You’re interested in reading the Bible for the first time, but don’t know where to start. With 66 books and over 1,100 chapters, the Bible can seem daunting to beginners. As an Evangelical or Charismatic Christian, you want to read the Bible in an order that allows you to understand the overall narrative and themes.
Don’t worry – there are great orders to read the Bible that will help you grasp the key stories and messages. By reading the Bible in a strategic sequence, you’ll get an overview of Scripture and be able to dive into God’s Word.
Here are some key takeaways for reading the Bible as a beginner:
- Start with the Gospels to understand Jesus’s life and teachings
- Read Genesis and Exodus next to learn foundational stories of creation, the fall, and the exodus
- Combine different genres like history, poetry, prophecy rather than reading straight through
- Supplement your reading with a study Bible, commentary, or pastor’s guidance
- Pray before you read and ask God to reveal himself through his Word
- Highlight key verses and take notes to help retain what you read
- Refer back to maps, timelines, or online resources when needed for context
- Read consistently, even if just a little each day, to absorb God’s Word over time
- Stay engaged by alternating between big picture reading and focused study
With the right approach, your first journey through the Bible will help you grasp the amazing story of Scripture that points to Jesus. So let’s explore some recommended orders for reading the Bible as a beginner.
Start with the Gospels
The four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – are the perfect place to start reading the Bible. The Gospels introduce you to Jesus’s life, ministry, death, and resurrection. As an Evangelical or Charismatic Christian, you’ll want to begin by getting to know Jesus and his teachings.
Many Bibles even place the Gospels at the beginning of the New Testament, highlighting their importance. Reading one short Gospel like Mark or John is an easy entry point into the Bible. You’ll gain an understanding of who Jesus claimed to be and the core message of his ministry. The story, themes, and theology of the rest of Scripture hinge on properly understanding Jesus and the Gospels.
Once you’ve read one Gospel, you can go back and read Matthew, Luke and other Gospels to get a more comprehensive perspective. Seeing how each author portrays Jesus will give you a rich, multidimensional understanding of his life and mission. The Gospels are the theological foundation for the rest of the New Testament, so it’s crucial to start here.
Read Genesis and Exodus Next
After reading about Jesus in the Gospels, go back to the beginning of the Old Testament and read Genesis and Exodus. These two books provide the origination stories for God’s people and the Law that governs them. Reading Genesis will give you insight into God’s creation, his purpose for human life, the introduction of sin through the fall, and the patriarchs like Abraham with whom God establishes his covenant.
Exodus reveals how God formed the Israelites into his chosen nation through the Exodus from Egypt. You’ll learn about great figures like Moses and see how God gave his law to guide his people. Genesis and Exodus establish the history of Israel and the faith themes that culminate in Jesus, so they are essential early readings.
Mix Old and New Testament Books
Rather than reading straight through the entire Bible in order, it’s helpful as a beginner to alternate between Old and New Testament books. Mixing books from different sections and genres will help you grasp connections between the Old and New Testaments.
For example, you could read the Gospel of John, then Genesis, then the Gospel of Mark, then Exodus and Leviticus. Bouncing between the Old and New Testaments will show how Jesus and the Apostles interpreted the Old Testament. You’ll gain a richer understanding of how the Old Testament points toward Christ.
Supplement with Study Resources
It’s valuable when reading the Bible for the first time to supplement your reading with study resources. Having a study Bible with explanatory footnotes will give you context for difficult passages. Using a commentary or your pastor’s sermons can aid your understanding as well.
There are also many excellent online resources to help beginners engage with Scripture on a deeper level. Checking maps, timelines and cultural background info will enable you to follow the biblical narrative. Don’t just rely on your own reading – leverage study resources to bring the text to life.
Pray for Insight and Guidance
Before you begin reading the Bible each day, take time to pray for God’s Spirit to give you wisdom and revelation. Ask God to open your heart and mind to understand his Word and for it to transform you. Scripture reminds us that the Holy Spirit teaches us and guides us into truth.
Also pray for God to show you how a particular passage applies to your life. Ask him what he wants you to learn from your reading and how it can shape your thoughts and actions. Approach the Bible with humility and dependance on God’s Spirit to instruct you.
Highlight and Take Notes
As you read through the Bible, get in the habit of highlighting key verses and taking notes on what you read. Write down questions you have or things you want to learn more about. Highlight promises of God, commands to follow, and examples to emulate.
Noting the main theme or lesson of each chapter will help you recall what you’ve read. Your highlights and notes will create a traceable record of what God is speaking to you. They also help reinforce what you learn from each reading session.
Use Maps and Timelines
Since biblical events take place in specific times and geographic regions, having reference tools can assist your reading. Look at maps to locate places like Jerusalem, Rome, Egypt and Assyria. Visualizing where events happened in Scripture helps make it more concrete.
Reviewing timelines of biblical history will also give you better awareness of when various figures like David, Elijah, Ezra, etc. lived. You can find helpful maps and chronologies online or in study Bible appendices. Consulting these resources as you read through the Bible will improve your understanding.
Read Consistently over Time
While it’s great to read large portions of the Bible at once, don’t get discouraged if you can only manage small snippets each day. Consistency over time is what will enable you to absorb Scripture. Whether it’s 20 minutes or 5 minutes daily, make Bible reading part of your routine.
Extended periods of reading can feel overwhelming as a beginner. But regularly immersing yourself in God’s Word will allow it to take root in your heart. Even just a few verses a day will add up over weeks and months to give you exposure to the breadth of Scripture.
It’s valuable when reading through the Bible for the first time to alternate between big picture reading and focused study. Big picture reading gives you a feel for the scope of biblical history and themes. This equips you with general biblical literacy.
But regularly doing focused study provides depth and repetition that solidifies what you learn. Studying a single book more rigorously or doing a topical study allows God’s Word to permeate your thinking. Alternate these approaches for both breadth and depth.
Appreciate Different Genres
Remember as you read the Bible that it contains different genres – history, poetry, prophecy, gospel, epistle, and apocalyptic. Each genre has different objectives. The Psalms express worship, Lamentations grief, the Gospels proclaim Christ, the Epistles instruct churches, and Revelation looks forward to future events.
Appreciate each book on its own terms rather than rigidly expecting the same style. Historical sections are selective rather than comprehensive. Poetry utilizes vivid imagery. Prophecy looks toward future restoration. By understanding genre, you’ll interpret each book correctly.
Old Testament Walkthrough
Now that we’ve covered some general principles, let’s look at a specific sequence for reading through the Old Testament as a beginner. We’ll follow the order of the books, but grouping books together that tell a connected story. Our walkthrough will mix in various genres and spotlight especially critical books.
We’ve already covered starting with Genesis and Exodus, which anchor the Penteteuch – the foundational five books. Next continue through the other books of Moses – Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Leviticus outlines laws and rituals for Israel’s worship. Numbers chronicles the wilderness wanderings after the Exodus. Deuteronomy reiterates the covenant before entering Canaan.
After the Penteteuch, read Joshua through Ruth. Joshua and Judges show Israel’s conquest of Canaan and the time of the judges after Joshua. Ruth offers a short, moving story during this era.
Then dive into the key figures of Israel’s united monarchy – Samuel, Saul, David. Read 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 Kings 1-11 and 1 Chronicles. See Israel transition from judges to kings with Saul, then reach its peak under David. Solomon’s reign and the kingdom dividing round out this era.
Proceeding forward, mix in the Major and Minor Prophets interspersed with 1 & 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles which provide historical context. Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel contain timeless prophetic messages. delve into the 12 Minor Prophets like Amos, Jonah and Malachi as well.
The period of exile and return from exile is central to biblical history. Don’t miss key books from this era like Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther. Daniel and Esther recount the faith of Jews living in exile. Ezra and Nehemiah detail the return to rebuild Jerusalem.
Finally, soak in the five books of poetry and wisdom – Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs. These books provide keys to trusting God, avoiding sin and living wisely. Psalms in particular nourishes the soul with its cries, laments, and praise.
This walkthrough hits key high points to give you an excellent overview of the Old Testament. You’ll grasp the sweeping saga from creation to exile and return. Following this sequence sets you up to meet Christ in the Gospels.
New Testament Order
The variety of New Testament books can be confusing for first-time Bible readers as well. But following a strategic order makes grasping the New Testament storyline achievable. Here’s one approach:
Begin with the 4 Gospels and Acts. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John recount Jesus’s ministry from different angles. Acts provides New Testament history from Jesus’s ascension through Paul’s journeys planting churches.
Next read Romans through Philemon – the 13 Pauline Epistles. Romans lays theological foundations on salvation and righteousness. The other letters apply theology to practical issues faced by churches.
Then dive into the General Epistles – Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1/2/3 John, Jude. These books written by apostles apply theology to encourage believers in living faithfully.
Finally, plunge into Revelation and its prophetic visions about Christ’s return and the end times. Its imagery and symbolism can be confusing, so benefit from guidance here if possible.
This provides you a logical sequence to follow that will enable you to grasp the overall content and themes of the New Testament. You’ll understand Christ’s coming, identity, ministry, the birth of the church, apostolic teaching and future hope. It’s an overview that grounds you in truth.
As you embark on reading through the Bible for the first time, leverage supplementary resources to aid your understanding and engagement:
- Study Bible – NIV Study Bible, ESV Study Bible, Life Application Study Bible
- Commentaries – IVP Commentary, Bible Knowledge Commentary
- Handbook/Guide – NIV Handbook of the Bible, Bible Handbook by Stephen Miller
- Online – BibleProject, GotQuestions.org, Bible.com, YouTube videos
- Your Pastor – Sermons, classes, small groups, office hours
- Christian friends – Bible studies, discussions, prayer partners
- Highlighters & pens – Color code themes, create a key
By utilizing these kinds of tools, you’ll get much more out of your first time reading through Scripture. Approach the Bible not alone, but with wise teachers to guide you.
Reading through the Bible for the first time is an incredible journey that will firmly root you in the truth of God’s Word. Follow the guidelines and order presented here to gain a foundational overview of the biblical narrative that points toward Jesus Christ. Keep these tips in mind:
- Start with the Gospels to know Jesus
- Read Genesis and Exodus next for origins
- Mix Old and New Testament books
- Use study resources for context
- Pray for illumination by the Spirit
- Highlight key verses
- Consult maps and timelines
- Read consistently over time
- Alternate approaches – big picture and focused study
- Appreciate different biblical genres
- Follow a strategic Old Testament then New Testament order
Approach God’s Word with humility, patience and expectation. God will reveal himself to you through Scripture as you carve out time to read it. You’ll be amazed at how reading through the entire Bible equip you theologically and shapes your faith. But stay engaged – it’s an investment well worth making to know the Bible inside and out!