How To Study The Bible #1
By Jody L. Apple
Read To Know
The Bible continues to outsell every book published. Though "best sellers"
will always come along every now and then and sell a few million copies,
they do not continue to sell so briskly every year. The Bible, however,
sells at consistent levels year after year.
But how much does the average person know about the Bible? As evidenced
by the confusion that exists in the religious world (e.g., so many different
man-made religions) and the number of people who are anti-religious or
simply irreligious, I doubt that enough people know as much as they need
to about the Bible.
Why don't people know more about the bible? While I don't pretend to
know every possible reason why so much ignorance of God's word exists,
I do know of one major cause that contributes to the problem: Most people
simply do not read the Bible.
We Must Read The Bible
Jesus, in the course of his teaching, often questioned his listeners by
saying "have you not read," and would then proceed to ask about the subject
under consideration at the moment (cf. Matthew 12:3; 19:4; 21:16, 42; 22:31;
Mark 2:25; 12:10, 26; Luke 6:3; 10:26). By questioning in this manner Jesus
focused attention on his audience's responsibility to have some degree
of familiarity with what the scriptures said.
In order to know what the scriptures say, we must read the scriptures.
God knows this. It is for this reason that we see so many prescriptions
in the Old Testament to read the word of God (cf. Exodus 24:7; Deuteronomy
17:19; 31:11; Joshua 8:34-35; 2 Kings 22:8, 10, 16; 23:2; 2 Chronicles
34:18, 24, 30; Nehemiah 8:3, 8, 18; 9:3; Isaiah 34:16). Of these verses,
consider especially Nehemiah 8:3, 8 and 18. As Ezra and Nehemiah were restoring
the ancient order of worship among the Jews returning from captivity, note
the emphasis on reading the law of God.
Jesus, knowing God's mandate to read the Old Testament scriptures, held
his audiences responsible for having done so.
We Must Read To Know
Reading is important. But reading is not an end unto itself. It is a means
to an end. The goal is knowledge. We do not read anything written simply
to read. We read to learn. We read to gain knowledge. So it is with the
Reading the scriptures is important. John says that there is a blessing
inherent in reading God's truth (cf. Revelation 1:3). But this verse also
teaches that those who keep God's words would be blessed. It is
not possible to obey them if we can not understand them.
The Old Testament Jews read the scriptures. As part of the synagogue
system of worship the scriptures were read every Sabbath day (cf. Acts
13:15, 27; 15:21). Jesus himself read the scriptures on the Sabbath in
the synagogue (Luke 4:16ff).
But some of the Jews did not know what they should have known (cf. Acts
In addition to asking "have you not read," Jesus sometimes told the Jews
that they were in error because they did not know the scriptures (Matthew
22:29; cf. 21:42; Mark 12:10, 24; John 7:42). His question about their
reading, therefore, implied that they should not only have read, but learned.
There must be a reading of God's word with the intent to know God's word.
The Ethiopian eunuch read Isaiah (Acts 8:28, 30, 32), but he did not
know the meaning of what he was reading. Philip helped him to understand
what he read (vs. 30-31).
Reading, unless it leads to knowledge (understanding), is only part
of the job of studying God's word.
As we strive to follow God, let us determine to read God's word more diligently
every day. As followers of God, let us determine to read God's word with
the view in mind of knowing God's will, and then let us do it (cf. Ezra
God has revealed his will to us so that we should know
his will: "it is written . . . God has revealed them to us . . .
we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God"
(1 Corinthians 2:9-13).
When we read God's will, we can know God's will: "by revelation
He made known to me the mystery (as I wrote before in a few
by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge
in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the
sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to
His holy apostles and prophets" (Ephesians 3:1-5).
Read. Know and understand. Do.
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