"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:" (2 Timothy 3:16)
In the first six parts of this series, we have looked at some of the principles behind effective Bible study. We have considered some of the mechanics involved in study, some of the tools to use, and some of the resources to consult. In the final two parts of this series, we will look at what to do after we have studied.
Our purpose for Bible study is of the utmost importance. Why are we studying the Bible in the first place and what do we hope to accomplish by it? Some examine the Bible out of mere curiosity, some to attempt to find fault or error in it, while others undertake the study of God’s Word as an academic pursuit. There are those who study the Scriptures with all of the passion and conviction of one perusing a mathematics textbook. They evaluate its contents, not in an effort to conform their own lives to its precepts, but to determine which portions, if any, are worthwhile or trustworthy. It always confounds me when I hear about a “Bible scholar” who is shocked that a recent archaeological find confirms the Biblical record. It is almost as if they are expecting Science to “disprove” the Word of God.
Until we come to a place where we acknowledge the Bible’s veracity, recognizing its credibility and subjecting ourselves to its authority, we will never get very much from Bible study. Oh, we might learn more about the words on the page, but we will not grasp their spiritual implications.
“For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a [mirror]: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.” (James 1:23-24)
The Bible is God’s Word to man and its purpose is to show us our own condition, much as a mirror reveals the appearance of our face. A mirror will not deceive us, it will show us every flaw and imperfection, but it is up to us whether or not we will do anything to change what it shows us. The mirror will show us if our hair needs to be combed, but we must choose whether or not to accept what it is telling us and respond accordingly.
But what would happen if we decided that we couldn’t be sure if the mirror was really accurate or not? What would happen if, instead of pulling out the hair brush, we pulled out the Windex in an effort to make sure the mirror could really be trusted? Or what if we decided that the problem was with the mirror, not us; what if we instead took a marker and began to draw a new hairdo on our reflection, a hairstyle more to our liking? This would be silly, of course, but some treat the mirror of God’s Word in exactly this manner.
If our time spent in the study of the Bible is to be meaningful, if it is to accomplish its intended purpose, then we must respond to what we learn there. The study of God’s Word is not a mere academic endeavor, an undertaking that gratifies the intellect while leaving the heart unaffected. Our purpose for examining the Scriptures must never be simply to learn more about the Bible, but to let the Word do its work in us, to let the Spirit of God have His way in our lives. We must not just be hearers of the Word, but doers.
If your own study of the Bible has become stagnant, if you are not seeing things in the Word of God the way you once did, ask yourself: “How did I respond to what God showed me from His Word before?” If we do not obey what God shows us during our study of the Scriptures, then it is unlikely that He will continue to show us much else. God’s Word is meant not just to be studied, but to be obeyed, to be followed, to be acted upon. Our purpose for studying the Bible is to let the Holy Spirit speak to us from His Word so that we might become more like Christ (Rom. 8:29).
Next time, Lord willing, we will conclude this study with the final part of the series: Teaching others. May the Lord bless you richly.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,