So you want to read the Bible? Be aware that it’s no easy task.
For one thing, the Bible is actually more like a mini-library than a book. There are 66 different writings produced by dozens of different authors over more than a thousand-year period. In fact, when you consider the diversity of its sources, the unity of its message is all the more astounding.
I am not trying to discourage you from reading the Bible. I just want you to know that it’s a significant challenge – one that many well-intentioned people have not achieved. I want you to be aware of this for two reasons. One, I don’t want you to be surprised by the difficulty. Two, and more important, I don’t want you to become discouraged in your walk with the Lord if you don’t meet your own expectation. That is, I want you to live every day in the presence of, and for the pleasure of, our Lord Jesus Christ. To the degree that reading the Bible helps you in that regard, great! However, if you should falter and not be able to keep to your intention to read the Bible I do not want you to regard your walk with the Lord as impaired. For if you were to lose heart in living for God because you weren’t regularly reading your Bible, that would be an unnecessary and tragic loss. I say more about this in More on the Bible. To summarize: do not let your quest to read the Bible interfere with your desire to live for God.
With that caveat out of the way, let me recommend the following: If you can only read one chapter of the Bible, read 1 Corinthians 15. If you can read only one book of the Bible, read the Gospel of John. If you can read only one testament of the Bible, read the New Testament. I say this because the point of the Bible is Jesus Christ. What good is it if you get bogged down in the minutia of Leviticus or the genealogies of 1 Chronicles but never get to the Messiah who was the ultimate point of it all?
Although Jesus was prophesied throughout the Old Testament, those prophecies were veiled. They were varied and mysterious references which would only make complete sense once Messiah arrived and especially after He was raised from the dead. Study Christ first! Get to know Him. Then when you look back in the Old Testament, you can see Him more clearly.
As you might guess, I therefore do not suggest you try reading the Bible in the conventional way you’d read a book (beginning to the end). Since the Scriptures are indeed more like a library, start with the books that are easier to understand and more directly applicable to the life you live. You are not an ancient Israelite offering a lamb from your flock on an altar of fire.
Read the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians as a preface. Then read the Gospel of John. Next you could read Luke-Acts. I say it that way because the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles have a common author: Luke. The Gospel of Luke will give you another perspective on the life of Jesus. Then go directly to Acts which tells the story of how the apostles spread the word of Jesus’ resurrection and coming kingdom. From there, you could then read Matthew and Mark, which are the other two accounts of the life of Jesus. Or you could begin reading any of the letters (sometimes called epistles) of the New Testament. After completing the New Testament (except for Revelation, which I’ll cover in a moment), you could begin reading the Old Testament with Psalms or Proverbs. From there you might go to Genesis or some of the other history books. Once you’ve completed the Old Testament, you could read Revelation. I saved it for last because its vivid and startling imagery draws extensively from the writings of both testaments.
At any point in the sequence above you could stop, temporarily or permanently. For example, you could just keep re-reading the Gospel of John. I say this because you will always receive fresh thoughts no matter how many times you re-read any Bible book. (It’s the word of God; God Himself breathes it to you fresh every time you read with an open heart.)
The important thing, as I said before, is to let your Bible reading help you in your walk with the Lord Jesus. Never let Bible reading – or its relinquishment – become a hindrance to your obeying Him.