ISSUE: 2019, Volume 16, Issue 4
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The reading and studying of God's word
Any progress in the life of a believer will begin with reading God's word! The New Testament is clear that the Bible is the word of God. God does not usually speak through the miraculous today; instead, he speaks through His word, 2 Tim. 3. 16. Therefore, you will face difficulties if you profess to be a Christian and do not read the scriptures. This article looks at three short New Testament passages (that you will need to read!) that deal with reading or study, tries to draw some lessons from them, and then asks some questions to help us reflect on our own habits.
The call to read: 1 Pet. 1. 23 – 2. 2
In this section we learn that the word of God is living, powerful and changes lives. Peter is clear that the nutrients required for spiritual growth are those contained in the word of God. Just as a baby knows it needs milk, even though it does not understand all of the reasons why it requires nutrients or how growth is achieved, so the child of God should desire the word of God. Not to do so will result in spiritual sickness, for the scriptures are the food that facilitates growth. If you want to grow spiritually and to enjoy the fullness of salvation, then you need to read the Bible. Of course, there will be times we do not feel like reading, but it is very important that we do read the scriptures at those times! Often, when we feel we are not getting much out of reading the Bible, it is because we are coming to the scriptures with the wrong attitude. We need to pray that the Holy Spirit opens up the scriptures to us.
The consequences of study, 2 Tim. 3. 14-16
Timothy was reminded about the importance of the scriptures even though he had been aware of them from childhood.
Key ideas in the passage are that:
a. Scripture teaches doctrine and principles, so we ought not to be ignorant of them;
b. The Holy Spirit uses scripture to form convictions, so we ought not to be unsure about why we do what we do;
c. Scripture cuts across our path to correct, so we ought not to live in doctrinal or moral error; and
d. Scripture trains our character to live righteously.
The end result is that a believer will be fully equipped for service that God wants them to undertake. In short, it is immersion in the word of God that will equip you for service for God.
The command to study, 2 Tim. 2. 15
Study is, of course, more than reading, but it involves reading. The scriptures are not to be read in a light-hearted way, like a novel. Study involves verse by verse, word by word, understanding of what God is teaching, contextually by interpretation, and then, as appropriate to us, by application to our lives. The purpose of studying is not to gain the approval of other believers but so that we can bring glory to God as we develop our understanding of His purposes.
Some things to be aware of:
a. It will take work and time;
b. It is a pre-requisite of public and private teaching;
c. Of course, public ministry helps but it is the lessons learned personally from God that are likely to stand the test of time.
The individual challenge
i. Have you formed healthy spiritual habits when it comes to reading your Bible?
ii. Where do you read, and when? Are you more likely to read if you are reading in the same place and at the same time(s) each day?
iii. Do you read consecutively? Do you maintain a balance between Old and New Testament? It is good to get through the book, but better to build up carefully, reading one chapter rather than take nothing in from three;
iv. Do you have reliable and trusted study helps (and a version that is reliable to compare with the KJV?). Can one of your elders give you some help to get the right tools?
v. Do you have someone you can discuss your findings with?
vi. Do you read prayerfully, asking God to reveal the purpose of the text to you?
May you be helped to read and enjoy the word of God and to make progress in your Christian life!