Guest post, guest post! Can you see me doing the happy dance over here? Real World Bible Study was always supposed to be a community project, so every time I get to bring in a guest, I’m doing the Bible boogie in my chair. And yes. I’m exactly that cheesy. But don’t worry – this is good stuff. Today’s guest, Jana Carlson, shares about the differences between Bible reading and Bible study. Y’all, I gravitate towards Bible study more than reading myself, but after just reading her introduction, I wanted to get out my Bible and just do some straight up reading!
Bible Reading vs. Bible Study
When it comes to gathering treasure from God’s Word, are you a “raker” or a “digger”? Do you read the Bible? Or do you study the Bible?
Don’t worry. I’m not about to put all the Bible “rakers” on a guilt trip, pointing out how much more spiritual the “diggers” are. The truth is, we all need to do both.
Bible reading is for breadth.
Bible study is for depth.
Knowing your Bible both “deep” and “wide” is a richness unmatched. Bible reading and Bible study are twin disciplines; they complement each other.
In order to understand the Bible, we need to read it. That sounds obvious, but so many Christians simply don’t do it.
An essential aspect of accurate study of the Bible is context. If we don’t study Scripture in context, we are in danger of misinterpreting (and wrongfully applying) it. Bible reading helps us keep it all in context.
Scripture interprets Scripture. I might read a principle or instruction or teaching in the New Testament, then immediately think of the perfect illustration from a story in the Old Testament. It’s fascinating!
Having a “big picture” view of the Bible, seeing God’s story of redemption throughout the ages as described in His Word, noticing connections and themes between the 66 books — these are enriching benefits of “raking” through the Scriptures.
[bctt tweet=”Having a “big picture” view of the Bible, seeing God’s story of redemption throughout the ages as described in His Word, noticing connections and themes between the 66 books — these are enriching benefits of “raking” through the Scriptures. with @janacwrites” username=”RealWorldBible”]
Have you ever considered how privileged we are to have such easy access to the Bible? For most of the history of the Church, Christians have not had their own copies of God’s Word to read for themselves. It was only read aloud in gatherings. They had to memorize it if they wanted to “take it with them”.
Even though most of us can read our Bible any time and anywhere, many of us don’t read it at all. A lot of Christians are content to get snippets of God’s Word from whatever Scripture they catch a glimpse of in their social media feeds or from the verse highlighted in a devotional book.
Would you commit to reading the Bible for 30 hours? I’d be surprised if you said ‘yes’. That’s still a lot of time.
What if I asked you to commit to reading the Bible for only 5 minutes a day? Does that sound more manageable?
If you read the Bible for 5 minutes every day for a year, you will read the Bible for 30 hours that year. Think of how much of this living and active Word (Hebrews 4:12) you will have consumed in 30 hours! [Joy says: SO COOL! I never put numbers on it that way!]
ALL OF IT
How much of the Bible do we really need to read? God’s Word tells us that all of it is beneficial!
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
“Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction…” (1 Corinthians 10:11)
“Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)
How to Read the Bible for Breadth
How do you read the Bible for breadth? I’ll keep it simple. 3 practical suggestions:
- Have a plan. You may choose to “rake the whole yard” by reading the entire Bible in a year. Or you might find a different plan that fits your schedule better or interests you more. Whatever plan you choose, having a plan helps you keep track of which books of the Bible you’ve read. Some people find a plan keeps them accountable. Need help getting started? Join my next 30-Day Bible Reading Challenge here.
- Read for understanding. Don’t get bogged down by tricky passages. When you’re reading for breadth, focus on what you do understand. Your understanding will increase the more you read and study. It’s a process and it takes time.
- Choose the right translation. Some translations of the Bible are more literal and better for studying. They stay very close to the original Greek and Hebrew languages. This can make them more difficult to read and understand. Other translations are meant to be a more “natural” language. I thoroughly enjoy the New Living Translation (NLT) when reading the Bible for breadth. (I like the NASB or the ESV for studying.) [Joy says: I love the NLT or CEB (Common English Bible) for reading!)
Studying the Bible gives us a greater depth of knowledge. Digging deeper into God’s Word is how it gets into our hearts and transforms us from the inside out. Bible reading is excellent, but Bible study rewards us with magnificent nuggets we don’t easily find on the surface. Digging is more work than raking, but so worth the effort!
If you’ve never studied the Bible before, the benefit of sitting under strong Biblical teaching cannot be overstated. Joining a group Bible study or an online Bible study will be an encouragement to you.
That said, you can study the Bible on your own! There’s nothing like it. It’s one thing to hear a Bible teacher share a nugget she discovered in her study this week. It’s another thing entirely to uncover that nugget on your own! And you can do it.
God intends for His children to understand His Word because He desires for us to know Him. And we know Him through His Word. When we seek to know Him more through studying His Word, He will reveal Himself to us there.
If you are intimidated by the idea of studying the Bible on your own, I’ve put together a Simple Guide to Inductive Bible Study to help you get started.
Don’t miss out on the treasures God has for you in His Word! Get out your shovel and dig in!
Jana Carlson has an insatiable love for the Word of God. She blogs at Wield The Word where her desire is to inspire women to know God’s Word and live it out. To join her next 30-Day Bible Reading Challenge, subscribe here.
Jana lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and their 3 grown children. She works as a content creator and enjoys reading, breathing in the fresh mountain air, and spending time with family and friends.
Connect with her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.
These are great suggestions and insights, Jana! I know what you mean about needing time to just read the Bible. I remember times when I made incredible connections when I was reading through the Bible in a year that I wouldn’t have made with a very in depth approach. But my much-preferred method is going deep. It kind correlates to my personality too! Lol! I’ve pinned here and did pin there (at your place!). Thanks to Joy for sharing your wisdom with us!
Beth – the “going deep” is my default too, and now I want to spend some time going “wide” or at least reading through a book or two as a “reader” before I do another in-depth study!
I’m with you and Joy – my preference is the deeper study. I just cannot deny how much richer my study is, though, when it’s combined with the breadth of reading. What a delight it is to enjoy the treasures of God’s Word!
This is great! I really enjoyed this post
I’m glad you enjoyed it, Brina. Thank you for your encouragement!
Valerie Riese says
I love the distinction between breadth vs depth, wide vs deep. You’ve so clearly identified and defined the benefits of each, which really helps me determine what I want to do. Right now I feel like I “should” be in a Bible study, when I really just want to read. Now I can see that there is nothing wrong with that at all.
Do you really think that God cannot teach you if you just read the word? I think you put too much pressure on people when you say that you they have to dig deep and get to the guts of the Bible by studying it and doing in-depth studies. God can reach you whether you dig deep into it or you just read it. I think it’s wrong to tell somebody that they have to dig deep in order to get to the guts of it to know God better. God can reach you just by reading it is well as he can buy you digging deep.
Hi Mark – I think both Bible reading and Bible study are important! It’s important to keep putting more tools in our tool box and growing deeper.