I don’t have the time to watch movies like I used to. Most nights, I only have 15 or 20 minutes after the kids go to sleep to sit down and watch TV. That means that if I want to watch a movie, I can only watch a few scenes at a time. It usually takes me about a week to watch a full movie. It’s kind of annoying. Movies were designed to be watched in one sitting without interruption. If I ever have time to watch a movie in one sitting, it’s a treat.
The books of the Bible are the same way. When the churches in Galatia first received their letter from Paul, they didn’t say “Okay, this week we’re going to read and discuss chapter 1, and then next week we will read and discuss chapter 2, and so on until we finish the book.” No, they had the letter read to them from beginning to end. (The Bible wasn’t even divided into chapters and verses until the 1400’s!)
When we read books from beginning to end, it will be less likely that we will take a verse out of context. We will hear the entire flow of the author’s presentation. We will take in the text the way the author intended for us to take in the text. We will be more likely to hear what the author was saying to the original audience of his day. It’s not just the epistles where this practice helps. The books of the law, the books of history, wisdom literature, the prophets, the gospels, and Revelation all have a different feel to them when you read them straight through from beginning to end.
Try it. Read a book straight through. Do it in one sitting if possible. For those longer books, try to do it in just two or three sittings. The first time you do it, I guarantee you will notice things from the text you have never noticed before.