Did you know that the Bible was the first book ever printed on the revolutionary printing press that was invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1450? Ever since then the Bible has remained the world’s best-selling book. The Bible has been on N.Y. Times bestseller list since 1953. There is no doubt that the Bible is the most popular book ever written.
Maybe you’ve tried reading the Bible, and you gave up because you didn’t get anything out of it. That has left you wondering why the Bible has remained so popular? How could a book that is thousands of years old still be the best-seller?
In a minute, I’ll share some tips that will help you get useful information from the Bible, but first, we need to look at the uniqueness of the Bible as a whole.
For starters, the Bible makes claims about itself that no other religious book makes. It claims to be a book that came from God Himself. It says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” (2 Timothy 3:16).
Peter explains it this way: “Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20–21).
Here are a few other claims the Bible makes about itself:
The Bible is perfect or complete (Psalm 19:7-11)
The Bible is true (Psalm 33:4)
The Bible will last forever (Psalm 119:89)
The Bible gives us wisdom (Psalm 119:99)
The Bible can be trusted (Psalm 119:138)
The Bible reveals the truth (Acts 18:28)
The Bible is holy (Romans 1:2) [Copied from Tyndale House Publishers, 2015]
If those claims are true, then we must approach the Bible expecting to discover some amazing things. In fact, the Bible is “…able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). We are not in a position to stand as judges over the Bible. It exists to change us. If we don’t think we need to be changed, we will never understand the message of God’s Book.
The Bible is not like a buffet line, where we can pick out the things we like and ignore the things we don’t like. I heard one Bible teacher express it this way: “The Bible does not give us a menu from which we choose; it gives us mandates we should obey.”
Bible teacher R.A. Torry explains that “Nothing clears the mind like obedience; nothing darkens the mind like disobedience. To obey a truth you see prepares you to see other truths. To disobey a truth you see darkens your mind to all truths.”
If you really want to learn what the Bible has for you, then here are some tips that will help.
First, find a version of the Bible that uses words that are understandable to you. Many of the older translations of the Bible are good, but the meaning of some of the words they use has changed over time. For example, the King James Bible (from 1611) has Jesus telling His disciples to “…suffer the little children to come unto me….” (Mark 10:14). That was a good translation in 1611 because at the time, the word “suffer” meant “to permit.” Today that translation makes it sound like Jesus wanted the children to be in pain. Actually, He was directing his disciples to let them come to Him freely.
Here are some modern translations that accurately reflect what was said in the original Greek and Hebrew texts: New American Standard Bible, New International Version, and English Standard Version. A very readable paraphrase (that expresses the meaning using simpler words) is the New Living Translation.
Keep in mind that the truth of the Bible is literal, but it often uses poetic language to express that truth. For example, the Bible describes the great joy when God will come to rule here on earth by saying, “For you will go out with joy and be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:12). That paints a beautiful word picture of literal joy, but no one would come away thinking that trees have hands.
One of the most important tips about reading the Bible is to always look at the context (surrounding verses) before you decide what it means. Many times, I’ve heard people claim that God promises to heal physical sickness because the Bible says that the Messiah was beaten for our healing in Isaiah 53:5. But, in the same verse, it uses the words “transgressions” and “iniquities” to explain that the Messiah will suffer to pay for our SIN, not our physical healing. By the way, Peter quoted this verse in 1 Peter 2:24 in the same context, explaining that we need to have our sins healed.
Here is the most important Bible reading tip you will ever see. Because the Bible is a supernatural book, it won’t make a lot of sense until your heart has been changed by its Author. This is true because “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
As a matter of fact, the death of Christ makes very little sense until you see it as your only way to become acceptable to a holy God. That is why the Apostle Paul said that the message about “…the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Don’t know where to start reading the Bible? John, the fourth book of the New Testament, is an excellent introduction to the life of Jesus Christ. Read that book first, and then let me know what you think of it. I would like to help you learn and love God’s Word.