What does it mean to “study” the Bible? Here are some things it does not mean…
- Attend a Bible study group
- Read the Bible
- Meditate on the Bible
- Memorize the Bible
- Pray the Scriptures back to God
- Listen to preaching or teaching
All of these are profitable and the Bible recommends them. But the Bible also commands us to study it:
“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV)
The word “study” at the beginning of this verse is the Greek word is spoudason, a grammatical variation on speudw, which means to be earnest or diligent. Indeed, the NASB more correctly translates this verse as “be diligent to present yourself approved to God.” The balance of the verse identifies the context of this command as a competent worker who knows how the Bible fits together.
Now Paul wrote this command to Timothy, a fellow pastor. Strictly speaking, this verse could be interpreted to be a command only to pastors. Yet all of Scripture is for our benefit, and surely attaining this degree of knowledge will not hurt us. On the contrary, there is great blessing to be found in knowing God’s Word this well.
So what does it mean to study the Bible? There are some techniques widely know to Bible scholars that are easily understood and adopted by the layman. They are based in common sense, and result in understanding of the original author’s intent and meaning. While the steps listed below are overly simplistic, they’re a great place to start:
- Observe before you interpret! What does the passage say? Most adults who have sat in Sunday School for years blindly jump to an interpretation of the passage that someone else taught them.
- Interpret before you apply! What did the author mean? Adults who are steeped in the interpretations of others tend to reject their own observations of what the verse plainly says (and their obvious interpretation based on them) in favor of what some theologian says it means. Be diligent to determine what God meant, and then evaluate other theologians by His standards.
- Once you know what it says and means, apply it.
If you can stick to the rules of Bible study outlined above, you’ll discover a whole new vitality to the words on the page!