Studying the Bible – Whole Books at a Time

When studying the Bible, most people spend their time on maybe a paragraph or a chapter at a time. What I am suggesting is that you should have regular times of Bible study where you consume a whole book in a single sitting. You may be thinking, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Pump those brakes, Daustin.” Hang with me on this. This blog post provides reasons for doing this at times and the method for making this possible.

First, why in the world should this be part of your regular Bible intake habits? We have to remember that most of the books of the Bible were not written separately and compiled later. Yes, this is true for most of the Books of Wisdom (Psalms, Proverbs, etc.), but it is certainly not true for most of the books found in the New Testament, most of the prophets, and the books of history. What this means is that by consuming these books in a single sitting, it provides a robust view of the context, setting, and overall message of a book.

Another reason why this should be a habit of reading the Bible is because you are a grown up. Yup, I just wrote that! When you were a child, it was impressive if you could read a paragraph of Scripture. As a teenager, you were mature if you could read a chapter of Scripture and discern the context. If you are an adult and have been a believer for a few years, reading a whole book of the Bible, making notes, finding sources to interpret the book, and applying the text to your life is something that the Spirit makes possible because of your mental and spiritual maturity.

Maybe you read that last sentence and you are giving your screen a sheepish kind of look because you aren’t sure that you are able to do this. Well, that means that what I have written next is meant for you! I am going to give a few pointers on reading through a whole book of the Bible and spiritually digesting it. Every person is going to find a different method of bulk Scripture reading that works for them. What matters most is not finding the perfect technique. The point is the action, not the approach.

Let’s start with the easiest decision. What book do you read in one sitting first? Let me give you two different thoughts on this. If you are not a great reader or do not read often, start with a short book. The Prison Letters (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians) are a great starting point for you. None of these are more than six chapters long, and they can generally be read in about a half hour. If you are a good reader, I highly recommend reading one of the Gospels. It is so refreshing to set aside a chunk of time to just read about our Saviour!

As you begin reading, have a notepad available to write down thoughts. I recently read again through Mark and I was paying attention to a few of pieces of information to make notes about. The first thing that you are going to use your notepad for is questions. Philip had the same question for the Ethiopian eunuch, “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8.30) Writing down your questions is a great way to continue in the process of reading, while making a note to research something later that you did not understand during the process. Sometimes, you will need to just stop and re-read or research, and that is ok, too.

The second reason that I have my notepad is to make connections to other Scripture. Many Bibles have tons of references in the margins. Use them! Many great brothers and sisters in the faith have worked hard to compile these and didn’t do so for us to ignore them. What you will notice is that sometimes you will even notice connections that are not referenced. For example, when I got to Mark 12, I noticed in verses 40 and 44 the contrast between how scribes deprive widows and then how Jesus commended the widow.

The last reason I have my notepad is to check on trends. When you go to a Broadway musical, listening to the overture is important because it contains the main musical themes of the work. In the same way, the opening chapter of a book is important because it contains the main themes of the work. I am looking for words or themes that repeat themselves. This usually means that the author is trying to communicate a certain point or purpose. When I began in Mark, some of the things I noticed in chapter 1 were

repent, follow, preach/teach, pray, Jesus questioned, and healing/casting out. I started my list by making a note of each of these occurrences by chapter and verse. As I continued into the book, repent, follow, and pray, were not referenced as much as the other topics. I share this to show you that being fluid and receiving the book instead of forcing your purposes onto it is the proper method.

Be encouraged–you can do this! Begin by praying. Pray that God will bless you in this endeavor and that His Spirit will illuminate the truths of Scripture to you through a whole book at a time. Find a time to put your cell phone in another room, remove any other possible distractions, and dig deep into the Word of God.

-Associate Pastor Daustin