The spiritual discipline of daily Bible reading is something in the lives of several Christians, to be inconsistent and even hap-hazard, as they stumble towards doing what they know is important. Like other well-intentioned believers, I recall occasional attempts at reading through the Bible in a year, yet found myself losing my resolve somewhere in Leviticus or Numbers. Out of zeal to help the saints become victorious in their attempts in reading through the panorama of God’s written revelation, the Scottish pastor Robert Murray M’Cheyne addressed his congregation:
‘It has long been in my mind to prepare a scheme of Scripture reading, in which as many as were made willing by God might agree so that the whole Bible might be read once by you in the year, and all might be feeding in the same portion of the green pasture at the same time’ (Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Andrew Bonar, p. 619).
And before you dismiss this exhortation toward a renewed effort in structured daily Bible reading, consider Professor Grant Horner’s testimony. He provides a different reading plan than M’Cheyne, but beneficial. He’s been using this plan for decades and humbly boasts of how it has helped him have a firm grasp of where virtually everything is in his Bible. Yet, he confesses, “I have no seminary or Bible-college degree, nor did I ever attend Sunday School.” The tools that formed his vast Bible foundation were merely a chair, a lamp, and his Bible. He was a college dropout and ex-heavy-druggie when he started reading through the Bible yearly. Whether you choose to use M’Cheyne’s plan of 4 chapters/day and set up to family and private readings, or Professor Horner’s ten chapters/day, or the morning and evening set up in your MacArthur Study Bible (pp. 1978-79), your shepherds cannot emphasize too highly the value of utilizing a system for your daily Bible reading. For this upcoming year, we would encourage you to use the 5-Day
Reading Program, so that as we spend time in the same passages each day, it will focus our conversations as we seek to stimulate one another toward love and good deeds!
The whole point is to get Christians to realize that most of us go through life sipping lukewarm water and living on a diet of saltine crackers. And the fact is we have a feast that’s in front of us!
The Apostle Paul instructs his son in the faith that bodily exercise profits little but, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Tim 4:7). For you, has your spiritual workout regime included a plan for reading through the Bible in its entirety, from Genesis through Revelation, leaving none of it unread? Those of us who claim to be evangelicals, who believe that God inspired the inerrant 66 books of the Bible in the original manuscripts, shouldn’t we show that belief by our practice in the intentional and continued reading through all of God-breathed Scripture? After all, what would you think of a TV commentator on sports who had little grasp of the game? Or what about a history professor who breezes through the Reformation era with little to no mention of Calvin or Luther? Experts must know about their subject. And how can a Christian be a student of the Word, who “meditates on Your precepts, and contemplates Your ways…who delight myself in Your statutes and forgets not Your Word” (Ps 119:15-16) if he has not read it all the way through? Christians can be quite inconsistent if they claim to believe God’s Word—all of it—when they have not read it for themselves and even continued to read it through regularly.
Why should Christians discipline themselves to read at all?
1. The Bible itself claims that all of it is God’s Word. How many of us men would escape our wife’s hurt if we were to scan her love letters or just read the best, most interesting parts, much like people read the Bible?
2. The Bible is all of God’s written Word. He has nothing hidden that needs to be revealed to us on earth. Instead, He has given us everything we need to know of His person and plans to conduct a life that brings Him glory (2 Pet 1:3-4). Though our knowledge will be perfected in the eternal state, His Word provides us everything needed to live godly, useful, joyful, and blessed lives.
3. All the Bible is profitable for us (2 Tim 3:16). We are instructed completely on what is right, what is wrong, how to correct the wrong, and how to instill principles of righteousness.
4. The Bible is relevant. Its truths are what we need the most, more than Christian music or contemporary news flashes. No part of it is without intent, wasted, or superfluous. Though not all sections are as inspiring in our Christian experiences, they are equally inspired and intended for our instruction (1 Cor 10:11).
5. Reading all of the Bible helps us understand each part of it. Though we practice consecutive exposition, looking at each book, section, paragraph, verse, and word, we must not get lost in the details. Said differently, don’t lose the forest for the trees. There is great benefit in looking at the details of each biblical author to unpack authorial intent. Still, each book contributes to the same storyline of the whole panorama of Scripture. The Scriptures are integrated and intertwined, and you will learn to increasingly recognize that time after time of reading through the entirety of the Bible.
Old Testament Professor Bill Barrick encourages a faster read of the whole Bible by stating:
“Sometimes we fail to get the full benefit of reading our Bible because we are examining the bark and each leaf on every tree we come to. Yes, we need to engage in a detailed, careful, deep reading of Scripture. However, we also need to make the swift tour so that we can see the full forest in its full setting—to get the big picture and soak in the largest themes with their repetitive impact on our lives.”
So, fasten your seatbelt, discipline your time, prepare your heart, and get ready for a tremendous journey through the Word of God, that which is inspired, inerrant, authoritative, and sufficient!