Back in the twentieth century, I heard a preacher mention that you could read the entire Bible in a year by reading just four chapters a day. So I tried and it worked. The next year I did it again, and the year after, and every year since until it has become an ingrained habit. This is not a remarkable achievement. All my kids have already read the whole Bible (some, multiple times, and the youngest is twelve). I have a friend whose practice is to read through the New Testament once a month (that’s twelve times a year!), and read through the Old Testament at least four times every year. That regimen puts me to shame, but the point is that, as God’s people, we must read the Bible.
Someone is bound to point out there is a difference in reading and studying, and that is true (to a degree). Daily Bible reading is not usually done with the same intensity required to gear up for teaching a class on a particular chapter—the latter requires far more effort. However, that does not diminish the need for, nor take the place of, simply reading the Bible. And, with all the commentaries available, the late Roy C. Deaver would still point out there is no substitute for actually reading the text of Scripture.
What does regularly reading the Bible do for us? For starters, it helps demonstrate we are not hypocrites, since devoting real time to reading what God wrote is evidence we take Him seriously. (Then again, we should have loftier goals than merely avoiding a charge of hypocrisy). Though Bible reading does not necessarily imply faithfulness, faithfulness does imply Bible reading. Or, put differently, a Bible reader may not be dedicated, but the truly dedicated are certainly Bible readers.
Second, reading through Scripture on a scheduled basis keeps us in constant contact with sacred truth. What we hear during a few hours of assembly with the saints each week ought to reinforce what we are getting from God in our own daily reading, and vice-versa. Far easier to meditate on God’s word if we know what it says. And, if we are continually reading what it says, it is easier to stay close to, and in harmony with it. God’s children should know God’s book as well, or better, than they know sports, movies, music, entertainers, hobbies, politics, local news or video games.
Third, reading often through the Bible (especially the Old Testament) keeps it from being a strange, unfamiliar volume that we only wish we understood. Granted, we can all learn something new, and we will never plumb every depth of Scripture, but, of all people, the church of Christ should have a basic, working knowledge of key Old Testament events. Repeatedly reading the whole story makes biblical characters and history familiar and welcome in the landscape of our minds, like a well worn path where sights and sounds are comforting because frequent travel has made us comfortable with them.
Fourth, since the Bible is the only God-breathed (i.e. inspired) book in existence, what it says will trump an opposing view from any other source, including Bible commentaries. While good commentaries have their place, sometimes well meaning writers unintentionally lead us astray with comments not true. Thorough familiarity with truth helps us recognize error where it is. But we cannot become sufficiently familiar with the Bible if we refuse to read it thoroughly.
Reading four chapters per day is only one of many plans for daily Bible reading, but it will get the job done with time to spare. You can do the math yourself, since there are 1,189 chapters in the whole Bible (929 in the Old Testament, 260 in the New), and 365 days in a year. While some like a straight-through reading from Genesis to Revelation, others prefer a plan of reading from Old and New each day. Find an approach you like, or one you can customize. “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand” (Revelation 1:3). On the cusp of a brand new year, here is a goal for us all: read the Bible.