REACHING DEEPLY INTO GOD’S WORD
FIVE REASONS TO STUDY THE BIBLE AND HOW TO PREPARE TO DO IT
BY TAMRA HERNANDEZ
ONE FUNDAMENTAL reason for a follower of Jesus to study the Bible is that Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, studied the Bible. Jesus’ education, like that of other Jewish boys growing up in first-century Israel, included memorization of the Scriptures. What Christians refer to as the Old Testament was the first Bible of the early church (called the Torah, it formed the context through which Jesus was recognized as the fulfillment of the Scriptures).
For Jesus and many of the first Jewish Christians, Scripture study was a priority woven into daily life. However, Bible study is a deliberate, countercultural choice for most Christians living in this first century of the third millennium. In our day, we require good reasons to invest the necessary time, energy, and resources from our limited supply. A key series of events in Jesus’ earthly life, as recorded in Luke 4, bring to light at least five good reasons for studying the Bible (both Old and New Testaments).
TRUTH IS YOUR WEAPON.
IMMEDIATELY AFTER JESUS’ BAPTISM, the Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness where He fasted for 40 days. When “he was hungry,” Satan tempted Jesus three times (Luke 4:2). Jesus answered each temptation with an Old Testament scriptural truth.
Even the most mature Christian is vulnerable to temptation because the devil is a ruthless enemy intent on poisoning, perverting, ruining, and undermining every testimony to God’s goodness. His primary battleground is the mind. Studying (and memorizing) Scripture fortifies your mind with truth and enables you to effectively identify, refuse, and destroy Satan’s weaponry — both subtle and blatant lies aimed at areas of both weakness and strength. (See 2 Cor. 10:3-5; Eph. 6:12.)
For Jesus and many of the first Jewish Christians, Scripture study was a priority woven into daily life.
YOUR TRUE IDENTITY IS MADE KNOWN.
SATAN QUESTIONED JESUS’ IDENTITY. Though he said, “If you are the Son of God” (Luke 4:3,9), the devil knew exactly who Jesus was; he used this knowledge by suggesting that Jesus’ identity gave Him the freedom to disobey the Holy Spirit’s leading and change stones into bread to satisfy His hunger (see v. 3) and to force God’s hand. (See vv. 10,11.) Because Jesus knew the Scriptures, He realized that Satan was misquoting God’s Word. Jesus also recognized that His identity is clearly revealed in Scripture. (See Isa. 53; John 6:30-58.)
YOU LEARN THE TRUE MEANING OF LIFE
BY AFFIRMING THAT, “MAN MUST NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE” (Luke 4:4), Jesus underscored that God’s Word answers the burning questions about the purpose and meaning of existence. Life is about more than the pursuit of happiness, pleasure, or even daily bread. Only God can establish the true meaning of life, which He reveals to us in Scripture.
BIBLE STUDY IS NECESSARY
WHEN THE DEVIL PRESENTED JESUS with alternatives to fulfilling His mission (see Luke 4:5-11), Jesus’ scriptural responses reflect that His biblically-revealed identity and priorities were expressions of an intimate relationship with God maintained by concentrated obedience, faith, and humility. (See vv. 8,12.)
YOUR TRUE PURPOSE IS REVEALED
JESUS BOLDLY DECLARED in Nazareth’s synagogue that His purpose was “written” in the Scriptures. (See Isaiah 61:1-2.) Jesus was sent by the Father to fulfill these verses. The crucified and risen Jesus also sends His followers in the same manner. (See John 20:21.)
Studying the Bible requires more effort and commitment than simply reading, but these five reasons indicate that your life depends on it.
Prepare the Way
IN CAKE BAKING, 5K RUNNING, baby birthing, and home building, preparation is indispensable; this is also true of Bible studying.
Study methods abound, but using any of them effectively requires preparation. Instead of hunting for the best method, let the following thoughts guide your preparation for studying the Bible. You can remember it through the acronym BEST (Before, Expect, Seek/Search/Savor, Take time).
BEFORE STUDYING THE BIBLE, answer the following questions. Each answer has direct impact on the outcome of your study.
- Why study? If you know why you’re doing something, you’re more likely to persist in that activity when obstacles come (when you encounter opposition; when the task becomes difficult; when you just don’t feel like doing it).
- Which Bible? You will need some study tools (maps and timelines) along the way. But first, decide on the translation and format of the Bible on which your study will center. This is your primary study tool.
- To whom will you be accountable, or with whom will you study? Personal or individual study may be an important aspect of your Bible-study efforts, but even the most independently competent student is both dependent on and responsible to the Holy Spirit and the body of Christ.
THE BIBLE IS A BOOK unlike any other. (See Heb. 4:12-13.) It’s not designed to function as a textbook or a novel, for example. Whenever you read, but especially when you study the Bible:
- Expect its primary Author to speak to you, to reveal something about Himself. The Holy Spirit uses God’s Word to bring people into right relationship with the Father and to nurture those who belong to God’s household. (See Eph. 2:19.)
- Expect not only to add to your mental knowledge bank or skill set but also “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29).
- Expect the living Author of the Bible to convict of sin (see John 16:8), to transform and renew your mind (see Rom. 12:2), and to call you to obey Him. (See John 15:10.)
THE ACTIVE, PASSIONATE PURSUIT OF KNOWING, fellowshipping with, and obeying the Lord is the opposite of the passive, apathetic response of some who “sit, soak, and sour.” Prepare your heart to:
- Seek the Lord, meet with Him in His Word, and be taught by Him. (See Isa. 55:6).
- Search for and confess any sinful attitudes, motivations, or areas of disobedience. These can make your study of God’s Word ineffective.
- Savor God’s Word. To savor, or thoroughly enjoy the taste of something delicious, is to hold it in your mouth for a while instead of simply chewing and swallowing. (See Ps. 119:103.) Memorizing at least a portion of what you’re studying will facilitate meditating on it — thinking about it outside of your study time.
STUDYING THE BIBLE TAKES TIME. Spending some time in preparation for Bible study can maximize and protect the time you will be setting aside for study.
As a disciple (a learner or student) preparing to meet with Christ, your Teacher, in the school of His Word, recall John the Baptist’s cry: “Prepare the way for the Lord, make his paths straight” (Matt. 3:3). •
Tamra Hernandez has a Master of Divinity with Biblical Languages and a Doctor of Philosophy in Systematic Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Hernandez lives in Fort Worth, Texas, where she serves on the faculty of SWBTS and actively serves in the Hispanic ministry of Wedgwood Baptist Church.
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