I have yet to meet a believer who claims that they should not engage in Bible study. However, there are those of us who make an array of excuses for not doing so! Some claim that Bible study is too difficult, too time-consuming, and sometimes, too tedious. Those who either openly or secretly claim this, are more than content to leave Bible study to pastors and theologians.
However, without actively studying Scripture, how is any believer in Christ able to grow closer to God? It is likely the case that if one is not studying Scripture, they are not seeking God diligently in prayer either. Also, what happens when a believer faces a great trial in their life, and their pastor—whom they have entrusted with the task of knowing Scripture for them— is unavailable? What happens when they are challenged by an atheist at either school or work, or confronted at their own doorstep by a Jehovah’s Witness? Just as a soldier needs to be well acquainted with their weapons, gear, tactics, and training regimens, Christians need to be deeply involved in studying the Bible for the sake of both spiritual growth and protection.
[x_pullquote type=”left”]Just as a soldier needs to be well acquainted with their weapons, gear, tactics, and training regimens, Christians need to be deeply involved in studying the Bible for the sake of both spiritual growth and protection.[/x_pullquote]
Bible Study is Essential for Spiritual Growth
The Bible is God’s divine revelation to His creation through the Holy Spirit. Although through nature we can know that there is God, through Scripture we can know God. Even more, through Bible study coupled with a devoted life of prayer, we can personally know God and grow in our relationship with Him. Note the difference between simply knowing about God and personally knowing God. There are some Bible scholars who know more about God than some of the strongest believers, but are agnostic—that is, nonbelievers! The Bible itself gives strong affirmation that Bible study is essential for our spiritual growth. Peter writes, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it, you may grow up in your salvation,” (1 Peter 2:2, NIV). Likewise, the writer of Psalm 119 gives an emotionally charged discourse on the beauty and pricelessness of Scripture, and its essentialness in a believer’s life. Through faithful and diligent Bible study coupled with earnest God-seeking prayer, one will personally know God as the beautiful, all-satisfying Savior and Creator who loves us.
Bible Study is Essential for Spiritual Protection
Not only is the Bible God’s revelation to humankind, but it is also a powerful spiritual weapon for the believer’s protection against various threats. For the Christian, Scripture is the basis for sound theology. Having a firm theological foundation through thorough and consistent Bible study, the believer will be well-equipped for dealing with the various assaults upon both God and Scripture. Like its own attestation regarding spiritual growth, the Bible also gives a strong testimony in regards to itself being a spiritual weapon. The author of Hebrews claims that it is “Sharper than any double-edged sword,” (Hebrews 4:12b) and the apostle Paul calls it the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17). As the same with spiritual growth, Bible study is essential for protection against false views, attacks upon our faith, and from sin.
What Exactly is Bible Study?
We have discussed the importance of Bible study, but we have not given a working definition of the term. Bible study is not merely reading Scripture, but examining it in light of its overall context, which should ideally extend to every detail of the text. When one is examining a portion of Scripture, there are three steps that both Bible students and scholars employ to study the Bible properly.
[x_pullquote type=”left”]Bible study is not merely reading Scripture, but examining it in light of its overall context, which should ideally extend to every detail of the text.[/x_pullquote]
These steps must be in sequential order and are known as observation—which is recognizing details—interpretation—which is making sense of those details—and application—which is putting to use what we have learned. It is important to keep to the order given, and include all three steps.
I remember one time sitting at a café eating lunch while studying the Bible when a woman approached me to ask for some advice. She told me that her friend, who was an alcoholic, claimed that the Bible required her to drink alcohol. She cited 1 Timothy 5:23 in the King James Version, which reads, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.” In order to use Scripture to justify her behavior, this woman carelessly ignored the verse’s context as a result of skipping over the observation stage, and went directly to the interpretation and application stages! To arrive at the correct biblical interpretation and application, one must carefully and correctly study the context of each passage. This requires us to study the historical and cultural backgrounds, the intended audiences, the problems the authors are addressing, and even what the biblical languages are saying in the underlying text.
This all might seem daunting and even overwhelming at first, but it is certainly not! One does not need to be a professional theologian or pastor to get into deep and fruitful Bible study. If one were to study the Bible for as little as 15 minutes a day, one would soon benefit from the results. There are 1,440 minutes in a day, so 15 minutes is not asking for much! The deep wealth of riches found within the pages of Holy Scripture is highly acclaimed by even nonbelieving scholars, so imagine how we as believers can benefit from it combined with daily communion with God. For the sake of spiritual growth in our relationship with Jesus Christ, as well as protection from theological error and sin, I challenge the reader to study Scripture for at least 15 minutes a day indefinitely. If the reader does not know where to begin, I recommend Living by the Book by Howard Hendricks, a book that lays out the details of thorough Bible study. This book helped me greatly in my journey through Scripture, and most importantly, my walk with God.