How To Study the Bible
The Bible is a revelation that yields riches and royalties far beyond our individual capacities. Whilst all cannot be students of the Word we can be among those who meditate upon the Scriptures. I once heard of a simple Christian who had meditated the Bible through three times.
Progress in the knowledge of God does not come through intellectual attainment but, on the contrary, spiritual adjustment. The Word of God is “living and powerful” (Heb. 4:12), and its very words, “spirit and life” (John 6:63), and “light” (Ps. 119:105), but the prerequisite to revelation is regeneration. The wisdom and knowledge of God is not on the basis of innate wisdom but by the indwelling witness of the Holy Spirit of God. Therefore, much of our progress in spiritual truth and Christian grace will be dependent on heart searching instead of head studying, communion rather than cramming, humility of spirit rather than headiness of soul, and faith rather than facts and figures. Let us look at three simple rules of Bible study.
In almost every book of the Divine Library the opening words are the gateway to a systematic survey and comprehensive outline of the Bible. Many who read these lines will never be able to give themselves to the study of the original languages, Hebrew and Greek.
Yet, it is within your power to get a working knowledge of the Bible if you follow basic principles. Find out the precise meaning of the name of the book and in reverence, pray and with a sanctified heart approach the opening words claiming God’s promise. “The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Ps. 119:130).
The Bible is the only safe and sure guide by which man can be guided through this changing world. How often we come to a fork in the pilgrim path to Heaven! What should we do? It is wise to ask four questions. (1) Does the Bible give any clear lead as to what should be done? (2) If the circumstances are such the duty is plain and obvious, though maybe unpleasant, it is most unlikely that God will free of this burden for another (and perhaps more pleasant duty). (3) Which way does the Cross lie? That was the way Christ chose. It may mean renouncing something or sharing His reproach. Can we perceive the scent of the Master’s feet? (4) Where does the peace of God lie? “Let the peace of God be umpire in your heart.” The Psalmist said, “For Thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me” (Ps. 31:3). This is ever the design of our heavenly Father. God guides by His Word. There must be an unqualified acceptance of the finality and fullness of the Holy Scriptures. Where the Scriptures are explicit there is no more to be said. If we refrain from following on, the problem is no longer of guidance but of disobedience. We ought to be crystal clear in our confession, “I being in the way, the Lord led me.” He had certain specific instructions from his master and a strict adherence to them kept him in the way, and the Lord crowned the mission with success. Oh! what a message to actually know our steps can be ordered in His word.
The question is rightly asked, to what purpose is our perusal of the Book of Books? We must have a definite objective. If it is only to acquire certain biblical statistics, our intensions will soon vaporize and vanish. If it is for the glory and honour of God and our spiritual good then we shall have the aid of the Spirit of God as a driving force and power within enabling us to continue when tempted to flag or fail.
Our Christian life starts through the Word, “Being born again not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Pet. 1:23). This seed gets into the very warp and woof of our being and having been laid hold of by faith the new life springs up. The soil of our hearts must be free from hindrances as James warns (James 1:21), and our spiritual life must take root downward and bear fruit upward. Just as many plants will not grow in various African soils that are acid, so the truth of God cannot flourish in lives made acid by evil thoughts, purposes and actions. Our Christian life is sustained by means of the Word of God. Today we have learned proper vitamins make a balanced diet and bring health, so the Christian must learn that all spiritual sustenance and strength is to be drawn from the life-giving, nourishing, supernatural Word of God. It is essentially for the soul and to be studied for the sake of the soul rather than sermon making. It is the Book that leads us out to God and to our Lord Jesus Christ in all His majesty, power and glory, and as to His fulness, none of us will ever fathom it here on earth. All our increasing knowledge of Him as we grow in grace and in knowledge is but faith glimpses of Him whose name and person is, “Wonderful.” Our Christian life is safe guarded from sin by the Word. “Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee” (Ps. 119:11). In the days of His flesh it was the unfailing sword Christ used against the enemy. He is our example and it is imperative we have the Word of Christ dwelling in us richly in order that the Holy Spirit may use it for every conflict and crisis. Our only safeguard and surest recourse is to the words, “It is written.” Our Christian life is satisfied through the Word. Years ago Jeremiah said, “Thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart” (Jer. 15:16). God wants us to be a happy people. The truest joy comes in reception, response and reverence for the Bible. Going through this life there are many sorrows and trials exceedingly painful yet the Word of God can give peace without measure and joy unspeakable — “as sorrowful yet always rejoicing.” To know we are safe and Christ is our abiding refuge in view of the coming storm of judgment why shouldn’t we be a joyful people? Was it not Isaiah who said in his blessed book that we have something to speak about, something to sing about and something to shout about (Isa. 12:1, 5, 6)? Our Christian life can only be successful through the Word. Think of the words of Jehovah to Joshua as he is about to enter the Land, “Thou shalt meditate therein day and night… .for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8). How vastly different prosperity and success from God’s point of view! There are spiritual Christians who are not rich in this world’s goods, yet God’s promise is true and we can rest assured that abiding in the centre of God’s will every need will be met and every blessing is ours.
The Bible is distinguished from all other books because it is both living and life-giving. What other book has such a wonderful, winning, witnessing message as the Book of Books! Surely in the midst of the thousands of verses John 3:16 is most beloved and world wide in its breadth. The Bible is a truly living Book. At the threshold of its opening chapters we are told of the breath of life, and the tree of life; and in its closing chapters we again read of the tree of life, also the river of life and the Lamb’s Book of Life. Then, all the way through its message is of life. God’s Word even today is. “Choose Life” because of the universal condition of all men, “Dead in trespasses and sins.”
The Holy Scriptures are God’s “lively oracles” given by inspiration of God. If our spiritual life is to be sustained and strong we must constantly feed on the Word of Life. We must ever read, mark, learn and inwardly digest, for they are life unto those that find them and health to all in a world of disease and death. If our lives are to be effectual in prayer and established in doctrine there must be earnestness of heart. So few Christians seem to be in real earnest. How can we ever be faithful witnesses to the truth, and be able to stand against all the wiles of the devil, and refute the specious arguments of modernism and all those false cults in which the religious world abounds today? We must give ourselves to the meditation of the Scriptures and diligently adopt some method of systematic study for sobriety, godliness and righteousness. Many today read the Word of God at random, piece-meal in order to pick up some good thoughts for addressing a meeting or give some help in daily life. This leads to a stunted, scrappy and shallow life. Have a plan. A poor plan is better than no plan at all. The study of the Word leads to a depth of spirituality obtained in no other way. It will give richness and fulness to public service and stability to personal Christian experience.
Oh! to hear it (James 1:19); read it (1 Tim. 4:14); study it (2 Tim. 2:15); memorize it (Rev. 1:3); and meditate upon it (Deut. 17:19). It will prove to be the joy and rejoicing of the heart and make us studious, secure, strong and satisfied” (Jer. 15: 16).