How to Read the Bible for Yourself

How to Read the Bible for Yourself

1. Read for the author’s meaning, not your own.

When we read, we want to know what an author intended us to see and experience in his writing. He had an intention when he wrote. Nothing will ever change that. It is there as a past, objective event in history.

We are not reading simply for subjective experiences. We are reading to discover more about objective reality. I’m not content with what comes to my mind when I read it. The meaning of a sentence, or a word, or a letter is what the author intended for us to understand by it. Therefore, meaning is the first aim of all good reading.

2. Ask questions to unlock the riches of the Bible.

When we read, we do not generally really think until we are faced with a problem to be solved, a mystery to be unraveled or a puzzle to be deciphered. Until our minds are challenged, and shift from passive reading to active reading, we drift right over lots of insights.

Asking ourselves questions is a way of creating a problem or a mystery to be solved. That means the habit of asking ourselves questions awakens and sustains our thinking. It stimulates our mind while we read, and drives us down deep to the real meaning of a passage.

2.1 Ask about words.

Ask about definitions. What does this word mean in this specific sentence? And remember, we’re asking what the author intended by the word, not what we think it means. This assumes words will have different meanings in different sentences.

2.2 Ask about phrases.

A phrase is a group of words without a verb that describe some action or person or thing. For instance, “Put sin to death by the Spirit.” “By the Spirit” describes the activity. It tells us how we kill sin in our lives. Look closely at phrases like these and ask what specifically they’re explaining.

2.3. Ask about relationships between propositions.

A proposition is a group of words with a subject and a verb. How propositions relate to each other is one of the most important questions we can ask. Often, there will be a small connecting word that holds the answer (e.g., but, if, and, therefore, in order that, because, etc.). Sometimes the major differences between whole theologies hang on these connections.

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John Piper
John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. John is the author of more than 30 books and more than 25 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at DesiringGod.org. © Desiring God.