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HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE ...

 

Having been asked often this question, by men and women who love the Scriptures, I thought it expedient to write a few Lessons on Bible Study.

At least one way of doing so. The normal method God has given me through the years.

We pray this Series will be a blessing and encouragement to many!

October, 2013

 

 

A photo of Debbie and me after a recent Revival Service!

 

 

LESSON 1, INTRODUCTION, THE FOUNDATION OF BIBLE STUDY:

For the next few days we're going to discuss this topic, "How to study the Bible." Over the past two or three years several Preachers, Sunday School teachers and other Christians have asked this question. So I just told a couple of them recently that I would write about the subject. Here is my attempt at doing so.

First let me say this. A person must have the "desire" to learn God's Word first of all. All is fruitless apart from that trait, "hunger" for God's Book. Simon Peter best addresses this thought. "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby." First Peter 2:2

Folks, the verb the Holy Spirit utilizes here, translated "desire," is in the imperative mood! It is a command from the Lord to us! If we properly "desire" His Word ... we will come up with some plan for learning it! We are here given no choice! To live as obedient saints of God ... we must desire His Words, which are incorporated of course into His Word!

This "desire" verb is "epipotheo" in Greek. It's strong, too! "Potheo" means "to crave" something. "To yearn" after it! One text says, "to pursue it with love!" Even "to lust" after it! "To greatly long after." The prefix "epi," a Greek preposition, merely strengthens, intensifies the word, the action!

It's the word Paul uses in Romans 1:11 revealing his "yearning" to see the Roman Christians, most of them for the very first time. It's also his word for his "love" of the Philippians, gracious brethren in Christ, Philippians 1:8. It's additionally the term used of the Thessalonians, their "desiring" to see Paul their spiritual father again, First Thessalonians 3:6. James 4:5 uses, I think, this word for the Holy Spirit's "lusting" after us who are saved, craving us to live for Jesus totally. What a word history we have here!

The verb "epipotheo" is also here an "aorist." That means the action which started this longing for God's Word began in the past and was fulfilled in the past too. It suggests that when we were saved, we were implanted with that hunger! It, in theory at least, has been with us since the moment we believed! Peter is almost saying that if we do not have some craving for the Truth, for the Scriptures, we might not even be saved!

Wow!

Bible students, listen to me. We are to be that eager for the Bible! As a matter of fact, as a result of our conversion. And as a matter of daily practice, too.  After all, hunger begun must translate into hunger that recurs, that continues, that is incessant!

No one will consistently study God's Word ... without that proper and healthy and inherent "desire" to do so. If we are going to be the right kind of students of Scripture, that's exactly where we must begin. At the very foundation, the source, of it all.

Are we "desiring" the Word of God?

If so, we are already well on our way to victory!

If we persist.

            --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 2, THE "BOOK BY BOOK" METHOD AND MISCELLANEA:

Bible Study Methods, that's what the older Preachers called different approaches to the Scriptures. Different ways of analyzing and admiring and internalizing God's Word.

I just read last week where one teacher/author/preacher studied the Bible Book by Book. Beginning in Genesis and not quitting until Revelation had been conquered! Not necessarily in order, either. Folks, this approach alone can take an entire lifetime!

By the way, immediately now the question will come to mind about what helps, what commentaries, are best for certain sections of Scripture. Here's my answer, one given to me as a much younger preacher. By one of my Uncles who also was an evangelist. He suggested that, rather than buying whole multi-volume sets of commentaries, where one or two or three men (the Jamieson, Fausset, Brown set, for example) did all the work ... rather buy these books one at a time with individual authors who spent years and years and years specializing in Genesis or Psalms or the Prophets or the Gospels! Sure made sense to me than, and still does today.

The foregoing is especially true in Books like Hebrews or Revelation or Leviticus, places where doctrinal truth or dispensational truth is so critical. Learn from the best! Proverbs 13:20 is still true, "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise. But a companion of fools shall be destroyed."

One day soon we will discuss some favorite authors. Men who have helped me repeatedly through the years, most of whom are already in Heaven now, at rest from their labors. "But their works do follow them." Revelation 14:13. You should build your own list, too. Writers who have spoken to you powerfully and profitably. And our lists, optimally, will not include the exact same names either!

Tomorrow I'll give you another method of Bible Study, eventually leading up to the way I've done it for the past number of years. But let me say this, there is no right or wrong way to study the greatest Book ever written! As long as it is being approached reverently and in faith believing.

Our problem in this area is not the "how," but the "when" and the "if" I fear. Just do it! And be consistent. Malcomb Gladwell, in his excellent book "Outliers," says basically that if a person can do anything for ten thousand hours (!!!) ... he or she will become an "expert" in that activity! Will bear fruit in that endeavor! Will excel therein! In that line of thought every child of God should be a real "leader" in Bible Study!

More tomorrow, Lord willing.

               --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 3, MORE BIBLE STUDY METHODS:

Several years ago, while listening to a Preacher, I learned of a unique way to study the New Testament! It's mathematically attractive, too!

When the total chapters in the Books of Matthew through Revelation are tallied, the number is two hundred sixty. That's 260, written numerically.

If a person, man or woman, approaches a chapter a week, studying and analyzing and meditating and internalizing it, he or she will have completed the whole Corpus, the entire New Testament in five years! Just 5 years, to try to master the Book of Books! Or at least certainly become intimately familiar with it! (52 weeks a year multiplied by 5 equals exactly 260)

Oh, how I wish someone reading here would try that. Even if tentatively, say with the Gospel of Matthew for example. In 28 weeks you would likely be addicted!

Or Revelation!

Or one of the shorter offerings, Philemon!

And since I am discussing with you "plans" for study this morning, let me add this. If you read and ponder a chapter of Proverbs each day, upon arising or when retiring, or at lunch, you will work your way through that whole Book in a month's time! Then repeat the process, at least for a year! Maybe for the rest of your life! Think of the godly "wisdom" you would glean and be able to both live personally and helpfully share with others!

And the same idea works with the Book of Psalm, the monthly plan. Five Psalms a day will get you through the whole Psalter, the whole Book, every single month!

I also knew a Preacher once who did that with the Book of Acts as well. It's twenty-eight chapters fit well into the the monthly schema. This godly man's philosophy was that a daily dose of Proverbs would yield him wisdom. And the Psalms would give him joy, praise, adoration. Then Acts would keep him "red hot" to see souls saved!

The Bible, what a great Book!

God written, without error, pledged to help each of us live for our Lord! Yes indeed, a miraculous Book!

Whatever plan you adopt, dozens more exist, get busy. Get "into" the Word! You will eternally be glad you did.

                --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 4, STUDYING THE WORDS OF SCRIPTURE, THE BEST METHOD:

At least that's the terminology I choose to use! The "best method" of approaching Scripture! Focusing on the actual words the Lord uses in conveying His Truth to mankind.

Truthfully, the main way I've studied the Bible, for the bulk of my ministry, is simply paying a lot of attention to the "words" in any given Text. Not just the ideas, mind you, the exact words the Holy Spirit used to frame those ideas, those great truths.

Word study!

First Peter 1:21 taught us all: "For the prophecy (the Word of God) came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." This is how Scripture came to us in the first place. "Holy men" were directed by the Holy Spirit! The verb "moved" is "phero," meaning "carried along," a word often used of their great ships literally being "blown" by the wind, directed from one port to another.

But notice further that these men, directed by God, "spake" the material we now call "prophecy." The proclamation, the message, God wanted us to receive. "Propheteia" in Greek means "that which is told forth" by a messenger.

They "spake" God's Message to us! This time Peter, again under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, uses the Greek verb "laleo" in reference to God's Truth. And "laleo" means "to talk, to tell, to use one's tongue to communicate!" It's even rendered "preach" six times in the New Testament.

My point is this, they wrote words!

They spake words.

God's revelation to man, miraculous as it is, still consists of words.

So it seems to me that it's essential to study the words of Scripture. One accurate source says there are only 5,446 words in the entire Greek New Testament! Folks, the average person's vocabulary in these modern times is studied to be from 12,000 to 20,000! Surely we can learn 5,000 more words, to better comprehend the greatest Book ever written!

And if that task is too daunting, learn the few critical words the occur again and again, dozens or even hundreds of times in the Bible!

Such has been this preacher's goal anyway.

And when I enter the pulpit, the words of the Text become the heart of everything I say. The quality of the Sermon rises or falls purely on that, what the Holy Spirit chooses to convey to the congregation via those words! His words to begin with, I remind you!

Now tomorrow, the Lord willing, I will share with you how to begin such word study, as a lifelong learning project.

Or at least I will share with you the path along which the Lord led me. Maybe not the best way, but certainly a delightful, enjoyable way!

God's "words" have power! Hear the Psalmist in his longest chapter, talking to God. "The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple." Psalm 119:130, notice the noun I've underlined!

Words!

              --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 5, STRONG'S AND VINE'S AND ROBERTSON:

The way my "word study" career began was quite simple, the world might have called it accidental. I just felt that the need existed, again for me at least,  ... to more clearly know what a verse or group of verses, including particularly the nouns and verbs ... was "saying" to us, the people of God.

That goal alone forced me into a word study pattern. If the Holy Spirit inspired the "words," and He did ... then the preacher must study the "words," and I sought to do so.

These progressive steps helped me. They might do the same for you. Although we must realize God works differently with His men, seldom duplicating a servant!

The old Strong's Concordance was my first attempt at word study. As many of you know it contains a numerically coded Hebrew and Greek dictionary in the back. Look up the word you are analyzing, alphabetically now, notice its "number," then locate that digit in the correct dictionary, Hebrew or Greek, again at the back of your Strong's, and carefully read those "fine print" definitions! Some of them, in time, you will virtually memorize!

Well, there's where and how I first started. The definitions are much too short and incomplete at times. But they do accurately supply a basic idea of the essence of any given word.

Then one day I learned about W. E. Vine's Dictionary of New Testament words, Greek only at that time. It was alphabetized and required no direct knowledge of Greek, so in I jumped! What a help this volume proved to be! By then I was "addicted" to the whole process! I just had to know what these beautiful words meant!

One day a teacher told me about A. T. Robertson's six volume Word Pictures in the Greek New Testament. Again, this help is "spotty," not consistently verse by verse and certainly not word by word ... but it sure did illuminate the terms it highlighted! Plus, I was getting the information from a man who taught Greek as a lifetime activity.

Now tomorrow I will continue the story. Other books. Other means. Other goals. Each of which is in the reach of any Bible student today.

If you "hunger and thirst" to know the "words" of the Bible ... guaranteed ... God will "fill" your heart's desire in that area. Fill it to the brim!

Let Psalm 119:113 be your meditation today, wholeheartedly agreeing with the writer. He's talking directly to God! "I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love."

Amen!

              --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 6, LEARNING THE ALPHABET:

Some commentaries lend themselves to word study much mother than others do. Learn those authors. My favorite set of expositions along this line are written by Alexander Maclaren, the famed British preacher of London long ago. Recently I enjoyed reading a biographical sketch of this man of God. Oh, how he knew God's Word! His seventeen volume set, generally entitled "Expositions of Holy Scripture," is superb. However, most even semi-scholarly commentaries today are "loaded" with etymology and word definitions.

Keep in mind that if you do not enjoy word study per se, many devotional commentaries are available as well. Read what thrills you, stirs your thinking, gets you ready to teach or preach the Word! Getting into the Bible, thinking its great thoughts, rejoicing in its Truths ... that's what God blesses!

Eventually you will want to learn enough Greek, really Hebrew too, to be able to read the alphabets of these ancient languages. Once you've accomplished this task, you will be better equipped to read those authors who do not necessarily transliterate the original Bible words into English. That would be wonderful!

These first steps will at least help you get started on a life-long learning journey. An exciting one because the very Revelation of God is its subject, its goal!

When you have studied words for a few months, years, you may choose to add to your library certain lexicons, grammars, and monographs on key terms of Scripture. Good books exist in each of these categories.

In fact, we who speak English have a wealth of information available to us these days! Maybe more than any generation ever. Let's take enjoyable advantage of it!

Now, enough said, let's go study the Word!

In Psalm 119:96 the author says directly to God, "Thy Commandment is exceeding broad." In other words, there's a lot in Scripture! Few, if any, subjects it does not cover!

Then, all the more reason, invest a lifetime there!

              --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 7, EXAMINING THE BIBLE ELECTRONICALLY, DIGITALLY:

Study!

What an honor!

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Second Timothy 2:15, where "the Word of Truth" is the Bible, no doubt!

Yes, Solomon was right in what he said in Ecclesiastes 12:12. "And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh."

But a lot depends on the Book being studied!

Let me today give you a "shortcut" in analyzing the Bible. Do so electronically! With you laptop or desktop computer. Many Bible software programs exist which provide lightning-fast concordance searches! And now, with the unprecedented proliferation of on-line materials, some are even free of charge.

I personally use a tool named "Bibleworks." Previously known as "Hermeneutika." But it's much too expensive, compared to all the other tools available nowadays.

Yes! Begin looking for such helps. Ask your Pastor. Amazingly, with the move of a cursor you can see that Hebrew or Greek word, often with a simple definition popping up in a box just below the Text!

Folks, we no longer have any excuse for not studying the Scriptures!

Learn the vocabulary of the Word of God! Get enough basic English grammar in your mind to know the workings of nouns and verbs especially. With the ultimate goal of understanding every part of speech.

Begin your journey today. Or continue your trip. Whatever method, however you pursue it ... master the contents of your Bible!

And?

"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." Psalm 1:1-3

What rewards! God does encourage us to learn His Book, His Word, His very thoughts! "In the keeping of them there is great reward," clearly promises Psalm 19:11.

            --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 8, JUST A WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT:

When it comes to Bible study, the best advice is just to begin. And stay with it! For years, for a lifetime really!

Occasionally a young preacher will ask, "Brother Bagwell ... what single piece of advice would you give a man just beginning his ministry?"

Always I say the same thing. I meant it years ago and still do so today. "Stay IN the Word of God!" Make it a part of your life!

Via one way or another, what we've been calling a "study method" here in these lessons, learn the Bible!

Jesus once bluntly said to the Sadducees: "Ye do err ... not knowing the Scriptures." Matthew 22:23

Never let that be said of us!

            --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 9, AN EXAMPLE:

The word we're going to notice is not often used in Scripture. And then only by Paul the Apostle, with one exception. The Greek verb is "oikodomeo." It is translated in English "to edify." I will underline it in a verse, to show you its context. Paul is encouraging the saints at Thessalonica, how to live successfully for Jesus. "Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another." First Thessalonians 5:11

What does that mean, to "edify" one another?

The Greek verb is blended. The noun for "house" is "oikos." a home that is inhabited. And "doma," our word "dome," means "house top!" The "dome" of a structure! It's derived from "demo," meaning "to build." Put it all together now, "to construct a house, a home, from the ground all the way up to the very tip-top!"

"To build a house!"

"To edify!"

Identical meanings!

What does it mean for Christians, then, to edify each other?

To spiritually build each other up ... not tear each other down! To encourage each other, not be a burden to each other!

Now, here's "oikodomeo" again, from Romans 14:19, with the very same idea. "Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another."

Wow!

This approach to Bible Study may not be best for everyone, but for me it's the way to go!

Study those Holy Spirit inspired words of the Bible!

Through them He can teach the very essence, the precise message of the Word! After all, the WORD consists of words!

Just wanted to give you a little example this beautiful Monday morning. Study the Book, the wonderful Bible God gave us!

           --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 10, ON READING, CONCLUSION:

Paul in First Timothy 4:13 writes to a young preacher saying, "Give attendance to reading." It seems that no discussion of studying the Bible can be complete without at least an allusion to Paul's statement here. Advice from a wise preacher to a young one!

The verb, "give attendance," is a present tense translation of the Greek word "prosecho." It means "to hold on" to something. Do not let it go, do not fail to do it. Almost, "concentrate" on this activity!

Timothy, emphasize reading as you prepare yourself for the work of God. Do not neglect this form of study! This is the same Paul who later wrote this same young man: "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Second Timothy 2:15

The noun "reading" translates the Greek word "anagnosis." It's only used three times in all the Bible! All the New Testament anyway. It literally means "to know" something! To know it well! To know it by having studied it! Often lexicons say the word is a strong hint at "reading the Word of God ... in public!" This may be true, but that nuance of meaning is not necessarily inherent in the grammatical definition itself.

Timothy, be a reader! That admonition, that command, that imperative ... certainly is inherent in the grammar and etymology!

Reading ... and Bible Study!

Here are some ideas about reading as a form of learning God's Word. Use them or disregard them as the Lord directs you. I've gleaned them from godly preachers through the years.

Learn to read commentaries! This alone can become an enjoyable pursuit. Not only the old writers either, though they are important. Men teaching yet today have mighty knowledge of the Scriptures. Avail yourselves of their wisdom and expertise.

Read books of sermons! Old Dr. W. A. Criswell used to say that he would rather read a volume of sermons on any given text, the Book of Ezekiel for example, than read two volumes of commentary! However, if you do read sermons, follow some writer, preacher, who thrills you and edifies you! Do not waste time on a dull, boring preacher. Different men speak to different hearts, for sure!

Read history! Especially the times that figure into the Old and New Testament eras. In fact, the Word of God contains a lot of history! Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome and many other nations march across the text. Learning such local color can greatly enhance your knowledge of the Bible.

Also, read biography! Know the lives of the great men and women who have served God with all their hearts. Most recently I have read the stories of both Joseph Parker, London Pastor of yesteryear, and Alexander Maclaren, Pastor in Manchester, England for nearly fifty years. Remember what Solomon wrote, "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise."

What am I saying?

Read!

Read until you are full!

Know your subject, your text, your Sunday School lesson!

Be ready to preach that sermon!

Someone once said that preaching is merely an example of "Studying oneself full ... then going to the pulpit and sharing ... proclaiming oneself empty!"

Oh, blessed will be that congregation!

Just some thoughts.

Everyone, let's stay in the Word of God!

                  --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

Oh yes, Dr. Warren Wiersbe said this time and time again. It's true no doubt. "READERS ARE LEADERS." With that little thought I close this short set of lessons on studying as a Christian. Amen.

 

 

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