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Sunday, February 16, 2013 am                Basics Index

BACK TO BASICS – 7
The Bible – 3
Studying the Word of God

 As we examine the Bible this month, we have established that it is the word of God as such it is something we need to know well.  In fact, because of what the Bible is it is imperative that we work to understand it properly.  That is what study is about.

Recall how in our introduction, the Hebrew writer said, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:12–14)   His rebuke was because of their failure to properly discern the word of God.  

WE can be fully convinced of the importance of the Bible, but if we do not take time to study it, it will do us no good or lead us down the wrong path.  With that in mind we now turn our attention toward the study of God’s word.

 I.                    The Command to Study

a.        Study – is defined as “application of the mind to the acquisition of knowledge, as by reading, investigation, or reflection.” (Random House, © 1913)[1] 
The word means to put forth the effort necessary to properly understand a subject, in this case the Bible.
2 Tim. 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
The KJV uses the word “Study to shew thyself approved unto God…”  While the meaning of the word is to put forth diligence, that is a quality of true study, as we shall see.  The verse clearly applies the idea of diligence to “rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Eccl. 12:12, “And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh.

b.       Meditate - In Phil. 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The KJV says, “Think on these things.” (Also ASV, ESV).  NASU says, “dwell on these things.”
The word in Greek
(λογίζομαι, logitzomai) means, “to think about something in a detailed and logical manner—‘to think about, to reason about, to ponder, reasoning.’[2]
Psalm 1:2 says, ““But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.

c.        Search – the word means to look for something with great effort or to investigate. 
In Acts 17:11 we read, “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.  This word (ἀνακρίνω, anakrino) means, “to try to learn the nature or truth of something by the process of careful study, evaluation and judgment.” (L&N 22.44)[3]
NOTE: The Bereans were considered “fair-minded” or “noble-minded” which means they were willing to give Paul’s message a fair and honest hearing.   It was something that was new and they were not ready to accept it without proof.  There is NOTHING wrong with demanding proof when you hear something that is new (to you) or different.

d.       Understand – Eph. 5:17 tells us to understand what the will of the Lord is.  2 Corinthians 1:13  says, “For we are not writing any other things to you than what you read or understand. Now I trust you will understand, even to the end

e.       The idea of understanding is to comprehend something.  That will involve studying God word. 

 

 II.                  Attitudes necessary

a.        Reverence – it IS God’s word.  The past few lessons, our task has been to establish that what we have is the word of God and accurate.  As such, treat it that way.   1 Thess. 2:13,  For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.

b.       Honesty – far too many approach the study of God’s word with improper motives. 

                                                               i.      Lack of confidence – some don’t think they can’t understand God’s word.  Last week we showed that it was written to be understood and much of it explains what we need to know.  Eph. 5:17.

                                                              ii.      Prejudice - Some have already made up minds and seek to prove what they already believe, even if it means twisting scripture.   This happens more frequently than we care to admit.  Those who seek to justify immoral behaviors (i.e. homosexuality, dancing, drinking, MDR, etc.) or to lessen their burden of sin or seeking unity-in-diversity.

                                                            iii.      To find fault - Some even read it with the express purpose of disproving or criticizing it.  If one is willing to manipulate scripture enough he will find something to mock. 
But it doesn’t always work! NOTE: Some of our more well-known Bible apologists started out to disprove the Bible and were atheists or agnostics (C. S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel [The Case for… Series])

                                                            iv.      For trivia – some are just looking for interesting facts.  Longest chapter or verse, shortest, etc.  Some want to win the Bible trivia game so they stuff their brains with factoids.  While we need the details, we also need the meaning! Others are searching for enigmas (the questions with which they can stump the Bible teacher).

c.        Desire – you need to want to learn.  One of the greatest hindrances to Bible study today is a lack of real desire to fully know God’s word.  Too many are too busy.  Others are content to let someone else tell them what they need to know while they go through the motions.
How many do not truly love the word of God!  Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97)
2 Thess. 2:10 speaks of those whom the lawless one will deceive.  The reason given is “because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

d.       Diligence – We have to be willing to work at it! 
One of the guiding principles of this world is that anything worth having is worth working for.  And, as a rule, the more diligent you are at a task the more successful you will be in it.  That is so true of Bible study.
Consider again 2 Tim. 2:15. 
Proverbs 2:1–9 speaks of wisdom saying, “My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, And find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, And preserves the way of His saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, Equity and every good path.

Laziness will kill Bible study which will kill your knowledge and wisdom which will lead to ignorance, uncertainty, being “tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14).  Just as physical laziness will lead to poverty, so spiritual laziness will lead to spiritual poverty.

e.       Direction – 2 Tim. 3:16,17 tells us that what we have is able to make the man of God complete. 
In Matt. 4:4 Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by EVERY word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” 
A very important element in Bible study is the need to formulate a plan.  The goal is to understand the whole counsel of God.  Our daily Bible readings is a start!  But even that is not study, but merely reading (they both have their purpose but they are different).

f.         Dedication – Study requires time and organization.  To be beneficial it must be done regularly.  We ought to be using the word of God on a daily basis.  It is recommended that we set time aside each day to read and study our Bibles. 
Our Bibles need to get worn out from use.  Only opening them on Sundays and Wednesdays is inadequate.

 III.                Some helpful suggestions on studying God’s word

a.        Give the word a fair hearing – don’t approach it with dread.

                                                               i.      Remove prejudice in your desires. 

                                                              ii.      IF studying a subject, finish your study before you reach a conclusion. 
For example: Consider the subject of salvation.  There is no one passage that tells us everything we need to know and do.   To use one passage alone will in effect disregard the many others that have a bearing on the subject. 

                                                            iii.      If studying a passage (textual study) consider its context. 

                                                            iv.      Try to remove emotion from your evaluation.  Truth is objective (not subjective) – John 17:17.

b.       Accept scripture at face value – while there are passages of scripture and Biblical subjects that are certainly challenging, the majority of what the scriptures say is in simple straight forward language.  Consider Paul 1 1 Cor. 2:1-5 – his message was simply Christ and Him  crucified, not the wisdom of men.
Accept what God tells us.  He says what He means and means what He says. 
In the past few years we have seen an increase in people trying to read more into the text than is there - Numerology, date setting, etc. are all getting away from the simple message of the gospel. 
You might notice that the playground of false teachers and speculators are the difficult passages.  In fact isn’t that what Peter warned in 2 Pet. 3:14-17? 

c.        Let the Bible interpret itself – use common sense, put a statement in its context, use that which is clearly taught to help you understand the more difficult passages. 
In Heb. 5:14 tells us, “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” This implies an understanding of the basics (see vs. 12, & 6:1).  
Remember: 1) the Bible does NOT contradict itself; 2) God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33); 3) There are some things we are not meant to understand – Accept it! (Deut. 29:29)  (NOTE: These things have no bearing on our salvation)

d.       Aids to Bible study – there are many tools that are available today to help us gain a better understanding of God’s word. Some of these include:

                                                               i.      Regular dictionary – look up the meaning of words you don’t understand.  NOTE: Sometimes secular dictionaries do not give biblical definitions – so be cautious.

                                                              ii.      Bible dictionary – deals more with the actual Biblical words and seeks to define them in the context of scripture.  These can be very helpful.

                                                            iii.      Concordance – lists some or all of the uses of a particular word.  With a little effort, many of these concordances can help you distinguish which Biblical word (Hebrew or Greek) is being translated into English in a particular text (some English words have more than one definition, etc.)

                                                            iv.      Other versions – something that I believe to helpful in Bible study is to compare various versions of the Bible.  Again, I will issue a caution with this.  Not all versions are true to God’s word or seek to give you a true sense of the words being used.  Just because something is called a Bible does not mean it is God’s word!  But this can be useful.

                                                              v.      NOTE: All tools, while helpful, are only useful so far as they are true to the text.  NEVER give a work of man the weight of the plain scriptures.

 

Solomon said in Prov. 23:23“Buy the truth, and do not sell it, Also wisdom and instruction and understanding.  It is my hope that in this lesson we have been reminded of our need for regular and systematic Bible study.  I am convinced that everyone here wants to go to heaven.  The answer to how you get there is in this book – the Bible.  If that is true (and it is) we ought to devote considerable time to finding the answers we need.  Study to show yourself approved!  Think about it! 



[1] "study." Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 12 Feb. 2014. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/study>.

[2] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains. New York: United Bible Societies.

[3] Ibid