There is nothing more important for the development of the spiritual life of the Christian than regular, systematic Bible study. It is as true in the spiritual life as it is in the physical life that health depends on what we eat and how much we eat. The soul's proper food is found in one book, the Bible. Of course, a true minister of the gospel will feed us on the Word of God, but that is not enough. He feeds us but one or two days in the week and we need to be fed every day. Furthermore, it will not do to depend upon being fed by others We must learn to feed ourselves. If we study the Bible for ourselves as we ought to study it, we shall be in a large measure independent of human teachers. Even if we are so unfortunate as to have for our minister a man who is himself ignorant of the truth of God we shall still be safe from harm.
We live in a day in which false doctrine abounds on every hand and the only Christian who is safe from being lead into error is the one who studies his Bible for himself daily. The Apostle Paul warned the elders of the church in Ephesus that the time was soon coming when grievous wolves should enter in among them not sparing the flock and when of their own selves men should arise speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them, but he told them how to be safe even in such perilous times as these. He said,
"I commend you to God and to the Word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among them which are sanctified."
Through meditation on the Word of God's grace they would be safe even in the midst of abounding error on the part of the leaders in the church [Acts 20:29-32]. Writing later to the Bishop of the church in Ephesus Paul said,
"But evil men and impostors shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived [2 Tim. 3:13, R.V.]
but he goes on to tell Bishop Timothy how he and his fellow believers could be safe even in such times of increasing peril as were coming. That way was through the study of the Holy Scriptures [2 Tim. 3:14-15].
"All Scripture," he adds, "is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
That is to say, through the study of the Bible one will be sound in doctrine, will be led to see his sins and put them away, will find discipline in the righteous life and attain unto complete equipment for all good works. Our spiritual health, our growth, our strength, our victory over sin, our soundness in doctrine, our joy and peace in Christ, our cleansing from inward and outward sin, our fitness for service, all depend upon the study of the Word of God. The one who neglects his BIble is bound to make a failure of the Christian life. The one who studies his Bible in the right spirit and by a true method in bound to make a success of this Christian life.
This brings us face to face with the question, "What is the right way to study the Bible?"
1. First of all, we should study it daily [Acts 17:11]. This is of prime importance. No matter how good the methods of Bible study that one follows may be, not matter how much time one may put into Bible study now and then, the best results can only be secured when one makes it a matter of principle never to let a single day go by without earnest Bible study. This is the only safe course. Any day that is allowed to pass without faithful Bible study is a day thrown open to the advent into our hearts of error and sin. The writer has been a Christian for more than a quarter of a century and yet today he would not dare to allow even a single day to pass over his head without listening to the voice of God as it speaks to him through the pages of His Book. It is at this point that many fall away. They grow careless and let a day pass, or even several days pass, without going alone with God and letting Him speak to them through His Word.
Mr. Moody once wisely said, "In prayer we talk to God. In Bible study, God talks to us, and we had better let God do most of the talking."
A regular time should be set apart each day for the study of the Bible. I do not think it is well as a rule to say that we shall study so many chapters in a day; for that leads to undue haste and skimming and thoughtlessness, but it is well to set apart a certain length of time each day for Bible study. Some can give more time to Bible study than others, but no one ought to give less that fifteen minutes a day.
I set the time so low in order that no one may be discouraged at the beginning. If a young Christian should set out to give an hour or two hours a day to Bible study, there is a strong probability that he would not keep to the resolution and he might become discouraged. Yet I know of many very busy people who have given the first hour of every day for years to Bible study and some who have given even two hours a day. The late Earl Cairns, Lord Chancellor of England, was one of the busiest men of his day, but Lady Cairns told me a few months ago that no matter how late he reached home at night he always arose at the same early hour for prayer and Bible study.
She said, "We would sometimes get home from Parliament at two o'clock in the morning, but Lord Cairns would always arise at the same early hour to pray and study the Bible."
Lord Cairns is reported as saying, " If I have had any success in life, I attribute it to the habit of giving the first two hours of each day to Bible study and prayer."
It is important that one choose the right time for this study. Wherever it is possible, the best time for this study is immediately after arising in the morning. The worst time of all is the last thing at night. Of course, it is well to give a little while just before we retire to Bible reading, in order that God's voice may be the last to which we listen, but the bulk of our Bible study should be done at an hour when our minds are clearest and strongest. Whatever time is set apart for Bible study should be kept sacredly for that purpose.
2. We should study the Bible systematically. Much time is frittered away in random study of the Bible. The same amount of time put into systematic study would yield far larger results.
Have a definite place where you are studying and have a definite plan of study. A good way for a young Christian to begin the study of the Bible is to read the Gospel of John. When you have read it through once, begin and read it again until you have gone over the Gospel five times. Then read the
Gospel of Luke five times in the same way;
then read the Acts of the Apostles five times,
then 1 Thessalonians five times,
then 1 John five times,
then Romans five times,
then Ephesians five times.
By this time you will be ready to take up a more thorough method of Bible study. A good method is to begin at Genesis and read the Bible through chapter by chapter. Read each chapter through several times and then answer the following questions on the chapter:
1. What is the principal subject of the chapter? [State the principal contents of the chapter in a single phrase or sentence.]
2. What is the truth most clearly taught and most emphasized in the chapter?
3. What is the best lesson?
4. What is the best verse?
5. Who are the principal people mentioned?
6. What does the chapter teach about Jesus Christ?
Go through the entire Bible in this way.
Next lesson we will continue with Bible Study Part 2.
Feed Yourself Assignments
These assignments assume the student has completed the Feed Yourself course.
1. Memorize Matt. 17:11.
2. Look up in your Bible each Scripture reference mentioned in this lesson - even the ones that are quoted.
3. Set aside a time each day for Bible study and begin the above reading program.
4. Begin working on our John Treasure Hunt.