Bible study, continuing
It may seem rather artificial to distinguish between Bible
reading (see Lesson, Bible readings, daily) and
Bible study. Certainly there is no clear line of demarcation between the two.
But generally, we may think of Bible study as one step beyond doing the "daily
readings" -- as to time spent, and application and concentration.
There is a decided tendency among newly baptized believers to
suppose that they "have passed the test" and now they can relax. This is a
tremendously dangerous attitude! Baptism is not the end, it is only the
beginning. Continuing serious Bible study is essential, to consolidate what has
already been learned. It is advisable to continue in some form of "first
principles" class for several years after baptism. For that matter, if we are to
be serious preachers of God's Truth to others, we will need to continue "first
principles" study all of our lives.
But there should be also a gradual changeover, to some extent,
into general Bible study (ecclesial classes, and private study). This will have
the effect of increasing understanding of the Bible as a whole, which will
reconfirm our initial convictions based on "first principles" proof texts. The
more we study the Bible as a whole, the better we shall understand the context
of those sometimes "isolated" proofs we have already learned. And if what we
believe is the Truth, continuing study will only enhance our grasp of
There are, of course, as many different approaches to Bible
study as there are students. And there are as well many different study tools --
some of which may be indispensable to one person while totally unnecessary as
far as another is concerned. Every man or woman must be fully persuaded in his
own mind; no one method -- and no single piece of advice -- can be equally
useful for all.
Having said all this, however, it might be beneficial at least
to outline some basic approaches to Bible study, and finally in the next section
to comment (briefly again) on some common study tools.
Approaches to Bible Study
1. First of all, intend to be a student! No lesser intention
will ever produce any good result.
2. Concentrate on the details. Note what the words say and not
what you suppose that they say or would like them to say.
3. Use marginal references to trace New Testament quotations
from the Old Testament. When you do so, follow up in the whole context of the
Old Testament passage.
4. Ask yourself questions! And don't expect all the answers
right away! (This requires, incidentally and beneficially, a healthy dose of
"Where'er you look within this book,
5. Put the parallel narratives together: not just the four
gospels, but also Kings and Chronicles, and the Old Testament prophets with
their respective historical sections.
Five things observe with care:
Of whom it speaks, and how it speaks,
And why, and when, and where."
6. Always have in mind the question: What does this remind me
of? Have an eye out for types everywhere (but be careful not to get "carried
away" to the exclusion of the plain lesson).
7. Use your imagination. Fill out the Bible picture in
accordance with common sense and experience.
8. Take the Bible as meaning plainly and precisely what it
says, unless it supplies you with good reason for taking it otherwise.
9. Trace an argument or a theme throughout an entire section
of Scripture. (For this, the previous advice on reading larger portions in a
connected fashion is quite appropriate.)
10. Lastly, always be willing to admit that you may be
mistaken, and that you still have much to learn.
1. Concordances: These have two good uses and one bad one. The
bad one is to string together a list of passages containing the same English
word, with no regard for setting or original Hebrew or Greek, and call the
result a Bible study. The good uses: (a) to find a passage -- for which almost
any concordance is good enough, and (b) to group together and analyze the uses
of a particular original word -- for which Young's, Strong's, and/or the
Englishman's Hebrew and Greek are essential.
2. Dictionaries, and "Geographies", and "Customs": These have
multiplied in the last few years as the Bible languages and the Bible lands have
been "opened up" more and more. Thus the modern works are the best by far,
provided the reader ignores any possible "higher-critical" comments. (This is
not to discount overly much some of the older works of a certain
3. Commentaries in general: The older writers (Victorian and
earlier) are generally the best, primarily because of their absolute reliance on
the Bible as the Word of God. But beware the "short-cut" of consulting
commentaries before you have done your own study. Only when you have done a lot
of work for yourself do these books begin to have a real value to you.
4. Christadelphian "commentaries": Again, do your own study
first; then, see what Brother Thomas or Roberts or Whittaker or Mansfield has to
say. Don't be lulled into the belief that, because "Brother So-and-So" is a
Christadelphian, you don't need to examine his words and ideas as critically as
you might otherwise. The exhortation to "try the spirits" (1Jo 4:1) applies to
all! But, by all means, read all the Christadelphian writings you can absorb --
don't let any "censor" deprive you of all the evidence. Make up your own
5. Wide-margin Bibles and Bible-marking systems: Some such
systems are excessively rigid -- destroying all individual analysis. Don't
become too fond of colored pens and pencils and elaborate referencing and
indexing techniques. Don't do your Bible-marking with the slightest idea that
anyone else will see it and approve, or think more highly of you. Do only what
makes sense to you. Be prepared to change your system or style as your needs
change. Be prepared also to erase (if your notes are in pencil) or to
"liquid-paper" (if ink) and start over. Your first notes never seem as useful 10
or 20 years down the road. But don't hesitate to write something down on that
6. Continuing visits and Bible discussions with other serious
"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens
"Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened
and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those
who feared the Lord and honored his