The Importance of Bible Study
I want to know one thing, the way to heaven: how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach the way; for this very end he came from heaven. He has written it down in a book! Oh, give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be: “A man of one book.”—John Wesley
"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."— Psalm 119:105
We Are Buying Them, But We Aren't Reading Them
Many who are followers of Christ today confess that they are not familiar with scripture. The statistics on this are actually alarming. Many Christians regardless of their spiritual age tend to leave matters of observation, interpretation, and application of the scripture up to their pastors, trained professionals, supplemental books, or sermons rather than digging into the Bible on their own. But the Bible, unsurpassed as the best selling book of all time, was meant to be read, studied, and understood by the general population not exclusively church leaders. We're all called to be students of the scriptures. Yet for many, it's not a lack of interest, but rather the intimidation factor of the book as it's unlike any other book a person will ever read. It was written by 40 authors, over two thousand years, to people in times we did not live. It's not a common reader like the business, self-help, or fiction books you find on the shelf today. Yet God wants you to uncover its mysteries and truth. And here's how.
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Just Read The Whole Thing
Yes, I am suggesting that you read the whole Bible. The whole way through, as painful as it might be. A surprising number of Christians never regularly read parts of the Bible, much less the whole thing. Yet it's the central message of their faith. If that is you, then you to find a One-Year Bible Reading Plans and read through the Bible so that you have some frame of reference for the entire book. The best way to do this is to partner with a man or a few other men and read it over one-year together. Yes, a year is a long time, but with other men it becomes a lot more interesting, inviting, and invigorating. It's like working out together, you may read some on your own, but with accountability from other men, you might hang in there all way through one entire year. Along the way, you will have the opportunity to discuss what you are reading and encourage each other in the journey. Together you will experience a sense of accomplishment, accountability and an appreciation for scripture that only comes from diving in. Some men I know repeat this annually, using a different version of the Bible for a change of pace that keeps it fresh.
After you do this, or maybe while you are doing this, you can dive in a little deeper. And here is how:
First | Read an entire book in the Bible
Here's what I mean. The Bible is one book with 66 books within it. 39 are Old Testament books and 27 are New Testament books. Each of these books, for the most part, are independent writings written for specific people at specific times. Choose one to read and read it entirely. For instance, you are going to study through the Gospel of John, start by reading the whole Gospel once or twice in order to get an overview of the book. Getting a picture of the whole is just as important as taking portions for further study. This gives you a strong context for the characters, storyline, genres, styles, tone, and themes of the book. While you could consult a commentary on this subject, you don't need it in most cases. Simply take notes, write down learnings, ask questions, follow the people, the tension, and take in the fuller context. Most fail to do this and therefore make a critical error in understanding what the writer intended to mean, infer, and thus make wrong personal application to their life. But you have to have a context before you start interpreting and applying the lessons of the text otherwise you will end up drawing misaligned conclusions.
Second | Focus on drawing meaning from a section
Take a section, as your Bible outlines it, for one study, and dig into what the author wanted the original audience to know when they wrote that portion to them. Notice what was said there. Remember your Bible was not written for you, it was written by an author to people in their day and time. Because of this they would have heard and understood things differently than you would today. Their culture, customs, and practices were very different from our, therefore, each text has an intended meaning to them. And this is what we are wanting to discover.
Most Bibles have section headings, often two to three per chapter which delineates Scriptural paragraphs that fit together into a specific topic. In daily Scripture study, it is valuable to work through a specific book of Scripture a section at a time. For each section, read it thoroughly and ask yourself the question – "What did the author want the people of their day to understand through this teaching?"
To put it another way, there is a reason that God included what is written in our Bibles. If you can answer the question as to what the writer wanted us to know, you will be better able to answer the next question.
Third | Discover the application
Here is where the Scriptures get personal. Paul tells Timothy that, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." So, ask yourself the questions.
- Is the text teaching me in some way?
- Is the text rebuking me in some way?
- Is the text correcting me in some way?
- Is the text training me in some way?
This is where a journal becomes very useful. Jot down any observations you made as you considered what the author intended to convey and then specific applications for your life. Speaking of jotting things down, make the Bible yours by marking it up, making notes, underlining portions that are especially meaningful to you. There are pens that are made for writing in the margins or underlining that don't bleed through and you will remember what you have studied much better if you make notes as you go whether in your journal or in your Bible. Or maybe try both.
You will encounter hard sayings or difficult passages to understand and in those cases, you may want to purchase a commentary—many are very easy to read and not technical. Be careful, however, to first do your own study and make your own observations rather than reading the commentary instead of the Biblical text. The longer you study the Bible the more you will understand, and you will start to see themes that run through the Bible.
Four | Ask for insight
Because the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth (see John 14), specifically ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you what He wants you to understand and apply. Scripture study for the building knowledge that excludes spiritual transformation is a missed opportunity. Knowledge is good for awareness and personal pride, but devoid of personal and spiritual transformation it leaves us wanting for more. God gave us the word for the purpose of transformation which moves us toward reconciliation and redemption in our world.
If you feel that you need some initial help in studying the Bible on a regular basis, find another guy who does it regularly and asks him to mentor you for a time. Study some passages together so that you start to feel comfortable doing it yourself. At the end of your life you will never regret the time and effort you put into studying God's Word, or the difference it made in your life.
Vince Miller is a speaker, author, and mentor to men. He is an authentic and transparent leader who loves to communicate to audiences on the topics of mentorship, fathering, leadership and manhood. He has authored 13 books and small group curriculum for men and is the primary content creator of all Resolute materials. Contact Vince Miller here. His newest book is Thirty Virtues That Build A Man.