Understanding the Word

Understanding the Word

In the previous article, we talked about reading God’s word as a way to grow spiritually.  Now, let’s look at Bible study.  What’s the difference?  Reading is for the purpose of seeing an overall view of God’s plan for you and others.  Bible study is going deeper to understand God, his word and what he wants you to do.  Reading is an overview; Bible study is much more detailed. 

There are many approaches to Bible study and most all of them have value.  The important thing about Bible study is to study intentionally and systematically.  You can do that by (1) picking a book of the Bible to study in detail.  Or (2) you might select a particular chapter or verse that you want to know more about.   (3) Choosing a particular doctrine to study will work (what does the Bible tell us about salvation or suffering or fasting?).  (4) A study of a specific word is always good: e.g., grace, prayer, contentment.  (5) Or you could do a study of God, Christ or the Holy Spirit.  (6) What about an in-depth study of the significance of the names of God, or prophecies in the Old Testament about Christ?  These are six ways to study the Bible but the possibilities are endless, and you get to decide!  There’s not one right way to do it.  I use several of the methods mentioned above.

Once you have decided what to study, you will need some tools.  The most important one is the Bible itself.  Choose a translation carefully.  There is much to say on the subject that cannot be covered in a short article like this, but choose a good one, it’s important.  If you are not sure, you may want to look at several: English Standard Version, Christian Standard Bible, New Living Translation and New American Standard are all good choices.  Once you decide on a translation, check for one that is comfortable for you to use.  Look at print size, wide margins for writing notes, maps, cross references and other helps.  Choose one that is comfortable and fits your needs.  That Bible should become the one you use every day and carry with you to worship, Bible studies, etc.

Other “must haves” include a pen and notebook (don’t plan to do in-depth study and think you will remember all of it).  You need to get into the habit of taking lots of notes about meanings, cross references and helpful thoughts.  A complete concordance (that’s a fancy word for a list of all the places in the Bible where a specific word is used) is almost a necessity (Young’s and Strong’s are both excellent).  You may want to consider Bible dictionaries, atlases and commentaries.  Something to keep in mind while you use them: the best rule is the Bible rule: Listen, but question: “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11 ESV). Bible helps, hopefully are just that: helpful, but always look to the Bible for clear answers.

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