Do you often feel that life is passing you by? That it’s the same old routine day in and day out? Do the problems and frustrations of this world continually get you down? Is it difficult for you to get really excited about your future? If so, you might be neglecting a vitally important aspect of Christian living! This article will show you that studying your Bible may be just the remedy you need!
God tells us to study His Word because He knows it’s good for us. That’s how He speaks to us. We need to be taught, encouraged, directed and corrected by our loving Father all the more as the evils in this world abound and proliferate around us. He commands us, therefore, to “[s]tudy to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
The word study in this verse means to make haste and be diligent about it. The words rightly dividing connote making a straight cut. In other words, it is God’s urgent desire that He speak to us so we can stay on track in this dying world! He wants us to be happy, fulfilled and excited about our future in spite of all the pain and suffering in this present evil world.
Are you letting Him speak to you? How often?
Let’s review a few of the many blessings that flow from studying God’s Word.
Why We Must Study
Our natural thoughts and actions are not God’s thoughts and actions (Isaiah 55:8-9). So we study to be corrected. This can often spare us the heartache of making poor choices or bad decisions. Through study of God’s Word, we gain wisdom that helps us avoid sin and the misery that accompanies it. The more we let God’s Word correct our natural carnal thinking, the more we are fashioned into God’s image and prepared to be born into His eternal Family. Read John 6:68. Only God has the words that shed light on the straight and narrow path leading to eternal life. We study them to make the appropriate course corrections in our thinking.
Bible study builds up our faith. Who doesn’t want and need more faith? When we tune in to God and listen to His words, our faith increases (Romans 10:17). The more we study, the more we become familiar with how God guides, delivers and heals His people. That enables us to trust Him more easily, and our faith builds. As a result of searching the Scriptures, the brethren in Thessalonica believed what they were taught (Acts 17:11-12).
Bible study gives us something that this world desperately needs. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4). A real living hope can sure make the difference in how we handle life’s problems and what perspective we maintain. Whenever we’re discouraged, or lack something we need, we should make it a habit to search the Bible and find what God has promised. God has given us plenty of promises that are full of hope.
Please refer to the table below for a sample of 40 very encouraging scriptures. Consider highlighting these in your Bible and/or linking them together by writing the next reference in your Bible margin. Keep in mind that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2), and meditate on these promises when you need a spiritual boost!
Another reason to study is to be able to give an answer to those who may want to know more about that hope they see in us (1 Peter 3:15). Moreover, God expects parents to teach their children His way of life just as He has taught us (Deuteronomy 6:6-7) and to be able to answer their questions.
A fifth reason for studying the Bible is to be able to do God’s Work. God has placed each one of us into His body—the Church. Every single member of that body—each of us individually—is important and necessary. Each of us has responsibilities and specific assignments (study 1 Corinthians 12). Bible study is one of those assignments! The more we study, the stronger we are, which makes the Church stronger. That in turn enables the Church to have more of an impact in doing God’s Work! For the Apostle Paul, doing God’s Work was more important than his own salvation! (Romans 9:1-4). As Mr. Armstrong often said, those who have their hearts in the Work grow spiritually. How we study the Bible is an indication of how much we are yielding to God and the work He is doing through us.
A vital reason to study is that it enhances our prayers with God. Good communication is not one-sided. Have you ever talked with someone who just likes to talk and talk but never listen? How did you feel? If we pray regularly but don’t study very often, it’s the same thing—we’re doing all of the talking. What does God think of that? As we study we get to know the mind of God—how He thinks. That makes it easier to talk to Him. We can talk about what He has taught us and rehearse it with Him. If our prayers are getting stale and we’re running out of things to say, maybe we’re not listening enough.
The words of the Bible are God’s thoughts in print (2 Timothy 3:16). They are the spiritual food we need in order to grow spiritually (John 6:55-59, 63 and 1 Peter 2:2). As we study and learn to think like God, as we put into action God’s way of life, we’re able to handle strong meat and continue growing (Hebrews 5:13-14) until we attain the very character of God! If we neglect Bible study, however, we simply cannot grow sufficiently to be born into His Family. A baby in its mother’s womb is nourished every single day so it can grow enough to be born. Likewise, we need to be nourished daily while we are in the “womb” of the Church, otherwise we are in danger of spiritually starving to death.
What to Study
There are many exciting ways to study the Bible that will enrich your life! Let’s look at seven of them.
1. Notes from Sabbath services and Bible studies. Mr. Armstrong said that one purpose for Church services is to instruct us sufficiently so that we can teach others in the World Tomorrow. When we attend services, we are in “class” at God’s college for teachers. Doesn’t it make sense to take notes and study them later? The ministers have prepared what God knows we need to hear—material that is currently relevant and appropriate and possibly urgent. That’s why it is important to review and study those notes.
A way to reinforce the teaching we receive is to study the notes thoroughly within 24 hours. Then review them at least one more time, perhaps the following Sabbath before services. We have a much better chance of putting the knowledge we gain in “class” to practical use if we prayerfully study and review what God teaches us each and every week through His instructors—the ministry.
2. Royal Vision articles. One reason for these articles is to help us prepare to rule with Jesus Christ, our Husband and King. The magazine’s name illustrates that the material within is intended for royalty! We are God’s Family—His royal household—and we need to thoroughly digest the meat contained in these articles.
3. Booklets. Just reading a booklet is not really Bible study. However, if we study the scriptures referred to and use them as a basis to construct an outline of the booklet, chapter by chapter, we will have a pretty good synopsis of the booklet based on the scriptures. For example, if we do that with the booklet Who Is ‘That Prophet’? we will have at least 30 scriptural passages identifying an end-time prophet who has to be on the scene just prior to Christ’s Second Coming. This can be done with dozens of other booklets.
4. Doctrines. A doctrine is “a teaching” or “that which is taught.” Together they comprise the Church’s body of beliefs. God’s Church has many doctrines that differ from this world’s contrived religions. The truth is hidden in His Word (John 17:17; 1 Corinthians 2:11), and only those with His Spirit can understand. It is said that you truly understand a subject when you can explain it to someone else. How well do we understand the doctrines of the Church? Well enough to teach them to others? We should be able to explain each doctrine in terms of what, why, when, who, where and how.
Sample doctrines include the three resurrections, born again, the soul and salvation. There are also subjects like repentance, baptism, laying on of hands, the Holy Spirit, and what is a true Christian. Can we explain the details of the gospel, the Kingdom of God, the Millennium and God’s government? How about the truth on faith or healing?
The religions of the world teach that the law is done away. Are we able to disprove those beliefs and prove the truth of the commandments, the Sabbath, holy days, tithing, and grace versus law from the Bible? What about marriage or the doctrine of the Old and New Covenants? Have we studied in detail what the Bible says about prayer, fasting, trials and overcoming? The world is very confused about Satan, sin, worldliness and hell. Can we prove the truth?
Using a concordance, one can search out key words related to any one of these doctrines. As you do, you may want to group the scriptures into categories that answer the questions what, why, when, who, where and how. You’ll be elated with what you discover!
5. Topics, or specific subjects. For example, Paul lists nine qualities related to the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. Those same words are each used in many other places in the New Testament. By grouping all the scriptures together that use the same word we gain a deeper understanding of what each aspect of spiritual fruit entails and how specifically we need to change.
Another example would be to study the words used to describe love in 1 Corinthians 13. When we look up all the scriptures where the same words are used we will develop a richer appreciation of what love is all about.
Many Bibles have a concordance at the back. Look for topics that will help you overcome and develop character. There are hundreds of such subjects!
6. Books of the Bible. Focusing on a particular book of the Bible will give us a deeper insight and context for its message. We can develop an overview of why it was written, its major theme or themes and an outline. Then frame the scriptures within that context.
For example, the book of Matthew focuses on Christ, the King. Matthew uses the word kingdom 56 times. He traces Christ’s genealogy to King David and refers to Him as “the Son of David” seven times. He refers to Jerusalem as “the city of the great King.” Matthew is a book about kingship. With that in mind, the sermon on the mount, for example, takes on a deeper perspective. It’s not just about Christian living today but also about the kind of character Christ is looking for in those He will need to rule with Him. Those who attain that level of character will be able to serve as kings!
7. Biographies. Individuals in the Bible are noteworthy of study. Obviously, studying the life of Jesus Christ is the best example. How did He react to situations when He was challenged? When He was very tired? When His friends let Him down? How did He stay on track and endure? What was His motivation? A fascinating study would be to read through the gospels with particular focus on Jesus Christ and His reactions under different circumstances. Note the qualities He exhibited and ask yourself how you would act and how you should act, according to His example.
Other biographies worthy of study are noted in Hebrews 11—the faith chapter. Paul mentions about 20 personalities in the context of faith. We can study their lives—put ourselves in their shoes. Do any of them have problems similar to ours? What mistakes did they make that we can avoid? What was God’s advice to them? How can we benefit from lessons learned? Sometimes for this kind of study a modern translation that flows better than the King James Version might be helpful.
If we put these study ideas into action, Bible study will be exciting, fun and richly rewarding—something to eagerly look forward to!
God has seen to it that His Church is well-fed. Bible study helps are not necessary to become well acquainted with the Bible and God’s way of life. Apollos, for example, didn’t have any Bible helps, yet he was “mighty in the scriptures” (Acts 18:24). Nevertheless, in today’s world, Bible helps can be useful—primarily in matters of translation and as time-saving tools.
God inspired the original text of the Bible, but not the translations in to our modern languages, which can contain errors. The King James Version is the most accurate English translation, but, written nearly 400 years ago, it does have some hard-to-understand expressions. When language obscures a scripture, you can check a more modern translation, such as the one by James Moffatt, the Revised Standard Version or the Ferrar Fenton translation. Overall, these are not as accurate as the King James, but they can provide clarity by using more modern English. Be careful in using paraphrases such as the Living Bible or the Amplified Bible. Most of the time, when modern translations differ in meaning from the King James Version, they are in error. Often modern translations have been rendered from faulty translations, rather than original texts.
Study Bibles identify themes and provide outlines for each book of the Bible along with some commentary, among other things. These can be used to get an overview of a particular book, but the commentary provided can sometimes be misguided because the authors do not have the framework of God’s overall plan for man as revealed to His Church.
A great help to any Bible study is the use of a concordance. A concordance is a time-saving tool—particularly Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, because it lists every word used in the Bible and groups all the scriptures together that use that same word. It helps you find all occurrences of a particular word and its different translations. It also shows the root word from which the Hebrew or Greek word was derived. This is most helpful when studying a particular doctrine or topic.
Sometimes the scriptures that relate to a specific subject are not easily found in a concordance because the subject is broader than just one word used in the Bible. In these cases, topical books such as topical study Bibles, the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (with over 500,000 scripture cross-references and parallel passages) and a book called Where to Find It in the Bible (that lists over 3,700 “contemporary topics” from abortion to zoology) are very useful.
A Bible dictionary gives information about biblical words, people, places and things. Note for example what the Holman Bible Dictionary says about Laodicea: “Laodicea was well known in the ancient world for its wealth [see Revelation 3:17]. [It] was rebuilt without the financial help of Rome after the disastrous earthquake of a.d. 60. Laodicea earned its wealth in the textile industry in the production of black wool [see Revelation 3:18, white garments contrasted] and in the banking industry. Laodicea was also known for its medical school which concocted a spice nard for the treatment of ears and an eye salve [see Revelation 3:18, anoint your eyes with eye salve]. The major weakness of Laodicea was its lack of a water supply. … A five-mile-long aqueduct supplied the city with tepid water …” [Revelation 3:16, the lukewarm reference]. Knowing something about the historical city of Laodicea enhances our understanding of the language Christ chose to correct it. It also highlights the parallels with the modern-day spiritual Laodiceans.
Sometimes the meaning of a word is lost in the translation. Bible helps that focus exclusively on the meanings of words are known as wordbooks or word studies.
Bible commentaries can sometimes shed light on biblical passages and link things together in a way we might not think of. Commentaries and other Bible helps can be great reference works. They should, however, only be used to establish historical or grammatical facts. Commentaries are more apt to be off track than other Bible helps because the authors have more room to insert their own thoughts and ideas. They often deal with speculation that does not emanate from the Spirit of God and can be wrong in their conclusions.
Some outstanding Bible helps include: Lange’s Commentary ; Jamieson, Faussett and Brown Commentary ;the Anchor Bible Dictionary ; the Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon and Thompson’s Topical Chain Reference, to name but a few.
Other Bible helps that should be mentioned are A Harmony of the Gospels, which combines all four gospels side-by-side so that the gospels can be read simultaneously in time sequence order. A Harmony of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles does the same thing for those books. Finally, Halley’s Bible Handbook is generally a good, concise resource.
If you want to buy some Bible helps but can’t normally afford to, consider using second tithe at the Feast to start your collection and spend an afternoon browsing a Bible bookstore.
Our Treasure Chest
When it comes to Bible study, there is no end of knowledge that we can acquire. But we need to remember that knowledge not used is really of no value. That kind of knowledge may only inflate the intellect and puff us up (1 Corinthians 8:1). Useful knowledge will always humble us and prepare us to be in God’s Family.
Bible study is like one of the four tires of a car that you’re driving down the road to the Kingdom of God. You need all four tires operating in conjunction with one another to make any headway. If one of them goes flat, you are stuck until you get it fixed. If you don’t get it fixed, you’re not going to reach your destination.
The other three tires are prayer, fasting and meditation. When all four tires are in motion, we will be able to respond to the authority of the Bible (Isaiah 66:2) and take action. Only then can we ensure that we keep the right attitude when studying the Bible and that we study for the right reasons (as outlined earlier in this article). Our Bible study should always lead us to “Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
King David said, “I rejoice at Your word As one who finds great treasure” (Psalm 119:162; New King James Version). Our God has given us a most valuable treasure chest filled with priceless treasure—the words of eternal life! (John 6:68). The deeper we delve into that treasure chest—the Bible—the richer we become and the happier we’ll be, not because of physical riches we put to work at the bank but because of the spiritual riches we put to work in our lives. Practice studying the Bible each day, and you will enrich your life now and forever!