Part III: How to Study the Bible
1: Why Study the Bible?
I’m going to write this discussion on Francis Chan & Mark Beuving’s book Multiply a little differently than usual; there are going to be lots of bullets because there’s just so much to cover! I love to study God’s Word, but earlier in my walk this wasn’t the case, and neither is it the case amongst many other believers; and then, sometimes, even when we do take the time to study God’s Word, we may do so with wrong motives, which, we’ll discuss here.
Francis Chan starts off this chapter by describing how the original disciples appeared to have the advantage of actually being in Jesus’s presence as He developed His ministry. But in reality we are not at a disadvantage “because God has recorded His words and the testimony of Jesus’s followers in a book–the Bible” (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 91)
For a Christian, nothing should seem more natural than reading the Bible. Peter, one of Jesus’s first disciples, compared it to a baby’s natural craving for milk: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation–if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2-3). (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 91)
We should be craving God’s Word like a baby craves for milk. What an amazing idea! When was the last time you had a craving to read God’s Word?! I know when I go a day or two without opening His Word, I have a longing for it, a passion that sometimes keeps me up after midnight just to study it. Francis Chan, next points out how important it is that we understand what the Bible is. When we say that it’s the “Word of God” we ought to recognize that “we’re actually talking about something that the all-powerful, all-knowing, transcendent God decided to write to us” (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 92)!
If we really believe that the Bible is the Word of God, then it should be much more than a book that we are familiar with. It ought to shape every aspect of our existence. It should guide the decisions we make in life. If God is the designer and creator of this world, if He made us and placed us on this earth, and if He has taken the time to tell us who He is, who we are, and how this world operates, then what could be more important to us than the Bible? (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 92)
Now that we’ve identified that we ought to be studying God’s Word, let’s discuss our motives. According to Francis Chan most Christians study the Bible for the wrong reasons.
Wrong Motives for Studying God’s Word
- Guilt: Many people feel that we have to study God’s Word simply because we’re told it’s what Christians are supposed to do. God doesn’t want us to be motivated out of guilt to study His Word. He wants us to have a love and desire for His Word and His presence. (pp.93-94)
- Status: Too often Christians are motivated by status, or a desire to appear intelligent, wise, or more spiritual than others. In reality we should be motivated by a desire to know God, to be changed by His Word, and to love and serve the people around us. (pp. 94-95)
- Teaching Material: This is when we begin to approach the Bible only as a source for teaching material. The truth is however, we must also search the Scriptures on a regular basis because of what they have to say to us, individually. (p. 95)
Okay, now that we’ve covered some of the wrong motives for studying God’s Word, let’s take a step back and look at why God gave us the Bible in the first place.
Why Did God Give Us the Bible?
- To Teach Us about Himself: We should study in order to understand God better. We search diligently to know the truth about God and to rid ourselves of any misconceptions we hold about Him. (pp. 96-97)
- To Teach Us about Ourselves and the World We Live In: The God who wrote the Bible is the God who designed this world. Since this is His world, it only makes sense to view the world from His perspective and live according to His principles. (p. 97)
- To Enable Us to Live Godly Lives: This means that as we study the Bible, we should be looking to change. If you ever find yourself reading your Bible and not changing, then you can be sure that you’re approaching the Bible in the wrong way. It’s not about finding support for our lifestyle or way of thinking; it’s about approaching the mind of God and letting Him change and redefine who we are. (pp. 98-99)
- To Facilitate a Relationship with God: Every relationship requires communication–the loving expression of each person’s thoughts, emotions, concerns, and dreams that strengthens the relationship and deepens intimacy. The Bible is God’s way of sharing His thoughts and desires with us. Every time we read the Bible we are strengthening our relationship with God. (pp. 99-100)
- To Exalt Jesus: God’s Word should move us to exalt Jesus in our everyday lives. (p. 100)
- To Prepare Us for Our God-Given Mission: We are here to be God’s servants, His ambassadors: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Rather than coming to the Bible with our own agenda and trying to find verses that support what we’d like to do, we need to allow the Bible to shape our hopes and dreams. Every time we read the Bible, we should understand our mission a little better. (pp. 100-102)
And finally, Francis Chan leaves us with these final words regarding the study of God’s Word…
Ultimately, when we read the Bible, we are approaching the mind of God. Every time you open the Bible, you ought to prepare yourself for an encounter with the Creator of the universe. ..[Therefore,] it should go without saying that we ought to approach God with humility…Reading your Bible with humility means that you’re assuming the role of a student…Approaching the Bible with humility means that we’re laying aside our agendas and looking for what God will teach us. Every time you find yourself struggling to accept something the Bible says, you’ve found an area of your life that needs to be brought into submission to Christ. (Chan & Beuving, 2012, pp. 102-103)
This is not easy! For as long as I’ve known Christ as my personal savior and as much as I’ve studied God’s Word, I continue to come across things in His Word that speak to me and are cause for me to submit areas of my life to Him. As Paul wrote to the church at Philippi: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14)