In April 2016 I got together with about ten friends and we decided to make a habit of sending an hour and a half every Wednesday evening to read aloud the whole Bible. And, apart from the occasional breaks around holiday times, we have kept to this and, in a few weeks time, we will have got all the way from the book of Genesis right through to Revelation at the end.
It’s been a surprisingly wonderful, rewarding and fun experience. So much so, that, when we finish, we will probably start all over again!
So why is it so important to read the entire Bible?
Well, here are 7 answers to that question, which I hope will encourage you to give it a try:
1. It helps you see the overarching stories of scripture
The Bible has three great themes – all of which can be ways we understand the Gospel – or the good news of salvation. These are:
• The Exodus - which shows how God hears our cries when we call out to him in suffering and rescues us.
• The Exile - which shows how God brings us home when we find ourselves in a faraway place.
• The life, death and resurrection of Christ – which shows us how we have forgiveness of our sins and new life.
We need to read the whole Bible to understand these themes and how they are interwoven throughout both Old and New Testaments.
2. It helps you interpret scripture better
Seeing verses and passages from scripture in the context of whole books and the whole Bible, help us to understand them more clearly. When John the Baptist calls Jesus ‘the Lamb of God,’ this makes more sense when we have read the Old Testament story of how lambs were slain and the blood smeared on doorposts at the time of the last plague – so that the Hebrews were freed from slavery in Egypt. He is pointing forward to how Jesus will be sacrificed like a lamb to bring people freedom from the slavery of sin.
3. Spending time with the Bible gives God the chance to speak to you
As we’ve read the Bible, we’ve often found a particular phrase or verse seems to be highlighted for us. It seems to relate to something we are experiencing as individuals or as a church. And this is always worth stopping and unpacking – as this is one of the most powerful ways God speaks to us and guides us.
4. It ensures you are not just reading other books
It’s good to read extensively. And all great books contain much truth - and God can and does speak to us though them. Nonetheless, as the American theologian John Piper once said, ‘When all your favourite preachers are gone and their books are forgotten, you will have your Bible. Master it.’
5. It forces you to read the tricky parts of scripture
Reading the whole Bible, we have certainly come across some difficult passages and, frankly, some repulsive passages. It has helped us to see not just the divine inspiration behind the Bible – but also its human creation. There is prejudice, hatred and cruelty and we have sometimes asked how a verse could have ended up in scripture. But it has also helped us to see how God works through the people he loves – even when we are deeply flawed.
6. It feels quite an achievement when you do it!
Most people think they could never read the Bible. It’s far too long. But it’s amazing how – especially with the encouragement of a few friends – you can do it quite easily. The experience has helped us to see that reading the Bible is quite manageable if you just keep going – step by step, week by week. And suddenly you find you have done it!
7. It is inspiring – and fun!!
We have made our way through 1,163 pages and many of the passages have been deeply moving and encouraged us enormously in our faith. And sometimes they have even made us laugh out loud. While I can’t say the Bible is a gag a minute, there are some funny moments – like when the death of King Jeroham is recorded in 2 Chronicles, it says ‘He passed away – to no one’s regret.’ And proverbs like ‘A nagging wife is like a dripping tap.’ Not to mention Balaam’s talking donkey.
So give it a try. And take my advice - do it with some friends if you can. The Bible was written long before printing presses had been invented and the books were intended to be read out loud.
Get some nice snacks and drinks and make an evening of it.
And hopefully, like us, you’ll find that reading the whole Bible is a lot easier and more enjoyable than you think!
Posted by Martine Oborne