today we are going to look at studying the bible , why we need to do it and how to go about it. I just want to share with you a few things I've learned about this:
why do we need to study the bible?
I'm in love with a wonderful man I met online. He doesn't live here so primarily we communicate through email type messages sent through a website we belong to. When I get a message from him I read it through carefully, savouring each morsel of it. It might be only a few lines long but it's very precious to me. How much more precious to us should be the message god has written to us, aka the bible! This is the main way in which god speaks to us so it's very important!
As we study the scriptures we learn these things:
-- we learn about who god is.
--we learn what he did for us on the cross.
--We learn who we are.
--we learn how to live this Christian life in a way that pleases god.
--We learn what promises god has made to us.
--We learn how god worked through the lives of men and women of faith in the past
and so much more!
2 timothy 3:16 says this:
Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action), [AMP]
Is it necessary for me to study the Word of God regularly?
Indeed it is! When we stop studying God's word on a regular basis, our spiritual growth tapers off, our love for god becomes less fervent, we stop making an effort to do right, we may even find ourselves straying from the faith, falling into sin and becoming hard hearted. We could get to the point where we might choose to turn away from god completely! I think we can see now how important it is to stay in the word of god! some time in the Scriptures each day is strongly recommended, if not imperative.
Besides all this, we are commanded to study the bible:
Joshua 1:8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
So, we need to study God's Word. the bible is like a gold mind, the more we dig the more nuggets we are likely to find. The more we dig into a passage or a topic the more we are going to know about that passage or topic, the more truths we are able to learn from it and apply to our lives. The bible is also like an onion, once you get through one layer there are more and more layers to go. I can study a passage one year and then come back and study it the next year and get fresh insights, seeing things I didn't even notice in my previous study of that passage.
Is there anything I need to do before I open my bible?
Yes, certainly. Here is what I have learned is important to do before opening the Word of God:
1. We need to be saved, we need to have given our lives to Jesus and accepted him as our Lord. When we are saved, the holy spirit comes to live in us. He is the one who encouraged and guided each writer of the scriptures and every word they wrote was inspired or god-breathed by the Spirit of god. he is the ultimate bible teacher! Without him it isn't possible to understand what the bible is really saying.
[ For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
[1 Corinthians 1:18
2. Prayer. Before we pick up our bibles we need to take some time and ask god to reveal himself to us and to show us what he wants us to learn from the study of his word. This is important because on our own we may learn a few things but with the Holy spirit teaching us we will learn a lot more, and He can take the word of God and use it to convict us, to correct us, to comfort or encourage us.
3. We need to resolve in our hearts that we will do what God's word tells us. This is the hard part for me. I have studied the scripture for years but I battle with applying it to my life. This is very important though because the scripture says:
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.[James 1:22-25]
As well as these, here are a couple of other suggestions:
4. If possible, find a place and time where you are least likely to be distracted. I do my bible study in my bedroom, usually at early morning and later in the afternoon.
5. have a notepad or computer at hand to write down things that the Lord is showing you. this is a great way to internalise the truths and concepts god is revealing.
So now I'm here with my bible open before me, how do I go about this?
There are many ways to study the bible, this is something to ask god about. Here are a few ideas I've picked up from various places, which I have used in my own studies:
1. One way to do this is to read the bible until something really speaks to you, then stop to think about that. You might only read a verse or two before one really stands out, or you could read a chapter or more. As an example, I could be reading in Isaiah 45 until I get to this verse:
I am the Lord, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
Something about that verse stands out for me so I stop reading and think about it . There is only one god, he is above everything and everyone else. That might make me question, am I serving god alone? sometimes we can give too much importance in our lives to other things, like having a lot of money or always having our own way, or we can put someone on a pedestal in our minds and worship them. We may not set out to do this but it might be something that if we really search our hearts we may discover we are doing . If God is the one and only that means I have to worship him alone. I need to pray that god will show me if I am worshipping anyone or anything else and ask his forgiveness about that, then resolve to worship god alone from now on.
2. Another method is to pick a book of the bible and start working through it, with a good commentary to help you understand things that don't make sense. If I'm doing a book study I will usually do just a few verses at a time. The number of verses I do each time may vary. for example when I studied the book of acts I would study 5 or 7 verses at a time, until I came to one of the times when someone was preaching, then I went very carefully through it, a verse or two at a time. It can be slower but it really helps me to understand what is being said. I will read them, write down the things that I learn from them. then I will find a commentary and read it for any further insight. then i will write down the things I learn about god in that passage, the things I learn about me and I will write down an action step, something I should do in response to what I have studied. A really good thing to do in studying a book is to sit down and read the book in one session. Of course, if you are doing psalms or something like that, it's going to be impossible to do, but if it can be done it's good because it helps us to see the bigger picture, to be aware of what the book is all about, to see some things that stand out, to pick up on things that we might not notice when doing a more in depth study.
3. Another method is to look at bible reading as a conversation with God, reading a few verses then talking to god about them. this can be a meaningful way to read the bible as well. As an example I might be reading my favourite verse which is Psalm 121:2
my help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth
so then I stop there and thank God for the many ways he helps me, remembering specific things he has done,like last week when I was opening a bottle of flavoured mineral water and it went absolutely everywhere, including all over my heater which, thankfully, wasn't on then. Or the time a few years ago when I put my hand on the cord of the waterbed I had at that time and realised the cord was abnormally hot, dangerously so. I turned it off then. It was malfunctioning and a fire could have started. Or the time last year when a Muslim friend of mine and one of his friends I was chatting with asked me to explain what Christians believe and God gave me the right words to say. I might also ask god to help me in a situation that is coming up, for example, I'm doing a Christian radio show this morning and I need God's help to know what to say, what songs to play, what bible reading to do, etc.
4. Another way to do a more in depth study is to ask the text certain questions:
who? When? where? What? and so what?
A. Who? Who are the characters in this passage?
B. What? there are a lot of what questions, such as "What is God doing in this passage" or "what events are taking place here" or "what really stood out for me?"
C. when? When did the events in this passage take place? the when and where questions are not always applicable.
D. Where? Where did the events in this passage take place? In Israel or somewhere else?
E. Why? there are a variety of why questions, such as "Why on earth did he do that?" or "Why did she react in that way?" or "why did God do this or that?"
F. So what? What in this passage can we apply to our lives? Is there a promise of God to claim? a command to follow? a warning to take heed of? etc etc.
6. Another way to learn from god's word is to study a topic. I am doing a study at the moment on the different names of god. I am really enjoying this! One thing that I'm doing is that whenever I read the bible or study it, if I come across a name of God I write it down, with the scriptural reference. I can then pray and ask god to reveal himself to me in that way. For example I can read Genesis 14:18-20 which says:
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”
there the name "God most High" is used three times. So I copy one of those verses into my notes and ask God to help me understand and know that he is the most high god, above everything and everyone else. Then if the Holy Spirit shows me something i write it down. Later I read through my notes and ask God to help me see things that I have missed. There are other ways to do a topical study, Bible gateway and some of the other bible sites have a topical index, where you can study on a particular topic. You can also do a search on bible gateway and other sites for a word such as faith and you will get all the verses where the word is mentioned. It's a great resource!
7. I've heard of bible reading and bible study explained in this way: we read to read, we read to feed and we read to lead. what I mean is this.
A. Reading to read is when we just pick up our bible and sit down to read a few chapters. This is certainly a good thing to do. If we have some time to spare, reading the bible is a great way to fill that time.
B. Reading to feed is when we study the bible, in any of the ways I have mentioned or any other ways you might find to do this. The bible is described as our spiritual food:
Everyone who lives on milk is not used to the word of righteousness, because they are babies. But solid food is for the mature, whose senses are trained by practice to distinguish between good and evil.
[Hebrews 5:13-14 CEB]
therefore, when we study the Bible we are giving our spirit a healthy meal. When we fail to spend time in the word of god we are starving our spirit and that is something to be avoided, for reasons we have discussed earlier.
C. Reading to lead is something that those who teach God's word in any capacity need to do. Pastors, Bible Teachers, Missionaries, Sunday School Teachers and others. Say a Pastor needs to prepare a Sermon for next Sunday. he will probably ask god what topic He wants him to teach on. Then, when he knows what he is doing, he will need to find bible verses and passages relating to that topic. This is reading to lead. I needed to do this when I was writing this study. For example, when I was talking about doing a topical study on the names of God I wanted to find a good example. I remembered seeing something in Genesis 14 so I went to that chapter and found what I was looking for in verses 18-20. People who read to lead need to make sure that isn't the only reading or studying they do. That is an easy trap to fall into. We need to study god's word for ourselves, for our own spiritual growth, then we can share with others the things god is teaching us.
I hope this information has been helpful. God bless each of you!