Practical Advice on Bible Reading from J.C. Ryle

Ryle Practical ReligionHave you ever wanted to make it a point to read the Bible on a regular basis, but just weren’t sure how to go about it? If that describes you, here is some practical advice for you from J.C. Ryle’s book, Practical Religion (p.122-125):

  1. Start today. Just get started, and worry about figuring out the perfect way to do it later. You can always change how you go about it as you go. Ryle writes,

    “The way to do a thing is to do it, and the way to read the Bible is actually to read it. It is not meaning, or wishing, or resolving, or intending, or thinking about it, which will advance you one step. You must positively read.” (p.122)

  2. “Read the Bible with an earnest desire to understand it.” Don’t just set a certain number of pages as your goal. Make it your aim to learn and understand what you are reading from the Scriptures. Better even a verse or two rightly understood than 50 pages hurried over as a mere duty or checklist item marked off for the day. As Ryle notes, “a Bible not understood is a Bible that does no good.”
  3. “Read the Bible with childlike faith and humility.” Be prepared to learn; more than that, to have your mind changed and renewed. Do not accept only what seems agreeable with what you already think or believe. He writes, “Do we know better than God? Settle it down in your mind that you will receive all and believe all, and that what you cannot understand you will take on trust.”
  4. Read the Bible with an eye toward obeying it & applying it to your life. We are not reading for reading’s sake or for curiosity alone. At times the Word of God will shine a spotlight (or more precisely a searchlight!) on our sins and shortcomings. There God will show us what He would change in us to conform us more to the image of Christ. Where you see a command or a prohibition, take it to heart and seek to obey and apply it to your life.
  5. Read the Bible daily. If man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4), and yet we need to eat on a regular basis in order to live, how much more do we need a steady diet of God’s Word in order to sustain us!
  6. Read all of the Bible, and read it in an orderly fashion. If we fail to read the Bible this way, we will almost certainly skip around and miss a great many things.  Don’t forget that the Apostle Paul tells us that. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV). All of God’s Word is breathed out by God. And He gave all of it to us with good reason, for our benefit. It is all necessary for us.
  7. “Read the Bible fairly and honestly.” Try your best to take everything you read there in its most plain and simple meaning. If what you read there does not fit neatly into your preconceived notion or previously taught theological system, maybe the thing to do is not to try to shoe-horn that passage to make it fit with your notion or system, but rather to reconsider your notion or system instead.
  8. “Read the Bible with Christ continually in view.” The whole Bible (not just the New Testament, but the Old Testament as well!) is ultimately about the Lord Jesus Christ. (See Luke 24:27; John :5:39-47.) That being the case, we will have a difficult time rightly understanding the Scriptures if we do not perceive the chief end for which they were given – to point us to Jesus Christ.

There is obviously a lot more that could be said, but the advice above is a pretty good start. I hope that you find these things to be helpful in your efforts to spending time in the Word of God.

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12 comments

  1. Point #3 well taken. We can’t sort out what we like and ignore the rest. Lord, help me read ALL of your Word with an honest, accepting heart! Thank you, Andy and JD.

  2. Each item containt good thoughts.
    My addition to #2: Don’t succumb to the surface-level, goal-oriented reading plans just for the sake of having participated in a program. Better to stay in one text as long as you need to, rather than skip around from Moses to Paul to David to John. Seek to understand what God is saying in a book-level (e.g., Mark or Galatians) context. Don’t “interrupt” God.

    My addition to #4: First, read with an eye to understanding the text *in its original setting.* The most valid applications to other settings will come next.

  3. I think point #8 is so important, when you realize the scriptures unveil Jesus Christ. It makes you want to find out more. And it makes it easy to fit what you read into the bigger picture of Who God is and what God did through Jesus.

      1. No I haven’t read it. But Christ has been revealing Himself to me in the Old Testament a lot in recent times, from people in His lineage, to the significance of their positions, you even see the church. The more you read with Christ in sight, the more layers are peeled back. It’s some pretty amazing stuff. You come to realize that the stories in the Old Testament were not put there to fill up space. They reveal Christ to us.

  4. Great post – each point is invaluable! I recently came across something that changed the way I read the Bible. So many Christians are encouraged to read the Bible through “in a year.” And, in fact, that’s how I’ve been reading it. However I read an article that made sense – rather than reading it through each year, where it seems like something to check off a list in order to “get it done,” just READ IT EVERY DAY. Go back over passages that you don’t understand. Spend time in it, understanding it, chewing on it…. Just as long as you’re spending time in His truth, it doesn’t matter how – or long – you read it.

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