When we come to the Scriptures, we all have a reading plan. Sometimes our plans are highly structured, like a chronological study or “read the New Testament in 30 days.” Others tend to be, essentially, a game of Bible roulette—we just pick a place and read, with no clear direction as to why. (Maybe not the best approach, but…)
In general, I believe reading plans are helpful. Structure, whether through general guidelines or a detailed plan, is beneficial for us:
- A plan gives us a goal to shoot for
- It encourages us to read books and passages we might otherwise avoid
- A plan allows us to see that reading the whole Bible is something everyone can do
However, I do have concerns about what I see our plans do to many of us as we read the Bible. For all their benefits, I’ve seen many instances where strict adherence to the plan—especially when we’re falling behind or confronted by a less-than-familiar passage—turns what should be a delight into drudgery (or worse). We read several books of the Bible just to read them and say they’re done, not for what we learn about our Lord through them.
Wisdom from Newton
And this is what we’e got to avoid—after all, reading the Bible is meant to help us better know Christ. So if we’re going to do that, what is the best reading plan? John Newton suggested one that is particularly simple: Start at the beginning, and keep reading all the way until the end. Then, do it again.
I know not a better rule of reading the Scripture, than to read it through from beginning to end; and, when we have finished it once, to begin it again. We shall meet with many passages which we can make little improvement of, but not so many in the second reading as in the first, and fewer in the third than in the second.1
The Best Kind of Reading Plan
Newton’s point was not to say read through the Bible for the sake of reading through the Bible. Instead, he encouraged this so that we might see Christ more clearly in every passage. As Tony Reinke says regarding this very point in Newton on the Christian Life:
Rereading the Bible over and over will help you make sense of Scripture. And reviewing Scripture over and over will help you see more of Christ. To see Christ on every page requires a familiarity with the entire Bible.
So what is the best kind of Bible reading plan? The one that helps us to see Christ more clearly in every book and on every page: Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus. Zephaniah and Obadiah, too. Let’s make it our aim to read every page, familiarizing ourselves with every word. For all have something about them that points us to Jesus.
- Newton as quoted by Tony Reinke in Newton on the Christian Life: To Live Is Christ. ↵
An earlier version of this post was published on Aaron’s personal blog. Republished with permission.