Are you confused about the difference between Bible reading plans and Bible studies? Perhaps this post will help.
There is a difference between Bible reading and Bible study.
For many, it’s woven together seamlessly into their daily devotional time with the Lord, but for others of us, it has taken some time to get to know the difference.
There are two ways we can approach the Bible.
Actually, there are two ways we should approach the Bible.
We should approach the Bible to gain a broader understanding of the entire narrative of scripture, and we do this through faster reading of God’s Word.
We should also approach the Bible to know God intimately, and we do this through deep, meditative study of His Word.
Both approaches to scripture are necessary for us to have a healthy, vibrant relationship with the Word of God.
Let’s look at each approach a little bit closer.
Often at the start of a new year, you will hear Christians talk about the “Bible reading plan they’re using this year.”
Bible reading is just as the name suggests – reading. You’re reading to gain familiarity with the text.
Yearly Bible reading plans are the most common, and they can provide you with a road map for completing the Bible in a year.
Commiting to a Bible reading plan is one way you can grow in familiarity with God’s Word because it takes a faster approach to scripture. It allows you to systematically read through the Bible in order to get familiar with the overall narrative of scripture.
A word of caution about Bible reading plans.
Reading through the entire Bible annually is a noble goal, but we cannot make it a yoke. We can’t push through the reading of God’s word for the sake of checking a box and “not getting behind.”
This leads me to the next approach to scripture …
Again, just as the name suggests, Bible study takes place through the deep, meditative study of God’s word.
This is when we will encounter God most intimately because mediating on God’s word shapes our souls.
Because we should also approach the Bible to know God intimately, we must be willing to slow down in various portions of God’s word as the Holy Spirit leads.
We have to make space for what John Piper refers to in his book, Future Grace, “unrushed reflection.”
- We come to the Bible with questions.
- We look up words we don’t understand.
- We look up cross references.
- We meditate on a portion of scripture, letting it sink in more deeply.
There are all sorts of methods for studying your Bible, but not all methods are created equal.
If you’re new to Bible study, I suggest starting with Jen Wilkin’s book, Women of the Word. It’s hands down the best book I’ve read on getting into the word for yourself.
Now you might be asking …
How do I balance the two approaches to scripture?
In the end, both Bible reading and Bible study have their place in our lives as Christians.
We need to be gaining familiarity with the Bible, but we also have to be sensitive to our need to slow down, dig in deep, and allow the Holy Spirit to transform our minds through deep, meditative study of the Word of God.
But there is no one right way to balance the two approaches to scripture.
In his book, Habits of Grace, David Mathis refers to reading the Bible for breadth and depth not as a science but as an art, and like any work of art, it’s going to vary from person to person how you wield your mediums.
I liked how he says, “Bible reading is like watching the film in real time. Study is like going through a clip frame by frame” (page 46).
It’s natural for us to be bent toward one approach to scripture over the other.
Some of us need to be reminded to pick up the pace, read more widely in the scriptures, in order to gain a broader perspective.
While others of us need to slow down and dig in a little deeper from time to time.
At the end of the day, we need to be partaking of the Word of God regularly.
We need to be approaching the scriptures to gain both a better understanding of the broader context as well as meditating deeply on various portions of scripture.
We become what we behold, and may what we are beholding be Jesus Christ.
What about you? Which approach do you bend toward? Which one do you need to spend more time doing? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
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