By Rick Christian
The Bible, God’s book, is emphatic in instructing us to study. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). There must be a constant hungering and thirsting (Matt. 5:6) after the perfect law of liberty (Jas. 1:25) that we may grow spiritually (2 Pet. 3:18). The motive for such diligent effort is the salvation of our souls (“Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” — Jas. 1:21), and recognition that in the final day I will be judged by Jesus’ words (“He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” — John 12:48).
What a noble example we find in the Bereans who “. . . searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). They respected the word of God enough to spend time in the open word. Oh for such reverence and respect today such as prompted the people of Ezra’s day to stand up when the book of God was opened in their presence in Nehemiah 8:5. This kind of action recognizes the word as to its origin, from God, and who we are in relationship to it. David said in Psalm 136:23, speaking of God, “Who remembered us in our low estate. . . .” That’s why he could say in Psalm. 56:4, “In God I will praise his word, In God I have put my trust.”
Sadly, not everyone handles aright the word of truth. By this there are found hindrances in their study. Some, for example, may read but don’t study. They may very well have read the Bible from cover to cover several times. But, to ask them about what they read, they don’t know. Why? They didn’t study. Some get the Bible and read but they don’t ever intend on understanding anything they read. Jesus said in John 8:32, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Jesus said you can know what the truth is! Paul said in Ephesians 3:3, 4, “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ).” The apostle Paul said we could understand. Thus, God expects us to understand his word! “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). There may be others who read the Bible but with the wrong attitude. Let’s examine some essential attitudes to proper Bible Study: Honesty, Sincerity, Submissiveness, Application To Self, and Open mindedness.
In the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23, the sower went forth and sowed seed and that seed, the word of God, fell on four different soils (hearts). Of the four soils (hearts) only one received that word properly. This was the heart which was good and honest (Matt. 13:23). This heart has a love for the truth and does not take pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thess. 2:9-12). It is honest in that it is fair and truthful. In our study of the Bible, God’s book, we must be fair and honest in our examination of Scripture. As we allow God to speak to us through his word we take a good and honest look at ourselves in respect to our relationship to God. With a poor and broken spirit (Matt. 5:3) and contrite heart (Isa. 66:2), we meekly (Matt. 5:5) submit ourselves to do the will of God. Honesty in study is not reading the Bible to prove a preconceived doctrine. Honesty is studying to find the doctrine of God and a willingness to submit to it. A good illustration of this is what James wrote in James 1:23-25, “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 glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” Is an individual really being honest with himself as to his physical appearance if he looked in the mirror and saw a big glob of barbecue sauce on his face and didn’t wipe it off, but walked away from the mirror acting like his ap- pearance was fine because it had been on there for days? What should he do? Wipe the sauce off! The same is true in spiritual things! If we are honest in our study, when we behold a stain of sin which we have possibly been practicing for years, honesty is not finding an excuse to leave it there but doing what God commands to clean our life up.
Application To Self
Did you ever study the Bible, or listen to a sermon and hear a passage of Scripture or series of Scriptures which applied specifically to you but you didn’t make the application to yourself but thought, “Boy, I sure am glad so-in-so is here because they really needed that!”? Friend, it is possible they did need that, but did I need that too? If we are honest in our study we will first apply it to self. Paul wrote Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:16, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” In 2 Corinthians 13, Paul reminds the brethren that all the time they were spending in examining Paul as to whether or not he was a genuine, bonafide apostle or not they had forgotten someone, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” Friend, it wasn’t until the prophet Nathan told David, “Thou art the man” in 2 Samuel 12:7 that David got the point that he was the one Nathan was making reference to in the short parable he taught to convince David of his sin he had committed with Bathsheba. David surely thought this story would not apply to him and even pronounced sentence upon the other! David’s anger that was kindled against “the man” (v. 5) was now changed as he took a good and honest look at himself. “And David said unto Nathan I have sinned against the Lord.”
Sincerity in study is most important. Sincerity is an interesting word. When Jesus stated in the sermon on the mount, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God,” the word pure comes from the same root word from which we get our word sincerity and it means without wax. It has the idea of a sculptor who is shaping out a rock and makes a mistake and sticks wax in to gloss the thing over. You see, the idea from the spiritual standpoint is, its sincerity, without wax, there’s not a flaw in it, it’s real, it’s not something glossed over.
Sincerity in study involves putting that which is studied to action. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Friend, if we sincerely love the Lord, then we will keep what he says to be true. The epitome of insincerity is hypocrisy. This individual only pretends to love God and his brethren for when opportunity arises, the behavior is such which violates the previous so-called pure activity. Remember, sincerity is without wax. If we love the truth we will practice it purely. Isn’t it interesting what the good and honest heart of Matthew 13 which received the word of God properly did? “. . . Which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty”(v.23). If I am sincere in my study I will actively exercise God’s commands to bear fruit of what I have read and understood. I will be holy in my manner of life. I will be kind in my speech, always having it seasoned with salt not gossiping nor slandering another’s good name. I will be reverent in worship. I will not play like I’m a Christian but I will be truly committed to the Lord, remembering and applying what I’ve studied. Remember, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in he name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Col. 3:17). I am reminded of what Joshua bid the people of God during his day in his farewell address in Joshua 24:14, “Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord.”
The final point I would like for us to consider is the importance of being open minded. I heard a preacher say one time that we don’t need to be so open minded that our brains fall out. I emphatically agree. There is a limit to our open mindedness, for we must be lovers of truth and haters of every wicked way. But there is a need for open mindedness in study of the Bible. The apostle Paul spoke of matters of indifference in Romans 14 and he stated that each must be persuaded in his own mind (v. 5). In these matters, we move by faith and not by doubt (v. 23). As I study on these matters of indifference or opinion, I need to certainly have conviction, moving by faith, but I must exercise open mindedness in my study recognizing that it was solely a matter of opinion. Suppose I was not open minded. I might bind my opinion on another thus causing that brother to stumble or fall which is a specific violation of Romans 14:21. I have witnessed brethren being so dogmatic in their convictions on various matters of indifference that they weren’t open minded enough to receive those who differed with their matter of judgment. Paul says in Romans 14:3, “Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.” When studying matters of indifference we should be open minded enough to consider our conviction in light of the Scriptures as well as our brothers in light of the Scriptures that we may receive one another consistent with what Romans 14 teaches.
Those who submit to the Lord must be poor in spirit as already stated in this article. Thus, they cannot be arrogant. Many a close minded people exemplify this kind of attitude. They will not open their minds up to see the truth even in matters of doctrine. Jesus spoke of those in his day who had ears dull of hearing and eyes they have closed (Matt.
13:15). They were not open minded to the truth but were set in their Jewish ways. When we close our hearts to the truth, we shut ourselves off from every opportunity of absorbing lessons which will course our path to heaven and open our hearts up to prejudice and stereotyping.
I close with the words of Jesus in John 5:39, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.”