How To Study the Bible

How To Study the Bible
By J. R. Ensey

No person in modern times has transcended his or her peers in general knowledge, science, sociology, or anthropology without some under-standing of the Bible, They may not have believed its pronouncements or adhered personally to its ethical or moral codes, but at some time in their lives it figured into the scope of their studies. Its teachings have formed the legal codes for many countries of the world. No other written work has impacted the human race more than the Bible.

The study of the Scriptures, however, is not as simple as reading a biographical novel or a magazine article comprising a single subject. There are hundreds of scriptures which may play on one topic—many located in different contexts. Bible writers had varying literary styles applied to poetry, prophecy, narrative, and historical recordings. And from the fourth century until the Reformation era men had to either read Latin or hear the interpretation of the Word from the lips of a Catholic priest.

Men like Wycliffe, Tyndale, and Coverdale. along with a few others, dared to translate the Scriptures into their own language at the risk of losing their lives. As the translators leaped the language hurdles, the study of the Bible became more common. It was finally allowed to be kept in private homes, and schools were permitted to work its values into their courses and disciplinary policies.

The Purpose Of Bible Study

One does not study the Bible in order to feel more spiritual or less guilty—it could have the opposite effect. It should not be approached from the perspective of a duty. We are to study the Word so “that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:17 NKJV). Learning the principles of the Scriptures is the only way we will be prepared to enjoy a fruitful and victorious Christian life.

God told the Israelites while they were still in the wilderness that their future king should “write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: That his heart be not lifted up {hove his brethren, and that he turn not aside from she commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel” (Deuteronomy 17:18-20). Reading and ruminating on the Word of God teaches one to “fear the Lord,” meaning to honor and respect spiritual things. “To keep all the words of the law,” shows the strength and resolve that is common in serious students of the Bible. “That his heart be not lifted up” reveals the humility lovers of the Word adopt as a way of life. “That he turn not aside from the commandment” reflects a determination to know and keep the statutes of the Lord. Only those who read and learn the law are motivated to keep it. “That he may prolong his days in his kingdom…and his children” are promises readers of the Word and keepers of God’s commandments can claim for themselves. Keep the Book handy and consult it every day!

Paul instructed his younger understudy, Timothy, to “continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them… [continue your development in] the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus… [because] all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:14-16 NKJV). Nothing else furnishes the equipment for winning in the game of life like the Word of God. As Paul explained to Timothy, it 1) shows the way of salvation, 2) provides the doctrinal foundation for the Christian walk, 3) reproves us when we fail to come up to the biblical standard, 4) corrects us when we stray from the path of doctrinal purity, and 5) it instructs us in the ways of righteousness. What more do we need? “[He] hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (II Peter 1:3).

The Bible ought to play a prominent role in our social and family lives. While Bible sales are still fairly brisk, references to the Scriptures are generally banned in public school classrooms. And it is obvious there is precious little serious teaching of the Word in traditional churches where the social gospel and a “feel good” faith is taking the day. Increasingly, religious education is done in the home or virtually not at all. That is not all bad. Our parents, especially our fathers, should lead the way back to the Bible, back to family reading and prayer, back to trusting in the Book as the guiding light in this hour of spiritual darkness. Once a Christian asked a Jewish neighbor why their families seem to be stronger and more stable than most Christian homes? The neighbor replied: “Yours is a religion of the sanctuary; ours is a religion of the Tome.” He spoke volumes.

The study of the Scriptures has traditionally been a part of the curriculum in thousands of colleges and schools around the world. Many of the world’s leading colleges and universities—such as Harvard, Yale, and Oxford—were founded for the primary purpose of Bible training and preparation for Christian service. In modern times Bible study has been the focus of most evangelical churches and parachurch ministries. The Sunday school movement begun in the 1800s put the study of the Scriptures in the forefront of denominational pro-grams and helped to instill spiritual values and truths into young hearts during their formative years.

For those born in the twentieth century, individual Bible study has been made easier by newer translations incorporating modern language and current terminology. Many parachurch ministries have concentrated on supplying a steady stream of Bible study materials to their constituents. Interest remains high despite the influence of surrounding wickedness and the compromises of some prominent modernist theologians. Our appreciation for the Word is enhanced by new interlinear Bibles, dictionaries, concordances, and commentaries that assist students of the Word in understanding the meaning of difficult passages. It is not enough to know what others have thought or learned about the Bible. Each of us will have to give an account of himself to God; therefore, each must learn and be persuaded of the truth for himself. Leaning solely on what others say will only take us so far—and perhaps in the wrong direction.

Assemble The Right Materials

It should go without saying, one must approach Bible study with the right attitude, an open mind, and a desire to know truth and submit to it. It is important to have the conviction that God’s Word is inerrant in the original autographs, that it is God-breathed, and that it is relevant to our lives today. Having begun with that approach, one can move on to acquire the appropriate Bible study helps.

Start with a good Bible. When I began attending church and conviction seized my heart, I decided to purchase a Bible and see if what I was hearing was really a part of the Scriptures. I purchased a $1.98, red letter edition with a zippered cover and began to read. Of course, there were no study helps in that edition. I assumed I could just read it and automatically and immediately comprehend all I should know. That was not the case.

Although I respected the Bible, I encountered what so many do who begin to study for the first time—strange words and phrases, outdated language, and a lack of awareness of context. I tossed it aside with the standard excuse: “I can’t understand it, and besides, it contradicts itself so much!” Of course, I had not personally read enough to find any contradictions but was merely quoting someone else who had complained of that. A good study Bible with helps would have easily overcome such an uninformed notion. I have gone through many Bibles since that time, but for sentimental reasons I still have the little Bible with the small brass cross on the zipper.

A good Bible will have helps such as a concordance and marginal references. Some have copious notes and commentary at the bottom of the page. Some may have “chain references” such as Thompson’s Chain Reference Bible. Others may include a dictionary or a topical index, and a few will have an archaeological supplement. Now available are Bibles with the KJV and NIV in parallel columns (I personally use one as a church Bible) which allows instant comparison. I have a hardcover desk edition with four parallel translations which I keep at hand, and yet another three volume set with twenty-six translations. There are many study Bibles (those with helps, comments, and notes at the bottom of the page) on the market today, particularly for the KJV, the NKJV, and the NIV. For the NIV I currently prefer the Full Life Study Bible.

A serious student of the Word will want to purchase a good concordance as one of his first acquisitions. I recommend Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance because it contains not only all of the words of the Bible but also a Hebrew and Greek dictionary in the back. Knowing the actual meaning of words used in the Bible aids our understanding of what God is trying to communicate to us. Other questions naturally follow: How are the words used in a particular passage? Are they used elsewhere and what did they mean in that setting? Are the words used outside the Scriptures by secular or religious writers, and what did they mean there? What do the other passages of the Bible dealing with this word or subject have to say? What do the commentaries say? Many commentaries and study Bibles are keyed to Strong’s numbering system.

For a simple, smaller concordance, Cruden’s Complete Concordance is sufficiently exhaustive to find what is needed without the bulk of Strong’s. If the NIV is used along with the KJV, Zondervan’s Expanded Concordance has words from both.

The next book I recommend is a good Bible dictionary. Good choices include Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Baker’s Encyclopedia of the Bible, and Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary. For theological terms and definitions, the New Cyclopedic Theological Dictionary is available. For a good companion book to the Bible, the reader may wish to peruse Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible. For those who have abilities in the original languages of the Bible (Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic), a lexicon such as Thayer s Greek-English Lexicon is helpful. Expository dictionaries of biblical words like Vine’s or Wilson’s are a good choice for serious study.

More advanced students with a computer may wish to investigate the truly awesome Bible study programs that are now available. From the modest and inexpensive Online Bible (which has nothing to do with the Internet) to more advanced applications like PC Study Bible, there is quite an array of offerings. I personally use the simple but powerful search engine of the Online Bible which has access to a number of versions and other basic helps. Although it is recommended for the more discriminating student, the Internet also has thou-sands of sites with religious documents relating to all levels of the Bible study.

Getting Started

For the new student of the Bible, it is often helpful to use a topical approach to study. To develop a foundation of understanding the basics of Christianity, choose a topic and find the passages which relate to that subject. For example, water baptism is simple to follow throughout the New Testament from Jesus’ baptism in the Gospels to the record of early Christian baptisms in the Book of Acts to subsequent references to it throughout the Epistles. This can usually be done with a concordance or a good study Bible that contains marginal references. Also available to serve this purpose are topical Bibles, such as Nave’s Topical Bible, or Dugan’s Topical Reference Bible.

After one has familiarized himself with the structure of the Bible and its basic doctrines, the new or casual reader may wish to develop an organized procedure or system of study. There are a number of charts that schedule one’s reading so the entire Bible is read during a certain period, usually one year.’ Balancing devotional reading between the Old Testament and the New Testament enables one to get a cross-sampling of the Scriptures. For example, a chapter or a brief portion from Genesis, Ezra, Matthew, and Acts can be read in the same sitting. Some passages will mostly provide historical background (e.g., Genesis, the Chronicles, Nehemiah, Acts) while others will be more inspirational (e.g., Job, Psalms, Mark), and still others informational and instructional (e.g., Proverbs, Romans. I & II Corinthians, I & II Timothy, I & II Peter). Some Bibles are available which are arranged for study in this way so that the complete Bible is read in one year. A popular edition is The One-Year Bible, published by Tyndale House.

Daily needs will fluctuate between instruction and inspiration, so one’s reading should vary. Go to that portion which will meet the need for that particular time or experience. I would recommend keeping a booklet of topically arranged passages handy for reference.’ More advanced Christians who are familiar with the context of the passages, and know how to place the various portions of Scripture into historical time frames, often read the Bible straight through. This approach may not be ideal for the beginning reader.

Rightly Dividing The Word

The new reader should set a goal of grasping the “big picture”—viewing the Word as a whole and seeing the relationship of its parts. What is the Bible trying to say and to whom are its various segments addressed? What is the story line? In other words, how did man come to be and why are we here upon this earth, evidently the only inhabited body in the universe? What is the grand theme of the Bible, the meaning of the major events of time (creation, the flood, the calling out of a specific people, etc.), the impact of sin, and the process of redemption? Who was Jesus? What was the result of His life and ministry on the earth? What is our relationship to Him now and what will it be in the future? Learn how to apply certain portions of Scripture to one or more of these broad topics. Paul instructed us to “rightly divide] the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15).

What are the natural divisions of the Book? The Old Testament may be divided like this:

1 The Hebrew Law
Commonly called the Pentateuch, or Torah, the first five books of the Bible constitute the Law of Moses. Beginning with the creation, it provides the origins of the human race, the calling of Abraham and the beginning of the Hebrew nation, commonly called Israel after the time of Jacob. God gave the Law to His chosen people as guidelines for their worship and their government. It ends with the Israelites coming to the border of Canaan and making preparation to enter and claim it as the land promised to Abraham and his descendants.

2 The Historical Narratives
Beginning with the Book of Joshua and the story of the Israelite conquest of Canaan, and ending with the dramatic episode of Esther, we are provided with the history of the Hebrew people as they establish their kingdoms based on the Law of Moses.

3 The Poetical Books
These include Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. Psalms is commonly called the Jewish Hymnal. Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are often set aside in the special category of Wisdom Books.

4 The Prophets
From Isaiah to Malachi, the Hebrew prophets were called to speak for God, calling the people to repentance and a return to their faith.

The New Testament may be similarly divided for ease of use:

1 The Gospels
The first four books, Matthew through John, chronicle the birth, life, ministry, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His teachings are printed in red letters in many Bibles for convenience in finding the direct quotes attributed to Him.

2 The Book Of Acts
This is the written record of Luke which details the beginning of the church and how the first Christians interpreted and applied the words and works of Christ.

3 The Epistles
These letters by Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude to the churches of that era further detailed the belief systems and lifestyle of Christians.

4 The Revelation Of Jesus Christ
The last book of the Bible is a record of the visions of the apostle John who had been exiled to the Isle of Patmos for his faith. While there, the Lord appeared to Him and he was assigned the task of putting into words the vision of events of this dispensation and the tribulation period that is to follow the rapture, or catching away, of the church—events which will culminate in the final judgment and the appearance of the New Jerusalem, the heavenly home of the saved.

As one reads the New Testament, he should be aware of the identity of the writer, his target audience, and the timeline. In other words, the Gospels tell us about Christ, the One who came to save us, Acts explains to us how to be saved through Him, the Epistles tell us how to live as the redeemed disciples of Christ, and the ook of Revelation casts our ultimate destiny in a setting of prophecy and symbols.

How To Read The Bible

“Understandest thou what thou readest?” That was the question (KJV rendering of Acts 8:30) that Philip put to the Ethiopian eunuch as he suddenly appeared alongside his chariot in the desert south of Jerusalem. The Ethiopian was returning home from a pilgrimage in Jerusalem (Acts 8:27-39). As he rode along, he was reading from Isaiah 53:7,8 but was unsure of whom the prophet spoke. Philip joined him in the chariot and expounded the gospel of Christ to him beginning at that passage. Many readers of the Scriptures are kin to that Ethiopian in the matter of full comprehension.

To aid in understanding the Scriptures, one should determine how to properly interpret them. Hermeneutics is the application of the principles of biblical interpretation. The term is derived from the Greek hermeneuo (explain, interpret, or translate). The principles of hermeneutics spell out the methodology of exegetical study, such as the con-text of the passage, its historical or cultural setting, etymology of the terms used, first usage, and the meaning as evidenced by the actions of those who originally heard it spoken.

Evangelicals generally reject the allegorical method of scriptural interpretation, preferring the historical-grammatical method, which determines the meaning by noting grammar, context, and back-ground. It is extremely important to look at the word itself, its place in the sentence, its meaning in the original language, the structure of the sentence, use of idioms, figures of speech, etc. It is wise to determine what kind of literature the scripture appears in—e.g., prose, poetry, history, symbolic, prophetic, or parable. What is the life setting? Customs, geography, and politics sometimes play a role in determining the full meaning of the passage. One might also ask these questions: Is it narrative or didactic? Is it a divine revelation or a human response? Is my understanding in harmony with the rest of the Bible or in conflict with it? Am I twisting the meaning of the text to conform to my personal belief?

Wisdom dictates that the whole of Scripture should interpret the part, and no part should be interpreted in such a fashion as to distort the whole. In other words, we should guard against trying to find Bible verses which support our personal ideas. “Proof texting” our prejudices and often slanted beliefs is a trap to avoid. Some point to John 14:14 as an absolute and unqualified promise by the ford to fulfill any desire or wish we may have because “He cannot lie, and will not go back on His promises.” This approach totally disregards other scriptures on the subject which call for praying in the will of God (I John 5:14,15) with an obedient heart and proper motives (1 John 3 :22; James 4:1-3). Paul bluntly reminded the Roman Christians that they did not really even know how to pray as they should without the guidance and assistance of the Spirit (Romans 8:26). In the same vein, many call upon Isaiah 53:5 and I Peter 2:24 as proof texts for the promise of physical healing as provided in the atoning work of Jesus’ sufferings. These texts obviously concern spiritual rather than physical healing. Does Matthew 18:19,20 refer to “two or three” gathering to worship with the promise of the Lord’s presence, or does it concern the church as it enacts spiritual discipline? Rather than isolating a text to make it say what we want it to say, we should remind ourselves of the context and how other pas-sages play on the subject. When we strain scripture through the grid of dogma we will likely end up in error. Paul was very conscientiousness about handling the Word of God with integrity: ‘We] have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (II Corinthians 4:2).

Wise Bible students refrain from “culturalizing” the Scriptures, that is, rethinking some pas-sages because they don’t seem to mesh with con-temporary thought. “We just don’t do things like that anymore,” “that’s just the way people used to think,” and “that won’t work in today’s society” are statements we commonly hear today. Such culturalization of the Word leads to the invalidation of gender distinctions specifically ordered by God (Deuteronomy 22:5; I Timothy 2:11-15; 3:1,2; Ephesians 5:21-28). It also neutralizes biblical injunctions that oppose the practice of abortion — killing unborn children—which our society views as their “legal right.” Culturalization and rationalization says, “God wants me to be happy, and I would not be happy if I had a child to take care of right now, so He understands about abortion… it’s okay!” or “God wants us to be fulfilled in life and I will never be fulfilled with my present husband!” Such irrational deductions will destroy one’s hope of personal peace with God and eternal life. As we study the Bible, it is essential that we leave our personal prejudices and subjective notions out of the process. The Bible is a book for all people in all cultures for all of time. The object is to read truth out of the Scriptures, not to read our own thoughts into it.

Strangely, some in the homosexual community use rationalization to misapply certain scriptures (Genesis 19:4-12) and ignore others which emphatically condemn such a lifestyle (Leviticus 20:13; Romans 1:24-32; I Corinthians 6:9-11; I Timothy 1:9,10). Gays who want to justify their immorality and assuage their guilt appeal to scriptures that demonstrate the close relationship of David and Jonathan (I Samuel 19:1; 20:41), and even that of Jesus and John (John 13:23; 19:26; 21:7). What heresy to suggest that our Lord was so involved!

There seem to always be plenty of folks around who are more than anxious to help us with our understanding, but only as it relates to their narrow, prejudiced view. We should beware of the person who has all the answers, who has solved all the riddles, and who has no problems with any pas-sage. We should also avoid the person who has just now discovered something totally different and new in the Scriptures that no one has ever noticed before. Most cults begin in that way.

Be careful of the spiritualizer who attempts to build a doctrine or teaching on some “hidden meaning” in a parable, an illustration, or a figure of speech. An illustration is only a window to throw light on our subject, but a text is God’s authority for our subject.’ Too many have figured out how to subjectively “type” virtually every word or event in the Old Testament to some theory or idea they have concocted. There are also those who have vivid imaginations and are careful to weave into the biblical text some very creative thoughts of their own, distorting its meaning and undermining the real message. There are those who now have found “secret Bible codes” entwined in the words and sentences of the original biblical texts. Such mysticizing is to be avoided. Urban legends, “Jewish fables,” and “old wives’ tales” are for the sensationalists and the tabloid editors, not for Bible believers. Perhaps the apostle Peter had them in mind when he wrote: “In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up” (II Peter 2:3 NIV).

Mix Reading With Meditation And Prayer

Bible study is like eating a meal. The Scriptures are called “milk” and “meat” (Hebrews 5:12-14). It is food to be ingested and digested to give strength and stamina to the spiritual man. Beyond that, the Word is spiritual sustenance that produces eternal life (John 6:63). Rushing through a chapter just to get it done, or hurriedly skimming over a Sunday school lesson is like eating a meal in a hurry—it will be less than nourishing and healthful, and it could produce heartburn. A wise old sage once said, “A little knowledge is dangerous.” Adding prayer and meditation to our study makes it meaningful and fulfilling.

New converts are encouraged to make notes of the pastor’s sermons and Bible studies, writing down each scripture reference for later study. At the next reading opportunity, go back over those verses, meditating on each one after reading it. In this way, the Word of God will find a lodging place in the mind—”Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16). The Holy Spirit will bring it out of the heart at some moment of need in the future. Studying one scripture or pas-sage at a time in this way is usually more meaningful than trying to read and ingest an entire chapter which may cover half a dozen topics. Pray for personal understanding and insight into the original meaning of each verse.

Consider the following suggestions. After personal devotion and prayer, select a verse or brief passage that seems to be of particular interest to you. Read it over twice, slowly. You may wish to read it in another translation. Then take a few moments and reflect on its meaning, concentrating on how its truth is applicable to you and to your circumstances. Dwell upon that thought, repeating the verse from memory if possible, until it becomes your own. Where it is appropriate, make Bible pas-sages personal by inserting your name into the verse as you read. You can do that with John 3:16: “For God so loved [me] that he gave his only begotten son, and [since I] believe in him, [I] shall have everlasting life.” Find other verses that you can individualize in a similar fashion.

Remember as you walk through the Word, you do not walk alone. When you are studying the Word of God, His Spirit is there to open your mind to truth: “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13 NIV). He wants to teach you and build your faith. Just as He has made salvation personal to you, He will make His promises personal, His grace will become more evident in your life, and His love will become more than theory—it will become a reality in the soul.

The Bible is not to be read as one would read a repair manual or a news magazine. The content is more than paper and ink and fonts. Christ said, “the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Luther encouraged Bible readers to meditate on the gospel “until the Spirit comes.” God wants the Word deeply implanted in the mind: “I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33 NIV). Meditation assists in this process: “0 how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day…My meditation of him shall be sweet…I have more under-standing than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation” (Psalm 119:97; Psalm 104:34; Psalm 119:99 NKJV).
Meditating is similar to ruminating—what cud-chewing animals do. Sheep and cows, for example, have more than one stomach. They crop grass, putting it mostly unchewed into the first stomach. Later when they are resting they bring it up and remasticate it before depositing it into the next stomach to continue the digestion process. That is a recommended way to ingest and digest the Word of God. Read then meditate. Listen then consider what you have heard. Along the way in the psalms, the hymnist would stop and say, “Selah,” generally thought to suggest that the singer “pause and think about it.” That’s good advice when reading and studying the Word.

Meditating on the Word is not to be confused with the meditation techniques employed by the practitioners of Eastern religions. They seek to empty the mind of all thoughts, often reciting a mantra or sometimes concentrating on a spot on the wall. Such activities can serve as an open door for demonic powers to influence one’s life. Rather than emptying the mind, one should seek to fill it with the Word. The Scriptures have a wonderful way of displacing carnal thoughts, wrong theories, and personal opinions, leaving one with a sense of spiritual security and comfort. Focusing on the life-transforming truths of the Bible allows them to filter into the depths of the soul and become a part of one’s very life. What we put within us will also be revealed in our lifestyle and our relationships. We cannot truly hide what is within us.

You may wish to write down some things that come to mind during your time of meditation. I usually have pen and paper handy when reading or praying. Memory is untrustworthy. Keep in mind, however, your written thoughts are not on a par with the Word of God. They may or may not be absolute truth or personal messages from God to you. The Word itself is that and more, but our own thoughts are not necessarily inspired by the Spirit.

Note The Changes In Yourself

Reading and meditating on the Word of God will bring changes into your life. Resentment and bitterness will dissipate. Anger will subside. Prayer will become more enjoyable. Fears and worries will be displaced by faith and joy. You will feel more like praising than pouting and more like complimenting than complaining. “Perfect love casteth out fear” (I John 4:18). Your worship will flow more freely and with fewer inhibitions. The Word will become more precious to you as you see and feel its effects in your life.

As you study, if you sense the need to seek forgiveness for something you have said or done which was unlike Christ; that is the Word and the Spirit working together in you. Guilt is a common response to input of the Word, and it is designed to work repentance in our lives. It is not a negative psychological problem but an effect of the powerful words of life. If you feel more inclined to share your testimony with others; that is also an effect of getting into the Word. If you feel motivated to pray more, you can probably credit the Word for that. When you sense that others who do not know the Lord in the fullest measure need your personal witness, it is probably because you have been reading the Bible.

Your first studies were very likely done to assure yourself, as the Bereans did, that what you were being told about God and salvation were actually true. The Bereans “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). As you move deeper into the faith, study is an activity you look forward to as you fall more in love with it and its Author each day. As your hunger for knowledge increases, your studies will become more intense. You will begin to mine particular verses for nuggets to share with others. A love affair with the Book we call the Bible is the natural result of becoming a real Christian. We don’t worship the Book—we reverence the Book. We unashamedly worship the Author, whose words are “spirit and… life” (John 6:63). We have discovered that the writer of Hebrews was altogether correct when he spoke of the Word in this way: “For any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 NIV).

One of the great literary classics of English literature is the compilation of the letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning written to her family who had ostracized her for her relationship with Robert Browning. She expressed her deep love for Robert and her sincere hope of reconciliation with her family in letters mailed to them over a ten-year period. She never got a response. After ten years, she received a package from her parents—containing all of her letters, unopened. In the same way, God has sent letters to the people He loves, expressing His hope for restoration and reconciliation. What a shame it would be for us when we are called to give an account to have nothing to hand Him but a package of “unopened letters”—classics, but unread and ignored.

Dust off the Bible and get to reading! Good things happen in the lives of those who study the Word. Faith is generated, grace is appropriated, and hope is engendered. With those elements present in our daily walk, we will not fail.

Here is an appropriate prayer with which to close this chapter:

“Teach me, 0 LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me under – standing, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart towards your statutes and not towards selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared. Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good” (Psalm 119:33-39 NIV).

Article “How To Study The Bible” written by J. R. Ensey is taken from The Book We Call The Bible written by J. R. Ensey.

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.”