Postal Sunday School - Lessons 1 & 2
In the May/June issue of Precious Seed an article dealt with the history and development of the Postal Sunday Schools. To meet the need of those scholars who are brought to know the Lord Jesus as their Saviour, a young believers course is being prepared by the P.S.S. group in South Wales. It is intended in God’s will to provide a brief and balanced introduction to the whole Bible over a period of something like 5 years. The series on “Bible Study” commencing with this issue is a sample of lessons provided in the first year of this P.S.S. course. It will prove helpful to young Christian readers of Precious Seed and at the same time indicate the type of ministry available for believers receiving the P.S.S. lessons. It should be said that a P.S.S. scholar is expected to complete one lesson each week.
When we are away from home we are kept in touch by letters., or sometimes we receive through the post a local newspaper sent on by a friend. In these different ways we hear of what is happening at home. How much we all like hearing news from home!
Now the joy we have when we read the letters from home is as nothing when compared with the blessing we receive as Christians through the daily reading of the Bible. The Christian’s home is heaven. As long as we are in this world therefore we may be regarded as being “away from home”. We need to be kept informed of God’s affairs., we need to breathe something of heaven’s atmosphere, we need to know what heaven’s attitude is to the things around us, if we are to please our Father.
It is vital to the young Christian to read his Bible every day if he or she is going to live for the Lord Jesus. We so easily accept, and even live by the standards of the world around us. Therefore we need to be “kept in touch” with God’s desire for us, and for this we turn daily to the Word of God, the Bible.
In Old Testament times the priest often found his hands and feet defiled. He was not allowed to serve God before washing his hands and his feet at the laver. The Bible is like a laver to a Christian. It not only shows us that we are defiled but, as we take heed to its message, it also washes away the stain and fits us to serve God, Psa. 119. 9.
It is a good thing to begin and end the day by reading a short passage from the Bible. Do not attempt to read a long passage at first. Start your reading with a brief prayer for help from God. Read carefully, look for something for your own heart and life. Having listened to God’s voice through His Word, you will have something for which to thank Him and perhaps something special for which to ask in your prayers. There are small booklets produced by the Scripture Union giving daily reading and notes if you feel in need of help. Details of these and where they may be purchased are available if you care to ask us.
But while daily Bible reading is needful for healthy Christian living, God desires more from us than simply the reading of a few verses. We must grow spiritually, becoming like our Saviour and better equipped to serve our God. For this we should not only look for “a message from home daily” but also long for the sincere milk of the Word of God, 1 Pet. 2.2-3. not be misled. It is not only the preacher and teacher who need to study the Bible. All who want to know and please the Lord Jesus must study the Bible.
To take up Bible study demands more time than we give to our daily reading. We shall have to set aside some time each week for this and be ready to give up other things rather than lose the hours for Bible study. You will never regret paying the price to become more pleasing and useful to the Lord Jesus who gave His all for you. It is the more detailed studying and searching of the Bible that we are to consider in this series of lessons.
Now there are a number of ways in which the Bible may be studied. For instance, we may look at it Topically, in other words, tracing its subjects such as “sin”, “salvation” or “service” in their many forms. Another approach is to consider the Bible Biographically, studying the lives of the people referred to in the Bible. Think of Abraham, the friend of God, or Moses, the meekest man in all the earth. Have you ever thought of the many ways in which faith in God is shown by the men named in Hebrews 11?
Few of us enjoy history in school but there are many lessons to be learned by studying the Bible Historically. The word of God is not full of myths and fables. Did you know that the Bible is the only book which gives a complete time-noted history “from the beginning”? But history is devoted to the past only. The Bible tells us of the future also. We learn more of this as we study the Bible Prophetically, The Lord Jesus is coming again and the minute details about this are plainly given. Yet another line of study is to seek to understand what the Bible teaches Typically, To what did the Temple in the Old Testament point if not to the One who is greater than it, Matt. 12. 6. The Tabernacle of old pointed to the true tabernacle in the heavens which the Lord pitched and not man Heb. 8. 1-2.
While there are many methods of Bible study which may be helpful to us, most demand some Bible knowledge to start with or may only be properly undertaken with the help of books about the Bible. We suggest therefore that the easiest thing is to consider the Bible in the divisions which are God-given., that is in the several books in which it is written. God has not provided us with a book on doctrine, another on history, another on prophecy and so on. What He has done is to give us a divine library of books in which we find all of these things in part. By studying the Bible by books we are taught the truths of the faith and at the same time are challenged to live in such a way as to please God.
The Holy Spirit is the Author of the Word of God and we need to ask God to help us to understand it. Open your Bible study time therefore with a time of prayer. Then“seek and ye shall find”. God honours real desire and diligence. Even the men who penned the Bible books did not always understand all they wrote, but we read that God showed the meaning to them when they searched diligently, I Pet. i. 10-12. Studying the Bible costs time and effort but God is looking for those who will be workmen who need not be ashamed because they rightly divide the word of truth, 2. Tim. 2. 15. Yet even after prayer and effort we still may not fully understand. Do not be discouraged. Keep at it! Things will eventually fit together.
If we are to know our Bibles then we must read them. This is so simple a statement that you might think that it does not need to be said. However we often find that people spend endless time reading about the Bible from other books, yet spend very little time actually reading it for themselves. How much of the Bible have you read up to now? We must read our Bibles.
But how should we read our Bibles? We shall point out some important things by using the several letters of the word READ.
The letter R teaches us that we must Read Regularly.
It is not likely that you will be free to give an hour or so each day to Bible study but you should try to set aside special times each week which you intend to devote to careful reading of the Bible in addition to your normal daily readings. Once you have decided when you are to have your times for study., you should always devote some of that time to the reading of the Bible. If Bible study is to be helpful it must be regular.
The letter E teaches us that we must rEad Extensively.
We gain little by jumping from place to place, from one short passage to another. We shall learn more if we read one book right through. But do not be satisfied with this. Read the book often. Have you tried reading one book of the Bible over and over again for say a month? If not try it and you will grasp what it has to say more clearly. A book read twenty times is understood more than when read once. One more point. Read a book right through at a sitting, to see it as a whole. Many young people get so absorbed with a novel that they cannot put it down until they have finished it, though it might take hours to do so. There are few books in the Bible that would take hours to read, some take only minutes. Yet all too often we stop reading at the end of a chapter and fail to enjoy it all as it would have been “devoured” by the original readers. Can you imagine young Timothy, after reading a paragraph or two in the letter from Paul, putting it aside for another day? Or if you had a letter from a friend would you read a few lines and then leave the remainder for the next day? Try reading the Bible book you intend to study from beginning to end.
The Letter A teaches us to reAd Attentively.
How easy it is for us to read without thinking! The more familiar a passage is, the more difficult it is to think about it unless we are on our guard. The translation of the Bible which most of us have and the one which is read publicly in our local churches is called the Authorized Version (A.V.). This was first published in 1611 A.D. We are quite familiar with its phrases although often we do not understand them. Have you a Revised Version (R.V.) of the Bible? This was made available in 1888 A.D. and is very helpful and generally reliable. Then there are many "modern” translations like that produced by Dr. Weymouth and most recently the New English Bible. These "moderns” use more up-to-date phrases and are sometimes helpful in expressing the idea in a passage of Scripture by using present day idiom. As we read whole books of the Bible through in a variety of English translations we are encouraged to read more carefully and attentively, and therefore with greater profit. This is not the only benefit gained through the use of different translations in our study. Quite often we find that some difficult passage or word in one translation is flooded with light in another translation. By comparing the various ways in which a passage has been translated therefore we are helped to understand its meaning.
The letter D teaches us to reaD Devotionally.
Although we ought to read our Bibles diligently, we must not do so simply to increase our knowledge. God is not looking for Christians with head knowledge alone. He wants us to be practical Christians. In James 1.22 we read “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves”. One translation puts it this way, “Only be sure that you act on the message and do not merely listen; for that would be to mislead yourselves”. Our reading and study of the Bible should change our lives and people should see how we love the Lord Jesus and seek to follow His steps.
We have covered the main points about the careful reading of the Bible. We are going to tell you other things about Bible study in the following lessons and we shall do so by asking you to look at a Bible book with us. We are choosing a little book nearly at the end of the Old Testament called Haggai. As it is short, we want you to read it through at least once before the next lesson and to make sure that you do we will ask you a question or two about it! Ifit seems hard or uninteresting do not be discouraged. It is early days yet and we know that you will enjoy your Bible study more and more as you go on.