Every January, many commit to reading through the Bible in one year. Incidentally, this commonplace is one reason why I love evangelicalism. We are Bible people. And as Bible people, we should pursue reading Scripture well by avoiding common mistakes that we sometimes make.
Here then are three mistakes that we sometimes make when we read the Bible.
We read without hearing from God
John Piper taught me that in prayer we talk to God while in Bible reading we hear from God. I think that’s right. Reading the Bible well means praying to God as we hear from him in Scripture. It is a two-way conversation.
To use an older word, scripture provides one way for us to commune with God. We talk to him; he talks to us. The Spirit works throughout both to intercede and to mediate our communion with the Father and Son.
Put very simply, listen to God speak in Scripture. Then respond to what he says to you.
We don’t read through a whole book of the bible
Often we read snippets in Scripture without reading a whole book. Even when using a Bible reading plan, we may read one chapter a day without considering how the whole book communicates its message.
Here is the thing. Biblical books communicate ideas. Each of the four Gospels presents Christ from four different angles. Paul’s letters have a purpose. And so on. Like any book that we read today, if we do not understand its beginning, middle, and end, we miss the point.
Just consider reading a novel. If you read a paragraph of a novel every day without considering how that paragraph fits into the grand story, then you would not enjoy or understand the book. We read the Bible like this sometimes. Instead, we should read books of the Bible (even the whole Bible itself) as a coherent story.
In short, read through whole books of the Bible to understand them as books.
We forget about the divine author
God wrote Scripture through prophets. In the language of Peter, the Spirit of God carried along prophets in order to inspire Holy Scripture (2 Pet 1:21). The Holy Spirit worked through human authors to inspire the Bible. Therefore, Scripture does not come from the “will of man” but of God (2 Pet 1:21). God willed Scripture into existence. He is the author.
Most of us would agree. Yet sometimes we do not apply this conviction to how we see the Bible. If God is the author of Scripture, then each book of the Bible—despite their various human authors, settings, and arguments—unites around God’s purpose for creation.
That purpose is to sum up all things in heaven and earth in Christ Jesus (Eph 1:10). Every book of the Bible to some degree advances this purpose. It previews, sets up, prophecies, teaches of Christ.
Scripture’s united message follows from the fact that God wrote scripture. So we can have confidence in the Holy Word about the Word of God.
This year, when you read Scripture, remember to talk to God, read whole scriptural books, and remember who wrote the Bible: God.