There’s a wrong way and a right way to read the Bible.
Reading the Bible the wrong way can lead to nightmares.
Why do I say that?
I want you to imagine that you get on a boat.
It’s one of those cruise ships that’s like a floating hotel on water.
Your destination is the beautiful island of Aruba.
You’re looking forward to the beautiful blue waters and the white sandy beaches.
As the captain begins to navigate the ship, he makes one small mistake.
The captain accidentally enters the wrong GPS coordinates, and he’s off by one degree on the map.
After three days of sailing off course, the captain takes a look at the GPS system, and realizes that he is thousands of miles away from the beautiful island of Aruba!
Oh no, traveling just one-degree off-course over three days made the captain miss the beautiful destination by thousands of miles!
Reading the Bible the wrong way will cause you and I to miss our destination in life by thousands of miles.
Yes, it well cause nightmares.
In some cases, it will cause unbelievers to miss God’s eternal destination of heaven.
In other cases, it will cause people to miss their goals of having a full and blessed life.
Avoid These 5 Mistakes When Reading the Bible
I put together a list of common mistakes that people make when reading the Bible.
Most of the list is in no particular order, except for mistake number one below.
This is the most devastating mistake that someone can make when it comes to reading the Bible, so pay extra attention.
Mistake #1 – Reading the Bible Without God’s Interpretation
Problem: I’ve seen Christians make this mistake as well as unbelievers.
They’ll read the Bible and they’ll interpret the verses that they read on their own.
May I please say that the Bible was never meant to be read this way!
Solution: There is only one best way to read your Bible, and then there is a second-best way.
Let me explain (this is my opinion, by the way).
The Bible contains things from the Spirit of God, and so it must be interpreted spiritually.
But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.1 Corinthians 2:14
That means that anyone that is not born-again can’t receive the things of God because they’re going to appear as if they’re foolishness.
Furthermore, he can’t know them because you need discernment from God to be able to understand what the Bible means.
So what’s the solution? Here are 2 solutions I can think of:
Solution #1 – Ask God through prayer to help you understand the Bible passage that you’re about to read. God is always listening to your sincere prayers whether you’re a believer or an unbeliever.
Solution #2 – If you’re an unbeliever who wants to read the Bible correctly, then the best option is option #1. But if you don’t want to pray to God because you don’t believe in God, then you can rely on an orthodox Bible commentary that will help you understand.
The reason I mention commentaries here is because some people don’t know that there is a field of Bible study known as systematic theology, that governs the interpretation of Scripture.
If you don’t follow some of these rules and you don’t have the Holy Spirit’s guidance on the spiritual implications, then you’re guaranteed to take things out of context, and not to fully understand certain Bible passages.
So with that in mind, here’s a generally accepted list of orthodox Bible commentaries that are free.
Please do your own research about any commentaries that are listed on these websites.
God’s interpretation of the Bible is always the best.
Mistake #2 – Reading the Bible When it’s Convenient
Problem: How often do you read the Bible? If it isn’t daily, then you’re missing out.
I know you might be busy with work, your family, or your kids.
However, no matter how busy you get, you always find time to eat, right?
Imagine that you leave your home in the morning in a hurry and you don’t eat breakfast.
You’re running errands throughout the day and you also skip lunch.
By the time it’s nighttime, you’re absolutely starving. There’s little chance that you’ll be able to skip this meal, or else you’ll suffer some serious consequences.
Likewise, God’s Word is daily bread that you need for your spiritual nourishment. If you skip feasting on God’s Word regularly, you’re going to suffer some serious consequences.
Solution: You need to read your Bible every day because God’s Word is food for your soul.
If you don’t read it daily, you’ll become malnourished and unhealthy.
Mistake #3 – Reading the Bible and Not Internalizing What You Read
Problem: If you’ve ever read any kind of book, then you know that you’re likely to read parts of it mindlessly.
That means that you’re just reading that book for the sake of getting through to the next sentence, or to the end of the page.
The Bible is the most important book in the world, and if you read it mindlessly, then you’re going to miss out on life’s most important lessons.
Solution: In order to help you read the Bible and be fully engaged, I recommend that you try following these tips:
Tip #1 – Try creating images in your mind as you’re reading the Bible.
It’s a well-known fact of memory that we’re visual learners.
If you can create an image in your mind of what you’re reading, then you’ll be fully engaged.
An added benefit is that you’ll also be more likely to remember what you’re reading at a later time.
When you first start doing this, it might take you a while to get used to it. But if you continue to do this and make it a habit, you’re going to get pretty good at it.
It will become a habit not only with reading the Bible, but also with any kind of book that you read.
Try to visualize what you read.
Tip #2 – Journal for a few minutes about what you’ve just read.
I highly recommend this habit.
As you’re reading the Bible, you’ll find that there are maybe one or two scriptures that stick out to you.
You can take those verses and journal about them so that you can internalize what those verses mean to you.
If you’ve never done this before, then the temptation is going to be to think that you could do this all in you’re mind.
However, there’s something about writing your thoughts down that it is absolutely magical.
It causes you to internalize the thoughts in your mind, and to get them out on paper.
You’re going to be surprised at how much more you can process when you write things down, instead of keeping everything in your mind.
If you’ve never done this before, I highly recommend that try it at least once. Do it for only five minutes.
Personally, I like to use Evernote to help me journal what God has spoken to me for that day.
Mistake #4 – Reading the Bible and Not Looking up the Meaning of Words
Problem: When I started reading the Bible years ago, I was surprised when I heard that some Christians read it from cover to cover once a year.
I was like, “Won’t you get bored of reading the same thing over and over again?”
But boy was I wrong.
God’s Word is so rich, and if you’re reading it just at the surface level, then you’re missing out.
For example, let’s take the definition of Abraham’s name.
When you look it up in the Hebrew, you find out that Abraham’s name actually means “father of a multitude.”
If you know anything about the story of Abraham, then all of a sudden you see the irony of the meaning of his name.
That’s because for the longest time, Abraham and Sarah were barren, and didn’t have any children.
So now when God makes a promise to Abraham that he’s going to have a child, the symbolism that’s found by knowing the meaning of his name is extremely powerful.
But you would never know that by just reading the Bible. You’d only come across that if you dug a little deeper.
Solution: Every once in a while, you may want to do a word study on certain passages that you find intriguing in your daily Bible reading.
You’ll be able to extract a lot more meaning out of the Bible, and you’ll learn many more life lessons that will empower you.
I use Blue Letter Bible for looking up the definitions of words.
Mistake #5 – Reading the Bible and Assuming All Translations Are Created Equal
Problem: Ahh yes, the controversial part of my blog post I’ve left for the very end 🙂
Not all Bible translations are the same.
I have some good friends of mine that advocate that Christians should only be reading the King James translation.
It’s important to not divide on the nonessentials. So for those friends who do believe that, I don’t argue with them.
I don’t believe that the King James Bible is the best translation out there.
Without getting into it, I’ll just leave a link to this list of articles since I’m in agreement for the most part with this point of view.
Then there are other supposed translations of the Bible that people read that are not translations.
For example, you have the New Living Translation. This is not a translation but more of a paraphrase.
That means that the translators (sorry for the lack of a better word), are giving their own interpretation of what the original words mean.
Sometimes this can be helpful, and sometimes it’s not.
Another translation that is sometimes controversial is The Message.
I’m not going to get into it here, but if you read that translation, just do a Google search so that you know what that “translation” is all about.
I’m not saying that you should read or not read these translations.
What I am saying is that you should know the difference between translations and paraphrases so you can pray about which one God wants you to read.
Reading your Bible the wrong way can lead to deceitful nightmares, but reading your Bible the right way can lead to delightful dreams.
If you want to run away from the nightmares and embrace the dreams, then make sure that you are:
- Interpreting the Bible according to God’s interpretation and not your own
- Reading the Bible every day
- Journaling about what you read in your daily Bible reading
- Looking up the meaning of words
- Praying about which translation God wants you to read
What a great post! I really love everything you say. I use a method called lectio divina which is a more meditative way to read the bible. It has helped me immensely. I found for awhile that I was doing what you said “reading to read” until I ran across a friend’s blogpost which talked about reading smaller portions of scripture. That changed my life! As a m full time working mother with three small children, time is hard to come by. But the smaller portions were doable and I was ingesting so much more. I’ve read the bible everyday since becoming a Christian a little over two years ago and it has laid the foundation for God to work in and through my life. Brilliant post, thanks again-
Thank you so much Melissa for your kind words about my post. When I read your comment, I was intrigued about the Lectio Divina method that you mentioned. I was about to ask you for a link, but then another member of the Not Ashamed of the Gospel Community chimed in with a link about it. I will check it out.
May I ask you Melissa when it comes to the smaller portions of Scripture, can you share how small the portions are? Thanks my dear sister 🙂
I saw the link that the blogger provided and it made me so sad. As a Jewish person who found Christ two years ago, I was a part of Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale for the last two years and am so grateful for them and my experience there. It was recently that God called me home to the Catholic church. Although many Protestants are anti-Catholic, I never had that slant, my goal has and always will be to first and foremost seek the truth and His will over my life for the better of the church body. Gotquestions and other sites (not just Protestant) I have found will always give you a slanted view of how they see things. I can say with absolute certainty that what was said in that article with the exception of the methodology is 100% untrue. It is a form of meditative prayer, and as the bible tells us to meditate day and night on His word, this method is beyond helpful in meditating on His word.
I know Protestants generally feel that everything Catholic is wrong and bad and I’m not going to go into an apologetics diatribe, but I really have made my walk about Him, and His love and crossing so many lines for the unity of His church. I have so many beautiful Christian friends from all denominations who respect my walk and I theirs. We all can learn from each other and should.
As far as the smaller portions of scripture, I read the daily readings from the Catholic church but ultimately focus on where the Holy Spirit leads me. Here is a sample from today:
I used to feel bad and try and rush through my reading until like you said in your post I was reading just to read. Now I find with a more insightful and meditative approach in contemplation of how the Holy Spirit is speaking, I not only understand the passage, I can see inside of it and put it into action.
Thanks for the opportunity to comment and be part of your blog-
Great post, GOD bless you.
Thank you so much for your kind words Maish, God bless you too 🙂
Thank you very much for the link Roberr. I will check it out, and I’m sure there’ll be people who are interested from the Not Ashamed of the Gospel community who’ll also be checking it out. I love Got Questions!
Your point about translation show reading multiple .versions important. Because languages are different no translation is ever perfect I even read in the languages I learn.
Point well taken Margaret. All the more reason to look up the definitions of words in the Hebrew and Greek when we can. Thanks for your thoughts Margaret.
It is also good to read multiple translations
Great post as always! God bless you Peter. 🙂
Thank you so much Thor for your kind words, you are such a blessing 🙂 I hope you have a wonderful rest of the week.
Amen.. this blog is true!!
Thanks John Paul, God bless you my brother ?
This is an excellent post and all so true! Really enjoyed reading it so clearly analysed. So often people read the Bible as if it is just a novel….well yes, it is a collection of stories but even the “fictional” ones written to teach, still have such deep meaning today and throughout all ages! Spirit, Divine Truth, God never changes, no matter what name you have for Him/Her. I agree the King James certainly isn’t the best translation as it is in Elizabethan language for a start, which alienates so many people who either aren’t well educated or well read and the poetry of it seems to create barriers for many. I have just bought The New Revised Standard Version (my 5th Bible ), as I often read in our church to the congregation.This one is in plain language I and seems to have kept the essence of the meaning of the Word ( for me at this time, it seems the right one anyway). Thankyou again for this excellent post which will help people.
Amen on various fronts! I myself read the King James and New King James Versions of the Holy Bible. Great post.