Starting Out in the Bible

One of the most important things in the life of a Christian is regular time reading, studying, and applying the Bible. Through the Bible we learn about God, ourselves, sin, and so much more. We learn what He has done for us (the gospel) and what He desires for us (His will). Starting to read the Bible can be a challenge, especially if one is new and unfamiliar with it.

Bear this in mind, though: God desires that we know and understand His Word and His will. Further, He has given us everything we need to understand it, not the least of which is the Holy Spirit living within us.

Where Do I Start?

If you are a new believer–or if you have just never read the Bible much, I suggest you start by reading and mastering the New Testament first (the 2nd part of the Bible, beginning with the Matthew). I suggest this as a good plan to start:

A) The Gospel, the Life and Teachings of Jesus.

Read each of these at least 2–3 times before moving on. Read a little each day, 15–30 minutes. Take notes. (See below for keeping a Bible reading journal.)

John’s Gospel. The basics of “faith/believing in” Jesus. (John 20:31).
1 John. Assurance of salvation. (1 John 5:13)
Galatians. Walking in the Spirit, not under law. (Gal. 5:1).
Luke and Acts – You should read these together (Acts after Luke), since they are linked.
Matthew and Mark

(By this point you should have a good grasp of Jesus’ life and teachings, as well as a basic understanding of the gospel.)

B) Paul’s other epistles

Romans – a detailed explanation of the gospel and practical applications
1 & 2 Corinthians – Paul’s counsel to a troubled church
Philippians – Paul’s most joyful letter
Ephesians and Colossians – I suggest reading these through or even alongside each other, as they contain many of the same themes, and could have even been written at the same time.
1 Thessalonians thru Philemon – Read these in biblical order. At this point you will have read all of Paul’s letters and the majority of the NT

C) The other Epistles and Revelation

Hebrews through Revelation – Read these in biblical order, skipping 1 John (unless you want to read it again).

How Do I Start Reading?

Start reading a little at a time. Try to focus on thought units rather than a specific number of verses or chapters (the chapter and verse divisions were added much later anyway). It might help if you do a basic outline of the book first, just to show the units of thoughts. It need not be elaborate. You can also use the outline as a way to track your progress. Here is an example outline of John’s Gospel: Outline of John

Keeping a Journal

Many who read the Bible regularly find it very helpful to keep a notebook or journal of their reading. Like outlines, the journal need not be complicated. You can use a small notebook, and perhaps allow one page per day, depending on the size of the pages. Note the date, the day of the week, and the passage reference. As you read, as yourself if the passage has any of these things. If so, note them:

  • A sin to avoid?
  • Promise to claim? (Are there any conditions to the promise?)
  • Example to follow?
  • Truth to believe/apply?
  • Knowledge of God? (Something that tells us about who God is and/or His character)
  • Also ask the Lord to give you His message for you today, and write that down.

Using this practice will allow you to go back and reflect upon your spiritual journey and see what the Lord has taught you.

The Right Attitude

Beyond any resources, methods, or techniques, the attitude of the heart is the most important. We are to come to God’s written Word with an attitude of a child sitting before a teacher and father. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide and teach you, and give you understanding of His Word. Remember, His desire is that you do understand His Word, know Him, and walk in His ways.