STUDY THE BIBLE

Study 2. How Can I Study the Bible?

Study the Bible and you will discover answers to life's most important questions.

(A LOOK BACK)
This study is one of ten that give a basic introduction to Christian beliefs. See Exploring Christianity.

1) Approximately how many human authors were involved in the writing of the Bible (also known as the Scriptures)?

2) What does Second Timothy 3:16 mean when it says the Bible was given "by inspiration of God"?

A. WHY STUDY THE BIBLE?

INSIGHT: There are many reasons to dig into the Word of God. For one thing, it is there we learn about God as we can in no other way. Studying it will give us a better understanding of Him.

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3) The Bible presents spiritual truths beyond man's natural ability to know. So how did the authors come to know them (I Corinthians 2:9-10)?

INSIGHT: Another use of Bible study is to learn how to live life to the fullest, how to do what is right, and avoid wrong and harmful behaviour.

4) What promise did God make to a man named Joshua (Joshua 1:8)?

INSIGHT: "The Law" commonly refers to the first five books of the Bible. Through much of the Old Testament era, that was the Scripture people used. It was their Bible. Other books were added later. But often statements and promises that are given concerning "the Law" can be applied to the whole Bible, because it is all God's Word.

5) What confidence did the writer of Psalm 119 have (see verse 105)?

6) And what did the Lord Jesus say about the importance of God's Word (Matthew 4:4)?

INSIGHT: Another value of Bible study is that it will enable us to test those who claim to be speaking for God. Many make the claim that they are presenting God's truth. But how can we know for sure? Here is a test provided by Isaiah...

7) What test does the prophet Isaiah give to reveal false teachers (Isaiah 8:20)?

8) How did some people in a place called Berea [pronounced Bur-EE-ah] test the teachings Paul and Silas (Acts 17:10-11)?

B. HOW TO APPROACH BIBLE STUDY

INSIGHT: Studying God's Word requires disciplined mental effort. While making a beginning is within reach of almost anyone, discovering the deeper riches of the Scriptures is the work of a lifetime. And studying God's Word requires spiritual commitment. Bible study needs to be more than an intellectual exercise. It is a search for life-changing truth. This calls for us to study it prayerfully, and with a sincere desire to learn.

9) What is the prayer of the writer of Psalm 119, in verse 18?

10) What does James say we should do with God's Word (James 1:22)?

11) What similar claim does the Lord Jesus make (Matthew 7:24)?

INSIGHT: The Bible is literally true, and needs to be taken that way. We need to understand the words of Scripture according to their normal, natural meaning, just as we would in reading a newspaper or a letter from a friend. This does not exclude the occasional use of symbolic or picture language. However, we should be able to see, even in this "figurative" language, a clear literal meaning.

12) Jesus used picture language when He accused the Jewish scribes of eating houses! What do you think is the literal meaning behind the picture (Mark 12:38-40)? And how does using this symbolic language present the truth in a stronger way?

INSIGHT: There is an important difference between interpretation (finding out what the Bible writer means) and application (discovering what the Bible means to us). Sometimes the beginning Bible student will take a verse and immediately try to apply it to his life, with little thought of the original meaning intended by the writer. This is a mistake. Before we apply the teaching of the Word of God to ourselves, we must make every effort to understand what the author meant at the time. Proper application must grow out of a correct interpretation.

13) Read Genesis 6:13-14, and verse 22. What is the meaning of God's command to Noah? Does this command apply directly to us? (And if not, is there a principle or an example here for us to apply?)

C. UNDERSTANDING THE SCRIPTURES

INSIGHT: Following are four basic keys to properly interpreting the Word of God. Various tools are available to assist us with these things. (A number of them will are discussed on the Wordwise website.)

i) Examining the language. The Bible is written in words that are formed into sentences. There are nouns, verbs, and adjectives, and so on. The more we know of word meanings, and the structure of sentences, the better we'll understand the Bible.

ii) An important word in Bible study is context. The context is what comes before and after a particular statement. It may be a few verses, an entire chapter, or more. Politicians sometimes complain of being "taken out of context." A statement is quoted, but it may be misunderstood unless we know what came before and after. So it is with the Bible. God's Word can be made to say almost anything, if we ignore the context. For example, did you know the Bible says, "There is no God"?

14) This last statement is found in Psalm 14:1. But what is the context of the statement (the beginning of the verse)?

15) In Luke 10:37, Jesus says, "Go and do likewise." Do what? Check the context (Luke 10:30-37) to see what kind of behaviour Christ is calling for.

iii) Setting. Knowing the culture and history of Bible times opens up the meaning of many passages for us. For example, read Luke 15:8-10. Why would a woman make such a fuss over a coin valued at a few cents? The answer is found in a custom (still followed by some cultures today) of a husband giving his wife a string of coins as a wedding present(as a wedding ring is given today). These were highly prized and cared for. Often they were worn as a headdress or a necklace. At the time, in that culture, to lose one might be viewed as demonstrating a lack of respect for her husband.

iv) Comparing other Scriptures. Since all of the Bible is God's Word, and therefore true, we would expect that God would not contradict Himself. Because of this, it is often helpful to use one Scripture to illuminate and explain another. Sometimes a word, or a difficult passage can be explained by comparing what other verses say.

16) The word "restore," in Galatians 6:1, translates the Greek word katartizo--which has a variety of meanings, including: to complete, perfect, strengthen, repair, equip. Look at Matthew 4:21, where this same Greek word is translated "mend," or "prepare."

16b) What is the problem with a broken net?

16c) What can be done with the net after it is mended?

16d) On the basis of this information, what does Galatians 6:1 mean by "restoring" a sinning Christian?

INSIGHT: We can check Bible commentaries as we study the Bible. The Bible is the Christian's final authority. All other books (as well as Bible teachers) must be tested by the Scriptures. We need to keep in mind that every commentator writes with his own bias. However, used with caution, many of these resources can help us to understand what God has said.

INSIGHT: Let's accept our limitations. Some puzzling statements in God's Word will be understood with further study. But on other occasions a mystery may remain. At such times we need to remind ourselves that the Bible is the written revelation of the infinite and eternal God. If we could fully understand God and His ways, He would not be God!

17) What does Job say about his attempt to understand the ways of God (Job 26:14)?

D. ASKING YOURSELF QUESTIONS

INSIGHT: If the passage being studied is a narrative (about people and events) it is helpful to begin with the six basic questions news reporters use in gathering information: How? Why? Where? When? What? Whom? These are sometimes called the "six honest serving men." Answering them will often give a good basic understanding of a passage of Scripture.

There are other questions that help us make a personal application of God's Word. For example:-- Is there a truth to remember?-- Is there an example to follow (or avoid)?-- Is there a promise to claim?-- Is there a command to obey?-- Is there a principle to apply?

E. THREE DIFFERENT WAYS TO STUDY THE BIBLE

i) Studying a Bible passage. Anything from a short statement (considered in its context) to a chapter, or an entire book can be studied.

ii) Studying a Bible character. Because the Bible always reports accurately the faults and failings of individuals, as well as their successes, we can learn from both, as we compare our own spiritual pilgrimage.

iii) Studying a Bible subject. It is possible to take a subject--such as faith, or prayer--and gather many verses and passages on that subject that will give us a broader understanding of it.

INSIGHT: Just as we need to feed our physical bodies, we also need to nourish our souls. And spiritual growth requires more than one meal a week (a sermon in church on Sunday). There is great value in establishing the discipline of daily study of God's Word, and a time of prayer. Sometimes this is called having "daily devotions", or a daily "quiet time."

18) To what does the writer of Psalm 119 compare God's Word? And what benefit does he get from it (Psalm 119:103-104)?

INSIGHT: Bible memorization is another valuable discipline and a way to prepare to study the Bible. As we commit verses of Scripture to memory they become instantly accessible to us. Even while we are walking down the street, or lying in bed at night, we can meditate on God's Word. And when temptation comes, we have a powerful defense right at hand.

19) What value does the writer of Psalm 119 see in memorizing the Scriptures (Psalm 119:11)?

A BIBLE STUDY TO TRY

Using some of the ideas and techniques explained in this study, take a look at Jesus' parable of the "Prodigal Son" in Luke 15:11-32. (Please begin by reading the passage.) And notice how many questions below employ the "six honest serving men."

A) Who are the three main characters in the story?

B) Why does the younger son leave home?

C) Where does he go? What happens to him there?

D) When does he decide to return?

E) How does the younger son plan to approach his father?

F) How does his father respond to his return? And why?

G) How does the elder brother respond to this? And why?

H) What is the context--the reason Jesus told this story (Luke 15:1-2)?

I) Based on the context, who is each of the three characters in the story probably meant to picture?

J) What truth to remember is Jesus teaching here about God? And about how God wants human beings to relate to Him?

K) Comparing Scripture with Scripture, we can see another time when the scribes and Pharisees (Jewish leaders) criticized Jesus in a similar way. What was His response at that time (Luke 5:30-32)?

L) And what did He mean by using the picture language, "Those who are well have no need of a physician"? Is there a principle to apply here?

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