Where Do I Start?
Once you know the basics of Bible study, you may wonder what to study first. The Bible is a big book! All of the Bible is Godís Word, but some books of the Bible make better starting points than others for understanding what God has to say to us.
If you are unfamiliar with the Bible, start with one of the Gospels (the books within the Bible called Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). The life of Christ is basic to everything else in Christianity, and the Gospels open up his life to us. Two of them, John and Mark, are especially good to start with. The Gospel of John goes into great depth about the meaning of Christís life. Mark, on the other hand, is very short and to the point. Either would be a very good place to begin.
After having studied one of the Gospels, you could go on to Acts. Acts tells of the early history of the church, the expansion of the gospel in Jerusalem and throughout the Roman Empire. It bridges the gap between the story Jesus himself and the story of his church, and it offers inspiration and encouragement to believers as they face persecution and seek to take the Good News of Christ to the whole world.
At that point you could also read one or more of the Epistles. These are letters written by the apostle Paul and other leaders in the early church. Paulís letters reflect on and explain the meaning of Christís death and the filling of the Holy Spirit. In the Epistles we also find counsels on Christian living with illustrations of both good and bad conduct. You may want to start with one of the shorter Epistles, like Ephesians, and then move on to the longer ones. When you get to that stage, be sure to delve into Romans, the greatest doctrinal book in the New Testament.
In your exploration of the Bible, donít neglect the Old Testament. As the story of beginnings, Genesis is an excellent place to start. You will read about the creation of the world, humanity, and the nation of Israel.
Exodus is an important next stop. It records the formative events in Israelís early history that many of the Old Testament writers look back upon as they relate their own messages. As a tale of redemption, Exodus has great significance for the Christian story as well.
The psalms are always valuable as part of oneís devotions, too. In them Israelís poets expressed their deepest emotions in times of joy and of sorrow. Believers can look to them to find hope and strength and to broaden their vocabulary of prayer.
Finally, as you begin to explore the prophets, take a long look at Isaiah. He stands as a bridge between the Old and New Testaments, pronouncing judgment against Israel and Judah because they have abandoned Godís law, yet looking forward in hope to the coming Messiah, whom we know as Jesus.
This article is adapted from Practical Christianity (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1987).