How to study the Bible

 bible

“I THANK God every morning for helping me to understand the Bible.” The elderly Christian sister who made that statement has read the entire Bible over 40 times, and she is not stopping. A younger sister wrote that Bible reading has helped her to see that God is real. As a result, she has drawn closer to her heavenly Father. She stated,

 I have never been happier in my life!

The apostle Peter encouraged all to,

Like newborn babies you should crave (thirst for, earnestly desire) the pure (unadulterated) spiritual milk, that by it you may be nurtured and grow unto [completed] salvation, (1 Pet. 2:2)

            Those who satisfy that longing through Bible study and who apply Bible teachings have a clean conscience and a purpose in living. They develop enduring friendships with others who also love and serve the true God. All of these are valid reasons to “delight in the law of God.” (Rom. 7:22) But there are even more benefits. What are some of them?

             The more you learn how to study the bible, the more you will learn about God and his Son Jesus Christ. Having accurate Scriptural knowledge helps you to see how God will soon save obedient mankind from this dying system. In addition, as you learn more about God and Jesus, you will developer a deeper love for them and others.  And, you will develop a positive message of good news to share with people in your ministry. God will bless you as you teach others the things that you have learned from reading God’s Word.

READ AND REFLECT

God does not want his servants to rush through a reading of his Word. He told Joshua of ancient times:

This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe and do according to all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall deal wisely and have good success.

But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night.  (Josh. 1:8; Ps. 1:2)

             Does this instruction require that you literally utter in a low voice all the words you read from Genesis to Revelation? No. It means that you should read at a pace that allows for meditation. When you read the Bible in an undertone, it will help you to fix attention on portions that are especially useful and encouraging to you at that moment. On finding such phrases, verses, or accounts, read them slowly, perhaps forming the words with the tongue and lips. The full weight of a Scriptural point may strike you in a deeply personal way. Why is this important? Because getting the sense of God’s counsel gives you strong motivation to put it into practice.

            Reading in an undertone is helpful when you consider Bible books that are unfamiliar to you. To illustrate, imagine three scenarios. First, think of a young Christian brother whose personal reading program has taken him to the prophecy of Hosea. In chapter 4, he pauses after reading verses 11 to 13 in an undertone. (Please read Hosea 4:11-13.) Why? Those verses catch his attention because he has been struggling to resist immoral pressures in school. He reflects on the verses and thinks:

‘God sees the bad things people do even in private. I do not want to offend him.’ The brother resolves to remain morally clean before God.

             In a second scenario, a Christian sister is reading Joel’s prophecy and comes to chapter 2, verse 13. (Please read Joel 2:13.) As she reads that verse in an undertone, she reflects on how she should imitate God, who is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness.” She decides to try to eliminate the sarcasm and angry words that she sometimes uses when she speaks to her husband and others.

            Third, imagine a Christian father who has lost his job and worries about the well-being of his wife and children. At Nahum 1:7, he reads in an undertone that God “He knows (recognizes, has knowledge of, and understands) those who take refuge and trust in Him.” That thought consoles him. He senses God’s loving care and stops worrying overmuch. Then he reads verse 15 in an undertone. (Please read Nahum 1:15.) Our brother sees that by preaching the good news about Jesus Christ in difficult times, he demonstrates that he, indeed, views God as his stronghold. While the brother keeps on looking for secular work, he is now also moved to share the Bible more with others.

            The beneficial points just mentioned are from Bible books that some may consider difficult to understand. As you examine the books of Hosea, Joel, and Nahum with a desire to learn, you will want to read other verses from them in an undertone. Imagine how much wisdom and comfort await you in the writings of those prophets! And what about the rest of the Bible? God’s Word is like a productive diamond mine. Work that mine well! Yes, read the whole Bible with the goal of finding gems of divine guidance and reassurance.

STRIVE FOR UNDERSTANDING

           While it is important that you daily read a portion of the Bible, you also want to gain understanding and insight. Therefore, make good use of other Christian publications, such as Bible aids, to research the background of people, places, and events you read about. Or if you wonder how a certain Bible teaching might affect your life, you could ask your pastor or another mature Christian for help. To illustrate the importance of increasing our understanding, let us consider the example of one first-century Christian who strove to do just that. His name was Apollos.

           Apollos was a Jewish Christian who was “well versed in the Scriptures” and “aglow with the spirit.” The book of Acts relates about him: “He went speaking and teaching with correctness the things about Jesus, but being acquainted with only the baptism of John.” Without realizing it, Apollos had been teaching an out-of-date understanding of baptism. After hearing him teach in Ephesus, a Christian couple named Priscilla and Aquila explained “the way of God more correctly to him.” (Acts 18:24-26) How did this benefit Apollos?

After preaching in Ephesus, Apollos went to Achaia.

And when [Apollos] wished to cross to Achaia (most of Greece), the brethren wrote to the disciples there, urging and encouraging them to accept and welcome him heartily. When he arrived, he proved a great help to those who through grace (God’s unmerited favor and mercy) had believed (adhered to, trusted in, and relied on Christ as Lord and Savior).

For with great power he refuted the Jews in public [discussions], showing and proving by the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah).  (Acts 18:27, 28)

            By that time, Apollos could correctly explain the meaning of Christian baptism. With his increased understanding, he greatly helped new Christian’s to make progress in true worship. What can we learn from this account? Like Apollos, we strive to understand what we read in the Bible. However, when an experienced fellow believer suggests how we can teach more effectively, we want to accept that help with humility and gratitude. If we do so, the quality of our sacred service will improve.

USE WHAT YOU LEARN TO HELP OTHERS

           Like Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos, we can be a blessing to others. When your encouragement helps an interested person overcome an obstacle to his or her spiritual progress, how do you feel? Or as an Pastor, how do you feel when a fellow worshipper thanks you for Scriptural counsel that helped him or her through a difficult time? No doubt, using God’s Word to help others to improve their lives is a source of satisfaction and joy. Notice how you might accomplish that goal.

            Regarding true worship and false, many Israelites in Elijah’s day were sitting on the fence. Elijah’s counsel to those people could help an indecisive Bible student who is holding back from making spiritual progress. (Please read 1 Kings 18:21.) Consider another situation: If an interested person fears the reaction of friends or family, you might strengthen his or her resolve to worship God by reasoning on Isaiah 51:12, 13.— Please read.

            Clearly, the Bible contains many words that can encourage, correct, or strengthen its readers. But you may ask, ‘How can I have scriptures at the ready when I need them?’ Read the Bible and meditate on God’s thoughts daily. In that way, you will build a reserve of divine expressions that God’s spirit can help you recall when you need them.—Mark 13:11; John 14:26.

            Like King Solomon, pray to God for wisdom in carrying out theocratic responsibilities. (2 Chron. 1:7-10) As did the prophets of old, “searched and inquired earnestly about this salvation” of God’s Word for accurate knowledge of God and his will. (1 Pet. 1:10-12) The apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to nourish himself with the “truths of the faith and of the good [Christian] instruction which you have closely followed.” (1 Tim. 4:6) By your doing so, you will be in an excellent position to help others spiritually. At the same time, you will build up your own faith.

SURE PROTECTION BASED ON GOD’S WORD

             Jews in the Macedonian city of Beroea had the custom of “carefully examining the Scriptures daily.” When Paul preached the good news to those Jews, they compared his words with their knowledge of the Scriptures. The result? Many were convinced that he was teaching the truth, and they “became believers.” (Acts 17:10-12) This shows that daily reading of the Bible promotes strong faith in God. Such faith, “the assured expectation of things hoped for,” is vital if we are to survive into God’s new world.—Heb. 11:1.

For good reason, Paul wrote:

But we belong to the day; therefore, let us be sober and put on the breastplate (corslet) of faith and love and for a helmet the hope of salvation.  (1 Thess. 5:8)

            A soldier’s heart needs protection from the enemy. Similarly, a Christian’s spiritual heart requires shielding from the power of sin. What happens when a servant of God couples strong faith in God’s promises with love for Him and for others? Such a servant puts on a spiritual breastplate of the highest quality. It is unlikely that he will do anything to lose God’s favor.

            Paul also mentioned a helmet, “the hope of salvation.” Without protecting his head, a soldier in Bible times could easily lose his life in battle. But with a good helmet, he could survive blows to the head without suffering serious injury. We build hope in God’s saving acts by studying his Word. Strong hope enables us to resist apostates and their gangrenous “empty (vain, useless, idle) talk” (2 Tim. 2:16-19) Our hope will also strengthen us to say no to those who would lead us into conduct condemned by God.

 

A KEY TO SURVIVAL

            The deeper we get into the time of the end, the greater our need to rely on God’s Word. The counsel we draw from it helps us to correct bad habits and to control our sinful tendencies. With its encouragement and comfort, we will pass the tests that Satan and his world bring on us. With the guidance, God provides in his Word, we will stay on the road to life.

           Recall that God’s will is that “all sorts of men should be saved.” God’s servants are among “all sorts of men.” So are those whom we might help through our preaching and teaching work. But all who wish to attain to salvation must gain an accurate knowledge of truth.  (1 Tim. 2:4) Thus, surviving the last days goes hand in glove with reading the Bible and applying its inspired instructions. Yes, our daily Bible reading shows how highly we esteem God’s precious Word of truth.—John 17:17.