Each of us should be a student, a diligent student, of God’s word. Goebel Music has wisely said, “It is my honest conviction that nothing in life is more important than a thorough knowledge of the Bible. Regardless of the extent of a man’s education, he is uneducated who does not have a basic understanding of the Bible. A knowledge of the Bible is more important than a college education – as it relates not only to the timely, but also to the timeless. This firm persuasion and fixed belief stems from the fact that there is life after death, a judgment to face, an account to be given and an absolute infallible book, the Bible, as the standard of judgment” (source not found).
If one truly wants to learn God’s word, one should be willing to invest time and effort. “My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God” (Proverb 2:1-5). How much effort do men make to find silver and hidden treasures? Have much effort are you making to learn God’s word?
One should value God’s word enough to invest the time and effort. Job said, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). David said, “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10). A Psalmist said, “I rejoice at Your word, as one who finds great treasure” (Psalm 119:162). Jesus taught, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). Peter instructed, “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). God has revealed His will in such a way that one must invest time and effort. Paul wrote, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
The whole of God’s word should be studied. The psalmist said, “The sum of your word is truth” (Psalm 119:160). Scripture must be considered in light of other scriptures (Matthew 4:5-7).
5. Studying A Book
Try this: First, find a quiet place, free from distractions, and read the entire book. Read it, if possible, in one sitting. Think about the big picture. Take no notes at this point.
Second, reread the book. This time, try to answer some basic questions from the text, things like – who wrote the book? To whom was it written? When was it written? Where was the writer? Where was the recipient(s)? Why was it written? What did the writer want the reader(s) to do or to learn? How was the thing(s) to be done? Write down your answers.
Third, reread the book. This time, notice reoccurring words and phrases. Take notes. This may help one discover natural themes and outlines in the book.
Fourth, reread the book. This time, develop a basic skeletal outline. It is important to grasp the overall flow of the book, how it is laid out, and where things are located. Briefly summarize the book in your own words.
Fifth, do research. Familiarize yourself with the people and places mentioned (Bible dictionaries, and encyclopedias, concordances, and topical Bibles, maps and atlases may be helpful; many tools are available for free on the web). Familiarize yourself with the meaning of words and phrases which are used (Bible dictionaries, and lexicons, concordances, word study books, and other translations may be helpful; many products are available for free on the web).
Sixth, reread the book. This time, consider relationships mentioned in the book. This includes: God and man; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; man and man; brother and brother; the church and the world; the writer and the recipient(s), and other relationships which may be in the book. Think on these things as they are presented in the book. No doubt you will have already noticed these relationships in previous readings. However, study these things more deeply at the point. Take notes.
Seventh, reread the book. This time, consider major Bible theme/subjects. This includes God (Theology); Christ (Christology); the Holy Spirit (Pneumatology); angels and spirit beings (Angelology/ Demonology); man (Anthropology); sin (Hamartiology); salvation (Soteriology); church (Ecclesiology); end times (Eschatology); and the Bible (Bibliology). Take notes.
Eighth, you may consult commentaries at this point. Only do so after you have done your readings, and your own personal research. Use commentaries for the evidence they provide, not as popes to set doctrine. Commentators are uninspired. Moreover, The notes in your study Bible are also, comments by uninspired people.
Yes, this is a lot of reading. However, doing this will help you learn a book on a much deeper level.
6. Studying A Chapter(s) or A Verse(s)
The things suggested in the previous point apply here, as well. Review the list.
Let us add, it is extremely important to study a text in its context. Verses and chapters should be considered in light of the total context. The total context includes: (a) The immediate context (relevant surrounding material, verses and chapters); (b) The remote context (relevant material in the book, the covenant, and the totality of the Bible). The total context should be considered, even in the study of a book. However, it is especially easy to misuse a chapter or a verse by neglecting to consider the total context.
7. Studying A Character or a Topic
Sometimes one wants to study a character (e.g. David, Peter, Paul or the Holy Spirit) or a topic (e.g. prayer, faith, money, or the temple). This type of study may involve many passages, spread through many books.
It is important to gather all of the relevant material needed for your study. There are tools which may help you in gathering the relevant material. These tools include: concordances, topical Bibles, Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias (many tool are available for free on the web).
Here are some difficulties to keep in mind when doing a character or a topical study. (1) There may be more than one name for a person, place or thing. Peter is also called Simon and Cephas. Paul is also called Saul. Looking up “money” in a concordance will not locate all relevant material for your study, because money has many names in the Bible (e.g. drachma, denarius, talent, etc.) A topical Bible may help here. (2) There may be more than one person, place or thing by the same name or title. There are multiple men named Joseph, multitude women named Mary, multiple Pharaohs, and multiple Herods. The ark of Noah and the ark of the covenant are not the same thing. Make sure the same person, place or thing is under consideration. (3) One word in English may be from different original words. Hell, in the King James Version, may be from Gehenna or Hades. A good concordance may be helpful here (e.g. Strong’s, Young’s). (4) More than one English word may come from the same original word. Agape is translated “love” and “charity.” A good concordance in English (e.g. Strong’s), or a concordance of the original languages (e.g. Wigram’s) may be helpful here (free tools may be available on the web).