The word literal is complicated. According to one of the first definitions in the dictionary, literal means: “adhering...to the ordinary construction of primary meaning of a term or expression.” In other words, being literal can just mean saying what you mean to say, giving primary importance in the moment to...
Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21)
The Bible isn’t an easy book. It was written by God in an ancient time through people of different languages and cultures than our own, whose immediate audiences were different from us in many ways. It’s also a book written by God about God and the work he’s doing in the world.
A work by such a divine Author, on such an immense topic, should be difficult to fully comprehend. So we’ll need to study and wrestle with God’s words—but it’s worth it, and here are five reasons why:
1. Bible study illuminates our daily reading.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Bible study works together with our daily time in Scripture.
Daily Bible reading maintains our connection with God through his written Word. It reminds us of his character, promises, our dependence on him, and our future together. It familiarizes us with, and helps us grasp, the whole story of Scripture, and it keeps our souls energized.
But Bible study deepens and expands our understanding of specific Bible passages; it helps us sort through hard concepts and gives insight into the context of the Bible. Ideally, our times in deeper study will result in more fulfilling times of daily reading, as what we have gleaned through in-depth study informs our regular time in the Word.
2. Bible study protects us from twisting the truth.
Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:15b-16)
The Word of God is challenging, and because sin is a power at work against man, it’s inevitable that people will twist the words of God for their own purposes. This sort of manipulation will be confusing and distracting to those who do not regularly seek a fuller grasp of God’s Word through study.
Study of the Bible is important for the health of a believer. Someone who reads daily but never spends times in study is like a person who eats regular, nourishing meals but never bothers to discover why the meals are nourishing: You gain some benefit, but can’t appreciate the components of the meal, nor can you fully apply the concepts of nourishment to other facets of life.
For example, when reading through a verse or book of the Bible, we will get the benefit of its implications on our current experience, but we may miss the meaning of the context in which it was written. This expanded view of the insight of Scripture is only available through study.
3. Bible study amplifies our service.
[Apollos] had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. (Acts 18:25-26)
Bible study expands our ability to minister God’s truth. The Bible, written by a living and active God, is a living and active book; anyone who claims to have mastered all its teachings is deluded.
Even those with a good grasp of Scripture, and who spread the gospel accurately and honestly, can enrich their testimony and comprehension through continued biblical study and instruction. The pursuit of Jesus is a lifelong pursuit, as should be our endeavors to grasp his Word.
4. Bible study opens our understanding.
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:27)
The Old Testament is rich with promises of Jesus and his work. The New Testament narrative stands on the testimony of the Old. A fuller study of both Testaments gives a greater knowledge of what Jesus fulfilled in his life, death, resurrection, and ascension. It also gives hope and strength that Jesus will return to begin his eternal reign.
As the Holy Spirit does his work in us, we become more open to God’s wisdom. The men on the road to Emmaus were familiar with Scripture and had even known Jesus before his crucifixion. But it wasn’t until after Jesus’ resurrection and his opening the Scriptures to them that they gained a deeper comprehension of Jesus and his work.
There may be work the Spirit needs to do in us before parts of God’s Word open to us. A passage we’ve read multiple times, studied before, and thought we understood may suddenly take on new dimensions through the enlightening of the eyes of our hearts.
5. Bible study deepens our devotion to Christ.
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11)
In some ways, Bible study is easier than daily reading. Since in-depth study occurs less often, it takes less self-discipline. Bible study also focuses on fewer verses or more refined topics, which may seem more palatable.
But Bible study has its challenges. The interaction with the text is more intense, making times of study seem more daunting than daily reading. Many people don’t feel qualified to delve into Scripture study, which seems like it should be reserved for pastors and theologians. But Bible study is for everyone; we just need a plan.
A simple way to get started on your own is to purchase a study Bible, which have sections before each book explaining the historical context, theme, author, audience, and other details. These Bibles also have commentary alongside the verses that note relations to other books of the Bible and explanations of confusing or difficult concepts.
However, one of the best ways to study the Bible is to sit under solid preaching and get involved in a group through your local church. Jesus meant for us to encourage each other in spiritual growth, and the study of his Word is one of the greatest ways we can grow to love him together.