How to Approach the Bible

Bible Reading

Paul told Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The instruction to accurately handle the word implies the need to study and learn the word of God (the King James Version actually uses the word study at the beginning of the verse). Timothy was to give diligence to the study and learning of God’s word.

This instruction applies to us as well. Therefore, it is good for us to read and study the Bible on different occasions: Bible classes, sermons, home Bible studies, our own personal reading and study, etc. It is something that we ought to do our whole life. So it is good to be reminded from time to time how we are to approach the Bible. We must approach it properly so we will benefit from our time studying.

Recognize That It Is From God

When we study the Bible, we must first recognize its origin. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). In the Bible we have the will of God that has been revealed by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10-13) – it is not the product of men. This is what makes the Bible different from every other book that has been written.

Because the Bible is from God, it is superior to the teachings of men. God said, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). Paul reminded the Corinthians, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25). The Bible is also perfect and complete. James described God’s revelation as “the perfect law, the law of liberty” (James 1:25). The psalmist wrote, “The sum of Your word is truth” (Psalm 119:160). Nothing revealed by God in His word is false or flawed. Because the Bible is from God it also has authority. Jesus told His apostles that all authority had been given to Him (Matthew 28:18). In the revealed word “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). The authority of Christ has been manifested in His word. The Bible is from God so we must take it seriously.

Realize That It Was Intended For Us

The individual books and epistles of the Bible were originally written to specific persons or groups. It is important to remember this and the context as we study. But the things that have been written were intended for us as well. After all, Paul taught the same message in every church (1 Corinthians 4:17). Timothy was to take the things he heard from Paul and “entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). The things Paul instructed Timothy were not just for Timothy, but for others. The message to the church in Corinth was not just for them, but for every church. We could say that the books of the Bible were not written to us, but they were written for us.

We must understand the context so we can accurately handle the word (2 Timothy 2:15). The Bible is divided into two parts – the Old Testament and New Testament. Both parts were intended for us, but we must use them properly. The Old Testament is “for our learning” (Romans 15:4), but not our law (Colossians 2:14). We can learn about the character and nature of God and see examples of obedience and disobedience, but we cannot go to the Old Testament for our law today. The New Testament is our law. The Hebrew writer quoted from Jeremiah to show that the Old Law would be replaced with the new (Hebrews 8:8-13). This new covenant was to be preached to all creation (Mark 16:15). All of God’s word has been preserved for us, but we must understand how we are to apply it.

Understand That We Can Understand It

The world has been taught (brainwashed) to think that we cannot understand the Bible – or at the very least that we cannot understand the Bible alike. Yet the Bible was meant to be understood. Paul told the Ephesians, “When you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4). He did not say when you read, you will have your understanding and I will have mine; rather, they would have the same insight as Paul. A couple chapters later we find this command: “Understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). Is God incapable of properly communicating with the ones He created? Is He so unjust that He told us to understand His will when we cannot? No. We can understand the Bible. And if we really understand it, we will understand it alike.

Are some passages and subjects more difficult than others? Sure. Referring to Paul’s writings, Peter said, “Also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16). But notice Peter did not say that some things were impossible to understand – just that they were hard to understand. So we must study with diligence (2 Timothy 2:15), willing to make an effort to understand the word (1 Timothy 4:13, 15). It is a dangerous notion that we cannot understand the Bible. If one believes he cannot understand, there is no reason to try. The devil has succeeded in taking away the seed (Luke 8:12). God designed His word to be understood by men.

Intend To Put It Into Practice

There are many who know a lot about the Bible but are not Christians. Bible study should not be merely an academic exercise as if we are studying any other book. Remember, the Bible is not like any other book. It is from God. It expresses the authority of Christ. We must regard it more than the writings of men.

Therefore, we must put the word into practice. James said we are to be “doers of the word, and not merely hearers” (James 1:22). The New Testament provides instructions about how to live as individuals and how we are to conduct ourselves collectively in the local church. Jesus told the apostles to teach others to “observe all that I commanded” (Matthew 28:20). It is not enough to learn about the Bible. We must live according to it.

Know That We Will Be Judged By It

Paul told the Corinthians, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). The standard of judgment on this last day will be the Lord’s word (John 12:48). Therefore, we must follow His word (the Bible) and not the word of men. Remember that the word was intended for us. We will not be exempt from following it. We can understand it so we will have no excuse. We will be judged based on whether we have done right by the standard.

Let us approach the Bible with these things in mind. Bible study is a serious endeavor. We must have the proper attitude toward it so that we will profit from it.

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