A recurring theme in the scriptures is devoting oneself to God’s word. Moses commanded the people of Israel to speak of God’s word in every activity of their daily existence (Deut. 6:6-9). The anonymous writer of Psalm 119 used 176 verses to extol the virtues of God’s word and his devotion to it, summarizing his attitude in Psa. 119:105, where he said, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” In Jn. 8:31, 32 Jesus told some believing Jews to continue in His word in order to be His true disciples, so they would know the truth and the truth would make them free.
Paul in 2 Tim. 2:15 gave what is the definitive statement for Christians on this subject. He said, “Be diligent (or study, KJV) to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” Our responsibility as disciples of Christ is to devote ourselves to God’s word so we know and understand it, and so we will accurately employ it as we share the good news with the lost.
Most of us are aware of this responsibility, but few of us become as proficient with God’s word as we ought to be, or would like to be. The reasons for this are many, perhaps, but one of the chief reasons is that we simply do not have any idea how to go about studying the scriptures. This is likely due to the fact that we talk a lot about studying the scriptures, but we talk very little about how to do so. Consequently, Bible study, beyond surface level reading, seems like an insurmountable task.
In reality there are only a few simple principles that one needs to follow in order to enhance his or her knowledge of and expertise in the scriptures. The first principle is consistency. We must make time on a regular basis to spend in the study of God’s word. We understand the value of this principle in secular subjects, and the same is true with God’s word. Regular meditation on God’s word is a key to spiritual growth.
The second principle is to study systematically. Skipping from one subject or book to another with no plan or goal in mind will not enhance one’s awareness of scripture. The Bible is not a book of random, disconnected sayings. It is a cohesive, unified, single message and we must study it systematically in order to fully understand that message.
Third, we must study the Bible contextually. This means we look at every statement in the paragraph, chapter, book and testament in which it is found. We must understand it in the setting in which it was made and then apply it to our current circumstance. Verses or statements taken out of their context become a pretext for false beliefs and teaching, and must be avoided.
Fourth, we must study the Bible reverently. Some people treat the Bible like a cafeteria. They go through it as though only the parts they like or agree with are applicable to them. The psalmist who wrote Psalm 119 knew that the words he read in scripture were the very words of God and he treated them with the reverence and respect they deserve. So also should we. Our attitude must be, “God said it and that settles it.” As we study the scriptures we are reading words that were breathed by God to the men He inspired to write them (2 Tim. 2:16, 17). With such an attitude, we cannot help but understand what the will of the Lord is (Eph. 5:17).
Let us each employ these principles as we study God’s word so our faith will be built up and we will be more effective in our efforts to seek and to save the lost.