We have already intimated the value of word studies in the Holy Scriptures. This particular method of Bible searching is so highly productive that further suggestions ought to be made regarding its use. In our last article, we looked briefly at the interesting word used by the apostle Paul in Rom. 10:1, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” We looked up, in our English Greek Concordance the word “desire”. There is no space to repeat what has already been said upon this strong word, for we wish to look at the different occurences of the word, of which there are five. From a careful reading of these passages, it will be seen that the word is rendered into English by different expressions, for example, “to be well pleased,” “to be willing,” “to think good,” and “good will.” It actually means to approve, or to favour. The present English word that embraces all its meanings is the word preference. With this before us we have what we might call Paul’s preferences; his preference in trial (2 Cor. 12:1-10), his preference in evangelism (Rom. 10:1), his preference in pastoral work (1 Thess. 3:1-2), his preference in self-sacrifice (1 Thess. 2:8), and his preference in death (2 Cor. 5:1-8). These details are submitted merely to show what may be expected from time and thought expended on the study of words in the New Testament.
Let us now consider another method of Bible study, one altogether different from word study, for it deals with a given portion of Holy Scripture, the analytical method. Analysis is the reduction of a portion of the Word of God into its many component themes and subjects. In this type of work there must be considerable preparatory effort. The passage to be studied must be read frequently until a sweet familiarity with it is developed; moreover, it ought to be prayed over in order that the work be done in complete reliance upon the Holy Spirit of God.
We shall select for our present purpose the short epistle of Third John. In reading this epistle of only one chapter over several times, we conclude that it revolves around three men, Gaius (Vv. 1-8), Diotrephes (Vv. 9-11), and Demetrius (Vv. 12-14). The epistle is now broken into three important parts. In carefully looking into each section we discover that Gaius was a pious man, Diotrephes a proud man, and Demetrius a pure man. Further examination of these three portions of the chapter reveals that there is one common bond that unites them, it is the thought expressed by the word, truth. Further study reveals that this word is used in at least five distinct ways: 1. the truth a sphere of fellowship (Vv. 1-2); 2. the truth a power for good (V.3); 3. the truth an expression of life (V. 3) ; 4. the truth a subject for defence (Vv. 5-8) ; 5. the truth a witness to character (V. 12). Having now discovered the bond which unites each part of the chapter, or as it is called sometimes, the key word, we apply this to the three persons, and find; the truth proclaimed by Gaius (Vv. 1-8); the truth profaned by Diotrephes (Vv. 9-11); and the truth sustained by Demetrius (Vv. 12-14).
Another form of analysis may also be conducted, for example, as an inventory of the gracious personality of Gaius: 1. His godliness: “Thou walkest in the truth.” 2. His occupation: “Whatsoever thou doest.” 3. His faithfulness: “Thou doest faithfully. 4. His truthfulness: “The truth that is in thee.” 5. His generosity: “Witness to thy charity.” 6. His frankness: “Speak face to face.” 7. His attractiveness: “Well beloved,” (V. 1) and, “I trust that I shall shortly see thee,” (V. 14).
More careful analyses will reveal much of the varied ministry of the apostle John. He was an evangelist, for he speaks of “my children;” (V. 4) he was a pastor, for he is interested in their walk; (V. 4) and he was a teacher, for he had a clear and practical knowledge of the truth (V. 4).
This work can again be broken down, and a detailed examination made of the pastoral work of the apostle: 1. his love for the people of God (V. 1); 2. his prayer for the people of God (V. 2); 3. his joy in them (V. 3); 4. he commends them (Vv. 4-5); 5. he encourages them (Vv. 6-8); 6. he admonishes them (V. 11); 7. he communes with them (Vv. 13-14).
Lessons in contrasts may also be enjoyed: Notice the characteristics of true ministry for the saints, and false ministry imposed upon the saints. True ministry rests upon: 1. equality not superiority, “Brethren” (V. 5);2. submission not imposition, “For His name’s sake” (V. 5); 3. activity not ease, “They went forth” (V. 7); 4. reliance upon the Lord alone, not self-confidence, “Taking nothing of the Gentiles” (V. 7). False ministry results from: 1. Self-exaltation, “Loveth to have the pre-eminence” (V. 9); 2. self-assumption, “Receiveth us not” (V. 10) ; 3. self-gratification, “Prating against… and not content therewith” (V. 10).
These simple thoughts are submitted in the fear of the Lord in order to demonstrate what can be found and enjoyed in the constant careful analysis of the Word of God. All passages do not lend themselves to such an easy analysis; generally speaking time, prayer, and thought are all required for this method, but there are few, if any of the other methods of Bible study, that render such splendid and beneficial results.