Studying the Bible

Bible Study - Outdoors

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).

Learning how to accurately handle God’s word is necessary for one to be approved to God. However, this process requires diligence. If we are to learn God’s will, we must be diligent in our efforts to study the word that He has revealed to us.

In this article, we will discuss how to study God’s word in such a way that will lead us to enjoy His approval. This involves preparations to study, developing a habit of studying, and also applying our studies to our daily lives.

Preparing to Study

For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10).

Like Ezra, we must prepare our hearts for the study of God’s word. As we begin to do this, it is appropriate to pray that we grow in knowledge. Paul wrote, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment” (Philippians 1:9). His prayer for the brethren in Philippi included their growth in knowledge. However, like anything else, prayer is in vain if we do not do our part.

No matter how much we pray to grow in knowledge of God’s will, if we do not prepare ourselves to study, our efforts will be in vain. We will be like those rebuked by the Hebrew writer who had become “dull of hearing” and had not grown in knowledge as they should have, despite having sufficient time with the word to do so (Hebrews 5:11-12). James warned of those who would look into the word of God and would “immediately” forget what the word of God taught as it applied to their own lives. We do not want to be like the ones who were rebuked in these passages. To avoid being like them, we need to prepare to study.

How do we prepare to study the Bible? Consider the following:

  1. We must remember that the Bible is from God – Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). The Bible has been revealed to us from God. It is not the work of men.
  2. Since the Bible is from God, we must recognize that it is perfect or infallible – The psalmist wrote, “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul” (Psalm 19:7). The wise man said, “Every word of God is tested” (Proverbs 30:5). Because the Bible is from God, we can have confidence that the words contained in it are true. This means it is free from contradictions, as Jesus said, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Scripture harmonizes with Scripture. Any alleged contradictions come from our own misunderstanding, not because God made a mistake. Paul told the brethren in Corinth, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25). When we understand a particular passage correctly, we will not find it to be in contradiction with other passages.
  3. We must realize that the Bible is our standard – Jesus told His apostles, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). The teachings contained in the word of God are the rules we are to follow. This is true because Jesus has “all authority” (Matthew 28:18).
  4. As our standard, we must be aware that we will be judged by it – Jesus said, “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day” (John 12:48). To be ready for the final judgment, we must study the Scriptures to know what the Lord requires of us.
  5. We must be willing to accept whatever the Bible teaches – Before Jesus performed His first miracle, His mother told the servants at the wedding feast, “Whatever He says to you, do it” (John 2:5). This is sound advice for us as well. Since the Bible is the perfect revelation from God and we will be judged by it, we must accept whatever it says.
  6. We must have humility – James wrote, “In humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). The Bible contains God’s perfect word. Often, when we examine our lives according to it (James 1:23-24), we will see that we fall short of what God has instructed us to do. Therefore, we must be willing to admit sin and error rather than rejecting the word of God because we do not want to change our lives to conform to it.

If we want our study of the Scriptures to be profitable, we must be like Ezra who “set his heart to study the law of the Lord” (Ezra 7:10). Our mind must be ready to receive the teaching that is contained in the word of God.

Developing the Habit of Studying

Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

Learning how to accurately handle the word of God will not happen overnight. We must have a regular habit of study (2 Timothy 2:15). Paul told Timothy, “Give attention to the public reading of Scripture” (1 Timothy 4:13). The Bereans were commended as being “noble-minded” because they were “examining the Scriptures daily” (Acts 17:11).

Studying the Bible regularly will result in the word of God being within our hearts. Paul told the Colossians, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you” (Colossians 3:16). The Hebrew writer quoted Jeremiah’s prophecy which described the people under the new covenant as having God’s word written “on their hearts” (Hebrews 8:10).

To study the Bible properly, we must surround ourselves with the word of God. When the Israelites received the law, they were told, “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). All of these were for the purpose of familiarizing the people with God’s law. Consider four ways in which we can surround ourselves with God’s word today:

  1. Personal study – Paul told Timothy to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God” (2 Timothy 2:15). Ultimately, we each have an individual responsibility to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
  2. Study with others – The wise man said, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). When we study the Bible with others we are able to help each other come to a better understanding of the word of God.
  3. Listening to Bible teaching/preaching – Like the Bereans who “received the word with great eagerness” (Acts 17:11), we must look forward to any opportunities that are afforded to us to listen to the word of God being taught. However, we must also test what we are taught as the Bereans did – “daily” (Acts 17:11) – not just in the assembly or whatever time we hear the word being taught. Listening to the word of God being taught should provide a springboard for us to continue on into further study.
  4. Assembling with the saints – Paul told the saints in Rome, “And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another” (Romans 15:14). As we grow in knowledge, we are able to admonish our brethren. As they grow in knowledge, they are able to help us as well. With a focus on the Scriptures, assembling with the saints – whether in the assembly of the local church or outside of that setting – will help us grow in knowledge of the word.

If we do not regularly spend time with the word of God, we cannot expect to grow in our understanding of it or in our ability to handle it accurately.

Applying Our Studies

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22).

Studying the Bible is not merely an academic exercise. It is intended for us, not just the original audience. God expects us to take what we learn and practice it. We must be “doers of the word, and not merely hearers” (James 1:22). If we are not doing what the word of God teaches us to do, then we are deceiving ourselves into thinking that our time of reading, studying, and listening to the word of God is helping us please the Lord.

Remember Jesus’ parable at the end of the Sermon on the Mount of the wise man and the foolish man:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the wind blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.

Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24-27).

One who hears Jesus’ word and acts upon it has a strong foundation. One who hears His word and does not act upon it has no foundation.

Consider the example of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:27-38). While he traveled he was reading the Scriptures (Acts 8:28). With help from Philip, he came to understand that Jesus was the subject of Isaiah’s prophecy (Acts 8:29-35). However, this man was not content with simply understanding the meaning of the text. He wanted to obey Jesus. This led him to be “baptized” (Acts 8:36) in accordance with Jesus’ teaching (cf. Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16; John 3:3, 5; Acts 2:38). The result of obedience to Christ is salvation (Hebrews 5:9).

Ultimately, salvation is our goal. We can be saved by following what the Bible teaches us to do. Paul wrote, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Peter said that “the outcome of your faith [is] the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9). Our study of the Scriptures must lead us to obedience or else our efforts to know the word of God are in vain.

Conclusion

It is not enough just to read the Bible. We must study the Bible and do so in the right way – preparing to study, developing the habit of studying, and applying our studies to our daily lives. If we will do these things, we will be able to “present [ourselves] approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).


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Comments

  1. Wayne D. Teel says

    Excellent words, Andy. I think I will use it for my sermon this Sunday. I appreciate your ability that God has given you to put your thoughts to paper in such an effective way. Keep up the good work!

  2. Thank you! I appreciate your kind words.