In speaking of the study of the Scriptures it should be borne in mind that the following outline of my personal method of Bible study is intended to be descriptive rather than prescriptive. In other words, it should not be taken as a universal guide to the study of the Bible which all young people should follow. It simply explains the method which I use. It could be that the detailing of this method will be of help to some young believers who would like to study God’s Word, but who do not know where to start.
I realize, of course, that God does not call all of us to be students of His Word. He does expect us all, however, to be diligent readers of it. The Christian can never prosper spiritually without the prayerful reading of the Scriptures. The desire to study them is an added bonus!
From the time I was first saved (as a young teenager from a non-Christian home) my interest in the study of God’s Word was fostered by men older than myself. One of these, to whom I owe a tremendous debt, often quoted to me the words of the apostle Paul. “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also”, 2 Tim. 2. 2. These words describe how the brother in question viewed his transmission to me both of God’s truth and of the way in which I could search out more of that truth for myself. I also count it a privilege to have numbered as my closest friends those who share my hunger for the Word of God. Helped by such encouragements, I have found the following method to be very useful over the many years in which I have been studying the Holy Scriptures.
My preference has been for the study of the books of the Bible as books. I am not suggesting that other methods of Bible study do not yield great profit, but it is surely of relevance that God has chosen to give His revelation to us in the way in which He has. He has not communicated with us by means of a systematic theology, a set of topics or a group of character studies, but in books. Because tne Bible is God’s Word, stored with limitless treasures, there are quite unexpected “spin-offs” to any line of study. Nevertheless I find that the study of the individual books of Scripture yields me the most pleasure and profit.
Before we look in detail at the method I recommend, let us first consider the “tools” we will need. For, if you are going to tackle any job, you are going to need the tools with which to tackle it. Bible study is no exception. I regard the following as indispensable to the intelligent study of the Word of God.
These are the essential “tools” which the serious student of Scripture should try to obtain as soon as possible. More sophisticated helps, such as a Greek-English New Testament, more advanced lexicons, good commentaries and books like Trench’s “Synonyms of the New Testament” can follow later.
You might be asking why I lay such stress upon Bible helps which deal with the very words of Scripture. I do so because I believe that every word of the original Scriptures is inspired of God; see 2 Tim. 3. 16; 1 Cor. 2. 11-13. Paul claimed that the very words used by the apostles to communicate the revelation they had been given were those taught by the Holy Spirit, v. 13. We should get hold of the fact that every word which the writers of Scripture penned was that which the Spirit of God designed we should have. For this reason I place such emphasis on the careful study of the Bible. It is not just the Word of God; it comprises the very words of God!
Let us now consider the “book study” method of Bible study. We will begin with that which is Introductory.
(a) The selected book should be read through as many times as possible, with rough notes being made of anything noticed which appears interesting or important. For my part, I try to read through the book I am studying about 40 times. In doing this I tend to use as many good translations and paraphrases as I have available, to give me the “feel” of the book, to cast light on any difficult passages, and generally to help me understand what the book is all about. There are dangers, however, in the use of many versions, and these should always be borne in mind. It is particularly important to distinguish between a translation and a paraphrase. A translation purports to render the original languages of the Scriptures into English; a paraphrase does not attempt to do this. A paraphrase represents the author’s attempted interpretation of what the Bible authors meant. While using paraphrases as part of my study method, I deplore the widespread use of paraphrases today as though they were translations. Any paraphrase or strikingly different translation should be carefully checked with a reliable version and your other Bible helps before it is accepted as giving the correct meaning of the passage. We must be careful not to allow the words and ideas of men to take the place of the Word of God in our studies.
To be concluded.