5 Five Min Tips To Get The Most Out Of Your Bible

5 Five Minute Tips To Help You Get The Most Out Of The Bible

If you’re anything like me reading the Bible can be a hit or miss experience.

Sometimes it feels like it takes me half an hour to read 10 verses and I still don’t get what they were about.

Other times though, it seems that the Scriptures come alive and every word is meaningful to me.

I find myself in both of these seasons even to this day. Although, I’m glad to say that the second experience is much more common than the first these days.

With that said, I’d be lying to say that sometimes the scriptures just don’t come to life for me.

When I struggle to get things out of the Bible it creates a downward spiral where I want to read the Bible less and less.

On the flip side, when I do start experiencing the Bible for all it’s worth I can’t get enough of it!

I sometimes wish there was a formula or a switch I could flick on. Something that would take me from the dry seasons of reading my Bible into the fertile seasons. Unfortunately there just doesn’t seem to be such a switch.

Yet, there are some really simple, practical things that we can do every time we approach the Scriptures that do make a difference to what we get out of them.

5 Five Min Tips To Help You Get The Most Out Of Your Bible

Here are five tips you can apply to your Bible reading. Each tip should only take you five minutes or less and will help you get the most out of the Bible.

1. Ask God

Imagine you are reading your favourite author’s latest book. It’s a page turning action packed thriller and you are enjoying it thoroughly. However right at the end of the book the author introduces a twist that you just don’t understand. It’s a very disappointing ending to the book.

This is how the Bible can feel sometimes. We can feel like we “get it” and that we are starting to have a handle on the gospel. Then out of nowhere, we come across a verse or passage that completely knocks us off our feet!

The funny thing is, we don’t really think through what we do next.

Most of us turn to a friend and ask them what they think. Or perhaps we might look for some input from our spiritual mentor. Most often we will try find some teaching online, a blog or a YouTube video to help us understand what’s going on.

Surprisingly, the last thing most of us do is ask the author himself.

Imagine the author was in the room as you were finishing that gripping novel. Can you imagine jumping on Google right in front of him, frustratedly trying to figure out what the ending had been about?

Of course not!

It’s the same when we read the Bible. We do pretty much everything we can imagine and go to every source possible for answers. Except, of course, the author who happens to be the most accessible and most knowledgable source.

So here is tip #1:

Every time you open your Bible, way before you find yourself getting confused, close your eyes, focus on Christ in you and repeat something similar to this:

“Thank you God that you are in me, you are with me and you are able to help me understand your word better than anyone else. Open my eyes to see what you have to say and my ears to hear your voice.”

2. Read the Context

Every week I get around 700 emails. About 250 of these revolve around Bible passages that people don’t understand.

This should hammer home to you the importance of people grasping tip #1: Ask God.

It amazes me that people seem to think they are more likely to get a good answer from me than from God! Not only that – God is a lot more accessible than I am (and is much quicker at replying!)

I think I’ve belaboured that point enough for now though.

What I’ve found is that of all the emails I get, the majority of them are because the person has not read the context of the passage in question.

Let me say that again, most of the time people don’t understand a verse or a passage it is because they read it out of context!

So here’s tip #2:

If you don’t understand a verse… read the chapter it’s in. If you don’t understand a larger piece of the scripture read a few chapters around it. Context ruins bad theology!

3. Read more than one translation

We call the different versions of our Bibles “translations”. I think that it’s important to remember though, that even a translation is subject to a degree of interpretation.

Nobody reads the Bible without a specific view or perspective. We all read it through a set of lenses that we have developed over time. Even the most unbiased translator (or team of translators) must admit that they are not immune to this.

This isn’t necessarily wrong, it’s just a fact of life.

Without becoming a Greek or Hebrew scholar there is no way for us to read the original meaning of the Bible. In fact, even with knowledge of Greek and Hebrew we will still end up tainting that meaning as I stated above with our own interpretation.

The best thing I know to do that combats this is to read as many translations as possible. Doing so highlights the different ways the original text can be translated depending on the lens of the translator. It can be helpful in seeing the multifaceted meanings within the words.

A Bible translation that many love for showing the different meanings of the words in the original language is the Amplified translation. It does this very well, however you can use many great tools online to compare and contrast different translations directly.

Here are a couple:
Bible Hub – Compares only individual verses but gives you 19 different translations.
Bible Gateway – Compare entire chapters from multiple different translations.

Finally my favourite resource for comparing multiple translations is called the 26 Translation Bible. Every verse contains 4-8 of the most different translations taken from a pool of 26 translations. It’s an incredible Bible – my favourite by a long stretch! It’s hard to get ahold of but you should be able to find it through a third-party seller here on Amazon.

So to sum up, tip #3 is: Read as many translations as possible to compare how different translators have chosen to translate the text.

4. Read about the audience

This is something I never once even thought to do growing up in the church. However, it’s one of the most important steps in properly interpreting the Bible.

I’m going to break a pretty huge bit of news to you. You might not like this at all…

The Bible was not written to you.

In fact, it wasn’t written for you either!

The Bible is a collection of books and letters written to many different people over the span of about 1600 years.

Not one of the intended recipients were you!

If you don’t get this into your head you will ALWAYS read the Bible incorrectly.

Sorry if that just turned your world upside-down, but it is the truth.

You see, when we read the Bible our first thought is often, “what does this mean for me?”

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We want our reading the Bible to mean something for us and to impact our beliefs and the way we live our lives. The problem is that we put the cart before the horse.

If we focus on what it means to us before we choose to discover what it meant for the original audience. Then we are very likely to misinterpret the passage and, in turn, apply it to our lives incorrectly.

Just because a prophet told a group of people to do something doesn’t mean we should do it.

Just because Jesus told people to cut out their eyes if they had lust doesn’t mean we should do that.

Just because Jesus warned people of coming judgement and doom in 40 years doesn’t mean we should still expect that same judgement and doom 2000 years later!

I don’t want to go over and over this point, perhaps it needs a whole blog in and of itself. Here’s the point…

Tip #4: Read the scripture as they were meant to be read. First, as the original audience, then you can ask what it means to you today.

5. Read through the lens of the cross

I’ve said that most scripture which is misunderstood is read out of context.

And that much of scripture is not understood because we don’t consider who the initial audience was.

This fifth tip is key to grasping both of those tips.

We must understand the difference between the New and the Old Covenant.

Very often we read the Bible failing to see who the audience was and what covenant they were in. We then falsely apply the same principles or commands to our lives.

The church frequently puts itself back under the shackles of the law and the bondage of the Old Covenant. The biggest reason for this is because they do not discern the context of what they read.

Many think they have this one down. But it’s far from a case of just discrediting the Old Testament and blindly applying everything in the New Testament.

In fact, all the Old Testament when read correctly and contextually will have New Covenant principles we can apply to our lives by the grace of God.

In turn some of the New Testament contains things that should not be applied until we read them through the lens of the cross. What might be more shocking to you is that most of these NT scriptures are found in the Gospels!

We fail to acknowledge that Jesus wasn’t preaching to Christians when He was on the Earth. There were no Christians! In fact He Himself was a Jew!

He preached to Jews. Jews under the law. When we read the Gospels it is extremely important we understand this fact.

Frequently He showed the Jews grace and gave them examples of what life would be like in the New Covenant. These are things that we most certainly should be applying to our lives!

But often enough, Jesus would come across those who were convinced that the Old Covenant would get them to Heaven. The Old Covenant was what they relied on to be in right standing with God (which is understandable as it was all they knew!)

The religious leaders of the day are an obvious example of people who fell into this group.

But others fell into that group too. Consider the rich young ruler. He came to Jesus boasting that He was doing all the laws right and asking if that would get Him into Heaven.

What did Jesus do?

He didn’t preach to Him about grace.

He didn’t show Him the error of His ways.

No.

He instead gave the man a harder rule to follow.

He effectively said “If you think you can get into Heaven by your own efforts let me set a standard so high even you can’t make it”.

This doesn’t mean we ourselves should sell all our possessions so we can get into Heaven. (Although I’ve met many a Christian who thinks it does (in fact – I used to be that Christian!))

Rather, we must understand the context and see that Jesus frequently gave those under the law harder and harder rules to follow to show them the futility of their own efforts!

Jesus frequently preached the law to help people give up and accept grace.

I don’t want to get into this too much if you want to look at this more I’d encourage you to check out my video “Christians Are Not Under The Law”

Ultimately this is just simple Bible interpretation 101.

I’m not asking you to throw anything Jesus says out.

Everything He says has a direct and applicable truth for our lives.

But we must ask ourselves:

Who is He speaking to?
What covenant are they under?
What is the purpose of His message?
What does this teach me?
Is it something I should do myself or should I take it as a warning not to fall into that same trap?

So here is Tip #5 summed up:

Always ask yourself – which covenant does the audience of this passage fall into and how does it apply to me in light of this?

What about you?

So that’s my 5 tips that you can apply today to make your Bible reading more effective.

I’ve a question though.

What is something which you have applied in your life that has helped you see the scriptures more clearly and brought them more to life?

Leave a comment below.

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17 Comments

    • Thanks Charlene – glad you liked it – no 5 can be the hardest for people to see as we’ve been taught to read those red letters and do exactly what they say without thinking at all about the context!

    • You are so on it Josh!

      Biblehub was in my original version of this post but I removed it as I didn’t want to complicate matters by giving people too many options and they only do 2 translations side by side at a time.

      I do love their resources for getting to the Greek/Hebrew – although BlueLetterBible is my favourite resource for that – well worth checking out if you haven’t.

      Love you man! Hope you are doing well!

  1. Hi Phil,

    This post is really helpful, thanks for putting your thoughts in one place on this. Some feedback if you were to do a bit of a series on this (expanding on these points and more) then I know I would devour it!

    Just a question on point 4. READ ABOUT THE AUDIENCE. Could you recommend some reliable and solid sources on the audiences of each book?

    Thanks
    Gary

    • Hey Gary,

      This is a pretty huge question as there are so many incredible resources out there – it’s hard to know where to begin.

      One of the most simple and obvious sources, although not necessarily the best would be commentaries – there are lots of great ones you can read online for free and there are thousands of published works as well.

      Outside of commentaries, at a push google will take you to lots of great resources explaining the context of different books of the Bible – they can just be a little less reliable (although not much and often enough are more reliable)

      Like Bible translations the more you read the better – it will give you a more holistic view of the context.

      One of my favourite free commentaries is Adam Clarke’s – it’s rather old so the language can be a bit antiquated sometimes – here is a version of it http://www.studylight.org/com/acc/ although there are many versions around.

      The introductions to each of the books in the commentary has a pretty good look at the context of the author, the audience and the time-period. All of which can be really helpful!

      Let me know what you find out there as I’m always looking for more great resources.

  2. Going into heaven itself, as the Master did while on earth.That changed everything but previous to that, I think it was developing an attitude of REST , and thats a work in progress.Thanks for your article.I liked it a lot.;

  3. Phil,
    I had a question about a part of your last point regarding the rich young ruler. Is it that Jesus was trying to give him a harder rule to follow or was it that He in effect was telling him he would have to give up his life in order to follow Him? I ask this because clearly what Jesus said to him wasn’t said to all people everywhere as you pointed out and it can also be pointed out that the disciples did in fact drop everything, leaving their lives as they knew it behind to follow the Messiah. Can we draw a different conclusion from that instance something like you are not to put trust in your own righteousness, efforts and status (which was big for their culture, money and possessions equaled the blessing of God) and follow Me no matter what, trusting in the Father to provide all your needs? Curious on your thoughts on that question/point.

    • I think the two are one and the same in the context Seth. As you said – Jesus didn’t say this to everyone, He hand picked this for that person knowing what he’d struggle with. But He told him because the guy was relying on his own efforts to get eternal life and so Jesus gave him something new to try.

      If you want to look more into this I have a very in-depth teaching on this topic that touches on this passage as a part of it. Here: http://phildrysdale.com/work/christians-are-not-under-the-law-full-13226mins/

      • Actually if you read the context you have to admit it looks as if this is everyone’s command: Mark 10:17-31 (note esp. v 28–it was normative for a disciple), Matthew 19:23-30 (note esp. 19:27), Luke 18:18-30 (note esp. 18:28). This mitigates the argument that it was specifically for the ruler (does Luke 10:25ff only apply to the questioner in this context? Same question.).

        The context indicates that Jesus expects his followers to give up everything in order to follow him. What are the ramifications of this? Does “give up everything” mean sell it all and give it away–or does give up everything mean that it all belongs to Him and should be ready for his use? That is a useful discussion.

        But I think we have to be careful to avoid glibly suggesting that this is a unique command to the ruler–when Peter indicates that this was their own response. Not to mention Luke 12:32-34–in a context where Jesus is addressing his disciples (and in a gospel that places particular emphasis contextually upon the poor): “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Does his command here apply to us or not? It is obvious it is the same command he gave the ruler six chapters later (and again, it appears Peter et al followed the command when he exclaims “we gave up everything to follow you…”).

        Just some thoughts.

        • My point here Darryl – is we must first look at the immediate context. Then apply it to our own lives. Which it seems you have done here.

          Jesus wasn’t speaking to the multitudes.

          We must understand He was speaking to one person.

          Then we interpret what He was saying to that one person.

          From there we then go, OK, how does that apply in the grander context for a new covenant believer.

          Finally we go, so how does that specifically apply to my life right now.

          I would wager 9 times out of 10 the answer is not give all your money away :)

          That is my point! It’s much more likely to be like you said, a more specific thing that’s holding us back from Jesus.

  4. Start to get an appreciation of tenses in Greek and Hebrew . Also weather a word is a noun or verb etc . Just don’t take a commentaries word for it. I was reading a commentary the other day and its author said that this particular word was in a certain tense. He then lept into a great spiel about how this changes everything about how you live your life. Problem was that when I looked it clearly was not in the tense he said.

    When the scriptures say that even the elect may be deceived that mean me. The first step the being deceived is believing you have it all right. Repentance is a changing of the mind….. Ask yourself what do you believe and why do you believe it. Have your basis for faith substantiated from the word.

    Number one on my list is look for the revelation of Jesus. He is the key to unlocking the word:)

    • Those are great ones Michael – many people are quick to misquote the original text, which often makes them look more credible and more likely to be accepted. Not out of a bad heart or anything, typically out of ignorance just repeating what they’ve heard… I’m sure we’ve all done that before, I know I have!

      And yes – we definitely fall prey to the reality that we don’t know when we are deceived, that is the very nature of deception!

      Thanks for sharing man!

  5. Phil, this is EXCELLENT info; thanks!! And as to context and the info you gave us on that, that was SO helpful to me. A huge example of this for me was learning (through much digging, studying, etc.) that Jesus prophecy in Matt. 24 was for what was going to happen within a generation (40 years), and what He predicted came true in 70 AD–the great tribulation! And that what I’ve been taught my whole Christian life (52 years worth) about the end times was not true! Those who have really motivated me to dig into the Word IN CONTEXT (and lately, as I said, about the end times) are you, Jonathan Welton, Gary DeMar. My whole belief system now has taken a HUGE paradigm shift. Thank you!

    • That’s awesome Cindy – one of the most extreme examples of how we can build some pretty “out there” beliefs when we read the Bible outside of it’s context.

      The audience hearing Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew 24 would be utterly stunned to think it referred to anything but the events of 70AD. But we almost completely discredit even the 70AD fulfilment in order to validate our futuristic outpouring of wrath.

      Thanks for sharing!

  6. Thank you so much for giving us guidance. Much appreciated!
    I wish churches had this information too to keep them in line.

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