How to Study the Bible
“Continue in what you have learned… the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (vv. 14–15).- 2 Timothy 3:14–17
Beginning next week we will examine the Sermon on the Mount, which gives us some of the most important teaching on Christian discipleship in all of Scripture. As a preface to this study of the Christian life we will now spend five days looking at a few of the ways God has given us to help us fulfill His mandate so that we “go on to maturity” (Heb. 6:1). Dr. R.C. Sproul’s teaching series Five Things Every Christian Should Know will guide our study.
The five topics we will cover — Bible study, prayer, worship, service, and stewardship — are what some theologians have called “means of grace,” or those things God has given to help us grow spiritually. In the Reformed tradition, the sacraments and preaching have been considered the primary means of grace.
Growing into Christian maturity requires us to know and imitate the character of our Father (Eph. 5:1), which is revealed in Scripture. It is imperative that we read the Bible rightly, and today’s passage points us to the foundational principle for our reading of God’s Word. Paul tells Timothy that the Scriptures are able to make him “wise for salvation” (2 Tim. 3:14–15). Our first step in studying the Bible is to recognize that we sit under Scripture as the source of all wisdom. We have taken the first step down the road to unbelief if we try to judge the Bible instead of seeking to have it judge us. Sitting under Scripture requires the fear of the Lord, without which we cannot find wisdom (Prov. 1:7).
Therefore, we open the text with reverence, expecting the Spirit to illumine its meaning for us. But reverence is not passivity. We must study to present ourselves to God as those approved to handle His revelation (2 Tim. 2:15). This requires diligent work and relying on the wisdom of those Christians who have come before us. Reading commentaries by men like John Calvin and Matthew Henry is an excellent way to learn from those godly scholars whose work still greatly benefits the church centuries after they lived. Of course, the teaching ministry of the local church is indispensable to our personal study of Scripture. Studying the Bible in a community that affirms historic, biblical Christianity will help us avoid common mistakes in the interpretation of God’s Word.
Many people find the study of Scripture to be an intimidating, if not impossible, endeavor. But God encourages us to put His Word on our hearts (Deut. 6:6), and He will open His Word to us if we are faithful to study it with diligence and humility. Consider joining a Bible study or class offered by your church so that you may learn from other Christians. Be sure to make some time each week for the study and contemplation of God’s Word.
Passages for Further Study
2 Peter 1:19–21