Have you ever read the entire Bible, Genesis to Revelation?
If you haven’t approached the reading of all the Bible with an intentional plan and regular effort, then you probably haven’t read the whole Bible. I’ve seen some surveys in the last few years that report a little less than two-thirds of evangelical Christians have read the whole Bible at least once in their life.
For several years now I have been encouraging people to read the Bible through every year using some sort of plan for daily reading. At an average reading speed, it takes about 70 hours to read the whole bible. 70 hours works out to about 10-15 minutes per day in a year’s time. All that averages to around three or more chapters a day of reading to read the whole Bible in a year. The point here is that reading the whole Bible in a year’s time is very doable.
For the last several years I have also been surprised by the objections to the aforementioned reading. Honestly, it baffles me how anyone could be opposed to reading the Bible, but there it is. I want to deal with the most common objections I have heard, but first let’s ask: Should a Christian read the whole Bible? The Bible is typically printed in a little over one thousand pages. One thousand pages? How many one thousand page books have you ever read? I have heard that about 70% of adults in America read one book per year. If you’re only reading one book per year, I doubt it’s a thousand page tome.
Yes, Christians should read the whole Bible. No, there is not a command: Thou shalt read the whole Bible. Consider just a couple of verses about the Scripture.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
– 2 Timothy 3:16
Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
– Proverbs 30:5
If all scripture is inspired and profitable, then we should get around to reading all scripture at some point. If every word of God is pure, then we should get around to reading every word of God at some point. If God bothered to give us one thousand pages of words that are for our instruction and good, then we should bother to read them all.
Three common objections to reading the Bible in a year
Out of a sense of fairness, which comports with my mountain-bred roots, no one I’ve talked with has actually objected to reading the Bible at all, only to reading the whole Bible in a year by a plan. I’ve heard various reasons expressed variously, but I’ve collected them here into the three most common.
- I don’t have enough time. I broke it down earlier that this can be done in about 10-15 minutes per day. With the mobile devices we have today, we can always have the Bible with us making it even easier to find this time. Besides, if you seriously don’t have 10-15 minutes in a day to read the Bible, your’re seriously overbooked and cardiac arrest is in your near future. I understand that everyone is busy. I have seven children. The oldest is starting college next week and the youngest isn’t yet two-years-old. I have my own business where I regularly work 50+ hours a week, which at times can be significantly higher. I pastor a church and regularly preach three messages a week. Despite all that, I am currently reading through the Bible in a year. I could go on, but the point is that we are all busy. I don’t think I’m special or any busier than anybody else. If you seriously do not have 10-15 minutes a day to read the Bible, then your priorities are out of order.
- I think it’s better to read just a verse or two and get something out of them than to read three chapters and get nothing out of it. I question how you could read three chapters of the Bible and get nothing out of it, but I do have two main answers to this objection. First, reading and studying are not the same things. I think this objections confuses the difference between the two. I’m not suggesting that you should read the Bible in a year and not study the Bible. I am suggesting you do both. They are not the same thing. I live by the idea that you should read broadly and study deeply.
Second, does the reading of a verse or two to get something out of them result in reading the whole Bible? Using that approach, how many times have you read the whole Bible? You don’t have to answer out loud. Without an intentional plan and consistent effort over time, most of us will not read the whole Bible. I set out many times to read the whole Bible, but I never accomplished it without a reading plan and a daily commitment.
Besides these, did Paul write a whole letter and send it to a church with the intention that they would read the letter or just a sentence or two every now and then? Obviously, the letter was intended to be read start to finish. There is no other way to grasp the context and, therefore, the meaning of the letter.
- I don’t think it would be right to read the Bible out of a sense of obligation rather than desire. The objection is that reading the Bible by a plan results in you reading out of obligation to check off the day’s duty rather than reading because you want to. I’ve never experienced that myself. I’ve never experienced reading the Bible grudgingly out of obligation. I’ve found the more I read the Bible by plan daily, the more I want to do it.
Let’s assume you have a spouse and afore posited spouse has a birthday, which you must admit is extremely plausible. Let’s also assume that your recall of said annual events is not impeccable, which you must also admit is plausible. So, in order not to be the heel of the century, you mark your beloved’s birthday on a calendar so that you’re amply prepared on the appropriate day to shower your beloved with attention and jovial celebration. A wise thing to do and a free marital tip. Is it better to mark the date in advance and plan to remember the birthday, or to only celebrate that day when you happen to remember it at the right time? Did the fact that you planned beforehand to remember mean that you acted sheerly out of obligation in whatever affections you directed to your spouse on the day of?
One way to look at planned reading is obligation and another way to look at it is discipline. I have my suspicions that this is the real heart of most objections. We are not very disciplined and chafe at the thought of discipline. The Bible does teach that we are to discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness (1 Timothy 4:6-8; 1 Corinthians 9:23-27). In every good thing we endeavor to do, we must wrestle against the flesh that opposes us (Romans 7:14-25; James 4:13-17). Finally, as long as we are in this flesh, we are not sanctified enough to only and always want to do good. If you’re waiting to read the Bible until you feel like it, you won’t read it much.
Benefits to reading the Bible in a year
If you read the whole Bible regularly, you will be benefited. You will grow in grace and knowledge. You will be better prepared to hear sermons well and get more out of them. You will be better able to fight and overcome sin by taking heed to the Word and hiding it in your heart (Psalm 119:11). Your mind will be renewed through the Word (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 1:17-18; Colossians 3:10, 15-16). You will be better prepared to speak a word in season to edify, encourage, and comfort the afflicted. If you think about, what could possibly be beneficial about not knowing more of the Bible?
Maybe there is another reason why we’re not reading the Bible every year
The thought of obligation, duty, and discipline is so odious to us. While I understand the substance of that objection, I ask: What is the alternative? Seriously, what is the alternative to a disciplined approach to reading the Bible. The alternative to discipline is a picture that looks alarmingly similar to the picture of the sluggard in Proverbs.
- The sluggard is indecisive and will not get started to work though he may talk about it (Proverbs 6:9; 26:14).
- The sluggard makes excuses or rationalizes his inactivity and lack of accomplishment (Proverbs 20:4; 22:13; 26:16).
- The sluggard puts responsibility off until later (Proverbs 6:10).
- The sluggard does not plan ahead and suffers for it (Proverbs 6:8).
- The sluggard has no self-discipline but must have an overseer to make him do something (Proverbs 6:7).
- The sluggard does not have a hard-work ethic (Proverbs 6:8).
- The sluggard does not have the follow-through to finish what he does start (Proverbs 12:27; 19:24; 26:15).
More could be said, but I will leave you with a serious question. Do you really have a good reason not to read the whole Bible, or is it just an excuse for laziness? Let each of us examine our own heart before the Lord.
By our sins we are guilty before God and we need our sins to be covered. We don’t need the kind of covering that a child uses when they’re supposed to clean their room and instead they cover their toys with a rug. To the child the room may look clean, but a more discerning eye sees the problem has not been dealt with. We need the kind of covering for our sin that is a doing away with our sins permanently. We need them covered and remembered no more.
In the Bible we are taught about such a covering called atonement. Atone generally means to cover and is used in the Bible to describe the complete putting away of our sin and reconciling us to God. Because of our sins there is a breech between us and God that cannot be mended without doing away with our sins. In the atonement God provides, our sins are done away and we are reconciled to him.
The Bible teaches the atonement in a few different ways to reveal a fuller picture of what it means to receive atonement for our sins. There are two main categories of teaching on the atonement in the Old Testament—types, or figures, and prophecies. These teach us about the nature of the atonement and what it does.
Types in the Bible are figures or representations where one thing is a picture of something else. For instance, if you’re familiar with the life of David at all then you’ve seen David as a type of Christ. Certain events or even certain conditions in David’s life are representative and teach us about Jesus Christ, the Savior. Likewise, there are figures for the atonement.
The first type of the atonement we meet with in the Bible is in Genesis 3:21 where God took “coats of skins” and clothed Adam and Eve.
Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
– Genesis 3:21
God had created Adam first and then created Eve from Adam. God brought them together as husband and wife and placed them in the Garden of Eden. They were created in a sinless state and, as husband and wife, they had no clothes or coverings on their bodies and they were “not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25). Their nakedness represented their sinless state, intimacy of relationship, and vulnerability before God. They had nothing to hide. However, Eve sinned when she took and ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. She also gave to Adam and he ate after her.
Upon eating the fruit, their eyes were opened, i.e. they gained the knowledge/experience of sin they previously lacked. They were no longer sinless and they immediately tried to cover their bodies because they were now ashamed.
And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
– Genesis 3:7
They made themselves small coverings of fig leaves, but these were not adequate. After pronouncing the curses because of sin, God slew the animals and made clothes out of their hides to cover Adam and Eve.
This type teaches the need for a covering. Adam and Eve tried to cover themselves because of the shame of sin, but man cannot cover his own sin no matter how hard he tries. His covering is not acceptable. God mercifully covered them with an acceptable covering as a picture of the covering they needed.
The next major type of the atonement is in the blood of the Passover lamb in Exodus 12:1-30. God was going to bring a plague of the death of the firstborn on Egypt. He had Moses warn the Israelites that this plague was coming and he gave them instructions to be delivered from it. Each house was instructed to take a first-year, unblemished lamb for their house. They were to kill the lamb and eat it in a certain way. They also had to take the blood of the lamb and smear it on the door posts and lintel of the door of their house. God sent his angel throughout the land of Egypt that night, and every house that did not have the covering of blood experienced the death of the firstborn of the house.
Israel was taught that a covering of blood was required to save life. The instructions were specific about the lamb and what was done with it. Just any covering would not do and they were not free to come up with their own plan. When the covering God provided was on the house, the angel passed over that house and life was saved. They learned that the covering protected them from the judgment of death.
The next types of the atonement are found in the law of the offerings in Leviticus chapters 1 to 7. These were the animal sacrifices required by the law to cover sin, restore fellowship, and to make clean what had been defiled. The law contained detailed directions for what animals could be offered in different situations. They specified how the sacrifices were to be killed and the steps for burning on the altar. When these were done properly, the sinner was told it was accepted and atonement was made for him. His sins were covered.
These sacrifices were a type of the atonement because they were not the actual atonement but only pointed to it. In other words, these sacrifices weren’t actually effectual at covering sin.
For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
For then would they not have ceased to be offered? Because that the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.
But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.
For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:
In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.
– Hebrews 10:1-6
These animal sacrifices taught that sin required the shedding of blood for remission (Hebrews 9:22). The fact that they had to be repeated continually showed they weren’t an adequate covering but that a better covering was needed.
Another type of the atonement covering was figured in the Day of Atonement when the high priest would go into the holy of holies in the tabernacle annually to sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat (Leviticus 16:1-34). The holy of holies was separated by a thick curtain and no one was ever allowed to go behind that curtain except the high priest once a year on the Day of Atonement. In order for him to enter, which is a type of coming into the presence of God, he had to have a covering of blood and the smoke of the incense. We could plunge deep into all the details of this, but it suffices our purpose here to recognize that once again we are taught that we must have a covering to come into God’s presence and not die in judgment.
Types are figures that point us to the antitype, or the reality. This quick survey of some types of the atonement teaches us the need for a real covering. The one covering we need and the one covering that is acceptable is not anything we can make or contrive ourselves. Beside types, the Bible also teaches us about the atonement through prophecies and that’s what we want to consider in the next chapter.
This is a portion of a book that I have been writing. I have decided to post it here in serial form. It is intended to be evangelistic. If the book has merit, I may seek to publish it in some form. Please feel free to share it and I welcome any feedback.
If you wish to read all the chapters in order you may do so here.
A devotion for prayer meeting.
This devotion calls for one of those rare moments of honesty. I know that’s the last thing many expect when coming to church—someone being honest. If we are all going to be honest though, we grow dull in prayer too often. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I can speak for myself and my own experience in times of dull dryness in prayer. Sometimes I let the busyness of life push prayer from the center. Sometimes I’m tired and feel scattered and prayer is not fresh. I find in those times that prayer becomes repetitive and mechanical. I find that prayer becomes general and vague. I also find that prayer at those times becomes much more focused on me and what I need or want.
Simply put, there are times we need a reboot in our prayer life. We need a refreshing and refocusing in prayer. To help us in that, I want to look at some specific prayers from the Bible. This will not include everything we are commanded to pray for in the Bible, but some key things that will help us to refocus. In order to recover fresh zeal in prayer, we often need to come back to specific prayer needs in our own life and for others around us.
Pray for the salvation of the lost
It’s good to begin outside of ourselves and consider the needs of others. Paul gave us a good example of praying for the salvation of the lost.
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
– Romans 10:1
He testified that he had “great heaviness and continual sorrow” for his “kinsmen according to the flesh.” i.e. Israel (Romans 9:2-3). He had a great desire and prayed for his fellow Jews that they might be saved. Likewise, we have family who are lost. We have neighbors who are lost. We have co-workers who are lost. Let us repent of our indifference and pray to God that they might be saved.
We do not only pray for salvation, but we also give witness of the Gospel to those we pray for. In that regard, we should also be praying for the free course of the Gospel among those we pray for.
Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
– 2 Thessalonians 3:1
We should be praying for appropriate boldness in our witness.
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that i may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,
– Ephesians 6:18-19
We need the boldness that the Word deserves when it is proclaimed. It may sound contradictory, but we also need to pray for meekness and humility in our witness. We need to speak the truth in love and not become angry or shout at others when we face opposition (1 Peter 2:21-23).
We should also be praying for other churches and missionaries in their work of evangelizing. We should not only be concerned about ourselves or our church, but we should have a burden for our fellow laborers and pray for them and rejoice with them when the Lord blesses them.
Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; That I may be delivered form them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints;
– Romans 15:30-31
We should not be all wrapped up in what we are doing. We should remember others and their labor for the Lord.
Pray for ourselves and our brothers and sisters
As we pray for our own needs, we must also remember our brothers and sisters who have the same needs in several areas. We should be praying for an increased knowledge of God and his will.
For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
– Colossians 1:9
We should pray for the flourishing of hope in our lives.
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
– Ephesians 1:18
We should pray for unfailing faith and help for our unbelief (Mark 9:24).
But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
– Luke 22:32
We should pray for strength to stand.
Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;
– Colossians 1:11
We should pray for fruitfulness in our lives. Fruitfulness glorifies God and should be our desire (John 15:8, 16).
That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
– Colossians 1:10
Lastly, we should pray for deliverance from temptation.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
– Matthew 6:13
We are daily engaged in a great warfare against our flesh, sin, and the devil. We must never take it lightly, but pray continually to be delivered (Matthew 26:41).