How To Study Scripture
Scripture study is a vital spiritual discipline. Yet according to various studies, few people have even read the Bible the entire way through. I quote from another article that I wrote some time back:
"According to Lifeway Research, only about 20% of Americans have read the Bible at least once. Approximately 53% of those polled have read less than half of the Bible. and another 15% has read at least half of it, but not enough to claim that they have read "almost all of it." In short, we have a bunch of people who have access to the Bible, but do not read it."
If these statistics don't make the picture clear, I don't know what will. While Scripture study is as necessary to our spiritual growth as eating is to our survival, there are quite a few people who simply do not make Scripture study the priority that it needs to be. Kenneth Berding, a professor at Biola University makes a significant point. After noting that biblical illiteracy often causes individuals to misunderstand, and therefore misapply, Scripture, Berding notes,
"Perhaps that’s why we need a revival of understanding God’s Word. We often misinterpret what God intended that we understand. Of course, some of the problems simply have to do with our failure to learn God’s Word and to value it..........But understanding itself stands as a problem in our day and age. If we are going to have a revival of the Bible, one area we need to address is how to understand it when we actually do read it."
There are several things that we can do to help us understand Scripture more, starting with making time to study it and ask ourselves how this applies to our own lives. If we don't make time to study Scripture, we will never have time to study Scripture. At the end of the day, we make time for the things that we prioritize the most. If we don't make time for Scripture, what does that say about how important Scripture is to us? I have examined ten tips for studying your Bible across two different posts. The main purpose of this post is not to rehash what I have written here and here. Rather, I want to explore how we should approach Scripture when we do study it. More specifically, I would like to look at the attitudes and dispositions that we should have when we come to Scripture.
First, we should approach Scripture with an attitude of humility. Scripture is God's word to us, and we should come to it recognizing its authority over our lives. We should come to Scripture knowing that God knows best, and by implication, God knows better than we do. To fail to come to Scripture with a humble attitude, or worse, to come to Scripture with a proud attitude, as though we have things all together, is a recipe for disaster. We should give Scripture its proper place as we evaluate what it says and how its words should impact our lives. Because of this, we should also approach Scripture with a submissive manner, willing to do whatever it says. We submit to Scripture because we submit to the God who authored Scripture.
Second, we should approach Scripture devotionally. By this, I mean that we should approach Scripture while realizing it as a source of spiritual nourishment. We should approach Scripture in such a way that we seek to gain understanding of how it applies to our hearts and to our lives. In this regard, we should also approach Scripture expectantly. God desires to speak to his people, and he does this most often through his word. Therefore, we should approach Scripture with an expectant heart and mind.
Third, we should approach Scripture studiously. By this, I am not suggesting that the Bible is simply a book that is to be analyzed. It is far more than that. Rather, what I am suggesting is that we should approach the Bible with the willingness to do the work necessary in order to understand the passage in front of us. This is why the art of hermeneutics is so vitally important. The more we know about the background of a particular passage, the better off we will be. We cannot approach Scripture with the assumptions of a 21st-Century American. If we do this, we miss the point. Rather, we need to see Scripture through the eyes of the original audience. How would they understand what is being said? It is only from here that we can be confident in our modern application of the text.
Finally, we should approach Scripture Christocentrically. What I mean by this is that we should approach Scripture with an understanding that it all points to Jesus. The Old Testament points forward to him. The New Testament points back to him. When we read Scripture like this, it gives us hope for every circumstance that we could ever face. We study Scripture because Christ is at the center of it all.