As I set aside my Bible reading plan this year in favor of soaking in shorter passages, I realized that I didn’t need to choose between the two—nor did I want to! The benefits and joy of journeying the entire way through God’s salvation story are too good to miss, so I decided to do both.
Last year was the first time I had used a pre-made reading schedule (pdf courtesy of Ligonier Ministries), and it was helpful in numerous ways. I’d encourage you to go through the entire Bible for these 17 reasons:
1. You’ll know God better.
You’ve heard the expression, “Never judge a book by its cover.” Well, none of us can know God sufficiently without traversing the whole of his very Word. A grace-filled means that we can know God, spend time with him, hear from him, pursue his work and ways, and draw near to him is through reading the whole of Scripture. God has breathed out his Word (Hebrews 4:12); he reveals his power through it (Matthew 22:29); and he shows us his Son, to whom all Scripture points (Luke 24:27). You’ll know God better as you enjoy the whole of his perfect Word.
2. You’ll know yourself better.
Pastor Kevin DeYoung clarifies an important point once made by John Calvin when he writes, “Know God. Know yourself. Know yourself to know your need of God. Know God to know you are not gods.” How does this knowledge of self happen? By opening our Bibles and by first seeking to know our God through his Holy Spirit-inspired pages. The Bible is not about us, but it does tell us about ourselves. When we seek to know God through his Word, only then do we have an accurate picture of who we are as weak, needy, once-dead sinners who were spared by God’s mercy, rescued by his grace, and raised to new life through his Son’s work and his Spirit’s power.
3. You’ll see how the whole Bible points to Jesus.
The entire Bible is about Jesus Christ, and points to him all the way through. But the only way to see Jesus Christ in all of Scripture is to read all of Scripture! What a benefit and blessing it is to behold Jesus, our Prophet, through the prophetic books of the Old Testament; to worship Jesus, our King, through 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and the Gospels; and to draw near to God through Jesus, our High Priest, as foretold in Leviticus and Numbers and understood in full through Hebrews. Read the entire Bible to love and delight in Christ, your Lord and Savior!
4. You’ll be more in awe of the gospel.
Along with seeing how all of Scripture points to Christ, you will more clearly grasp God’s plan of salvation for sinners through his Son. Not only is Jesus foretold in the Old Testament, his gospel-work is foretold, which God planned in accordance with his pleasure and will before time began (Ephesians 1:3-5). The gospel is not a reactive plan that God thought up to “fix” what had gone sour because of sin; the gospel is God’s sovereign, eternal plan to show forth his glory and create a chosen people for his own possession. God’s will has always been the gospel, and we see this more fully when we read the entire Bible.
5. You’ll build an eternally significant habit.
To read the entire Bible is to exercise intention and use self-discipline. This is no small feat, but it becomes routine once you make the commitment and repeat the habit consistently. For some of you, this means a daily or twice-daily private reading; for others, it means integrating this into family worship; for yet others, reading the whole Word could be a vision for your small group (even your church). No matter your tactic, by consistently reading God’s Word, you are developing an eternally-impactive habit for nourishing your soul, renewing your mind, and preaching the truth to your heart.
6. You’ll avoid tunnel vision.
In reading only certain parts of the Bible, we limit our view of the big story that God has written. Many feel more comfortable staying within the New Testament because it seems less daunting and easier to understand. But the reality is that we cannot fully grasp the New Testament, in all its gospel-wonder, apart from reading the Old. If we limit ourselves to certain books, we read the Bible with tunnel vision and do not see what we are reading in light of the whole. This is why it’s vital to read the entirety of Scripture—even the books that seem elusive at first and difficult to grasp. You will be surprised what God allows you to put together by his grace, as you read outside of your comfort zone and trust him for the outcome.
7. You’ll discover answers to some of your questions.
How is there so much war and violence in the Old Testament? Why did the people think that Jesus had come to bring in a new political kingdom? What does it mean that Christ came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it?
I’ve asked these questions, and more than these, as I’ve read Scripture, but their answers only became more apparent as I read the whole Bible and understood the big story in the context of each individual book. There are some questions we will not have answers to, but others we will discover as we read the Bible in the context of the whole of it.
8. You’ll discover that some questions don’t need to be answered.
As for those questions that don’t seem to have clear-cut, direct answers, may we put them to rest in the knowledge that God alone understands all things and purposes everything according to his foreordained plans. Sections of books like Job, Isaiah, and Romans might lead us to ask, “Why?” But Scripture would simultaneously challenge us to submit our “why?” question to the established, known reality of who God is. What an opportunity as we traverse Scripture to humbly submit ourselves to God, who breathed out his Word so that we might know him better and learn to trust him more.
9. You’ll get more familiar with different genres.
The Bible contains 66 canonical books that are of various genres. Some books are historical, telling the story of Israel, the Law, and surrounding nations. Some are poetic, like the Psalms and Song of Solomon, and need to be read that way. Still other books are prophetic (Jeremiah and Ezekiel, for example), narrative (the four Gospels), and letters to the church (the Epistles). In committing to the entire Bible, you will gain an appreciation for its various genres, how each one fits into the whole, and how each should be read. We can ask the Holy Spirit for understanding as we dive into different genres, and we can also read commentaries to guide us.
10. You’ll gain a God-centered vision, rather than a self-centered one.
As sin-bent human beings, it is natural for our gaze to turn inward. It is all too easy to ask when reading Scripture, “What does this speak to me? What should I do? How should I behave?” While these probing questions certainly are not wrong to ask (we want to apply God’s Word!), we should not begin with them, nor should we be limited to them. Since the Bible is foremost about God’s glory, his salvation plan through Christ, and his heart-transforming work through his Spirit, our searching should primarily be Godward: “What does this passage tell me about God? Where do I see Christ pointed to in this chapter?” We see ourselves more clearly once we have known God more fully; so shouldn’t we start with him?
11. You’ll experience God’s faithfulness.
The more I read Scripture in its entirety, the more I see its themes, God’s promises, and his character at work throughout my days. God’s Word is full of his very great and precious promises, and it is alive, tuning our minds to heavenly realities, convicting us of sin, and reminding us of what is true. What a balm for our souls as we come up against full days, difficult people, doubts, and perplexing circumstances! Our God is faithful, from beginning to end of Scripture, and from our first day until our last. The Holy Spirit will use the Word of truth to tune us to kingdom-reality and keep us rooted in God’s faithful provision and person.
12. You’ll grow in prayer.
Prayer is perhaps one of the hardest spiritual disciplines. We struggle to know how to talk to God, what to say, and if he even hears us. So the best way to approach prayer is to begin with the Bible. As the Bible is God’s very Word to you and me, we seek him in its illumined pages, listen to his truth, submit ourselves to his commands, and rejoice in his work on our behalf! Then we let our reading and meditating propel our prayers. We can pray Scripture word-for-word, pray along the lines of it, or simply use it to confess sin, praise God, and ask for our requests. The more Scripture we know, the easier it will be to pray. Our prayers will also be more aligned with God’s will as we read the whole Bible, because we know that all Scripture is from him.
13. You’ll bear fruit.
Reading the whole of God’s Word is worth it because we receive the gift of hearing from our God from Genesis to Revelation. To know and to love him is always our primary objective. Second to that is the wonderful spiritual fruit that is borne within our hearts from soaking in Scripture as a consistent habit and discipline. God’s Word never returns void (Isaiah 55:11). We do not read the Bible solely to be changed people (see point 10), but we do become changed people as we read the Bible. God effects his Word to renew our minds, conform us to the likeness of his Son, point out our sin, and guide us in his truth. What a glorious joy that God would impart his very being to us through this precious book of life!
14. You’ll be more prepared for evangelism.
Have you been asked questions about the Bible when spending time with people who don’t read it? This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, but I find I’m more prepared to give an answer for the hope that I have in Jesus when I’m versed in Scripture, grasping the big story of the Bible, and able to paint it for the person I’m speaking to. Our Father supplies the words we are to speak from his own mouth—and his mouthpiece is often our Bibles!
15. You’ll be more prepared for discipleship.
I went through the Bible using the same plan as a dear friend, who is also in my small group. She and I enjoyed discussing what we were reading, pointing out new discoveries, and then applying it to our lives. There is a camaraderie when you read on the same plan or pace as a brother or sister in the Lord, and it affords grace-filled conversation about the gospel and how it shines through every page of Scripture.
16. You’ll see how God’s Word is consistently relevant.
Psalm 119:89 says that God’s Word is firmly fixed in the heavens. It is consistently relevant and never changes—what phenomenal blessing we have in our firm foundation! As you read from book to book and genre to genre, you’ll be amazed by how consistent, thorough, and true the whole Bible is. As the times and culture change, we will be more convinced than ever of how steadfast, trustworthy, and effective God’s Word is. We will run to him through our Bibles for shelter, help, and wisdom, always finding it steadfast and true.
17. You’ll be increasingly transformed into the image of Jesus.
Reading the Bible comes with a warning: We miss the point if it merely puffs us up with knowledge and bolsters our intellect. As J. I. Packer says in his book Knowing God, it is possible to know a lot about God, but not to know him. Yet, if we open God’s Word for the purpose of seeking the Lord, we will know him better and be increasingly transformed into the image of his Son. This happens one second at a time, one day at a time, but God will surely do it (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).
Don’t neglect reading the entire Bible—start today! The richness and vastness of our God awaits you.