Book Review: Read this first, by Gary Millar (GBC 2022)

Introductory books on ‘how to read your bible’ seem to be ten a penny, there’s plenty out there. So I picked up this new book from The Good Book Company with slight hesitation. Within a few chapters, however, Millar had me won over. I simply enjoyed reading this book (and not just because of the section ‘Why reading the bible is like watching cricket’…) More than that, this is a wise little book, and I can see how it could be a particularly great help to new believers.

Miller states that his book is for those who want to read the bible but aren’t quite sure how to dig into it, whether a younger or more seasoned believer. But he also points out (p.8) that this book is for those who “may be pretty new to Christianity.” And this is where I thought the book hit the spot.

An encouragement to read a greater book…

Miller’s whole book (and there’s not very much of it, coming in at just 126 pages!) is about pointing people back to God’s word, better equipped and better encouraged to handle it well. Throughout he meets this aim well, and the overall tone of the book is that yes, Scripture can seem daunting, but equipped in the Spirit and with the encouragement of other Christians we can grapple with all of God’s Word for our edification and growth. There is so much to explore in the greater book, and Miller does a good job of encouraging his reader to go there.

Throughout this short read the author provides models or examples of reading Scripture. Take, for example, the list of ‘major movements of the text’ that he discusses in chapter five. Having set these out (p.77) he goes on to talk each one through, from creation, through the fall to ideas like kingdom, covenant, Jesus and church. Covering these themes very briefly in just a few pages (pp.78-80) Miller introduces the reader to each idea, then immediately applies these ideas to a short example from the book of Ruth.

Later in the book he offers a simple six step approach to reading the bible (pp.102-104) which again provides a helpful, practical tip for the reader to utilise. This is a good model, and a simple one for any new believer to try. Time and again, throughout the book, Millar seeks to equip practically and encourage faithfully. Examples from all over Scripture are found throughout. And ultimately, the reader is sent away encouraged to dive in to God’s Word for themselves, and that seems like job done to me!

Conclusion

The book ends with an exhortation to take ownership of studying God’s Word, and it sums up the message of the book well. I think this will be an excellent resource for Christians who find themselves unsure of how to approach the bible, and in particular for new believers seeking a way to take some first steps themselves. In many ways, it feels a little like an introductory level Dig Deeper, and I mean that in a positive sense, as it is well pitched towards its self-professed audience. The appendix at the end helps the new believer further, offering a simple explanation of the question: What is the Bible? This tackles things from canon, to the verse and chapter divisions, and divine inspiration. All very introductory, but helpful in their aim. Added to this, a short section of recommended resources at the end of the book encourage the reader to take up some other tools to help them dive into God’s Word. This section could have offered a little more, the obvious choice of Dig Deeper for example wasn’t included, but overall its a useful little addition. Read this First is an excellent short introduction to reading Scripture for yourselves, and I thoroughly recommend it. In the long line of Christian books written on ‘reading well’ in recent years, it is one of the most succinct.

Read this First was published this month, and is available from The Good Book Company.

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