Sometimes Bible Study may seem complicated and a bit overwhelming, but here is a reliable, practical approach to help you dig into God’s word. First, take a deep breath.
The Holy Bible is a collection of 66 books written in three different languages over about 1,500 years on three different continents by at least 39 authors. To the glory of God alone, the Bible is cohesive and harmonious. How is this possible? It is inspired completely by God. The Bible is not just a book; it is living and active (Hebrews 4:12).
Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 1:1 and 1:14 say, “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God…So the Word became human and made his home among us…” The word of God is Jesus Christ. Therefore, since Jesus is both the truth and the word of God, then the word of God is truth.
Why study the Bible?
One of the greatest advantages of studying the Bible is that it is our weapon against Satan’s lies. The word of God is the sword of the Spirit included in the armor of God from Ephesians 6:17. Consider this illustration: the best way to distinguish a genuine $50 bill from a counterfeit is to have studied the real thing. A counterfeit bill looks real to the untrained eye, but next to the genuine article it does not stand a chance.
Jesus demonstrates in Matthew 4:1-11 how to combat Satan’s lies with truth. After Jesus had fasted forty days in the wilderness, Satan tempted him to turn stones into bread, to throw himself from the pinnacle of the temple and to worship him. How did Jesus respond? He quoted scripture. In fact, Jesus said that man should live on the word of God, not tempt him and worship and serve him only. Note that Jesus did not waste time arguing that he was the Son of God or that Satan had misquoted scripture. He simply spoke the precise scriptures that exposed Satan’s lies.
Also Jesus gave us the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations and teach them to obey his commands (Matthew 28:19-20). In order to make disciples of Jesus Christ, we have to know Jesus. We would not dare teach Algebra without having studied it first. It is even more important to study the word of God in order to teach the true Jesus. These are just two of the many reasons to study the Bible.
A correct method of interpreting text, known as hermeneutics, is necessary to understand the word of God. It is natural for anyone to study the Bible incorrectly. It is our nature to bring our agenda to the word of God to make it say what we want. This is called eisegesis. Has anyone ever misunderstood you or put words in your mouth? Now imagine what God Almighty feels when he is misunderstood.
On the other hand, exegesis is “…an explanation or critical interpretation of a text”. This is the approach that we want to use. We want to let the word of God speak for itself.
A common misunderstanding
Many Bible verses are taken out-of-context and misused, often for personal application. This is partly because we may assume that a verse stands by itself. This may be true in some cases. However, the chapter and verse numbers were never in the original text. They were inserted for the convenience of reference and quotation. They are man-made and therefore arbitrary. Even subheadings can be misleading. It is wise to ignore them during Bible study. Let us compare the popular and true meanings of a common verse:
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). Taken as is, it could mean to the reader that Jesus gives him the strength to do anything. He could apply it to anything: taking a test, getting a job or winning in sports. However, he would have ignored the context which points to its true meaning.
Verse 12 says, “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” With just a brief investigation, we learn that Paul was thanking the Philippians for their concern and provisions. We remember Paul’s testimony, how he had persecuted Christians before God’s Holy Spirit converted him. What gratitude and humility he must have felt about God’s free gift of salvation during his ministry between Jerusalem and Rome! God spared him of his wrath and in return Paul devoted his life to preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. He learned how to abound and how to be in want, always fixing his eyes on Jesus.
Always keep in mind that scripture interprets scripture. A cross-reference search will use other areas of scripture to illuminate one that is unclear. If two areas of scripture appear to contradict each other, dig deeper. Study the greater context. The Bible doesn’t contradict itself — it is truth.
Check out biblehub.com, a rich resource for expository Bible study. It contains commentaries, Greek and Hebrew dictionaries, a Strong’s concordance and a topical dictionary.
Sasha Richardson is a freelance writer for the Good News and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.