How to Study the Bible
“Continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with 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
Maturing in Christ is not actually a complicated process. It does not require an extraordinary amount of skill or knowledge. Although many people want to prescribe elaborate rituals and other techniques, it is the regular use of the means of grace, such as prayer, that helps us become more like Jesus. Another important means of grace, of course, is the study of Scripture.
We recognize our level of Christian maturity by the degree to which we know and imitate our Father’s holiness. Our chief aim is to “be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph. 5:1), but we cannot imitate Him properly if we have a faulty understanding of who He is and what He loves. The only inerrant and infallible guide that tells us about God’s character and the things that please Him is Scripture, the revelation breathed out by the Holy Spirit for our edification (2 Tim. 3:16–17).
Making the most of this revelation depends upon reading the Word of God properly. In today’s passage, we find one of the basic principles to help us read and interpret Scripture rightly. It involves understanding Scripture as the font of true wisdom. After all, Paul explains that Scripture is the tool God uses to make us “wise for salvation” (2 Tim. 3:14–15). If we do not recognize that the Bible is the final arbiter of wisdom, then we will be led off into all manner of errors and misunderstandings. In short, we must sit under God’s Word and not stand in judgment over it. Scripture judges us, and we live out that reality insofar as we recognize the fear of the Lord and His Word as the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 1:7).
We must read the Bible reverently, asking the Spirit to apply it to our lives. Yet, we are not to be passive in our study. Paul also tells us that we are to study in order that we might be reckoned as those who have God’s approval to handle and communicate His revelation (2 Tim. 2:15). We must work to understand God’s Word, meditating on it and thinking carefully about what it means and how we are to live out its commands. Private study is key, of course, but we are not to examine the Bible exclusively by ourselves. We must study with the church of God, examining the insights of past thinkers and regularly sitting under the preaching and teaching of our local churches.
As we have said many times before, the church is not infallible but it is wise. If we neglect the wisdom of historic, orthodox, biblical Christianity, then we will make many mistakes in interpretation and application. We must study privately and corporately, attending worship services and group Bible studies so that we may be blessed by the insights of others and become better able to help other believers understand God’s Word.
Passages for Further Study
2 Peter 1:19–21