The Value of Bible Study

by Dustin Burlet
Former Faculty (2011-2015)

 General - Rachel, Hannah, Kara, Katrina - in class

 

“The Bible is the most revered, respected, and celebrated book of all-time.  Since the first published book rolled off the Gutenberg Press over five hundred years ago (a Bible, of course!), it has been a perpetual best-seller, far surpassing sales of any other volume in human history.  For Christians, however, the Bible is not just a best-seller, it is “God’s Word” – a divine message to us in human language” (2 Tm 3:16; 2 Pe 1:21).1  

For Christians, however, the Bible is not just a best-seller, it is God's Word - a divine message to us in human language.

God is the source of all authority (Ro 13:1) and God’s Word is authoritative (Jn 17:17).

God’s Word encourages us (Ps 23; 27; 103:13-14; Zp 3:17; Ro 8:18-39), lifts our spirits (Ps 3:3), comforts us (2 Co 1:3-5), guides us (Ps 119:105), and chides us (Pr 3:11; He 12:5-6).  God’s Word builds us up and gives us a firm foundation on which to stand (2 Tm 2:19-21; 1 Pe 5:10).   The Bible gives us hope and peace (Jn 16:33; Ro 5:5-8), brings us into a knowledge of the Living God (Jn 20:31; 2 Tm 3:15; 1 Jn 5:13) and through submission to the Scripture’s teachings we may be “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (Ja 1:4 ESV). 2 

In Scripture we have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Pe 1:3).  And by it, believers are “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tm 3:16b NIV).

The Bible holds the answers to life’s toughest questions such as: Who am I?  Where did I come from?  How did I get here?  Where am I going?  What really matters in life?  In addition to these “big” questions, the Bible also gives us sage council in key areas such as:  “What should I look for in a mate?”  “How can I have a healthy, God-honoring marriage?”  “How can I become a better neighbour, friend, parent, employee or employer?”3  

Who knows better how to chart the course for your life: you or God?

The question is, “Who knows better how to chart the course for your life: you or God?”

As Colin McDougall notes: “Does God know how your relationships and family work better than anyone, or do you know better?”  Unquestionably, “what foundation could one find upon which to build one’s life that would be more certain and secure than the Word of God?”4  

Plunging into the Word of God is similar to sitting down at a meal.  Do you long to dig deeper into God’s Word?  Do you long for a more substantial diet?  Perhaps filet mignon or cordon blue vs. McDonalds or delivery?  Such well prepared meals require being intentional.  They do not come about by accident but only by discipline and choice.  To lay out a full-course meal requires being proactive and purposeful.

To lay out a full-course meal requires being proactive and purposeful.

One of the responsibilities of Christian teachers, leaders, and pastors, is to help others become self-feeders so that they can come to God’s Word and be able to be spiritually nourished time and time again.  This cannot be done apart from training on how to do a methodological and intentional study of the Word of God.  As it is written, “’Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Mt 4:4 ESV).

Christianity demands radical submission to Christ’s teachings.

Christ has commanded believers to “…make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:19-20 ESV).

Beyond question, without a doubt, you cannot teach what you do not know. You cannot give what you do not have and you cannot lead where you will not follow.

Thus, for Christians everywhere, effective Bible study is not an option.  There is no growth apart from the Word of God.  We must read the Bible for all its worth!  No, this is not a typo.  The “its” is “a deliberate wordplay that works only when it appears without the apostrophe; and…our own emphasis lies with this possessive.  Scripture is God’s Word, and we want people to read it because of its great value to them.  And if they do it “for all its worth,” hopefully they will also find its worth.”5

All Christians must be able to read, interpret and apply Scripture with consistency, vailidity, accuracy, and integrity and we must not underestimate the importance of our task.

Effective Bible study is essential for the life of the Church and for spiritual growth and development.  All Christians must be able to read, interpret and apply Scripture with consistency, validity, accuracy, and integrity and we must not underestimate the importance of our task.  The apostle Paul once wrote to Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tm 2:15).  The same diligence required of Timothy is required of all believers and Christian leaders/teachers today.  As noted Greek scholar David Black once said, “The Word of God must be handled accurately – or not handled at all.”6  

The Bible, however, is a strange book.  Some parts of Scripture are easy to understand but much of it is not.  As someone once quipped, “the past is another country – they do things differently there.7  Undoubtedly, upon maneuvering through seemingly endless genealogies, “levitical laws, bloodshed in Joshua, or Daniel’s apocalyptic visions, sincere readers often wonder what the Old Testament means.8 

To firmly grasp God’s Word, even in the New Testament, is a monumental task indeed!  By grasping God’s Word, I mean to rightly understand it.  To have the Truth made clear.  We grasp an idea or a story or a poem when we can make good sense of the words in their context.

As I repeatedly tell my students, Context is King!

Only when an interpretation makes sense of the parts and the whole can one say:  “I’ve got it.”  To grasp, or to understand, or to “get it” is to recognise what an author is saying and doing in his or her text.  It is a challenge to rightly handle the Word of God!  We as readers of the Bible are not by nature neutral and objective.  We bring a lot of preconceived notions and influences with us to the text when we read.9  

Obviously, to navigate these challenging and potentially treacherous waters, we are going to need steady and experienced guides—someone who knows both the world of the text and the ways of God in human history.  Friends, that is what the sermon is for and that is why Bible colleges such as PRBI exist – to help people come know God through getting a better grasp of His Word.

Obviously, to navigate these challenging and potentially treacherous waters, we are going to need steady and experienced guides . . .

In addition to this, commentaries, Bible dictionaries, and good study Bibles also serve to “put the cookies on the shelf where the kids can get them.10   The ESV, HCSB, NIV (1984/2011) and the NLT study Bibles have become standard and it would behoove you in your study to leverage each Bible’s unique formatting, style, and translation philosophy.

As D. A. Carson asserts: “For an effective teaching and preaching ministry,” [and remember, friends, we are all called to teach and to hold forth the word of life (Ph 2:16; Mt 28:190-20)] “commentaries take their place among other essential tools.  But since different tasks often require different tools, useful commentaries are of more than one kind.”  Whatever else be the case, “the dominant need is to understand meanings accurately.11

The purpose of any commentary, Bible dictionary, or study aid is to find a voice of value.

There is, however, a “right way and a wrong way to use a commentary.  Actually, there are two wrong ways.  The first is to ignore completely the use of commentaries.  Some people do not consult commentaries because they believe that, since all Christians are equal as they approach the Scriptures, scholars have no privileged insight into the biblical text.  The second error is to become overly dependent on commentaries.  ’These people have devoted their whole lives to the study of the Bible.  How can my opinion measure up to theirs?’

Those holding the first position are wrong because they forget that God gives different gifts to different people in the church.  Not all people are equally adept at understanding the Bible and teaching it to others (1 Co 12:12-31).  Those holding the second position err in the opposite direction.  They forget that God has given believers the Spirit by which they can discern spiritual things (1 Co 2:14-16).

The right way to use a commentary is as a help.  Only after coming to an initial understanding of the passage should we consult commentaries.  Neither should we let commentaries bully us.  Many times they will be of great help, but sometimes the reader will be right and the commentaries will be wrong.”12  

In conclusion, let it be known that in spite of the many challenges that accompany it, the personal rewards of deepening your biblical study are so great that it is worth the effort.  Just remember the importance of humility (Ph 2:1-13) and meekness (Mt 5:5), and that while knowledge puffs up, love builds up (1 Co 8:1).13  

Originally published in Winter 2015 issue of Trumpet magazine.

 

 General - Dustin Burlet

 

 

 

 

Please fill out this form if you would like to receive our next Trumpet in the mail.


[1]    This opening paragraph comes from Duvall and Hays, Grasping God's Word, 11.
[2]    Some of the wording and structure of this paragraph comes from Duvall and Hays, Grasping God's Word, 39.
[3]    Some of the questions and certain elements of the structure of this paragraph come from http://www.gotquestions.org/why-read-Bible.html#ixzz3K7Wta8r8 accessed November 25, 2014.
[4]    McDougall, "Chapter 1: Model A: Authority, A-1:1," 1992.
[5]    Fee and Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 12.
[6]    Black, Using New Testament Greek in Ministry, 9.
[7]    This quote is attributed to L.P. Hartley, a British novelist and short story writer.

[8]    This quote comes from Robert L. Hubbard Jr., general editor of The New International Commentary on the Old Testament.
[9]    Duvall and Hays, Grasping God's Word, 137.

[10]    Both John F. Evan's A Guide to Biblical Commentaries and Reference Works 9th edition and www.bestcommentaries.com are reliable aids to know what the better resources are.
[11]    Carson, New Testament Commentary Survey 7th edition, 1.

[12]    Longman, Old Testament Commentary Survey 5th edition, 3.
[13]    Elements of this last paragraph, including wording, are derived from Mounce, Greek for the Rest of Us 1st edition, xx.