Bible Studies at Home
Was the Bible Studied in a Special Building or in Homes When the Early Church Began?
Aquila, a Jewish tentmaker, was born in Pontus, then moved to Italy, and later was thrust out by Emperor Claudius’ persecution of the Jews. He settled in Corinth where he soon encountered the Apostle Paul. Together, Paul and Aquila dwelt together and made Cicilian tents of haircloth (Acts 18:1-4). Catacomb inscriptions indicate that Aquila’s wife Priscilla came from a distinguished family of high standing in Rome and was a woman of unusual talent (Nave’s Topical Bible, page 576). After 18 months of working with Paul, Aquila and Priscilla accompanied Paul on his journey to Syria. At Ephesus, Aquila and Priscilla expounded the Bible to zealous Apollos, helping him understand more than just the baptism of John (Acts 18:24-28). According to the apostle Paul, Aquila and Priscilla led a bible study in their home:
“Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house.” (Romans 16:3-5, NKJV throughout unless stated).
In Colossians 4 we are told by Paul that Nymphas of Laodicea had a church in his house. Philemon also had a church in his home where studies of the Bible were conducted:
“Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house. Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.” (Colossians 4:15-16)
“To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:…” (Philemon 2)
Henry H. Halley writes in Nave’s Topical Bible, page 632:
“There were no church buildings [in Ephesus]. Houses for Christian worship did not begin to be built till two hundred years after the days of Paul, and were not general till Constantine put an end to the persecutions of Christians. In Paul’s day churches met, mostly, in the homes of Christian people. Thus, the scores of thousands of Christians, in and around Ephesus, met not in one, or a few, great central congregations, but in hundreds of small groups in various homes, each congregation under its own pastoral leadership. . . [the evangelist] Timothy’s work was primarily with these pastors [elders], or congregational leaders.”
Religious services at home are certainly the Biblical way.
Why Study the Bible in a Group?
In Hebrews 3 we are told to exhort EACH OTHER daily, lest we ourselves be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin:
“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; BUT EXHORT ONE ANOTHER DAILY, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:12-13)
The apostle Paul states we are exhort and encourage others, based on the Bible, so that all may learn:
“But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men . . . For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.” (1 Corinthians 14:3, 31)
Paul also told Timothy, his best friend and fellow laborer in the gospel, that he must be an example to other believers with his words, conduct, faith, etc. Needless to say, we cannot be an example to others by having Bible studies strictly on our own. Paul also states that giving attention to what the Bible teaches can save not only ourselves but others, which assumes regular interaction with others in the faith:
“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. . .
“Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both
yourself and those who hear you. ” (1 Timothy 4:12-13, 15-16)
Lastly, we are told in the book of Hebrews to not forsake meeting together with other Christians for the purpose of expounding on the Bible:
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, NOT FORSAKING THE ASSEMBLING OF OURSELVES TOGETHER, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Is There a Bible Method of Teaching?
In the book of 1 Corinthians the Bible describes the worship services at Corinth:
“Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe…
“Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret… Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge… For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged… For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints… Let all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Corinthians 14:22, 26-27, 29, 31, 33, 40)
These important verses in the Bible were written to show how New Testament worship services were conducted. The Corinthians were doing it WRONG. In their zeal, everyone wanted to proclaim a Bible doctrine, an interpretation, or give a revelation. There was too much chaos and confusion. Some spoke in foreign languages that couldn’t be understood by the others. Paul admonished the Corinthians that services must be conducted with proper order and decorum, because God is not the author of confusion.
In Matthew 13 the Bible shows that Jesus’ method of teaching His disciples encouraged questions and discussion. In Matthew 16 Jesus asked questions, to make sure the disciples understood:
“Now when His disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.’ And they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘It is because we have taken no bread.’ But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, ‘O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread?…’
“When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, ‘Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’ So they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ ” (Matthew 16:5-8, 13-15)
Acts 17 shows that Paul “reasoned” with others in the synagogue concerning the gospel and what the Bible actually taught. First Century A.D. Jewish synagogues allowed a great deal of discussion and reasoning:
“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures . . .” (Acts 17:1-2)
The Bereans were unique Christians. They didn’t just accept what Paul taught but checked the Bible to see if what he said was true:
“Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:10-11)
The Bible method of teaching and religious services was a balance between the allowance for free and open discussion and reverent order and harmony.
Keep the Bible Message Simple!
At one church service I attended the speaker gave an especially forceful sermon from the Bible. Afterwards, I asked a lady in the audience what she thought of the sermon. She exclaimed that the sermon was wonderfully inspiring. When I asked her to summarize the message for me, she could not do so. Neither could I. He might as well have spoken in a foreign language.
The purpose of preaching or studying the Bible, according to the apostle Paul, is: “But he who prophesies (teaches) speaks EDIFICATION and EXHORTATION and COMFORT to men.” (1 Corinthians 14:3)
How to Prepare a Bible Study
Choose a topic that will edify, instruct, help, and encourage others. Do not choose a pet theory, a subject too close to you, something to “preach at” someone else. Pray about it. Prepare notes with scripture references and subtopics, using a concordance, topical Bible, Bible dictionary, or your Bible’s center margin.
Often you will find that you need to write down all the relevant scriptures with brief quotes, then later arrange them in topical order. Think about your subject during the week, especially when praying. You will be amazed at the new ideas that “come” to you!
Always keep in mind the purpose is to HELP others, and in so doing, you will learn a great deal yourself.
How to Conduct a Study of the Bible
There are many forms and varieties of studying that can be educational and done in a respectful manner to the Eternal. One form of Bible Study is where the leader has prepared a list of scriptures on a particular subject, and has each person in turn read a scripture, after which he or others may comment. At Troas, Paul resorted to straight preaching, his speech continuing from the evening meal until midnight (Acts 20:6-7). Obviously, being accustomed to the synagogue form of worship, questions and discussion were more than welcome after the completion of the discourse.
The Bible should speak for itself. The participants can often add color and meaning by stating what the scripture says in their own words, and how it relates to their lives. The leader can stimulate discussion by asking questions, reading or having the scripture read, and then stating or asking someone to state the answer. When studying the Bible, always ask and answer two questions:
* What do the Scriptures being studied say or teach?
* What do the Bible verses say to ME?
What problems can be AVOIDED?
Here are some common problems you may experience while giving a Bible study in your home:
1. The leader of the Bible discussion should not dominate the session by taking all the time talking. Preaching a sermon, closing the service and then leaving is certainly NOT an effective way of teaching! Not everyone grasps the contents of a message immediately. Discussion often helps to clarify what was said.
2. Lack of preparation leads to lack of learning. As Thomas Edison said of his inventions, so a leader can say of an inspired message, that it is 99% perspiration (and preparation!) and 1% inspiration. Are you willing to put forth the effort to make understanding the Bible in your home EFFECTIVE?
3. Participants who lead the discussions off on tangents can disrupt and confuse the others. Don’t do this!
4. Don’t argue! Argumentation has no place in worship services. Love does not argue and seek to have its own way. Few have learned to allow others to believe a little different than they do. (See Romans 12:1-10).
5. People who do NOT listen to others, whether they are the host of the Bible study or one of the attendees, learn little if anything from the Bible and do not benefit others.
6. Groups are meant to be interactive and dynamic. Listening or watching recorded messages as the main or sole part of a study, especially when discussion does not occur either during or after the message, can lead to spiritual stagnation. God does not want His children to be spoon-fed automatons that cannot think and reason for themselves. Such Bible tools may be fine but they are better off left for individual study rather than study by a group.
How to End a Study
Usually one to two hours is the longest that most people can keep their attention while studying the Bible. One to two pages of notes (both sides) usually is sufficient to keep the study going this long. The conclusion, or summation of what has been learned, is usually done by the leader. Prayer and dismissal is then a natural process. Sometimes, a common meal concludes the day.
The above article, “Bible Studies At Home,” is written by Richard Nickels. The article was excerpted from www.biblestudy.org website.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”