Bible: How should one study the Bible?
Your first question may be…what is the best Bible translation or version to study? As I write this in 2021, I believe it is still best to begin one’s study of the Bible with what is called the King James Version (KJV). The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek. The KJV was translated from those original languages. Although the translation is not perfect, I believe that overall it is still the closest to the original languages that were given by inspiration, that is, God-breathed.
II Timothy 3:16-17
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God [literally, God-breathed], and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect [or complete, meaning fully matured], thoroughly furnished unto all good works. [Emphasis added]
There are other versions besides the KJV that are more readable, even what is called the New King James Version (NKJV). But sometimes these other translations tend to be someone’s interpretation of the Bible instead of being simply a translation. They will also sometimes add or omit key words or phrases. As a teacher of the Scriptures, I have studied from many other translations, but my King James Bible has served me best for over fifty years. Therefore, I highly recommend its use. If you would like to study an excellent book on the issue of Bible translations, I very highly recommend Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.’s book, The Plowboy’s Bible. This gentleman used to be a major “KJV only” advocate.
The book of Romans is an excellent place to begin your study of the Bible. Here is a simple outline of it.
Chapters 1-5 God’s provision for salvation from sin.
Chapters 6-8 Some basic principles about Christian living today.
Chapters 9-11 Principles pertaining to Israel’s past, present, and future.
Chapters 12-16 More basic principles about Christian living today.
The whole book of Romans is one you will find to be quite practical, showing you everything from the way of salvation to various things pertaining to the Christian way of life. You may be tempted to initially spend time in other parts of the Bible, but Romans is a great place to start and invest most of your time. Begin by just reading through the book several times to become familiar with it.
As you study the Bible, one step, one read at a time, you will begin to understand the wonderful things God provides for us. No one ever grew up physically or spiritually in a day, a few weeks, or a few years. It takes consistent study over an extended period of time. Determine to make studying the Bible something you do every day. As it is sometimes said, we need to follow the example of the Bereans.
11 These [the Bereans] were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. [Emphasis added].
Like everyone else, you will have to fight the distractions of everyday life that will tend to pull you away from studying the Bible. It will be easy to claim you don’t have time for studying it. But as with all of us, you have 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. Studying the Bible, and not just reading it, is the best use you will ever make of your time. It is all a matter of priorities. If you have time to eat, you have time to study the Word of God.
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. [Emphasis added]
105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
Over a period of time with consistent study and application you’ll eventually get stabilized in your Christian life.
25 Now to him that is of power to stablish [stabilize] you according to my gospel [Paul’s gospel, the gospel of the grace of God], and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
26 But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets [lit. the prophetic scriptures—a reference to Romans through Philemon], according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: [Emphasis added]
To clearly understand your Bible, you will need to learn what it means to rightly divide the scriptures.
II Timothy 2:15
15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [Emphasis added]
It is in this manner that you need to study your Bible. To do otherwise always leads to a lot of confusion and misunderstanding. The result has been the division of denominationalism. To rightly divide the Scriptures means to acknowledge the fact that the Bible is divided into various sections. The section that demands our attention most is that which was specifically addressed to us today as being members of what is called the Body of Christ.
- Genesis to Deuteronomy The Books of Law
- Joshua to Esther History
- Job to Song of Solomon Poetry & Wisdom
- Isaiah to Daniel The Major Prophets
- Hosea to Malachi The Minor Prophets
- Matthew to John The Gospels
- Acts Church History
- Romans to Philemon TO The Body of Christ (the writings of Paul)
- Hebrew to Jude Letters to Israel, the Hebrews
- Revelation Prophecy to Israel, the Hebrews
Again, it is that section of the Bible that contains the writings of the Apostle Paul, Romans to Philemon, that is specifically addressed to us today. This period of which we are a part began with the special revelation given to Paul from the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. We are to understand today that anything else in Scripture that conflicts with his teaching is not directed to us. As you study the Bible as a whole, you will begin to see the differences in teaching. On the surface it appears the Bible is contradictory. But that is not the case! It is just that while all the Bible is for our learning and general edification, it is not all directed specifically to us.
4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. [Emphasis added]
The things you find that differ between Paul’s writings and the others are significant.
In the writings of James, we read that personal works are an essential part in the attainment of salvation.
24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. [Emphasis added]
However, in the writings of the Apostle Paul, we read that personal works are not essential for the attainment of salvation. [Emphasis added]
4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. [Emphasis added]
In the writings of the Mark, we read that water baptism is essential for salvation.
16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. [Emphasis added]
In the Apostle Paul’s writings, we are told that water baptism is not required for salvation.
I Corinthians 1:17
17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. [Emphasis added]
In the writings of Matthew, we read that salvation is not eternally secure.
13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. [Emphasis added]
In the writings of the Apostle Paul, we find that our salvation is sealed forever.
13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise. [Emphasis added]
The list of these things in the Bible that differ is long. Because of such passages of Scripture, if you don’t learn the meaning of right division and its application, it appears that the Bible is contradictory. One is then prone to question the authenticity or truthfulness of Scripture or at least wonder what one is to comply with or believe. However, by an understanding of right division, it all makes perfect sense. The bottom line is that Israel was given a program and the Gentiles [us today] were given another. Today, Jews and Gentiles are under the same program, but that has not always been the case. In fact, there was a time when for a Gentile to gain the blessing of God, he had to become a Jew by faith. That faith came to expression initially by submission to circumcision and then to the Mosaic Law as a whole. For a time, it also included submission to water baptism. We are not under such a program today.
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. [Emphasis added]
The term “grace” is here used to represent the program we are under today. Essentially, Timothy was to understand that the resurrected, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ had given the Apostle Paul a special ministry and message, and he was to make sure that he did not confuse the two. However, that’s exactly what Christendom has done. The messages have been run together with the resultant confusion one would expect.
The Apostle Paul is our apostle today. The writings of Peter and others are helpful, but they have significant differences. We have been charged with learning those differences and complying with the things that are directed specifically to us.
It is in Paul’s epistles alone that we find our doctrine, duty, and destiny. All the Bible is for us, but not all the Bible is to us and not all the Bible is about us. Most of the Bible was written to Israel. This also means we don’t go to the writings directed to Israel to find promises that are directed to us.
22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. [Emphasis added]
13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. [Emphasis added]
Such promises are nowhere to be found in the writings of the Apostle Paul. I am confident you do not know even one believer who gets everything they ask in prayer, even though it could not be clearer that such is what is promised in these verses. Experience should not be the basis for our beliefs, but sometimes experience can certainly confirm what we have come to know and believe from the Scriptures.
Learning to rightly divide the Scriptures is essential for a clear understanding of the Bible. Make it a lifetime study, realizing that apart from a thorough knowledge of it, you will make many totally unnecessary mistakes in your understanding and application of God’s Word to your life. And never conclude that this is something you are unable to understand or comprehend. Just remember that every time you begin reading, ask yourself three important questions.
- Who is writing?
- To whom is it being written?
- What is being written?
As it is when you go to your mailbox to check for mail, you always look to be sure the mail is addressed to you. “Claiming” someone else’s mail is never a good thing to do. As you approach the Scriptures with this in mind, step by step your understanding of the Bible will be something you can thoroughly enjoy.