At this point, we are over halfway into the first month of 2023. Valentine’s Day retail offerings are already on display. Blink just a few more times and January will be gone. Time flies.
If you made a New Year’s resolution, these next few weeks are crunch time. Will you keep it up or not? Or maybe you haven’t made any resolutions yet, but you know that you should add some structure to your life, especially when it comes to your time spent reading God’s Word, the Bible.
Even though we’re past January 1, I’m here to tell you it’s definitely not too late to settle on a Bible reading plan for 2023 — particularly one that will help you read through the entire Bible before the year is over.
The Bible is our daily lifeline as Christians. In it, we find “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Still, as almost every faithful Christian can attest, sticking with a reading plan has its challenges. Just like February wrecks many well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions, so too can the book of Leviticus serve as a graveyard for ambitious “read the Bible from cover to cover” attempts.
So, here are three options for Bible reading plans that will take you from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 before the clock strikes midnight on January 2, 2024 — should the Lord tarry, of course.
This is the most straightforward option. It takes out all of the guesswork or the page-flipping. Here’s how it works.
Between the Old and New Testaments, there are 1,189 chapters in the Bible. Divide that by 365 and you get approximately 3.26. Or, if you are starting on February 1, divide it by 334 and you get approximately 3.6. There you have it — that’s your “per day chapter target” if you want to read the Bible consecutively from cover to cover in 2023.
If you have never read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, let me highly recommend this approach. You discover a unity, cohesion, and richness to the arc of redemptive history when you go from Genesis to Revelation that can be lost by flipping back and forth or reading a chunk here and a chunk there.
The “pros” of this plan is that it gives you an overview of the entire Bible in what is essentially chronological order and it’s easy to keep track of! Just pick up where you left off the day before. The “cons” would simply be that it takes discipline to stay on track.
Robert Murray M’Cheyne was a Scottish pastor who died an early death. Yet despite only living to be 30 years old, he lived a very fruitful and faithful Christian life. One of his lasting legacies is a Bible reading plan that is designed to take readers through the New Testament and Psalms twice a year and through the Old Testament once. So, if you follow this plan, you will actually read more than just the Bible “one time” this year.
M’Cheyne’s plan has a set schedule to follow and you can find an online version of the calendar here: Robert Murray M‘Cheyne’s Bible Reading Calendar. This plan has the reader reading approximately four chapters a day, with two from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament. The way M’Cheyne originally envisioned it working was that someone would read two chapters in their private devotions, which he calls “secret” and then two chapters with the family, which he calls “family.” So, if you combine the “family” and the “secret” readings, you read 4 chapters a day. Even though it isn’t January 1, you can just jump into the M’Cheyne plan on whatever date you start. I wouldn’t worry about “catching up” — just start now and you will benefit all the same.
The “pros” of this plan are that it takes you through the entire Bible once, as well as through the New Testament and the Psalms twice. The schedule is also pre-set so you don’t have to figure out what to read. The “cons” could be that you are flipping through 3 to 4 different books of the Bible each day, and you will need to have the calendar of readings available to stay on track.
If you have already read the Bible from cover to cover, this would be a very useful plan to use in 2023 in order to gain more insight and knowledge from God’s Word and to have a continuous diet of both the Old and New Testaments on a daily basis.
You can’t go wrong with either plan listed above. But I want to propose a third option, one that I think is particularly tuned towards helping you grow as a Christian because it incorporates your personal spiritual disciplines with the corporate spiritual discipline of gathering weekly with your local church.
I call this the “Cover-to-Cover Plus Plan.” Here’s how it works: Along with reading 3-4 chapters of the Bible each day in your effort to work from Genesis to Revelation, you also make time to read the passage of Scripture that your pastor plans to preach on for the upcoming Sunday.
One caveat here is that you must be attending a church that preaches through the Bible in an expository fashion; that is, the pastor preaches “through” a book of the Bible one portion at a time, making the key message of the Scripture for that Sunday the key message of his sermon.
Expository preachers usually post their preaching schedule in advance so all you have to do is get a copy of the “sermon card” and see what is planned. For example, if your pastor is going preach on Mark 1:1-15 on Sunday, you would read Mark 1:1-15 every day along with your 3-4 chapters a day progression through Scripture.
So, Monday might be Genesis 1-3 and Mark 1:1-15. Tuesday would be Genesis 4-6 and Mark 1:1-15. You get the point.
By steeping your heart in the text that is going to be preached on Sunday, you prepare it to receive the Word more fully when it is preached from the pulpit. You will learn the text far better that way as well. You might even develop some helpful questions from your own close study of the text that you could send to your pastor in preparation for the sermon!
Whatever option you go with, remember that when it comes to reading God’s Word, you can’t go wrong. You could read a chapter a day, a verse a day, or an entire book in a day (it only takes about 16 minutes to read all of Philippians, for example). Because at the end of the day, it’s not about how many pages of the Bible a Christian reads in a year, but how faithful we are to submit to God’s Word and humbly rely on it as our “daily bread” for all of life.
For indeed, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Or as the Anglican pastor and theologian J.C. Ryle once said, “We must read our Bibles like men digging for hidden treasure.”
Dig for treasure in the pages of the Bible this year. Whether you do that with a Cover-to-Cover Consecutive Reading Plan, the M’Cheyne Reading Plan, or the Cover-to-Cover Consecutive Plus Sunday Sermon Text Plan — or an entirely different plan of your own choosing — your soul will be edified and God will be glorified. For God has promised that His Word “shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11) — and we can count on that promise coming to pass every time we open the Bible.
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