Please note that title: It does not say, “HOW TO STUDY SCRIPTURE,” or “THE BIBLE.” While all three may be seen as the same, some may perceive them differently. The word, SCRIPT, means writing of any sort and would be called scripture. A compilation of scriptures by different authors is a bibliography, and may be called a bible. Christians, of course, commonly call God’s Word The Scripture or The Bible.
To be clear, the reader should know that this entire article assumes there to be one absolutely holy God, eternally existent in three distinct Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It assumes that this God created all humanity, and that we violated His holy nature through willful disobedience; that He nevertheless loved us enough to redeem us through His Son, whom He calls The Word, and that this Word speaks to all humanity of God’s plan of redemption; that we aliens from our Holy Creator are invited to this full redemption through the Word of God made available to us.
It assumes, then, that when our Perfect, Holy Creator spoke The Word to us, He did not stutter or double-speak in impossible riddles so as to play with us and laugh at our stupidity. It assumes that He is the eternal Upright, but we are the miserable down-fallen, giving meaning to the fact that He truly hates our selfish pride above all. Meaning, if we parade around with a high look, a snooty attitude, and a personal strut, then He will make it a point to see the day when we slink away dragging twisted tails and our ears flopped. It is healthy to remember that He has never come out second best in any contest and He solemnly promises that He never will. He has never lied, and never will.
So if you read this article with a view of God’s Word as being something we can reprocess and apply to a new generation where “old, outdated standards” of Biblical morality need “fresh ways of interpretation,” then this article in your view will be a waste of time. I must warn you, though; you’re in that other long line to get a Divine tail twisting.
The Word of God was not designed as a textbook on science, geology, history, geography, politics, economics, psychology, mathematics, chemistry, adjudication, medicine, nor any such thing, although what it says about those things is absolutely perfect, and drags a long trail of embarrassed nincompoops who doubted it. No, God’s Word was designed and built to be each individual human’s Divine, personal X-ray machine for their soul, so as to expose precisely and exactly what disease is in there, with the added feature of revealing exactly what the remedy is if we expect to live over it. God’s X-ray has never missed giving an exact diagnosis.
Anyone—I say ANYONE—approaching the Word of God with a mindset of intellectual prowess to critically examine it in support of a doctrinal presupposition will find fool’s gold. Why? Because an approach to examine God’s Word stands God’s approach that we BE examined on it’s head! Out of that may come uncanny geniuses in many respects, but all too often among them genius comes trotting out with third-grade logic. It’s as if they overlooked Hebrews 4:12,13: “For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” We are talking about humility here. Billy Graham’s interpretation of Biblical evangelism says it best: “Evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where he can find bread.”
What’s more, anytime we examine God’s Word with the purpose of setting others straight, even as a minister or teacher, it is an exercise in futility because God’s way is for His Word to straighten OURSELVES out so we can show them where we got ourselves satisfied. Only then can we in true humility be a help to others. After all, in God’s view we are all beggars, whether poor and uneducated, or credited geniuses. Paul admonished Timothy to study with a view “approved unto God,” not his peers, the elders, the teachers, nor his parishioners (II Timothy 2:15; 3:16,17).
Today there is a very vital issue regarding the study of the Word of God: The question of other translations. Frankly, the best approach to that question is to ask ourselves another question: WHICH ONE IS GOD BLESSING? First, there are passages which seem neglected about this subject. Actually, God has made it clear in such passages as Matthew 5:18, Luke 16:18, John 1:1-5 and others, that God, not ourselves, guarantees to oversee and preserve the truth of His eternal Word through the generations. It is therefore impossible that God’s pure truth to humanity can ever be stamped out, falsified, or burned out of existence completely. He will take care of that, not our own imperfect recklessness. As a result, all we need do to see which one His blessings are on is to take note of which one glares at us.
Well, statistics show that most Christians are reading the NIV translation. But wait! Before we sit down and brush our hands, we’d better take another look. The KJV translation is a close runner up to the NIV, but the statistics showing what Christians are reading also includes the NKJV. The NKJV is NOT A NEW TRANSLATION, but a correction to the KJV. It should be considered that if we today attempt to read the original issue of the KJV of 1611 A.D., we come away with a headache from trying to decipher the Old English. No, the KJV has gone through several CORRECTIONS, not new translations, so that we can read the 1611 translation today. And so when we combine the KJV and the NKJV as the same translation, we see that the KJV translation of 1611 is yet the favored translation of the people of God, and has been, by the way, for half a millennium! Obviously, God is not yet through with having the KJV translation as closest to the preservation of the purity of His Word. Also, we should not miss an important part of the Preface of the NKJV: “In faithfulness to God and to our readers, it was deemed appropriate that all participating scholars sign a statement affirming their belief in the verbal and plenary [Full in all respects or requisites; having all power] inspiration of Scripture, and in the inerrancy of the original autographs.” Such a belief is absolutely vital to any approach in clarifying the precise meaning of God’s Word.
Finally, with those basic concepts in place, we will find the study of God’s Word becoming far less challenging. There is a vast difference between digging ditches in granite and feasting on the Bread of Life. When we read any and all passages of Scripture, regardless of how deep they are, with the paramount question leading us, “How will this passage personally nourish ME and draw ME closer to my God?” it is the same as crawling onto God’s X-ray table and lying still for Him. In fact, if we do it any other way, we will go out the door dragging a crooked tail.
Assuming, then, that we will approach God’s Word correctly, allow me to point out a vital method of study that we should always apply. It is based on the bedrock fact that this is GOD’S Word that we are consuming. As such, every single little word and phrase, down to every “jot and tittle” [Hebrew punctuations], are also Divinely inspired and vital in truth. This includes such little words as the, and, it, I, this, and that—every word!
A young man less than half my age made this truth indelible to me. I am a retired tax examiner from the Internal Revenue Service. I had a young friend named Mark who was also a work leader and somewhat of a genius at the business. I consulted him often on many difficult cases. Very often with problem cases he would ask me, “What does the IRS Code book say?” I’d open it and read it with him looking on. Then he’d ask me what I thought it meant. I’d tell him, and then, as he did many times, he’d say, “But that’s not what the Code said.” So I’d read it again, but with the same outcome. Then he’d point at a single little insignificant word buried in the text, such as a THE, or an AND, and tell me I had overlooked the meaning that simple little word brought to the text. Often the entire sense turned on such a word. Then he’d tell me, “You can’t overlook even one simple word in there. This is the legislated law we must rule by, and every single word counts.” Indeed, some cases went to court, and often the case was won or lost because someone overlooked the meaning of a simple word or phrase in the law.
If that is true in a court of human law, then how much more so in God’s perfect Word, the LAST word in what is right and what is wrong in God’s Divine economy. If anything at all is perfectly plain in God’s Word, it is this: Classes or groups of people do not go to Heaven or Hell. No, only INDIVIDUALS go there! That is why our study of God’s Word must be personal, one-on-one with “Him with whom we have to do” apart from anyone or anything else in life. Should we fail to get that priority right—and keep it right—then we stand to suffer great loss, perhaps even our souls. —DA