Study As a Discipline

By Stephen Myers

I love the Bible. I love the complexity of the stories, the insight of its wisdom, and the artfully painted picture of God’s grace and the righteous adoration of God’s justice. I love the stories that are held within its pages and the greater narrative that is underlining each of those stories.

 

I went to university and ended up on a track of Biblical Studies where we would sit on a passage for weeks and even months at a time uncovering the truth that is held inside the Bible’s pages. I remember when one of my professors compared someone trying to read scripture without a plan to trying to navigate the Canadian North Woods without a map.

 

Bible study around a table

 

Typically when someone commits themselves to faith in Christ, they are told the importance of knowing God’s word and its impact in the life of a believer. “And how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15 ESV).

 

This leads us to the discipline of study, the most foundational aspect of spiritual formation in the life of a follower of Christ. The Bible does not shy away from itself and the need for a follower of Christ to be immersed in God’s word, telling us that we should make every effort to “rightly handle the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

 

In the book of Acts a group of Jews in an area called Berea “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11 ESV), giving us an example of the manner in which we should utilize scripture to ensure the things which we are taught about God are indeed revealed in His word.

 

How should I study scripture?

 

Since the late medieval age there has been a shift in the manner in which we study scripture. With the invention of the printing press in the 1400s, followed by the reformation in the 1500s, the availability and affordability of a Bible has led to it becoming a commonality in most homes.1

 

Prior to this, Scripture reading was done in communal settings. Depending on their proximity to city centers, believers would meet at a synagogue (1st century), or cathedral, or even in local homes to practice the daily ritual of gathering together. This required a priest or church leader (someone who had received education and could read Greek, Hebrew, and/or Latin) who would read a passage, and then everyone would join in prayer and bless each other’s work for that day.

 

This gives us greater insight into the meaning of the challenge given by the author of Hebrews;“And Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see that Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)

 

We even see the church in Acts 2:42-47 meeting together daily. The idea of a personal devotion or quiet time of Scripture reading was unfathomable to the early followers of Christ. Even in Acts 8 we are told a story of Philip encountering the Ethiopian Eunuch who had purchased a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Take note of this key exchange between the two.

 

“So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.”  (Acts 8:30-31 ESV)

 

“How can I, unless someone guides me?”

 

What a great question and admission of reality. We need others to guide us in our study of Scripture. The Christian faith is communal and those who have learned should be passing on their knowledge to others.

 

Men in Bible study

 

Why then do we treat scripture as something that is primarily practiced individually? If we do not have someone to guide us, it is easy to get lost or fall into a trap of interpreting based on our own preference or understanding.

 

The reality of our culture today is that daily gathering of believers to read and reflect together is highly unlikely. Long commutes and busy lifestyles are diminishing to the practice of communal worship on a daily basis.

 

So, there are other ways that we can engage Scripture under the guide of other believers such as coordinating reading plans and discussion groups with other believers at work or in our neighborhoods. Or utilizing commentaries and devotional studies that walk us through passages. One of my personal favorites is For the Love of God by D.A. Carson. This daily reading guide is based on the M’Cheyne Chart of Daily Bible Reading.

 

All scripture is breathed by God; it trains us in righteousness, it teaches us, and sets the standard through which reproof and correction come in the community of believers. The Bible tells us it is living, it is a tool, and it discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart (2 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 4:12).

 

Whatever way we engage Scripture, whether it is by ourselves or among our community, we ought to make sure we have a plan and a guide. It is vital for our growth in our knowledge of God, and experiencing Him through His word.

 

 

[1] We realize that there are many places in the world where Bibles are not commonly available due to religious restrictions/persecutions, as well as a lack of translations. This blog is written to a primarily western European/American audience. For more information regarding unreached people groups, check out this video by Global Frontier Missions.