How To Study The Bible (#1)

Read To Know

The Bible continues to outsell every book published. Though "best sellers" will always come along every now and then and sell a few million copies, they do not continue to sell so briskly every year. The Bible, however, sells at consistent levels year after year.

But how much does the average person know about the Bible? As evidenced by the confusion that exists in the religious world (e.g., so many different man-made religions) and the number of people who are anti-religious or simply irreligious, I doubt that enough people know as much as they need to about the Bible.

Why don't people know more about the bible? While I don't pretend to know every possible reason why so much ignorance of God's word exists, I do know of one major cause that contributes to the problem: Most people simply do not read the Bible.

We Must Read The Bible

Jesus, in the course of his teaching, often questioned his listeners by saying "have you not read," and would then proceed to ask about the subject under consideration at the moment (cf. Matthew 12:3; 19:4; 21:16, 42; 22:31; Mark 2:254; 12:10, 26; Luke 6:3; 10:26). By questioning in this manner Jesus focused attention on his audience's responsibility to have some degree of familiarity with what the scriptures said.

In order to know what the scriptures say, we must read the scriptures. God knows this. It is for this reason that we see so many prescriptions in the old testament to read the word of God (cf. Exodus 24:7; Deuteronomy 17:19; 31:11; Joshua 8:34, 35; 2 Kings 22:8, 10, 16; 23:2; 2 Chronicles 34:18, 24, 30; Nehemiah 8:3, 8, 18; 9:3; Isaiah 34:16). Of these verses, consider especially Nehemiah 8:3, 8 and 18. As Ezra and Nehemiah were restoring the ancient order of worship among the Jews returning from captivity, note the emphasis on reading the law of God.

Jesus, knowing God's mandate to read the old testament scriptures, held his audiences responsible for having done so.

We Must Read To Know

Reading is important. But reading is not an end unto itself. It is a means to an end. The goal is knowledge. We do not read anything written simply to read. We read to learn. We read to gain knowledge. So it is with the scriptures.

Reading the scriptures is important. John says that there is a blessing inherent in reading God's truth (cf. Revelation 1:3). But this verse also teaches that those who keep God's words would be blessed. It is not possible to obey them if we can not understand them.

The old testament Jews read the scriptures. As part of the synagogue system of worship the scriptures were read every Sabbath day (cf. Acts 13:15, 27; 15:21). Jesus himself read the scriptures on the Sabbath in the synagogue (Luke 4:16ff).

But some of the Jews did not know what they should have known (cf. Acts 13:27). In addition to asking "have you not read," Jesus sometimes told the Jews that they were in error because they did not know the scriptures (Matthew 22:29; cf 21:42; Mark 12:10, 24; John 7:42). His question about their reading, therefore, implied that they should not only have read, but learned. There must be a reading of God's word with the intent to know God's word.

The Ethiopian eunuch read Isaiah (Acts 8:28, 30, 32), but he did not know the meaning of what he was reading. Philip helped him to understand what he read (vs 30-31).

Reading, unless it leads to knowledge (i.e., understanding), is only part of the job of studying God's word.


As we strive to follow God, let us determine to read God's word more diligently every day. As followers of God, let us determine to read God's word with the view in mind of knowing God's will, and then let us do it (cf. Ezra 7:10).

God has revealed his will to us so that we should know his will: "it is written ... God has revealed them to us ... that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God." (1 Corinthians 2:9-13)

When we read God's will, we can know God's will: "by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I wrote before in a few words, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets:" (Ephesians 3:1-5)

Read. Know and understand. Do.


Jody L. Apple -

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