I vividly recall two pivotal conversations with pastors shortly after I surrendered to gospel ministry in the late-1990s. The conversations were pivotal because in them I was exposed to two divergent approaches to ministry and the Lord used them to convince me that I must saturate my mind with Scripture
In one conversation, I asked a longtime pastor how many times he had read the Bible in its entirety from Genesis to Revelation. His reply: “Never, but I hope to someday.” I was stunned. I thought, but did not express verbally, “Then how do you know what you believe about the Bible and other important doctrines?” Being a very green rookie minister, I thought that perhaps my question was a bit cheeky. I thought that until I had the second conversation a few weeks later.
In the second conversation with another longtime pastor, a godly man who retired a few years ago as pastor of my home church in Georgia, I posed the same question and got an answer that remains instructive to me many years later: “I try to read through the Bible every year. After all, I have given my life to teaching and preaching God’s Word and so I had better know it.” That day, I became convinced that I should read through the Bible regularly and, since it was the end of the year, I began my first read through the Bible in a year venture. I was happy that I did.
During my lengthier-than-I-first-intended career as a seminary student, I followed the same practice and after a few years, I had read through the Bible several times. The results have been massively helpful for both my walk with the Lord and the teaching and preaching ministry he has given me. More recently, comments by two of my ministry heroes, John Piper and R. C. Sproul, have encouraged me to continue this approach to Bible intake. Piper: “When all your favorite preachers are gone, and their books are forgotten, you will have your Bible. Master it.” And then, there are these manly words from Dr. Sproul: “I’ll retire when they pry my cold, dead fingers off my Bible.” Words like those encourage me to stay saturated in God’s Word. Reading through it perennially is one means of accomplishing that.
I have become convinced that every student of the Bible, particularly those who are or will be charged with teaching it as a vocation ought to consider this practice. There are many, many benefits of reading through the Bible every year, and here are five ways I have been helped:
Walking through the Bible in a year should not replace daily meditation upon and memorization of Scripture. And no, it won’t necessarily make you more spiritually mature—spiritual growth is not a mechanical process—but it certainly cannot hurt (the Spirit uses the Word to grow us). Ultimately, you are reading God’s Word to be transformed in heart and mind, and it should never be reduced to a cold, detached, clinical exercise.
Jeff Robinson (M.Div. and Ph.D., SBTS) is editor of the Southern Seminary blog. He serves as senior editor for The Gospel Coalition and is also adjunct professor of church history and senior research and teaching associate for the Andrew Fuller Center at SBTS. Jeff served as a pastor for several years in Birmingham, Alabama. He is co-author with Michael A. G. Haykin of To the Ends of the Earth: Calvin’s Missional Vision and Legacy (Crossway, 2014). Jeff and his wife Lisa have four children and belong to Clifton Baptist Church.