VOL. 9 November
General Guidelines For
Most Christians recognize that they
need to study their Bibles, yet many perhaps fall into certain traps when trying
to read and understand God's will for them in their lives. Let us look into some
general guidelines for Bible study that will help us avoid some of those
Bible study is only successful if one
desires to study and to learn. In Nehemiah 8, we read of the Jews who had
returned to Jerusalem after the exile, and how they gathered and listened to
Ezra read the Law of Moses and gave them the understanding "from early
morning until midday," (Nehemiah 8:3). The idea of standing and listening
to preaching for no fewer than four hours would exhaust most people, and yet the
text says that these Jews remained attentive to the reading of the Law (Nehemiah
8:3). Likewise, in the New Testament, we read that the first Christians on
Pentecost "devoted themselves to the Apostles' doctrine," (Acts 2:42). The key
ingredient that both of these groups possessed was a desire to know the Word of
God. If the desire to learn about God's Word and to learn about spiritual things
is not there, then Bible study will be a miserable process that will bear much
fruit, if any! You can learn as much as you desire to learn-- if you want to
learn much, you will find a way to learn much. If you have no desire to learn,
then you will not learn. Brethren, we must gain the desire to learn about God's
Bible reading is not necessarily Bible
study. It is important to remember that there are different types of reading and
study, and that we do not confuse the idea of Bible reading and Bible study.
Many times people will read the Bible, and all they have really done is moved
their eyes over the pages and really have not gained much understanding.
Skimming the Bible is not Bible study. Passing your eyes over the text is not
necessarily Bible study. Bible study requires us to not just look at the page
but get into the book, ask questions, consider the witness of other texts, be
willing to look words up in dictionaries to gain a better understanding, and
many times also to speak with others who have studied and discuss the material
studied. Bible study is far more involved than simple Bible reading.
This is not high school anymore. I fear
that for many people, reading and studying a book brings back bad memories of
school. Likewise, many people may approach Bible study like they approached
readings in high school: quickly go through all the material to find out what
the answer is. Now, reading comprehension tests and other exercises told you to
do just that in readings for high school, and unfortunately not a few Bible
study materials essentially do the same thing by focusing more on questions and
leading people to simply read to find the answers to whatever questions happen
to be asked. While you may do well at being able to find the answers, this does
not mean that you have become a good Bible student. As we will see below, Bible
study is not primarily designed to be an exercise in trying to figure out "the
answer," but to understand God's Word.
Bible study is designed for you to
better understand God's Word. Unfortunately, many times we get Bible study
backwards -- we attempt to figure out the answers to whatever we're seeking and
then try to figure out God's Word. If we are going to handle the Bible rightly
(2 Timothy 2:15), we need to first seek to understand God's Word and then let
whatever answers we seek to flow from that understanding. By understanding all
of God's Word, we will come to a more satisfactory understanding of what we need
to do to be pleasing to Him.
Bible study must be a habit. One can
compare Bible study to physical exercise -- to be effective, it must be done
regularly. The mind easily forgets, both in studying itself and the material
studied, and constant refreshment and diligence is necessary to maintain the
knowledge one has and to grow in knowledge. In the end, there is no better book
to study. Let us strive to be disciples of the Word!
Five Words To Foster Faithfulness
To The Smyrna Saints The Lord Said: --
"...be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life"
(Rev. 2:10). Here are five spiritual words to encourage us to greater
faithfulness in the Lord's service.
Abide: -- As disciples of Christ, our relationship with
the Lord is like that of a branch and vine (Jn. 15:1-8). Jesus is the Vine. We
are the branches. The appeal is for us to abide -- some form of the word "abide"
occurs 7 times in these 8 verses of Scripture. Abiding in Christ enables us to
be faithful (vss. 4,5) results in answered prayers (vs. 7), causes God to be
glorified (vs. 8), and proves our discipleship (vs. 8). Those who fail to abide
become lifeless (vs. 5), are cast out (vs. 6). "And now, little
children, abide in Him: that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and
not be ashamed before Him at His coming" (1 Jn. 2:28).
Cleave: -- When Barnabas arrived in Antioch, he
"exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto
the Lord" (Acts 11:23). To cleave is to cling or adhere to. In the Old
Testament, those who did not cleave to the Lord were destroyed by the Lord
Continue: -- The ardent appeal of the Lord and His
apostles was for Christians to continue. "If ye continue in My Word, then
are ye My disciples indeed" (Jn. 8:31). "As the Father has loved Me, so
I have loved you; continue ye in My love" (Jn. 15:9). "Paul and
Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of
God" (Acts 13:43). "...continue in His goodness..." (Rom.
11:22). "...continue in the faith..." (Col. 1:23). "But
continue thou..." (2 Tim. 3:14).
Endure: -- Where lawlessness abounds, love grows cold.
"But he who endures to the end shall be saved" (Matt. 24:12,13). In the
Parable of the Sower, the stony ground represented those who "endure but for
a time; afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the Word's sake,
immediately they are offended" (Mk. 4:17). It's not enough for us to endure
for a time -- we must endure unto the end!
Hold: -- The Hebrew writer penned, "Let us hold fast
the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that
promised;)" (Heb. 10:23). Imagine yourself in the midst of a large
sea. A ship has come by and you're thrown a rope to safety. You are
holding firmly to the rope, lest you perish. We must hold to the Lord with
everything we have, never letting go!
The crown of life is promised to the
faithful. May we show ourselves faithful in the execution of the Lord's
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