Suggestions For Bible Students (Part 7)

This is the last part in this series.  It is my hope that the thoughts in this series will help you to be a better student of the Bible.  It is my belief that no book deserves to be studied more, and that no study is of greater importance.  It is more important than a college degree, or a trade, business, or professional license.  It concerns man’s relationship with God.  It concerns eternity.  Someone has said that Bible stands for Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.  Another has said that it means Basic Instruction Book (for) Living (on) Earth.  Read it.  Read it regularly.  Study it.

24.  Authorization

The authority for what we do has its origin in one of two ultimate sources.  It is either from God or man (cf. Luke 20:4).  {Yes, God has delegated authority to men on earth [e.g. governments (Romans 13:1-2); parents (Ephesians 6:1-2); employers (Ephesians 6:5-6); overseers in the church (Hebrews 13:17).  However, even those entrusted with authority are to act within the framework of God’s authority (cf. Acts 5:29)]}.  The conscientious Bible student will want to make sure that what he does is authorized by God (cf. Leviticus 10:1-2; Matthew 15:9; Acts 15:24; Colossians 3:17; Hebrews 7:12-14).

Bible authority can be found in the following ways: (1) Look at the direct (explicit) statements.  For example: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).  “Now we exhort you, brethren warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).  These statements (and others) authorize us to involve ourselves in the lives of others for their spiritual benefit.

(2) Look at the accounts of action.  For example: “A certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea… he took Paul’s belt and bound his hands and feet, and said, … ‘So shall the Jews and Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the gentiles'” (Acts 21:10-11).  This authorizes the use of visual aids.  Another example: “Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning the giving and receiving but you only.  For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities” (Philippians 4:15-16).  This statement (and others) authorizes churches supporting preachers who are working in a different geographical place.  If an account of action appears to have apostolic or inspired approval, then it may be regarded as authorized and an example for us.

(3) Consider what is implied.  What is implied is taught, but not in explicit words.  For example: Does the Bible teach that there is one church?  Yes, it does so implicitly (Ephesians 4:4 cf. 1:22-23); but not explicitly.  Are “missionary reports” before the church authorized?  Yes (Acts 14:27; 3 John 5-7).  May a Christian keep a name of pagan origin, after conversion?  It appears so (e.g. Apollos, Epaphras, Epaphroditus).

It is also important to know how the Bible does not authorize (Leviticus 10:1-2; Acts 15:23-29; Hebrews 7:11-14; 8:1-6; Colossians 3:17).  Roy Deaver has correctly stated, “God does not authorize: (1) Upon the basis of my personal likes and dislikes; (2) Upon the basis of what pleases me; (3) Upon the basis of erroneous conclusions which I may reach; (4) Upon the basis of my opinion or the opinions of others; (5) Upon the basis of what is popular; (6) Upon the basis of what may be the consensus in somebody’s lectureship; (7) Upon the basis of what some well-known and highly respected brother teaches or may have taught; (8) Upon the basis of human traditions; (9)  Upon the basis of my inability to ‘see any harm in it’; (10) Upon the basis of practices long-standing; (11) Upon the basis of the silence of the scriptures” (Roy C. Deaver, Ascertaining Bible Authority, p.48).

25.  Logic

An elementary knowledge of logic may be helpful in Bible study (much as an elementary understanding of grammar and hermeneutics may be helpful).   Consider the following accepted laws of logic: (1) The Law of Rationality.  This states that we ought to justify our conclusions with adequate evidence (Ruby, Logic on Introduction, p. 131).   Thomas Warren put it this way: “To be rational is to draw only such conclusions as are warranted by the evidence… My conclusions cannot outrun the evidence” (Warren, Logic and the Bible, p. 40).  The aim of the good Bible student should be to gather the Scriptural evidence and draw only such conclusions as are warranted by the evidence (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

(2) The Law of Identity.  Thomas Warren explains it this way: “For propositions… ‘if a proposition is true then it is true.’  Some people in contradiction of this law, think that a precisely stated proposition can be true for one man and false for another…” (Warren, Logic and the Bible, p. 43).

(3) The Law of Excluded Middle.  Thomas Warren explains it this way: “The law of excluded middle for things is: ‘Every thing either has a certain property or it does not have that property.’  The law of excluded middle for propositions is: ‘Every precisely stated proposition is either true or false'” (Warren, Logic and the Bible, p. 44).  For example, the Bible either teaches that faith is necessary to salvation or it does not.  There is no middle ground.

(4) The Law of Contradiction.  Thomas Warren explains it this way: “Of the law of contradiction in regard to things, Ruby says that ‘nothing can both have and not have a given characteristic in precisely the same respect.  This law asserts that nothing can be both A and the contradictory of A’… In regard to propositions, Ruby says that the law of contradiction is: ‘no proposition can be both true and false, in the same respects'” (Warren, Logic and The Bible, pp. 47-48, citing Ruby, p. 267).  It is very important for one to recognize what a contradiction is and is not.  J.W. McGarvey has written, “Two statements are contradictory not when they differ, but when they both can not be true.  If, on any rational hypothesis, we may suppose them both to be true, we can not rightfully pronounce them contradictory” (McGarvey, Evidences of Christianity, Part 3, p. 31).  Clinton Lockhart has written, “If two statements are real contradictories, one of them must be false; but sometimes the semblance of contradiction is due to the use of one or more terms in the two statements with different meanings or applications” (Lockhart, Principles of Interpretation, p. 27).

26.  Keep Reading

One tends to forget details of things he does not use.  Use it or lose it.  Guy Woods has written, “regular study will lead to results not possible in spasmodic or irregular efforts.  It is psychologically true – it has been determined again and again by psychological testing – the average person forgets approximately 40% of those matters learned in the study period in eight hours, and 20% more in the next six or eight weeks…  However, if we study carefully the subject matter today, and tomorrow review it just as attentively, we will add 60% of that which we lost since the original study period” (Woods, How to Study the New Testament Effectively, pp. 16-17).  I do not know the accuracy of these statistics.  However, I do know that if we do not continue to read and meditate on what we have learned, recall will become more difficult.

27.  Pray

Make prayer a part of your study habits.  Never overlook prayer. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).  Guy Woods comments, “Knowledge is the possession of facts; wisdom the ability of judging soundly and correctly regarding them” (Woods, A Commentary on the Epistle of James, p. 41).

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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