Do you want to live for God? Do you want to glorify and enjoy him? Do you know how to accomplish that?
Thankfully, as Christians, God provides us with one instructional book to guide us in our pursuit to live for, glorify, and enjoy God: the Bible.
The authors of the Westminster Shorter Catechism remind us of this when they wrote, “The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy [God].”
They went on to write, “The Scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.”
If you want to live for, glorify, and enjoy God, then you must read and understand the Bible. It is the primary means God provides for us to know him better through Christ. It is God’s special revelation for us.
Since the Bible is paramount to living for, glorifying, and enjoying God, it’s important that we study it deeply and fully. To accomplish this in my studies, I like to ask and answer myself a series of questions. I hope that the following five questions serve you well in your study of the Bible.
1. The Biblical Question: What Does the Bible Say?
This is the first step because it is the most important step. If you don’t step in the right direction here, then the rest of your work will be misguided at best.
To answer this question we need to hear the text, giving worshipful attention to the words and listening with full concentration for the message. To answer what the Bible says, the minimum requirement is to ask the “Five W’s” (who, what, when, where, and why).
2. The Theological Question: What Does the Bible Mean?
Again, if you have not read or understood what the Bible says, then you will not be able to answer this question. If you do not observe a text of the Bible, then you cannot interpret a text of the Bible. It’s that simple.
The meaning of a text resides in a text. The meaning of a text is not based upon our opinion, imagination, or pithy postmodern theological construction.
In answering this question you will want to read and study other Scriptures to better understand the one you’re working on. Afterwards, you will want to examine the historical background, read commentaries, and wrestle through the text with other believers to best understand what is being said.
To help you in your studies, I suggest you pick up a copy of John Glynn’s Commentary and Reference Survey . He rates all of the best commentaries and other reference material on various books of the Bible and theological topics.
D. A. Carson’s guide to the New Testament commentaries and Tremper Longman III’s guide to the Old Testament commentaries are also helpful to ensure that you don’t waste time or money on purchasing the wrong books.
3. The Apologetic Question: Why Do We Resist This Truth?
Do you embrace the truth that is revealed to you by living your life in light of it, or do you fight it with your thoughts and/or actions?
If you’re in a fight with God’s word, why? Are there specific beliefs that you’re unwilling to give up? Do you still have questions?
At this point, I encourage you to pray about your situation and seek out a leader from your local church. If you’re not in a Jesus-loving, Bible-believing church, then I encourage you to get involved with one.
4. The Missional Question: Why Does This Matter?
You have now answered what the Bible says and means. You’re now faced with a clear understanding of God’s word for you. What do you do with it?
What you have read and studied now needs to be connected to the missional purpose of your life, family, church, and city as a reflection of God’s glory. Do you have an encouraging word to share with another Christian? Is there something you discovered to share with a non-Christian? By God’s grace do so. Pick up the phone, write an e-mail, or stop by and personally share it with them.
The study of God’s word is not intended to transform you into a dead sea of information; it’s intended to run through your life as a life giving presence to others. The study of God’s word will transform you into a man or woman of God that is “complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17).
5. The Christological Question: How Is Jesus the Hero-Salvation?
The Bible is one story. From beginning to end the Bible is a story in which Jesus is the hero.
The focus of your study will point to Jesus as the hero. That’s the point of your study. In the words of the Apostle John, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39).
As you study the Bible, pray and look to see how everything points to Jesus (Matt. 5:17; Luke 24:27, 44–45).
The Best Time to Start Is Now—Right Now
Read your Bible. Drink frequently from its wells. Consume its words like a delicious meal. Its words are desired more than gold and sweeter than honey (Ps. 19:10).
If you don’t regularly read your Bible, the best time is to start now—I mean, as soon as you finish reading this post.
Don’t worry about creating a plan. Pick up your Bible and begin with the Gospel of Matthew. Once you’re in the habit of reading from the Bible daily, then I would encourage you to develop a plan. This will help ensure that you’re reading through the entire Bible on a regular basis. (See this post by Justin Taylor for a list of Bible reading plans.)
I also encourage you to have one of your family members or friends hold you accountable. It would be a great idea to even meet up with him or her on a regular basis to discuss what you’re reading and learning and how your life is being transformed by God’s word.
This post is adapted from Vintage Church by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Crossway Books , a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187.