by Justin Huffman
Whether you are making a New Year's resolution to know your Bible better, or just recommitting yourself to pursuing God with all your heart and soul and strength and mind -- it is important to know how to study your Bible. Here are a few pointers that I hope will serve you in that worthy effort.
First, the Bible is its own best interpreter.
Only God's Word is perfectly and completely inspired by the Holy Spirit; everything else -- whether Hollywood movies or Bible commentaries -- has to be sifted through the pure filter of the Scriptures. With that in mind, then:
Read your Bible.
There's simply no substitute or shortcut for reading the Bible yourself.
Use column references to help you see how a certain passage may connect with other Bible teachings.
Study Bibles are good (but the notes are fallible!). Study Bibles can be incredibly helpful in understanding (or not misunderstanding) portions of Scripture. Just keep in mind that the authors of the notes are not the same as the authors of the New Testament.
A good concordance (whether paper or electronic) can help you find your way around and define words. BibleGateway.com is a great online resource in this regard.
Second, benefit from the study of others to make your study more profitable.
Bible handbooks, dictionaries, and encyclopedias organize and share valuable internal and external information. (E.g. Halley’s Bible Handbook, Zondervan’s Pictorial Bible Dictionary). Also, Nave’s Topical Bible and Vine’s Expository Dictionary help you scan a word or topic from the whole of Scripture, getting a bird's eye view of a particular doctrine, or word, or concept.
A systematic theology will take you through the essential doctrines of Christianity, in depth. Commentaries can shed light on specific passages, and can keep you from going astray or wasting time. If you are interpreting a verse in a way that no other Christian has ever expressed, this should be red light for you; commentaries can help keep you from getting in this kind of trouble.
As you read what other godly men have written about and from the Bible, it is important to remember this: there is no such thing as a Bible scholar…only Bible students.
No one person has a perfect handle on God's Word, or has "mastered" the Word of God entirely. While it is often true that others with more experience with God's Word are better interpreters than you are, remember that the Bible was not written for scholars but for sinners. Every sermon or article or note, in the end, is just one sinner trying to help other sinners.
You should make it your goal to grow to the place where you are able to make an informed decision where reliable, conservative Bible students may differ.
Finally, don’t forget to pray.
John Bunyan once said, “Pray and read, read and pray; for a little from God is better than a great deal from man." I put this last, not because it comes last, but because it must not be an excuse for laziness in the study.
As you read your Bible, then, and mine its deep riches regarding the glory of Jesus Christ, may the joy of God's clear and relevant and sufficient Word be yours. "The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple" (Psalm 119:130).
© Baptist Bible Hour
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