As children of the heavenly Father, we desire to become well acquainted with our Father’s word. We realize the obligation we have to become knowledgeable in His word (2 Tim. 2:15; 2 Pet. 3:18) and the privilege that is ours to know His will (Eph. 3:3-5; 1 Pet. 1:10-12). Questions may be raised concerning how is best to do this, including:
Is simply reading the Bible sufficient? Do I need anything other than a Bible to study the Bible? Do I need to have a particular mental approach when studying the Bible? Although this article is by no means exhaustive on the subject, we will endeavor to answer these three questions. Is simply reading the Bible sufficient? If by this is meant a casual reading, or skimming, the answer is no; although regular Bible reading is important. Reading is where one begins his Bible study, not where he ends it. God is a “rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6, emph. LM). If one wanted to be a doctor, he would not skim through one or two medical books. Reading the Bible is good, but rightly dividing God’s word requires more than a casual reading. One must spend time thinking about what he has read in God’s word. Many passages speak about “meditating” upon God’s word (Josh. 1:8; Psm. 1:1-3; 119:148; I Tim. 4:13-16; et al.). At times, we must dig to find the meanings of various Bible passages that may not be clear upon first reading. Also, an effort should be made to commit portions of Scripture to memory (Psm. 119:11; Heb. 2:1; I John 2:1; Matt. 4). If our Lord was able to use Scripture embedded in His mind as a defense against temptation, we can certainly be aided in this respect as well.
Do I need anything other than a Bible to study the Bible? No, one does not need anything other than a reliable English translation of the Bible (e.g. King James Version, American Standard Version, New King James Version) to understand everything one needs for his soul’s salvation. However, there are many tools available that can help the Christian to avoid confusion, and to make better use of his study time. A good English dictionary, New Testament word dictionary (e.g. Vine’s), concordance, and Bible dictionary or encyclopedia are indispensable tools in Bible study. There are many commentaries available which provide research which will assist in understanding the Bible. One should always use a discriminate mind when using commentaries—brethren such as J.W. McGarvey, Guy N. Woods, and H. Leo Boles have written commentaries that are quite reliable, without the denominational bias found in many of the prevalent commentary sets. But even when consulting sound commentators such as these, one must always let the Bible be the final word on itself.
Do I need to have a particular mental approach? “Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments” (Ezra 7:10). Once anyone realizes that the Bible is the word of God, he will approach its study with deserved respect. The attitude must be: (1) Seek—I will seek what God has to say. I truly want to know what His will is, and I do not care what any man says differently. I will not go to the Scriptures to try to justify my conduct or to prove my personal views. (2) Do—I will do whatever the Lord asks of me. Knowledge without application is useless. (3) Teach—Ezra had prepared himself to teach God’s word, and so must we. The apostles were given the Great Commission to teach (Matt. 28:19-20); and since we are to observe those things commanded them, we have that command as well. But we must prepare ourselves through regular, reverent Bible study if we are to be able to teach, or serve God in any other capacity.
We are very privileged to have readier access to the Bible today than any time in previous history. If we approach our Bible study diligently, wisely, and respectfully, we can know our house is built upon the Rock (Matt. 7:24-25).