Methods of Bible Study
Arthur G. Clarke
I PROPOSE to deal with the subject under seven heads, as follows:
1. The Approach to Bible Study.
2. The Aim of Bible Study.
3. The Attitude in Bible Study.
4. The Apparatus for Bible Study.
5. The Aids to Bible Study.
6. The Avenues of Bible Study.
7. The Accidentals of Bible Study.
1. THE APPROACH TO BIBLE STUDY
The Bible will not be studied aright unless a due sense of the importance of our quest be maintained. We commence with an acceptance of its own claims to be the Word of God. 'All scripture is God-inspired and profitable . . .', 2 Tim. 3. 16, 'Prophecy came not at any time by the will of man, but being borne along by the Holy Spirit, holy men of God spoke' (cf. 1 Pet. 1. 10-12, 25), referring both to what they spoke and wrote. Of all studies the study of the sacred Scriptures is the most vital to men. Herein are revealed things that affect them for weal or woe not only in this life but also in that which is to come. Here is the final authority on all matters concerning man's relationship with God. The Bible also settles for us every question of right and wrong in man's relationship with man. To understand any book of a serious nature it is essential to have a general idea of the author's purpose and scope. So it is with the Bible. We soon find that it has to do with the relationship already mentioned. Man's sin and its consequences, his redemption and restoration to fellowship with God are subjects prominent throughout the sixty-six books of the divine library. The central and outstanding figure is the person of the Son of God, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. His reconciling work on the cross is set forth as the righteous ground upon which God in infinite grace is able to bring the sinner back to Himself. Moreover, the Bible reveals that it is God's purpose 'for the administration of the fulness of times to head up all things in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth', Eph. 1. 10. Christ is the golden key to unlock the vast treasure house of truth. He Himself is the Truth incarnate, John 14. 6; and the Word of God is truth, John 17. 17. Discard the key and the spiritual wealth in the Scriptures will never be reached. Ignore the clue and the wonderful unity of the holy writings will remain unperceived; they will appear to be but a collection of literary compositions of varied merit.
2. THE AIM OF BIBLE STUDY
The paramount aim of the Bible student should be to learn the will of God, not merely as a matter of academic interest, but in order to carry out that will in his fife. Through sheer ignorance he may do that which is highly displeasing to the Lord. It behoves every Christian, therefore, to make a serious effort to master die contents of the sacred Scriptures.
3. THE ATTITUDE IN BIBLE STUDY
Although of such importance, only brief mention can be made here of the proper attitude of heart to be maintained when studying the Bible. It must be explored
I. WITH REVERENCE
for we arc dealing with the Word of God and working in His presence, Heb. 12. 28-29.
2. WITH PRAYERFULNESS
for we are utterly dependent upon the Holy Spirit's guidance,
1 Cor. off; 1 John 2. 20 (R.V.). Each time we approach our study let us pray, 'Lord, open Thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law', Ps. 119. 18.
3. WITH DILIGENCE
for the treasures of truth do not appear to a careless reader. Precious gems are not found on the surface of the soil; they must be toiled for in mines. Pearls lie in deep oceans.
4. WITH MEEKNESS
for by nature we are ignorant of divine things. 'Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save (i.e. preserve) your souls', Jas. 1. 22 (cf. 1 Pet. 2. 2).
5. WITH CAREFULNESS
for it is not the amount of spiritual food ingested but what is digested and assimilated that enables us to 'grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ',
2 Pet. 3. 18.
6. WITH TRUSTFULNESS
for it is 'by faith we understand', Heb. it. 3. The Israelites were not profited by God's word to them because it was not 'mixed with faith'. Isaiah said to king Ahaz, 'If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established', Isa. 7. 9. In human affairs men believe what they know, but with the divine revelation men come to know what they believe.
7. WITH OBEDIENCE
for that is the desire of every true Bible student and is the very object of the divine enlightenment. 'If any man willeth to do his (God's) will he shall know of the teaching, whether it be of God . . .', John 7. 17. 'But be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves', Jas. 1. 22. 'If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them', John 13. 17 (cf. Matt. 7. 24-25).
In conclusion we quote Col. 3. 16, 'Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him'.