In The Gospel According to St. John 5:39, Jesus said,
“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.”
We should all read the Bible–no Christian life is complete without this. I feel a little silly for typing this, it is such a basic premise, but I fear it is all too often overlooked. The reason American Christianity is growing weaker by the year has to be due in part to our inattention to God’s Word. When Christianity has been at its strongest in our land, there has been a great emphasis on the Bible.
So, I say it again–every Christian should read the Bible–daily. Fifteen minutes a day would be a good start–more if time allows. But we should also all study the Bible.There is a difference between reading and studying. Reading is basic–and it is essential. But studying is also needed. That is when the truths go down into our heart of hearts, and the truths are made to come alive by the Holy Spirit and applied to our lives in mighty way.
Part of our Bible studies should happen at church, with the church, as the church. We should attend worship weekly (Hebrews 10:25) and listen as the pastor-teacher (Ephesians 4:11-12) shares from God’s Word in the sermon. The pastor has many roles in church life, and all of them are important: visiting, praying with and for the flock, leading in worship, going to the hospitals and so on. But perhaps his most important duties are to teach the Bible and rightly administer the sacraments of Jesus Christ. If your minister is a faithful preacher of the Word of God, avail yourself fully of his teaching.
Taking part in Sunday School or special weekday studies are also helpful, if we would gain the full benefits of the teaching ministry of the church.
Corporate study of the Word of God is very important. However, some part of our Bible study should happen in private, too, whereby we take our copy of the Scriptures in a quiet place and open them and read, mark, study and inwardly digest its contents.
But where do we learn to study the Bible? Most laypeople do not have time to go to a Bible college or seminary to take the specialized classes that pastors have the privilege of taking. So, where to turn? One excellent resource is a small book entitled Methods of Bible Study by W.H. Griffith Thomas. I wish it was still in print. Moody Press published it as a reprint in 1975, from an earlier edition originally published in 1911. Despite its age, it still has so much practical teaching that deserves a wide readership. It is available online here.
Thomas was an Evangelical Anglican who had a wide, fruitful ministry and his work was valued by members of many kinds of
evangelical churches. He was a parish pastor, a college teacher, and an itinerant Bible conference speaker. His service to the Lord’s Church in the late 1800s and first quarter of the 1900s was immense, and he should not be forgotten today.
Here is a quote from Thomas on what it means to study our Bibles:
We must search. God’s thoughts are never revealed to listless readers, but only to eager searchers. The glories of the Scriptures are not to be discovered without diligent search. The Bible is like a mine, and its jewels are not to be picked up on the roadside. It affords opportunity for thought, and requires its exercise. Its words, phrases and sentences are full of meaning and power. Strenuous thought is imperative if we would obtain from the Word the blessing it contains. We must ponder its statements, dwell on its meaning, grasp its message, and dwell lovingly and earnestly on its revelation of God in Christ. Nothing in it is without some purpose, and what this is, the Lord will reveal in response to His servants’ faithful search. (p. 111)
Have a look at Thomas’s excellent little book if you’d like to learn more about the mechanics of Bible study. Beginners and more advanced students of God’s Word alike can benefit from Thomas’ treatment of the subject.