Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
One of the essentials of the faith is the study of the word. Why? Here are some of the benefits:
1. When we know the word, we are better able to distinguish the true from the false, the unclean from the clean. While some of this responsibiliy rests upon the shoulders of leaders who must teach God’s people (Ezekiel 44:23), it is clear we also need to study the Word for ourselves.
2. By knowing the word, we get to know God as HE has presented Himself, as opposed to knowing Him based on our own perceptions, opinions, biases, cultural influences, and traditions of men we were taught. Without this, it becomes very easy to be deceived by false prophets, false teachers, and false brethren.
3. It will become easier to hear from God clearly, because when you come to know the Word, you come to know Him, His nature, His character, how He speaks and what He does and doesn’t do.
4. Your prayer life and faith faith walk will have a firm foundation of knowing God as He really is, and this is crucial in times of trouble trial, persecution and sorrow.
5. You will be better equipped to communicate the gospel to others, and more useful to the Kingdom, as you can function from a position of knowledge instead of ignorance.
Now, before we go any further, I’d like to say don’t stress out over what books, materials concordances or whatever you’re going to need. Start simple. Many years ago a young man asked a great golf pro for advice on how to play like him. It’s said the golf camp asked for paper and a pencil. On it he wrote:
Buy a set of golf clubs.
Play some golf.
I admonish you likewise not to overcomplicate it. That having been said, I’ll share with you my own approach to studying the word, which you may find useful, and you may develop your own over time.
Relaxed, but reverent reading.
This isn’t any formal study, with notebooks and concordances and commentaries. Just read the word for its own sake, with no agenda. However, read it with the expectation that God is going to speak to you through the scriptures, and He WILL. One of the greatest revelations I ever received was the day I’d bought a new Bible and decided to read whatever turned up on the page the ribbon was on. It was Ezekiel 44:23.
There are also times when I’ll just pick it up and read it just for the sake of reading it. Relax, pick a book, and just read!
For the remaining approaches to the Bible below, it is best to approach studying purposefully. In these cases, set aside specific time for it so that it has your full attention free of distractions and interruptions if at all possible. It may be helpful to keep handy:
1. A reliable pen, preferably two.
2. Some kind of notebook, whatever you’re comfortable with
3. Something to hold pages with. I use little sticky tabs if it’s a detailed study so that I can go back and forth between passages if I need to, but just use whatever you’re comfortable with.
4. A concordance, or, if you prefer, a computer/tablet/phone with internet access for using sites like Biblegateway.com, or GodRules.net (which has Strong’s Concordance numbers you can click on). This way you can see the direct definitions of the Hebrew/Greek words used and gain further insight on specific Scriptures whenever the meaning seems unclear.
Yes, at the end of the day, God does give revelation, but at the same time He does intend for us to search things out. After all, Proverbs 25:2 tells us that it is the glory of God to conceal a thing, and the honor of kings to search it out.
I use the King James Version of the Bible, since it is the only version which can stand up to the test of the Dead Sea Scrolls. For example, the KJV Book of Isaiah matches the 2200 year old Isaiah Scroll word for word. The NIV, for example has deleted over 60,000 words… enough to fill a 200 page book.
I can’t tell you which Bible to use, but I can tell you that the NIV is missing 200 pages. Another book its publisher produced is ‘The Joy of Gay Sex.’ I’ll let you decide whether such a publisher can be trusted to produce a faithful rendition of Scripture.
Other versions tone down the language when dealing with sin, or delete the word CHRIST from numerous passages. One thing to bear in mind when dealing with Bible versions is that most Bible publishers are not believers, so choose carefully.
Getting to know Jesus… and what He’s called you to do.
Back in 1997 the Lord led me to read and re-read the gospels for about a week. Some days I slept less than two hours, because I just HAD to get back to it. It was during this time that he revealed to me the specific call on my life, and through this repeated reading of the Gospels I began to see that the character of Jesus was in many ways different from what I’d been taught.
Because of this, I reccomend highly reading through the gospels several times before studying a particular epistle, or other book of the Bible. Even though we ‘know’ the Scriptures all point to Christ, sometimes our mind has a tendency to compartmentalize different parts of scripture, and this particular approach keeps Jesus fresh in our minds as we read other parts of the Bible. You might be surprised at what you discover when you try this.
Learning to Pray
I once heard someone say that if you wanted to learn how to pray, read Psalms. The Psalms are also useful in learning about worship, the character of God and how He relates to us. Read the Psalms aloud if you can.
Consider them in light of Matthew 6:9-13 (the Lord’s Prayer)… remember the disciples didn’t say ‘teach us to preach.’ They said ‘teach us to pray.’
Whenever I feel like my prayer life needs a boost, I spend some time in Psalms.
The Book of Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, are great studies of wisdom from God’s perspective, and will help you in earning to deal with life and people. It was Proverbs 17:28 that taught me to keep my mouth shut unless I had something useful to say, and when I’ having difficulty dealing with people, Proverbs is often where I go in the Bible.
Intensive or Specific Study Approaches
Character Context Study. For this I may take something like Exodus, and then look up all references to Moses outside of the Pentateuch to gain a understanding of the principal character of the book, why God used him, and what his life and record mean for us in the New Testament era. In such a study I might also do some research on the history of the time to see what was happening both among God’s people and in the world at large at the time.
Topical Study. This type of study can go on for years. I may take a topic, like prophecy, for example, and study its history, study the individuals associate with that topic in the Bible, go through every OT scripture reference to that subject, and then see what the NT has to say about it. I do this because the early apostles taught from what we call the OT. Most of the NT hadn’t been written until decades after Acts chapter 1.
This can also be done in reverse: Find a topic in the NT, and then research the OT passages which correspond in order to understand where the NT writers were coming from. For example, on the subject of prophecy, there are 144 NT references to the subject, 123 of which are references to the OT.
Verse by verse study. In this approach, I might take the Epistle to the Romans and examine it verse by verse, searching throught scripture, historical references and so on to get a better picture of what is being said. Take your time, consider each verse, and think of it in relationship to the rest of scripture. Consider questions such as, If Jesus says something in one verse, where else did He discuss it? Did the apostles say anything further in their epistles? Who is it being said to? When? Where? Why?That’s pretty much it. I’ve never used commentaries much, so I can’t recommend any in particular, but I will close by saying that we should approach the study of the Bible prayerfully, reverently, and with both an earnest desire and expectation that He will speak to us.
1. Youtube has a lot of great recordings of people such as Leonard Ravenhill, AW Tozer, Derek Prince and others that you may find helpful.
2. The Sword Project – free bible software