Exploring Hope: Why read the Bible?

The Bible is boring. The Bible is irrelevant. The Bible is offensive. The Bible is false.

These are all possible reactions to the Christian Bible, which contains 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament.

Some of you are indifferent to the Bible and others of you are hostile to it. But there is an old saying among scholars: “If you haven't read the book, you can't talk about it." In other words, intellectual honesty requires one actually to read a book before declaring judgment. And it's not enough to read only part of it; you need to read the entire book to form an honest judgment. The Bible is no different.

I would encourage everyone to read the Bible from cover to cover at least once in their lifetime. Even if you come from another faith or worldview, the Bible has shaped civilization throughout history, and Christianity is growing rapidly, especially in the southern hemisphere. So, every critical thinker in the modern world needs to understand this important piece of literature.

At the same time, many Christians have never read the Bible from cover to cover either. They claim that it is God's Word and truthful in everything God intends to teach about himself and the world, but they’ve never taken the time to read every word God inspired. So, I would encourage everyone — Christian, Jew, Muslim, agnostic, atheist, undecided — to read the Bible from cover to cover in 2019.

Of course, that may feel like a daunting endeavor, especially if you are new to Christianity. I would like to offer some suggestions about how to do this:

  1. Choose a good Bible reading plan. I’ve attempted to read through the Bible every year for the last 15 years (sometimes I make it all the way, and sometimes I don’t). This year I'm using a “one-year Bible reading plan” by Robert Murray M’Cheyne, which should take me through the New Testament and Psalms twice and the Old Testament once. It's divided into daily readings that equal about 4 chapters a day. If you're interested in this plan, you can print a guide here to stick in your Bible. Of course, there are lots of other great options (chronological, sequential, etc). You can explore different plans here.  One might work for you.
  2. Choose a good Bible. You're going to read the Bible about 20 minutes a day, which is roughly 7,300 minutes in a year. It's worth using a Bible that is easy to read and comfortable. I highly recommend using a study Bible with notes if it's your first time. They aren't inerrant but keep you moving. The ESV Study Bible is one of the best resources out there. There are also great options for reading on iPads, phones, and kindles, but in general, I still think it's good to use a paper version so that you learn how to maneuver your way around a physical Bible. However, if you want a digital option, this app seems super cool with videos to understand themes and individual books of the Bible.
  3. Pray for grace and wisdom to grow in your knowledge of God and salvation through his Word! I'm confident that, if you stick with this for a year, you'll be surprised. Isaiah 55:11 promises that God’s Word will “not return to [him] empty” but will accomplish everything he intends. And I’ve never found God’s Word empty. It has always accomplished what God intends in my life, so I’m confident it will impact your life as well.  But at the very least, you’ll be able to reject the Bible with intellectual honesty. You’ve “read the book.”

Feel free to email me at PastorWill@ExploreHopeChurch.org if you have questions or decide to read the Bible from cover to cover for the first time. I would love to know.

 

About Will Stern

Originally from Colorado, Will Stern is the pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church in Garnet Valley. He majored in violin performance for his undergrad and taught violin for a number of years before being called into ministry. He studied theology at Duke University and Westminster Theological Seminary.

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