There are many valid and effective Bible reading methods. The purpose of this article is to introduce you to the #1 most often overlooked and forgotten method of reading the Bible.
But first, a question: When was the last time you received a personal letter (or email) from a dear friend or loved one?
Do you remember the anticipation you felt as you opened the letter/email and began to read? You couldn’t read it fast enough, could you?
Now, stop and think about this: Did you read the letter in its entirety, or did you read only the first few sentences and put the letter down with the intent of finishing it later?
Perhaps you are thinking, “What a stupid question . . . Of course I read the whole thing!”
Now, stop and think about what happened some 2,000 years ago when the Christians living in Ephesus received a letter from the Apostle Paul. Do you think there was a buzz of excitement as these believers gathered around to hear what their spiritual father had to say to them? At the time this letter was written, Paul was imprisoned in Rome, but he kept in touch with the many churches he founded by writing letters – 13 of those letters have been preserved as part of Holy Scripture, and he undoubtedly penned many others that did not make it into the Bible.
Imagine being a Christian in first century Ephesus . . . when you come to the weekly prayer meeting at your neighbor’s house, the church leaders are quite excited – “Paul sent us a letter! He’s still in jail but he sent us a letter!”
So all the believers listen intently as someone begins to read the letter:
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The words just leap off the parchment and into your heart. Yes, that sounds like Paul all right. He called us “saints” and “the faithful in Christ Jesus.” Oh, how sweet those words sound to your ears. It’s like he’s right there, in your midst, the words of truth flowing from his mouth with that unique combination of humility and boldness you came to love during the three years he spent in Ephesus as your spiritual leader.
The reader continues: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”
Yes! Yes! The believers all around you are now filled with joy. We have so many spiritual blessings in Jesus our Savior; we have so much to praise God for! Paul spent many hours explaining those blessings to us when he was here – oh, it will be great to hear him teach those truths again today through this letter!
But suddenly the reader stops and decides that is enough. “Come back tomorrow night and I’ll pick it up where I left off. I don’t want to read the whole letter tonight. That’s all for now.”
OK, you can quit pretending you are a first century Ephesian and come back to the 21st century. Perhaps my example above was a bit farfetched – you don’t think the Ephesians would have read just the first few sentences of Paul’s letter, do you? Of course not!
They would have read the entire letter, right?
In fact, wouldn’t they have read the letter in its entirety . . . in one sitting?
My friend, when was the last time you read one of Paul’s letters in its entirety, in one sitting? Have you ever read any book of the Bible in its entirety, in one sitting?
When Paul wrote his letters, they were written with the intention of being read in their entirety, in one sitting. So when we read Paul’s letters, shouldn’t we read them in the way they were intended to be read?
If you’ve never done this before, I encourage you to try it today. Start with Ephesians or one of the other shorter New Testament letters, and together we can bring this forgotten Bible reading method back into the memory of the 21st century church.
For a more in-depth explanation of this approach to Bible reading, see my book, “The Forgotten Bible Reading Method: How to Read and Understand the Bible in 5 Simple Steps” on Amazon.