Suggestions for Bible Study- Part 1
Originally published in Union County Leader
Co-pastor, 1st Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM 88424
Today I’d like to get started on the subject “Reading Your Bible”. It will take several articles to cover the information I want to cover, but I think it’s a very worthwhile topic that bears a good discussion. First, let’s look at why we should study our Bible. Note that I used the word “study” and not merely “read”. One reads a newspaper or reads a novel. You can read the Bible, too, but at some point you should also “study” it. Study, as opposed to light reading, involves asking questions, probing deeper into thoughts and ideas, and consulting outside material when necessary. Study is not necessarily easy, although in the case of the Bible it is extremely rewarding.
The Bible itself tells us that we should study. First, “'MAN SHALL NOT LIVE BY BREAD ALONE BUT BY EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD.' " (). God’s word should at least as important to us as physical food. Unless we are fasting, we eat, or desire to eat, every day. Likewise, we should eat of God’s word at least as often. Paul tells us why this should be in his instructions to Timothy: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV). Newer translations typically say “Be diligent to present yourself approved…”, but I think the KJV wording is more to the point. After all, what does it mean to “be diligent” but “study, work, and labor”? Note that the reason Timothy is exhorted to study is so that he can “rightly divide the word of truth.” Merely quoting Scripture is not, by itself, evidence of a saved man- the devil himself did that when tempting Christ in the wilderness (Matthew 4:6). Also the Pharisees frequently twisted Scripture around and changed its original intent (Matthew 5). Therefore, merely quoting Scripture is not the goal of study, but rather being able to “rightly divide the word of truth” and determine the intent of the word is.
This thought is backed up in another of Paul’s instructions to Timothy: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, (17) that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) Here we see that Paul says that Scripture is given by God for several specific purposes including doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction so that the Godly man may be made complete and equipped. “Equipped” means that he has the tools to do the job. Those tools are the words of the Bible.
The instructions given to Timothy are reinforced by the author of Hebrews: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) This passage seems to expound on the “instruction in righteousness” mentioned in 2 Tim 3:16. The word of God “is a discerner of the thoughts and intent of the heart.” By studying the Bible, searching for its meaning, allowing the Holy Spirit to show us the thoughts and intents of our hearts, and applying the lessons learned, we can then be “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Having the “thoughts and intentions of the heart” shown to us is not always (in fact it is rarely!) a pleasant thing and I’m thoroughly convinced that many people avoid Bible study because they are afraid of what it will tell them about themselves (John 3:19-21). Nevertheless, if we love God, we should love His word and we should seek correction, discipline, and desire to be “complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Lastly, we are told in James 4:7 to “resist the devil and he will flee from you.” When Christ was temped by the devil in the wilderness, He went straight to the word of God for his sword and accurately quoted Deuteronomy to counter the devil’s inaccurate quoting. Once again, we’re back to “rightly dividing the word of truth”, and we see Christ using a tool “sharper than any two-edged sword” to resist the devil. If Christ Himself relied on this sword, should we ourselves do any less? And yet, how can we use this sword if we don’t know which end to hold and which end cuts?
There is so much more I could say on this, but I hope you’ve seen the critical necessity of studying the Bible for yourself. Next time, we’ll start looking at some specific ways of studying so that we might rightly divide the word and handle it accurately. Until then, may the light of Christ shine into your heart.
Forward to Part 2