to encounter God in Scripture is to ask God to speak to us as we read. In fact, reading the Bible should be a relational experience where we ask God to speak to us, listen to the teachings of Scripture, and pray about how we can understand and apply it.
What questions do you have about reading, understanding, and interpreting the Bible?
We’d love to hear from you!