How do you read the Bible?
This question might seem strange to ask. But how we read the Bible will determine how we understand it and apply it.
The Bible is a book composed of 66 books written by 40 authors over a span of 1500 years. Its message is a story of God’s creation falling into disarray because of sin and rebellion and how God redeems and rescues people and the world. And yet, many people struggle to read the Bible. The ancient practices, strange laws, foreign rituals, and obscure references can be off-putting.
For some people, it is easiest to just read the New Testament. It feels more relevant. Others like to simply choose a Bible verse and focus on the morality commended or the comfort it provides.
But the Bible is a grand story of God’s redemption that is rooted in historical events. The sovereign God who has worked in history has also preserved his works through his Word. And God’s history has a goal. That goal can be summarized quite easily: that all things in heaven and on earth are summed up in Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:10). From the beginning to the end, we are either looking back at the anticipation of his arrival to crush the serpent (Gen. 3:15), seeing him defeat Satan as he falls (Lk. 10:18), or awaiting his final arrival to end all suffering and crush the serpent once and for all (Rev. 20:2). In other words, we read the Bible as the history of God’s redemption (also called the “Redemptive Historical Method”).
The Redemptive Historical Method for reading the Bible understands that the Scriptures are 1) pointing to Christ, 2) rooted in history, and 3) progressively revealing God’s plan. When we see that there is an overarching flow to the Bible’s history that unfolds how Christ is the One we have been waiting for, our approach to Bible reading can be greatly helped. We can begin to see how each passage has a specific context for a specific people in a specific place and time, but how God is unfolding more of his work and bringing greater understanding as the story moves along. While Moses was speaking to Israel in the wilderness, Jesus could say that Moses was speaking of what would be revealed in Jesus (see Lk. 24:27).
As we see that there is a grand story-line to Scripture, our approach to Bible reading should be greatly enriched in three ways.
First, God’s story takes precedent over my story. By asking how God is working out his plan of redemption, we resist the urge to make the Bible all about us. Yes, I am important to God. Yes, he has truths to reveal to me and work out in my life. But no, I am not the center of the story! By reading the Bible in this way, I am continually confronting my selfish nature that wants to make everything – even the Bible – about me!
Second, my application of the Bible story is greatly enriched and expanded. If I am reading first for personal application, there will be a lot of parts of the Bible that don’t seem relevant to my life. Why bother reading a genealogy? What’s the point of clean and unclean laws? However, if I read the Bible in light of God’s unfolding plan of redemption, I find that I am also part of this story and can identify with God’s rescue plan throughout history and anticipate his final victory whether I’m reading Leviticus or Luke.
Third, my delight in Christ will grow. As I look at the cherubim or the church, I can see the work of Christ. I can appreciate his saving power. What was hidden in the Old Testament is revealed in the New. What was a shadow for Israel is a light shining in my heart. Christ becomes more precious to me as I read the Bible through God’s work of redemption in history.
The Bible is so much bigger and better than a few verses for personal application. It is a message of rescue, hope, and victory. And a lifetime of reading the Bible will only increase your wonder as you open up the pages and find more good news than you could have ever imagined!
Take up and read!
How do you read the Bible?