We need to study the bible if we are to learn the fullness of what God offers those who choose to follow Jesus. And yet surveys of Christians show us that many do not read the Bible and fewer still study it.
A survey by the Barna Group showed, 12% of Christians do not read the Bible at all, and nearly 50% open the Bible less than once a week.
If this is true, then is it any wonder that Christians are struggling with their faith.
But studying the Bible is much different to reading the Bible. The Apostle Paul gives a clue how to study the Bible. Also, the Bible shows why it is important to read and study the the word of God.
The Great Commission
Jesus told us in the Great Commission the importance of learning and studying His words.
These were possibly the last words Christ spoke on earth before returning to the Father. You can be certain that they were important.
He commissioned His disciples to do three things:
- To go out and make disciples.
- To baptise them.
- To teach them all that Jesus had taught.
The third point is important because today, the only record we have of what Jesus taught is contained in the Bible. If we are to meet the requirement of that third part of the Great Commission, we must study the Bible and learn.
Recognising false teachings
The second reason we need to study the Bible is to be able to separate the truth of the New Covenant from lies.
We are warned to watch out for false teachers and false prophets who come into the church to wreak havoc.
In the book of Revelation chapter 12, verses 15 and 16 we see the author of these lies and his plan to deceive the church. (Note: I have added the words in brackets to help explain this scripture).
“The serpent [devil] poured water [false teachings] like a river out of his mouth after the woman [the church], to sweep her away with the flood. But the earth [non-believers] came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river which the dragon had poured from his mouth.”
If we don’t study the Bible, how will we discern between truth and lies? We may end up swallowing the river of lies poured out by the devil to overwhelm and destroy the church.
How Paul studied the Bible
We gain some insight from Paul how he studied the word of God and we can learn from his example.
Note how he extracted the truth from this scripture in Galatians chapter 3 verse 16.
“Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, "And to offsprings," referring to many; but, referring to one, "And to your offspring," which is Christ.”
He looked closely at the words to determine the correct meaning of what the scriptures were saying. He recognised that “offspring” was singular and not plural, which gave a completely different meaning to this verse.
The children of Israel believed they were the chosen people of God, and they were, but the promises were not made to ALL of Abraham’s children but to one specific “offspring:” the Christ.
Without this detailed understanding Paul may have thought the promise was only to Israel. But by recognising this distinction through his detailed study of the words, Paul understood that the promise was to Christ, and thus to all who came to God through Christ, whether Jew or Gentile.
Can you see why it is so important to be able to understand at this level of detail? This is how we can separate truth from error, to understand the depth of the promises God made to His children in Jesus Christ. And it is how we must learn ALL that Jesus taught.
The little words
We cannot gloss over the “little words” in the Bible, just as Paul tested singular and plural.
Little words often change the whole meaning of a verse, opening up new possibilities.
So in closing, here is another example to think about. In Hebrews chapter 8, verses 8 and 9 we see:
8 For he finds fault with them when he says: "The days will come, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah;
9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and so I paid no heed to them, says the Lord.
The first word of verse 9 is “not.” If the new covenant is “not” like the old covenant, what is it like?
Think on this and watch those little words. They convey a lot of meaning.
Since retiring from work, John Lemmon now spends his time teaching, preaching and writing about the word of God, online and offline, answering God's call on him to “Speak to my people.” You can connect with John on Twitter (@JohnBLemmon) or on his website: freegiftfromgod.com/ or listen to his podcast on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/the-free-gift-from-god-podcast/id1440682375