We have discussed in specific detail the creation of a plan for Bible study, but we still haven’t talked about what you should study. Where to begin with this big book, the Bible? Over the next couple of posts I will share with you some simple ideas for getting into the Word as you begin the habit of devoted daily Bible study.
First (I feel like there is always a “but first”), I have a word for you regarding the choosing of Bible studies. The simple way I sift through the thousands of Bible studies out there and get to what I believe is the heart of Bible study: sitting at Jesus’s feet and being taught by Him.
The options for Bible study seem to be endless! Absolutely endless. But, as I am sure you have discovered, not all are worthy of your prayed-for, set-apart, specific time with God.
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A good Bible study will direct you to God’s Word. Seems like they would all do that, right? Wrong.
As we look at this topic of choosing a Bible study, I want to highlight a certain group of people from the New Testament.
If you have sat in a pew at church for very long, you hopefully have heard sermons preached on Acts. And you have probably heard about the Bereans. Or maybe not. They do only take up about 5 verses in the book of Acts – not exactly main characters. Let’s look at what God’s historian, Luke, says about them:
And the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea; and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men. But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there likewise, agitating and stirring up the crowds. And then immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea; and Silas and Timothy remained there. Now those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed. ~Acts 17:-10-15
What is a Berean?
What does Luke record about these people?
- had a synagogue in their town
- more noble-minded than the Thessalonicans
- received the word with great eagerness
- examined the Scriptures daily
- to see if these things were so
- many believed (both Jew and Gentile)
- helped Paul escape Berea
There is a very important distinction about these people. Something present in them which is very rare today. Did you see it?
They examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so!
Faith-shaking messages from God’s Word
Imagine you live back before TV preachers and online Bible studies were prevalent. Way back, when the preacher’s traveled through on a circuit and hearing preaching of any sort was a special thing. How would you respond to the arrival of a man proclaiming a message he says is from God?
If you are like me, you would be pretty excited about it!
You would receive the word this man has with great eagerness.
But what if he started to say “new” things? Things you had never heard before about God? What if what he had to say shook you to your very core? Made you question everything you have ever known about God?
How would you respond?
A Berean response
We have been talking a lot about developing the lifelong habit of daily Bible study. And there is a big reason to do it daily. It is because there are so many erring teachers out there. There are so many preachers coming through town these days (you can tune in on the TV or open up Facebook to get your fill). Therefore, you have to know how to evaluate their accuracy.
The simple way to evaluate Bible studies (and their teachers) is to get in the Word and search – examine it, to see if these things are so.
The best way to do this is to remove all the extraneous stuff. Simply read and study the Word.
Did you notice what the Bereans examined to test the validity of Paul’s claims? The Scriptures.
Now, even in Paul’s time, there was access to “commentaries.” There were ideas about interpretation of the Scriptures set in the hearts and minds of the people. There were schools of thought and denominations. But the Bereans didn’t go to those outside sources. They didn’t rely on their preconceived notions and standards about the Word of God. They went directly to the source “to see whether these things were so.”
Choosing a Worthy Bible Study
The Bereans are our example in evaluating a Bible study. But how to we pick the right one in the first place? When we are standing in front of a bookshelf lined with Bible studies, how do we choose? How do you know you are getting a good study?
Here’s the simple test:
How often do they point you to open up and read the Word?
It is truly that simple. A good Bible study will direct you to God’s Word. Seems like they would all do that, right?
Pick up some of the most famous Bible studies out there and look inside.
- Did you see the text of a verse printed for you? Or did they tell you to go grab your Bible and look up the passage?
- Was the entire verse printed or just a portion of it?
- Did they direct you to read the rest of the chapter?
- How much commentary filled the pages of the book?
Now I’ve got your attention, think back to the last Bible study you completed. Ask yourself how many times the author directed you to get into the rest of the Word. Were there a lot of cross-references mentioned, but no instruction to look them up? Did you take the time to look them up?
We, believers have become so used to being “taught” by other men and women of God, we have neglected to go to our True Teacher, the Holy Spirit. Some of us have become so used to saying, “the Bible says___,” we have forgotten to find the verses again, and see if “the Bible says___” is really what God said.
We are anti-Bereans.
Returning to Berea
If the answers to the questions about the (famous) Bible study in your hands do not direct you to get into and read God’s Word, they may not be worthy of your time. They may be well-written. And they may be popular. But they are less than worthy of your prayed-for, set-apart, specific time with God.
If you are already knee-deep in a Bible study, you can increase the effectiveness of it simply by becoming a Berean. By looking up each and every one of the Scriptures (and their contexts) mentioned and testing the words of the author with the Word of the Author of Scripture. You may find the context of the passage you look up does not match what the Bible study says. Or, you may discover much more richness in God’s Word than what the Bible study writer was able to express on paper.
The Road Ahead
It is difficult at first to dig into and discover for yourself the details of God’s Word. It takes practice. And it can be a little awkward at first. In the next few posts I talk more specifically about simple ways to study the Bible. And I have more encouragement in store for you regarding your teacher, the Holy Spirit! Oh, creating this habit of lifelong devotion to God and His Word is SO GOOD!