I AM NEW TO THE BIBLE, SO WHERE SHOULD I BEGIN?
by Shawn Brasseaux
That is a great question, and I would be delighted to answer it!
Firstly, have or buy a King James Bible. You should begin reading it in the book of Romans, whether you are a Christian or not. The book of Romans is the most basic Bible book for this the Dispensation of the Grace of God. Chapters 1-5 tell you how to be saved from your sins unto eternal life, chapters 6-8 give you a basic outline of how the Christian life operates, chapters 9-11 orient you so that you see some of the differences between prophecy and mystery (that is, the nation Israel’s past, present, and future statuses, and how we are not related to Israel), and chapters 12-16 instruct you as to how to apply the grace doctrines to specific life issues. No matter where you are in life, Romans is the most practical Bible book, the foundational book of Paul’s epistles. Try to concentrate on Romans before you “venture out” to other Bible books. Perhaps read the book of Romans five or ten times. The Bible is a big book, so you must start out basic—Romans is the most basic book regarding God’s current dealings with you and me.
In this study, I will proceed to provide you with some additional advice regarding Bible reading and Bible study.
THREE-FOLD EDIFICATION PROCESS FOR THE BELIEVER
Once you read and understand the Gospel of the Grace of God (discussed quite thoroughly in the first five chapters of Romans), then you can place your faith/trust in Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork as sufficient payment for your sins. You will then be a Christian in God’s sight, a member of the Church the Body of Christ, a child of God, and a citizen of heaven.
After you are saved unto justification (a right standing before God) unto eternal life, God wants to “stablish” (stabilize) your Christian life and inner man by using a three-fold process. God wants you to understand the life that He has given to you in Christ Jesus, so that you can better understand what He is doing today, and then you can, by faith, follow Him and do the same. This is how we discover and do God’s will for our lives.
The Bible says in Romans 16:25-26: “ Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,  But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:”
Notice the three-fold process of Christian edification as listed in the above verses:
- “my gospel”—Paul’s Gospel, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, is the foundation of the Christian life
- “the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery”—this is Paul’s epistles of Romans through Philemon, the sound doctrine (building materials) which we use to build on that foundation
- “the scriptures of the prophets”—this is all of the Holy Scriptures, in light of the doctrine revealed to Paul.
When Paul urged Timothy, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), what he meant was that Timothy was to recognize divisions in the Bible that God had already made. Timothy was to “rightly divide the word of truth.” Essentially, Timothy was to understand that the resurrected, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ had given the Apostle Paul a special ministry and message, and he was to make sure that he did not confuse Paul with other divine spokesmen in Scripture, that he not confuse Paul’s writings with other Bible writers (as those were doing in verses 17-18, and are still doing today in much of Christendom). Paul was the man whom God sent to speak to us Gentiles (Romans 11:13). In Paul’s epistles alone, we find our doctrine, duty, walk, and destiny. All of the Bible is for us, but not all of the Bible is to us and not all of the Bible is about us (remember, most of the Bible is written to and is about the nation Israel, not us). We do not go to Israel’s program and claim Israel’s verses. God’s Word to us is Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. Paul is our apostle. Paul was sent to us Gentiles. We follow God’s design for Christian edification, and we seek God’s approval, not man’s approval (2 Timothy 2:15).
We study all of the Bible, Genesis through Revelation, but we follow the design of Christian edification as laid out in Romans 16:25-26. If we refuse to follow the dispensational layout of Scripture, and most people do refuse it, then we will be going against what God is doing today, and our Christian lives will be in shambles (which is why Christendom is in such pitiful shape!).
DAILY BIBLE READING IN LIGHT OF THE THREE-FOLD EDIFICATION
You should make it a habit to read your King James Bible daily. You may want to read a few verses, or maybe a chapter—the number of verses is up to you but, in light of Romans 16:25-26, this is how I would recommend that you should read your Bible for the first time:
- Read through the book of Romans (16 chapters), and then proceed to read through to Philemon (1 Corinthians to Philemon are the 12 books after Romans)—the 13 books of Romans through Philemon are frequently called the “Pauline epistles.” Actually, if you read three or four chapters daily, you could read through Paul’s epistles in about three weeks.
- After you read Romans through Philemon, start in Matthew and read all the way through to the Bible’s last book, the Revelation—the 27 books of Matthew through the Revelation are commonly called the “New Testament Scriptures.” If you read three or four chapters a day, you could read through the New Testament in about three months.
- Once you reach the Revelation, then you can begin in Genesis, the Bible’s first book, and read all the way through to Malachi (the 39 books, Genesis through Malachi, are commonly called the “Old Testament Scriptures”). Then, read from Matthew to the Revelation, the Bible’s last book (for a total of 66 books). (NOTE: Depending on your reading speed, it may take you a year or two in order to do all three steps, and that is fine. The goal is not to hurry through to see how much you can read; your purpose is to at least expose yourself to God’s Word, and the “general feel” of the text will gradually become more pronounced as you read it through every year. The more you read the Scriptures, the more they will make sense to you.)
After you have completed steps 1-3, get in the habit of reading your Bible through at least once a year (Genesis through Revelation). In addition to reading, you should study it, comparing spiritual things with spiritual, comparing Scripture with Scripture. Studying is much more intensive than just reading; studying is comparing or contrasting one verse with another verse, usually concerning a particular theme/issue/doctrine. A Strong’s Concordance can be useful in this regard. While they are interesting, studies in Greek and Hebrew will not benefit those new to the Bible; please guard yourself against those who stress the original Bible languages to the extent that they change the English text that you can read for yourself. You actually do not need to know anything about Greek or Hebrew to understand the Bible—many times, such knowledge is a hindrance to Bible comprehension.
TWO BIBLE PASSAGES WORTH MEMORIZING FIRST
As a side-note, any new Christians, or anyone new to the Bible, should memorize the Gospel of the Grace of God: “How that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). The average professing Christian cannot adequately or clearly quote this Gospel message, and it is so sad it is beyond words. If you remember nothing else from the Bible, please remember 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. It is the greatest passage in all of Scripture! It is the greatest message the God of the Bible has ever told all of mankind!
Romans 5:1-11, as it is written in the King James Bible, should also be memorized as soon as possible: “ Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:  By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;  And patience, experience; and experience, hope:  And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.  For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.  For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.  And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” Friend, one day in the future, you will learn just how helpful this passage will be in your life!
A FEW WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT
- Whatever you do, please do not begin reading in, or trying to understand the Bible by using, the book of Acts. Acts can be a very confusing book if not understood dispensationally. Acts is a transitional book that documents God turning away from Israel (Peter and the 11’s ministry) and Him dealing with Gentiles/non-Jews (Paul’s ministry). Like I suggested earlier, before reading Acts, read Paul’s epistles first and then read the New Testament (Acts is the fifth book of the New Testament Scriptures).
- Bear in mind that you will not understand everything in the Old Testament. Do not grow weary when you read through extensive genealogical records like those in the first 10 chapters of Genesis, or the first 11 chapters of 1 Chronicles, or Matthew chapter 1, or Luke chapter 3. Do not get wrapped up in trying to comprehend all of the prophetic utterances like those in the books of Daniel and the Revelation—these are not written for our time or circumstances anyway, so we are not meant to understand them thoroughly. We can and should study them when we progress in spiritual maturity, but prophecy is usually very cumbersome for new believers or anyone new to Scripture.
- Lastly, we have a Bible question-and-answer website that you can consult or use to submit Bible questions to me. Whatever we can do to further your understanding of the Holy Bible, please let us know. You can check out https://forwhatsaiththescriptures.wordpress.com for more information.
SOME FINAL WORDS – DO WE STUDY ONLY PAUL’S EPISTLES? (NO!)
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). All of the Bible is God’s Word, so we study all 66 books of the King James Bible (Genesis to Revelation). But, unlike most churches and professing Christians, we study the entire Bible according to the “revelation of the mystery,” (in light of the Pauline epistles, Romans through Philemon). When studying a particular Bible passage, you first need to establish the following, in this order:
- who is writing/speaking,
- to whom are they writing, and
- what are they writing.
Again, keep in mind that Paul’s epistles of Romans through Philemon are what God has to say to you, and the rest of the Bible deals with another program, Israel’s program. If Paul does not instruct you to do it, then God does not expect you to practice it in your life.
While I will conclude this study for sake of brevity (for fear of not being able to do justice to related topics I would like to address here), I do highly recommend that you see our three related Bible studies linked below. They will expand on issues we have only briefly discussed here.
Please see our Bible timelines, a printable black-and-white version and a color version, as well as our One-Year Bible Reading Schedule. You will find all of these resources on our Bible study-aids page.
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).