Sometimes when people look at the Bible, they get a bit overwhelmed. They see a book with over a thousand pages and with some unfamiliar names and terminology in it. They have likely heard people talk about trying to read and understand the Bible, and they allow what they hear to shape their own expectations. Truthfully, they are just not really sure where to start. Perhaps some words of introduction and encouragement would be beneficial.
First, if the above paragraph describes you in any part, realize that everyone has been where you are. No one comes to the Bible the first time with all the knowledge and understanding of a longtime Bible scholar. It takes time and effort for everyone. Start small. It’s not a race or a competition.
Second, it helps to recognize that God intends for His Word to be understood. The Almighty God made us and He made the Bible. Thus, He has the power to (1) write a book that is understandable and (2) give us the ability to understand it. Early Christians were reassured that when they read the Bible they would be able to “understand” it (Eph. 3:3-4), and they were challenged to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). God would not call upon us to do something that He did not first give us the ability to do.
Third, start at the beginning (in the Table of Contents) and see the two main divisions. The Bible is divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament. In general, these two divisions represent two separate covenants that God made at two separate times with two separate peoples. The first covenant was made with the Jews when they were at Mt. Sinai (Deut. 5:2). The purpose of that first covenant was to prepare people for the coming of Jesus (Gal. 3:19-25). When Jesus came, that old covenant was “taken out of the way” (Col. 2:14), and Jesus “established the second” covenant, or the New Testament (Heb. 10:9), when He died on the cross for us (Heb. 9:15-17). Today, we do not live under the Old Testament (Gal. 5:1-4), but we live under the New Testament and are subject to obeying it (Heb. 5:8-9).
Fourth, know that Jesus Christ is the theme of the whole Bible. God had a plan before Creation to redeem mankind to Himself (Eph. 1:4-7), and the Bible unfolds how God fulfilled that plan completely and perfectly. The Bible can be summarized in three sentences: (1) “Jesus is coming” (the books of the Old Testament). (2) “Jesus is here” (the first four books of the New Testament). (3) “Jesus is coming again” (the last 23 books of the New Testament).
The Bible is a marvelous book. The best way to understand it is to just start reading it. If there are parts that are hard to understand, don’t worry about those parts at first. The great thing is that the parts we do need to understand to be saved are very clear and understandable. God is good! He gave us the Bible so that we could come to know Him, love Him, believe in Him and obey Him. Let’s get into it and let’s study it.