How to Get Started in Studying the Bible for Yourself

God has given his Word as the infallible guide to our daily living. It not only tells us how to come to Christ for salvation, but it also tells us how to live the transformed life after we have received eternal life.All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16-17).

Because the Word is inspired, and intended to guide us to a full and useful life with Christ, we need to be open to its directions. It is intended to teach us, to instruct us in the truth of God, and we need to be willing to change our ideas and opinions from what we thought before to what God has actually said in his Word, that is, to be teachable by the Word. The Word also rebukes and corrects us: it defines what sin is for us, what displeases God, and why and how to stop. We need then to change our thoughts, words and actions when the Word corrects and rebukes us, that is, to be correctable by the Word. Then the Word trains us in righteousness: it guides us to be fully disciplined and prepared to do what God’s will is for us as disciples of Christ. We need then to be trainable by the Word of God.

God wants you to understand his Word. Pray first of all for him to guide you as you begin to read his word. Ask that the Holy Spirit would give you understanding of what God is saying to you through his Word (see the prayer of Paul in Ephesians 1:15-20). Understanding the Word of God also means being careful not to misinterpret the Word of God. We misinterpret when we add to or subtract from the meaning which God intended to convey.

1. First be sure that you have an understandable translation. There are several good modern language translations. Also an English dictionary is helpful to understand some of the terms such as justification, sanctification, and atonement.

2. Get a good Bible dictionary. The Bible is an ancient book, and it needs to be interpreted in light of its historical background. Look up people and places that you see for an idea of what this is.

3. Interpreting the Bible properly also means interpreting each phrase and book in terms of its grammatical context. This means each word and phrase in the sentence in which it stands, each sentence as it stands in the paragraph, and each paragraph as it stands in the book in which it is written. Ignoring what comes before a verse and after it, that is, its context, is the most consistently violated rule of scriptural interpretation, and has been used by many to try to make the Bible say something that it really does not say.

4. Interpreting the Bible properly means learning from the teaching of the Bible as a whole. Each genuine teaching of the Bible is repeated elsewhere, and one part will clarify what may seem hard to understand in another part. The Bible really does not contradict itself, and understanding what may be less clear in the light of what is more clear may make such apparent contradictions understandable.

5. Once you understand what the Bible was saying to the people of its times, we need to think about what it means for us now, on how to apply the Bible. This thinking and praying about how to apply it to our lives is called meditation on the scriptures. This is where blessing starts to enter our lives: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth” (that is, reading out loud the portion of the Bible which Joshua already had, which was the normal way people read in that time): meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it” (Joshua 1:8). Memorizing certain helpful verses will mean that you can have the Bible on the tip of your tongue when you need it. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). This means that it will be there for you when you might need it: to resist temptation (like Jesus did in Luke 4:1-13), to witness to Christ, to encourage someone else, and to remind yourself of God’s great promises for you. Learning and following the Word of God means that you have made the right start on the life of following Jesus Chist, and that is the kind of life that will never be shaken (Luke 6:46-49).

All scripture references taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society and used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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