A Believer’s Personal Bible Study
Revised from an article originally published August 22, 2014
It is a sad reality that most believers over the past 500+ years have not and do not really know what the Bible says. I have been a believer for over 38 years, and I must regretfully admit, that up until about 7 or so years ago, I was included in that same lot. I was taught ABOUT the Bible. I was taught ABOUT doctrine. And I dutifully towed the line of orthodoxy. This, I think is indicative of most believers; they simply do not read their Bibles. (see also this article)
I think as Christians we intuitively know we should be reading our Bibles, but aside from the fact that the modern day institutional church purposefully seeks to keep the masses dumbed-down, one of the reasons I believe most Christians don’t read their Bibles as much as they should is that they don’t know where to start. And those Christians who do read their Bibles on a regular basis aren’t getting as much out of it as they should be. Their Bible reading time is ineffective because they don’t have a plan. In either case, the results are the same:
Bible reading becomes a chore rather than a delight. Do we simply trudge on ahead dutifully and have faith that the Spirit will work on us? That seems a rather bleak prospect. Or do we just rely on the work that others have done for us and expect them to feed us spiritual nourishment? What hope is there for any maturity whatsoever with that mindset?
There are two key truths found in the Bible itself that must be reconciled.
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
2 Timothy 2:15
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
- The Word of God is active.
Hebrews 4:12 uses the words “quick” and “powerful” to describe the Word. The word “quick” is the Greek word ζαω (DZAH-oh), and it means, “to live”. It is alive! It is also powerful. Here the word is ενεργης (en-er-GACE). The idea is that it is full of energy. God’s Word is different from any other written work in the world! As we read it, because it is alive and active, we can expect it to actively work on us. Its cuts are deep and clean, dividing and discerning. It reveals truth to us because it is truth. By it, we are sanctified (John 17:17).
But we don’t simply sit idly by and wait for the Word to work on us.
- Believers are to study the Word
The word “study” is the word σπουδαζω (spoo-DAHD-zoh). It literally means, “to use speed.” The implication is to make an effort, to be prompt or earnest. Study the Word with the result of being able to use discernment (“rightly dividing the word of truth”). The Bereans (Acts 17:10-11) were called “more noble” because they studied the Word. They earnestly and diligently searched the scriptures daily to be able to discern truth from error.
So if we are to be good students of God’s Word, we first need to actually read it so that its life and power can work in us. But we must also study it as well. This places an emphasis that goes beyond merely reading a chapter or passage or verse every day. This must include a dedicated effort to a searching for knowledge. But unfortunately, most believers don’t know how to begin.
Let’s start with the basics. And this is really very simple. Just READ your Bible! BUT…you must read with purpose. A daily devotional book just will not cut it. You are simply consuming someone’s pre-digested, pre-packaged orthodoxy. You are not studying. You must read the actual BIBLE yourself! And you must have a plan if you want your Bible-reading time to be most effective.
Most people will tell you that you need to read your Bible through each year. To some, that may sound like a daunting task, which is why many people will not attempt to undertake it. Also, the Bible is comprised of many different genres of literature: historical, poetic, biographical, instructional, prophetic. For this reason alone, simply reading your Bible straight through from Genesis to Revelation is not going to be an effective way to study scripture. Your understanding of a passage is only going to be relevant within that genre.
The key is to include passages from every genre in your study each day. There are many Bible-reading plans available to choose from, but there is one in particular that I use personally, and I highly recommend it. It is called Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System (Click here to view the .PDF file). Now, I have no idea who Professor Grant Horner is. I don’t get any kickback for referring his system. No, I do not know what his doctrinal beliefs are. I don’t care. I do, however, think he has devised a very useful tool for Bible reading and study. Here is how it works:
This system divides the 66 books of the Bible into 10 lists.
- Romans-Colossians, Hebrews
- 1 Thessalonians-Philemon, James-Revelation
- Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon
With this system you read 1 chapter from each list every day. The next day, you go on to the next chapter in each list. When you get to the end of a particular list, you start again with the first chapter in that list. Since each list varies in length, the combination of 10 chapters you read each day will constantly change as you work your way through. By following this system, you can actually read every chapter in the Bible in just 250 days, less than 1 year!
Now, that still may seem like a daunting task, but reading 10 chapters from your Bible each day actually only takes less than an hour to accomplish. With practice, you will find that it may actually take less time than that. But is 1 hour of Bible reading each day too much to ask of someone who desires to “show themselves approved”, or who wishes to be able to “rightly divide the Word of truth”?
Following this system will result in the scriptures revealing themselves to you in ways you have probably never seen before. The Bible is its own commentary, and as you read through the various chapters each day, you will begin to see patterns emerge; phrases, and expressions repeated over and over again. Themes will develop and will become familiar to you. Prophesies given in the Old Testament will be expounded upon in the New Testament. You will see teachings in one section of scripture clarified and expounded upon in another. You will suddenly see connections throughout the Bible that you did not realize were there before! That is an exciting prospect, and that is a tremendous motivation. You will suddenly find that you cannot wait to get to the next day to find out what you will discover! Consider the words of the Psalmist:
“O how love I thy law!
It is my meditation all the day.
Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies:
for they are ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers:
for thy testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the ancients,
because I keep thy precepts.
I have refrained my feet from every evil way,
that I might keep thy word.
I have not departed from thy judgments:
for thou hast taught me.
How sweet are thy words unto my taste!
Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through thy precepts I get understanding:
therefore I hate every false way.”
I exhort and encourage every believer to get deep into God’s Word. These are the instructions for life and godliness. You must know and understand them for yourself if you are to become a mature believer who is able to discern truth from error. And these words will equip you to go out and give these same words of life to a lost world!