2 Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (NKJV)
2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (NKJV)
In August of 2017, I will turn 65 years old and I surrendered my heart and life to the Lord Jesus Christ, just before my 17th birthday, so I have a few years of immersing myself into the Living Word of God, the Holy Bible. Even before being “born again/saved” I used to try and read our big ornate Catholic Bible that used to sit on our living-room coffee table.
From a young age I truly wanted to learn its spiritual secrets, but until surrendering my heart and soul to the Lord, it was a mixture of mystery, mysticism and religion that I couldn’t quite fathom. 1 Corinthians 2:14, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
I am now all these years later (and have been for several decades) a teacher of the Word and I have learned several things along the way. Now, this is not an auto-biography of my life in the Word, but rather a setting forth of some tips, as it were, to help those who might want to get more out of their own study in the Word of God.
There are several legitimate ways in which to study and even teach the Word of God, but the two main ones I want to cover are probably your most basic. You might be asking at this point, why even put forth these “tips” as most everybody knows how to read. The truth of the matter is that in my many years of being a minister/servant of the Word of God, I have come across many, many individuals who actually do NOT read the Bible themselves, let alone study or even meditate on it, but rather rely totally upon their Pastor/Preacher/Teacher or some other expositor to tell them what the Bible has to say to them as individuals.
The sad circumstances of this practice is that without studying for yourselves you do not know if you are being given the whole truth, a partial truth or an outright false teaching and with have many pews and seats in our churches today filled with people suffering from this very sad state of events.
Our salvation is a very individual circumstance and we will NOT enter into eternity on the apron-strings of anyone else, teacher, preacher or otherwise! The Bible IS the Living Word of God because it has the ability to speak to each individual heart as well as a whole congregation of hearts. This is probably why, also, the Pastor/Preacher/Teacher has so much responsibility before the Lord for the very words that come forth from their mouths! We have not just been given a calling to express forth the TRUTH of the Word of God, but we have been given the responsibility of making sure we are teaching the truth and nothing but the truth!
As I stated earlier, there are several ways to approach a study in the Word of God. The two I am going to touch on is the Thematic and the Expository way, sometimes referred to as the Contextual way. Simply put, the Thematic is when you have an idea or a subject reference, for example, say you want to study on the Grace of God. You would reference and study different Scriptures and passages of Scripture that deal with that subject matter or theme.
By comparison the Expository or Contextual is when you start with a particular verse or paragraph and you go as the Prophet Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 28:10, “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little.” When you read/study/teach this way, everything is in context, everything around a particular Scripture refers to or makes meaning to that central Scripture or paragraph.
Expository teaching forces you to keep your study and/or teaching in CONTEXT and doesn’t allow you to stray from the main theme of the subject being discussed. You can still reference NOT just the text, but the spirit of subject and you can still identify, commands to follow, examples put forth for demonstration, etc. Remember this is ALL of your study and/or teaching, it is NOT just the words you are trying to convey for the words are NOT what brings forth life, but you are pursuing the SPIRIT of the subject; what is really hidden behind the text!
Paul wrote this principle clearly for ALL of us in 2 Corinthians 3:5-6, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
Thematic study/teaching is different and especially so in its discipline of the actual study/teaching! One of the main reasons why we have so many false teachings in the church-world today and so many religious fads that people follow “hook, line and sinker,” is because of the lack of discipline in Thematic study and especially from the pulpit or Sunday School Teacher in the classroom.
In Thematic study/teaching you STILL have to take things in context as you do with Expository, BUT, the big difference is, with Thematic, the studier or teacher can pull Scriptures from this part of the Bible and that part of the Bible and without the context of the Scripture(s) used, you can actually make the Bible say whatever you want it to say! It is for this reason that so many will say that the Scriptures contradict themselves or the Scriptures only apply to life in general!
The Word of God as a whole is definitely many-faceted and I/you can read one Scripture today and be really impacted by it and a week from now, see or perceive a meaning far deeper than first realized. This is one of the spiritual aspects that truly DOES make the Word of God, a LIVING force! This is what makes the Word of God, the textual/spiritual embodiment of Christ Jesus, Himself who is referred to as The Word of God! (John 1:1, 14). But – the Scriptures NEVER stray from the context in which they were given and when discerned by the inner spiritual man, they never stray from the context in which they are meant for the individual studying it!
One of the Scriptures I love to use when referring to those studying the Word of God and especially to those who value the TRUTH in the Word, AND equally special to those who might repeat a teaching, is found in the Book of Acts.
Acts 17:10-11, “Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”
What made the Bereans so noble when it came to the Word of God, is not that they were looking to find FAULT with Paul’s teaching, but rather, they were seeking to confirm and verify the TRUTH of his teachings for their own spiritual welfare! Too many in our churches today, do NOT seek to verify whether the person behind the pulpit is telling you the WHOLE truth, a partial truth or even a fable!! The rely solely on the charisma of the individual, how many others believe what they teach and so on and so forth!
When we stand before the Lord on Judgment Day, He isn’t going to ask us if we believed in everything we heard and who we heard it from. He is either going to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” (Matthew 25), or He is going to say, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7).
We truly need to take responsibility on how we apply the Living Word of God to our own lives. Teaching from others is important; if it weren’t so important, people like myself and my peers in Teaching Ministries wouldn’t have this type of calling on our lives. But, before any of us can teach, can be a “workman” who is equipped to do the work called too, we HAVE to study, as the New King James Version of the Bible says, we have to be DILIGENT in our study, we have to use the spiritual gift, given freely to all who are renewed in the spirit (born-again), that discernment, which IS a gift, to be able to delve into the treasure that IS the Word of God!
I want you to consider this; the beloved, Apostle John states this in 3 John 1:2, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” The word prosper also means to profit, which confirms and verifies what the Apostle Paul wrote Timothy in the Scripture listed at the start of this article. The Living Word of God “is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped…..”
It, the Word of God, is PROFITABLE, you gain more from it than what you put into it! You come out ahead, you PROSPER, by taking into yourself, the Word of God!! When you read/study the Living Word of God, and you apply the spiritual gift of discernment and you LEARN the truth of that Word, your soul/spirit and yes even human nature prospers from it. For one thing, you GAIN (profit, prosper) wisdom, a commodity that is sadly in very, very short supply today! You GAIN (profit, prosper) in TRUTH! You actually strengthen yourself against falsehoods, both naturally and especially spiritually! BUT – this all comes to you by being “diligent,” or “studying to show YOURSELF approved to God,” and able to walk in this world of spiritual landmines by being equipped in truth and integrity!
The Word of God, when made to be a part of who you are in Christ, by the systematic study of its contents, changes you into a better person in the natural, yes, but more importantly it works an ETERNAL transformation in the spiritual!
Study to show YOURSELF approved to God, study to prove the truth of what others are teaching you, study to profit and prosper in your spirit and soul, for that is where the REAL gain is, and study to be equipped that you might help others who need a steady and sure spiritual hand! Remember what Paul wrote Timothy, the Word of God is profitable, it earns dividends, “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness!” You CAN be equipped in all these areas, through the study, meditation and contemplation of the Word of God!