Where Should I Start? A Beginner’s Guide to Reading the Bible

Reading the Bible can be a daunting task. With so many books and so many subjects, where should you start? Click through to find out the best places to start (+ free reading plans to keep you on track)

Are you a brand-new Christian who doesn’t know very much about the Bible yet? Have you been feeling guilty that you don’t read your Bible enough, but you’re so overwhelmed you have no idea where to start?

Don’t worry! It’s really very simple to get started. 🙂 In this post, I’m going to share exactly where you should start reading the Bible, no matter what level you’re at… and where to go next! Grab your notebook and get your brain ready, cause this is going to be epic! 😀

Level 1: Brand-new Christians

If you’ve just gotten saved and you’re trying to figure all this Bible reading stuff out, you’re in good company. Plenty of people who’ve been saved for a long time still aren’t sure exactly what they’re supposed to be reading.

The good news is, specific books of the Bible were originally written to new Christians. They're like Christian boot camp: chock full of assurance of your salvation, introduction to the family of God (the church), and clear about your duties and privileges as a child of God.

Step 1: Read 1 John every day for a week.

The very first book you should start with is 1 John. This small, power-packed book is 5 chapters of orientation to Christianity. 1 John is in the back of the Bible--in the New Testament--between Hebrews and Revelation. Since it’s only 5 chapters, you can easily read the entire thing in 15 minutes to half an hour.

Step 2: Read the Gospel of John twice through.

John the Beloved wrote both 1 John and the Gospel of John. He wanted to make sure that all Christians knew exactly who Jesus was and what being His disciple means. The Gospel of John focuses on showing Jesus as God and was written specifically to the Church to remind them of Who they had believed in.

The Gospel of John is considerably longer than 1 John, but if you stick to reading 3 chapters a day, you can read it through in one week. It should take you two weeks to read it twice through.

reading the Bible is easy with this simple cheat sheet

Level 2: Confused Christians

If you’ve been a Christian for a while but still feel lost when people talk about church stuff, you might be on level 2. Oftentimes, people get saved but are then left on their own to figure out their discipleship. Without a clear path to follow, they just kind of float along with the crowd; trying to pick up things as they hear them but not getting very far.

If you have been having trouble understanding what you hear in church, you’re in this boat. I recommend starting from the beginning of Level 1, as it will take you only 3 weeks. Then you’ll have a strong foundation for your future growth.

Step 1: Read the Gospel of Mark twice through.

The Gospel of Mark is much broader than John. It’s more of a bird’s eye view of Jesus’ life and ministry and helps you get a good grasp on everything in a short amount of time.

At only 16 chapters, Mark will take you about 8 days to read twice through (if you read 4 chapters a day). If you can’t manage 4 chapters into your schedule, cut it back to 2 or 3. You’re not in a race here, and there’s no one punishing you for slow going.

The point is to learn and grow. (If you’ve ever raised a plant--or a child!--you know that growth can take a while.) It’s ok. Take your time and let your roots sink deep into the rich soil of God’s word. Then you’ll be like a tree planted by rivers of water, whose leaf won’t wither and who blossoms forth with good fruit.

Step 2: Read the short Pauline epistles.

“Pauline epistles” refers to the books in the New Testament written by Paul. The short ones are:

  •  Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians
  • 1+2 Thessalonians
  • 1+2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon

Most can be read in one day, but you can break them up if you are strapped for time. Remember, the point is growth, not speed. These books should take you about two weeks to read through.

Step 3: Read the Gospel of Luke, Acts, and Romans

These books are also foundational books, written for the purpose of providing basic doctrines. Luke is one of the Gospels which follow the life of Jesus. Acts was also written by Luke--a sort of continuation to the story--that gives an account of the early church and the missionary work of Paul. These books are invaluable for understanding your heritage as a Christian.

Romans was written by Paul (to the Romans) to explain exactly what salvation is. There is so much good stuff in Romans that churches have spent years going through it in Bible study. Don’t expect yourself to completely understand everything the first time through. There’s so much deep stuff in there that you could study it for years yourself. The point of this time through is to familiarize yourself with the concepts. You won’t find a clearer explanation of what salvation is all about anywhere else.

Again, take them at a comfortable pace: 2-4 chapters a day. These books should take you about a month, depending on your speed.

Step 4: Read the entire New Testament twice.

Now you’re going to go through the entire New Testament. This half of the Bible was written specifically for Christians (those saved through the New Covenant), which is why we started here. You need to know all the doctrines and practical Christianity in here so you can start living according to your new identity right away.

Starting with Matthew, read straight through the New Testament all the way to the end of Revelation. Take it at your own pace. Depending on how many chapters you read a day, you can expect it to take you a little over 3 months for one time (6-7 months for two times). Read it completely through twice.

Level 3: Advanced Christians

If you already have a good grasp of Christian doctrine and practices, it’s time to go back and look at where this all started. The establishment of the church, the New Covenant, was built on the Old Covenant: God’s agreement with the Jewish people. This is documented in the Old Testament.

You need to learn about your heritage in the Old Covenant to fully understand the weight and implication of the New Covenant.

Step 1: Read the wisdom literature of the Old Testament.

This includes Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon.

Instead of starting at Job and reading through, you should employ a strategy I call POD. POD stands for Proverb Of the Day. For years, I have read a POD as well as my scheduled reading: it is what has shaped me the most.

To use POD, simply read the chapter of Proverbs that corresponds to the date. On Jan 4th, read Proverbs 4, etc. etc. Don’t worry if you miss a day, because you’ll come back around to it the next month.

I recommend using POD from here on out. Calculate it in as one of your daily chapters. Start with Job 1 and Proverbs 1 on the first day of a month, and keep going through the other books in order (skipping over Proverbs since you’re reading it differently).

If you read 2-3 chapters a day (including your daily POD), you can expect to take about 3.5 months for this step.

Step 2: Go back to the New Testament and repeatedly read key books + passages.

Repeated reading is what you did for 1 John at the very beginning. You read the entire thing through in one day, every day. Some people suggest using this technique for an entire month, but you should pay attention to your own ability and the Holy Spirit’s leading. If you just aren’t getting anything out of a certain passage, move on to another one. You’ll come back to that one eventually.

Suggested books + passages include:  

  • 1 John
  • Ephesians
  • Galatians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • James
  • 1 Peter
  • Romans 11-15
  • John 14-17

This is where timing can get fuzzy because it greatly depends on your decisions. How fast you read and how long you read are up to you. I would suggest going through these passages, repeatedly reading them for at least 3 weeks each.

Going through these levels will take you about 2.5 to 3 years. In that time, you’ll have read the wisdom books of the Old Testament, the New Testament twice through, and certain books in the New Testament multiple times. When you finish these levels, you’ll have an iron grasp on what Christianity is all about. You’ll understand the foundational doctrines and have a thriving relationship with God Himself.

If you’re up for it, there is also a Level 4: reading the entire Bible through, cover to cover, in one year. Click here to find out how.

I know that these levels can sound like a lot, but when you take it one step at a time it really isn’t that scary. I’ve also created a simple cheat sheet to help you remember where you are. Click the button below to download your free 2017 Bible Reading Guide.

reading the Bible is easy with this simple cheat sheet

2 thoughts on “Where Should I Start? A Beginner’s Guide to Reading the Bible

  1. This post is so helpful Abigail. The first time I scanned through it. But I read it this time and it is such great advice. Thank you for your encouraging posts. 🙂

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