How Do YOU Read and Study Scripture?
Dr. Roger G. Ford, Ph.D., P.E.
Some might question whether opening up the meaning of the Bible, verse by verse, is really the best, most direct, most practical way to help ourselves and others to thrive spiritually. Others will say emphatically, YES it is! Put simply, the work of the Holy Spirit is to conform all believers to Christ. The Holy Spirit does that work outside of personal intuition, personal revelation, or anything mystical. The Holy Spirit does His work in the believer through right and meaningful understanding of Scripture.
It is very important to recognize the importance of the balance between the Word of God and the Spirit of God. The Word of God is closed to our understanding and has little meaning to us apart from the illumination given by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is hindered in speaking clear and life changing truth apart from the Word of God.
When the emphasis on the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God is in proper balance in our lives, the result is a life of power and great fruitfulness in which our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is wonderfully honored and glorified. Christians that are growing in Christlikeness, are increasing in kingdom usefulness, are truly healthy spiritually, are Christians feeding deeply on Bible doctrine at the verse by verse level. Many of us do this, but many are still in need.
What does it mean to study the Word at a deep level? First, it means a regular, daily time with the Word in order to get familiar with the structure, the history, the doctrine of the Word. That cannot be done by reading here and there, one day then not for several days, small amounts like a verse a day, and so on. Deep Bible study is a commitment to God, a setting aside personal time, recreational time, relaxation time, sleep time, to get into the Word in depth. How do we recognize that we, perhaps, are not reading and studying deeply enough?
What do you do when you come to, for example, Numbers 26? Skip over reading all of the names? You really shouldn’t. Why? Some of the well-known names of Jacob’s sons you know. But, do you know what the names mean? For example, Reuben means “behold, a son” because this was Jacob’s firstborn son; Simeon means “he has heard” referring to God hearing prayer; Gad means “good fortune” because Gad was the firstborn son of Leah’s slave Zilpah; and so on. See what insight you can get just from the names alone? What about the names you have not heard of out of Numbers 26 such as Jamin which means “right hand” or Jachin meaning “he establishes” or Elon meaning “oak” as in strong and steadfast. True, it might take some work to find the meaning of some of the names, but the reward is to learn what most Christians have never even attempted to learn. Great insights into Biblical doctrine and history can be found through patriarch names and their meanings. So, read the names either silently or aloud. Go ahead and butcher their “proper” pronunciation – it doesn’t matter. You may just be uttering a blessing on you and your house by doing so! And, then, discover the meaning of some of the names to determine what else God has for us to learn.
As a wonderful illustration of this, there was a Bible scholar of the late 1800s and early 1900s, Dr. A.T. Pierson, who wrote of an unnamed Jewish rabbi who had studied the 10 pre-flood patriarchs from Adam to Noah. This rabbi researched the meaning of the names of these men and found them interesting. Realizing that certain meanings have lost their relevance over the years, the exercise is interesting: Adam means mankind; Seth, appointed; Enos, mortality; Cainan, wailing for the dead; Mahalaleel, God be praised; Jared, He shall descend; Enoch, a mortal man; Methuselah, dismissing death; Lamech, the weary; and Noah, rest. Stringing these translations together yields the following sentence: “Mankind is appointed (to) mortality, wailing for the dead. God be praised. He shall descend, a mortal man, dismissing death, (bringing to) the weary rest.” This sentence paints the very picture of God’s plan of salvation for mankind through the more than 1600 years of men’s names prior to the Flood of Noah! Truly, we can all now see that the Word of God is literally boundless in depth, limitless in discovery, challenging in study, and infinite in wisdom.
Then, as a second example, there are the old familiar, seemingly routine or expected verses such as Paul’s salutation statements he makes at the beginning of each of his epistles. Take Titus for example. In spite of the very profound words and references in verses 1 and 2, we usually read over these words quickly to get on with the “meat” of the rest of the short book, don’t we? But, to do so would be missing deep meaning found just in two simple yet profound verses at the start of this little book written to a young pastor from the Apostle to the Gentiles. Titus is where we find qualifications for an Elder, how a pastor should teach with urgings for older men, older women, younger men, and to everyone about the Blessed Hope, and to remind all how to relate and behave towards one another in the Body of Christ. But the very first two verses in this short book, Paul’s salutation or introduction, easy to miss if read quickly, cover basic doctrines of the faith – justification, sanctification, and glorification.
First, Paul announces that he is a bondservant of God and an apostle or special messenger of Jesus Christ in Titus 1:1. What this man just did was make known to all that he had humbled himself (tough for a Pharisee to do), realized and confessed his personal sin and fallen nature (again, tough for a Pharisee to do), and became servant to the Most High God and His Son through the drawing and leading of the Holy Spirit – all of which is the doctrine of justification or becoming righteous in God’s eyes by accepting the salvation obtained through Christ’s great sacrifice.
Second, in the rest of verse 1, Paul paints the picture of edification, growing discernment, and increasing knowledge through training in the Truth that is the very definition of the doctrine of sanctification. We are all, or at least should be, constantly growing in our faith, increasing our knowledge of the Truth in God’s Word with the Holy Spirit alongside revealing hidden and deep meaning. This growth is furthering to our maturation in the faith tending toward godliness. Our sojourn in this life, post salvation, is supposed to be engaging and progressing along the road to enlightenment and greater understanding of God’s Character, God’s Commands, and God’s Will in our lives individually as well as a Body of Christ. This simply means we are to be getting more and more holy as we strive to be Christ-like in this life, knowing full well that we will not be fully Christ-like until we are face to face with Christ at the Rapture in our glorified bodies, or, if we die before the Rapture, in Heaven with Christ in a spirit body.
In Titus 1:2, Paul completes the trilogy of our lives in Christ by referring to our eventual and guaranteed glorification. The doctrine of glorification begins with our obtaining eternal life at the time of salvation. When we accept Christ as our Savior and Lord, submit our lives to Him and Him alone, and serve Him with good works in the Lord and not for ourselves, we are assured and can rest in the promise of glorification. Imagine being free from sin altogether, wholly righteous as Jesus has always been, possessors of and, eventually, recipients of eternal life – life with our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, Yeshua Hamashiach, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, forever and ever! Now, that is glorification, being perfectly sinless and serving our Lord forever, constantly busy doing the many things that Jesus wants us to do for Him, individually, forever. What a Savior! Hallelujah!
Can you see why it is important to carefully read Scripture with an in-depth mindset, to study Scripture with a dedication to detail, to search Scripture for deep meaning, finding references and coordination between books of both the Old and New Covenants (testaments), to love Scripture not only because it is the very Word of the Living and Powerful God, but because it is life’s Manual, the instruction book for a godly life, the contract with God Himself that restores relationship, personal and deep loving relationship with the Holy and Just God, and much, much more? Take time to read the Word again and again, but now do so with an eager, searching eye, much like looking for buried treasure. Plus, this buried treasure you are certain to find, unlike the material kind, because the Holy Spirit will make sure you find exactly what He knows you need at any given time and for any given circumstance. And, in Jeremiah 33:3, we learn that all we have to do is ask God for His help in studying His Word, and we will receive much more than we ask Him for: “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know.”
The enormously important, intensely personal, life-transforming relationship with the Living God is so very important to each and every one of us. Therefore, we must strive to grow spiritually all the remaining days of our earthly lives to serve God, please God, worship God, trust God, and involve God in each and everything we do. The most critical and imperative factor in achieving all of those goals, those desires, those commands, is to know, appreciate, and grow in the knowledge of God’s Word. I challenge everyone, especially Deacons, to read the Word of God more, to study (this time in depth) the Word of God more, to meditate on the Word of God more, and to apply the Word of God to our lives more each and every day until we hear that trumpet or find ourselves in the very presence of Jesus Christ. May the Lord make His Word more real, more significant to you and your family than it has ever been in the past. May the Lord bless you and yours, and Praise God!