1. Don’t Just Read The Bible. Obey It!
We don’t just need to fill our heads with knowledge. That’s not the purpose of Bible study. We need to obey the Word of God. When God commands us to do something, we need to do it. When God makes a promise, we need to claim it. When God says that a certain thing is a sin, we need to avoid it. The Bible says, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (James 1:22)
When we study the Bible, we need to remember that God is its Author. The Bible is the Word of God. Men wrote down the words that the Holy Spirit of God inspired. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16). As we study the Bible, we need to pray for God to fill us with His Holy Spirit. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, God empowers us to understand His Word through Illumination. Luke 11:13 says, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”
Before studying your Bible, pray:
“Heavenly Father, please fill me with Your Holy Spirit, so that I can understand Your Word.”
Also, remember to follow the rules of Bible study listed under point number eight at the end of this study. They will help you to avoid error in interpreting Scripture. It would be too bad to claim that the Holy Spirit of God had taught you something when really it was your own faulty method of Bible study. All the cults claim that God taught them their heresies. Don’t fall into that trap. Remember, the Holy Spirit will never teach you something from His Word that contradicts other passages of Scripture.
The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to Mankind. Through the Bible, God reveals Himself to us. When we read the Bible we should ask, what does God want me to learn about HIM from this passage of Scripture? When we are saved, God gives us His gift of eternal life. The Lord Jesus Christ defined eternal life this way: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3). Eternal life is knowing God. God doesn’t just give us the gift of life that lasts forever. He gives us the privilege of knowing Him forever. As we grow in the Christian life, we should know God more and more. We should learn more and more about Him.
The primary way for us to know God is by reading HIS WORD. Try reading a chapter a day in your Bible. As you read, ask yourself, “What is God trying to teach me about Himself in this chapter? Does it tell me about things that God doesn’t want me to do? Does it tell me things that God wants me to do? What promises does God make to me in this chapter? What can I discover about God’s personality, about who He is from this chapter?”
As you read your chapter for the day, keep a pen or pencil in hand to make notes of what God is teaching you about Himself. Write the truths you learn in the margins of your Bible. Underline verses that God uses to speak to your heart. You can also try using a sheet of paper as you study. At the top, write the word, “chapter” and write the chapter that you are studying. Underneath that write, “what I learned about God and His will” and write down the things that you learned. Put the date at the top and keep these sheets of paper in a place where you can easily find them. You could also use 3X5 cards or a notebook instead of loose sheets. Doing this will help you to remember what you have studied. As we study the Bible, we will know God more and more. As we know God more and more, we should develop a heart for what God has a heart for—seeing men saved! “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10).
The Bible is about God’s plan of salvation. The plan unfolds before us in the Word of God, beginning in Genesis chapter three and verse fifteen, in which God promises Eve that one day the Seed of woman, (that is, Christ, the virgin-born Son of God), would someday bruise the head of the serpent, the Devil. All through the Old Testament, we learn more and more about God’s plan of Salvation. We learn how God chose one nation, the nation of Israel, to bring the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, into this world. The Old Testament sacrifices were types and pictures of Christ who would be sacrificed for our sins. The Old Testament law was given to show men that they were sinners, in need of Christ. The Old Testament Prophets foretold His birth, death, resurrection, and kingdom.
In the New Testament, we see Christ born, living a perfect life on this earth, being crucified, buried, and rising from the dead. We see Christ ascending into Heaven and working through His Church in the Person of the Holy Spirit. We see Him instructing His Church through the Epistles. Finally, in Revelation, we see how God’s plan of salvation ends—with a new Heaven, and a new earth, and all believers living in happiness with the Lord Jesus Christ forever! While you are studying you should ask, where does the section of the Bible that I am reading fit into God’s plan?
Read your chapter at least three times. The more time that we spend looking at a passage of Scripture, the more we will get out of it and the more God will speak to our hearts from it. The first time read the chapter quickly. This should give you a general idea of what the chapter is about. The second time read it more slowly, with more care. The third time, underline and make notes as God speaks to your heart from His Word.
Sherlock Holmes is one of my favorite characters in literature. London’s famous detective always asked plenty of questions when trying to solve a mystery. As you study the Bible, ask questions. “Who are the people mentioned in the story that I am reading? What does this word mean? What does this verse have to do with the other verses around it?” Find answers to your questions in the Bible, dictionaries, and other study helps. Realize, like a good detective, that the conclusions you draw at the beginning of your investigation may change as you study further. I may begin to study a verse of Scripture and think one thing; but as I read the verses around it and look up words that I’m not sure about in the dictionary, my conclusions about what it is saying may change. That is a good thing because we want to come to correct conclusions when studying the Bible. The more thorough we are in our study, the more we will avoid false conclusions and false doctrine.
A. Context is king; don’t take a verse out of context.
Find out what the context of the verse is and interpret it accordingly. Remember, “A text without a context is a pretext.” Verses pulled out of context can be used to prove almost anything. The cults are experts at using verses, out of context, to prove their heresies. For instance, you can use the Bible to teach people that there is no God. The Bible says in Psalm 14:1, “…there is no God…” But, if you read the first part of the verse it says, “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God…” So, you see, context is king! It is wise, then, to read the verses that surround the verse you are studying, and to read the chapters that surround the chapter you are studying. Also, remember point number five. Find out where the chapter you are studying fits into God’s total plan. Get the big picture. Don’t take a verse out of context!
B. Take the Bible literally unless the context demands that it be interpreted figuratively.
Most of the Bible is literal. Someone says, “What do you think the white horses that Jesus and the saints are riding in the book of Revelation represent?” Well, I think that they represent white horses. Unless the Bible’s context indicates a figurative interpretation, interpret literally.
C. Interpret Scripture with Scripture.
If you are not sure what a particular verse means, and the context doesn’t help, you can find another verse to explain that verse. The Bible explains itself. It will take some work; you will have to study, but Scripture explains Scripture. Most Bibles have cross-references written in the center column or in the margins that will show you Scriptures that relate to and may explain the verse you are reading.
© 2020 Stephen D. Baker. From the book: HOW WE GOT THE ENGLISH BIBLE: FROM GENESIS TO KING JAMES.