Ever heard of Dwight Moody, American evangelist and founder of Moody Publishers? He wrote in his book How to Study the Bible, “We cannot overestimate the importance of being thoroughly familiar with the Bible.”
He continued a couple of pages later by saying, “If a man neglects his Bible, he may pray and ask God to use him in His work, but God cannot use him, for there is not much for the Holy Spirit to work upon.”
Honestly, though, consistent Bible study breeds a plethora of benefits. Psalm 119:165 (NLT) says, Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble. Have you ever noticed how those familiar with the Bible exude a quiet confidence and fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23)?
Christians know that the Bible is important, but the question we should ask is if our life shows it? Do you study your Bible? If you need help to do this better or want some fresh ideas to re-spark your interest, keep reading.
How Can I Get More from the Bible?
A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education. ~Theodore Roosevelt
We know we should read God’s Word, but is that enough? When someone says study the Bible, memories of college spring forth. All-night study sessions and nightmarish tests. Who wants to do that? So we set our Bible on the table and live with the guilt of not picking it up. Let’s adjust our thinking.
Pastor John MacArthur says that “Bible study begins with reading it.” And don’t be afraid to try different methods. For example, I learn best when I read for myself with my eyes; however, I’ve found value in listening to the Bible as I do chores. While it doesn’t sink in as well, the ability to get more of it on a regular basis makes up for that.
Does my mind ever wander? Absolutely—whether I’m reading with my eyes or listening with my ears. While we should strive to focus on the words and message of Scripture, don’t negate the benefits of reading or listening even when distracted. How many songs have caught your attention as they played in the background?
Should I follow a plan?
Yes, but maybe not in the way you think. Pastor MacArthur writes in his book How to Study the Bible, “In order to study the Bible we must be diligent. We can’t study Scripture in a haphazard way—there has to be a commitment to it” (page 88). What does that look like? However you and God decide it should.
MacArthur recommends reading through the Old Testament each year to build your comprehension, as well as a different New Testament book each month. The Greek language of the New Testament is more complex than the Hebrew of the Old Testament. Pastor MacArthur says, “For this reason we need a greater diligence in studying the New Testament.”
In seminary, he’d pick a book of the New Testament, and read it every day for one month. Longer books he might break up into three segments, reading the first part every day for the first ten days, the second part for the second ten days, and the final part for the last ten days.
Isn’t There More Than Just Reading?
Yes. Most definitely. But developing the habit of reading is an important first step. Don’t ignore it. Past that, you can try different methods of study, but don’t get discouraged if one or more feel laborious or boring. Dwight Moody’s suggestions include:
- “Two opposite ways to study the Bible. One way is to study it with a telescope, taking a grand sweep of a whole book and trying to find out God’s plan in it. The other way is to study it with a microscope, taking up a verse at a time, dissecting and analyzing it” (page 67).
- “Take five great divisions: History, Type, Prophecy, Miracle, and Parable. It is a very interesting thing to study the types of the Bible. A type is a representation of one thing that represents something else. For example, a sacrificial lamb might be a type, or representation, of Jesus” (page 101).
- “Study Bible characters; take them right from the cradle to the grave” (page 104).
- “Sometimes it is good to study just one topic from the Bible. I once studied the word love, and I spent many weeks studying the passages in which it occurs, until at last I could not help loving people” (page 105).
- “Take one word and follow it up with the help of a concordance, or take just one word that runs through a book” (page 117).
What about devotions and commentaries and such?
While they all have value, they are not God’s Word. “Read the Bible itself; do not spend all your time on commentaries and helps,” says Dwight Moody. “If a man spent all his time reading up on the chemical constituents of bread and milk, he would soon starve. Devotional books can be helpful too, but do not think that a devotional book can replace your time in the Word of God.”
Finally, keep in mind that we live and think differently today than people did in Bible times. To better understand what God says, investigate the culture, the language, the geography, and the history.
What if I Don’t Understand What I’m Reading?
The Bible is one of the greatest blessings bestowed by God on the children of men. ~John Locke, English philsopher and physician
That’s okay! No one understands the whole Bible. In his book, Dwight Moody says, Clergyman “Thomas Talmage tells the story that one day while he was bothering his theological professor with questions about the mysteries of the Bible, the latter turned on him and said, ‘Mr. Talmage, you will have to let God know some things you don’t’” (page 15).
Even in what you do understand, recognize God always has more. Charles Spurgeon said no Scripture “‘is exhausted by a single explanation. The flowers of God’s garden bloom, not only double, but sevenfold; they are continually pouring forth fresh fragrance’.”
Just keep in mind the ultimate purpose for reading and studying is not to possess knowledge that inflates your ego (1 Corinthians 8:1). As Pastor MacArthur says, “Your purpose is to know God.”
If you want to know even more about how to effectively study the Bible, either of the books by Dwight Moody or John MacArthur would be an excellent choice.
How to Study the Bible by Dwight Moody
There is no situation in life for which you cannot find some word of consolation in Scripture. If you are in affliction, if you are in adversity and trial, there is a promise for you. In joy and sorrow, in health and in sickness, in poverty and in riches, in every condition of life, God has a promise stored up in His Word for you.
This classic book by Dwight L. Moody brings to light the necessity of studying the Scriptures, presents methods which help stimulate excitement for the Scriptures, and offers tools to help you comprehend the difficult passages in the Scriptures. To live a victorious Christian life, you must read and understand what God is saying to you. Moody is a master of using stories to illustrate what he is saying, and you will be both inspired and convicted to pursue truth from the pages of God’s Word.
How to Study the Bible by John MacArthur
The Bible is the Word of life. As such, studying the Bible is crucial to the life and growth of every believer.
In this revised work, John MacArthur examines various Scripture passages in the Old and New Testament to answer both the “why” and the “how” questions of Bible study.
How to Study the Bible can be used alongside or apart from the audio series available from Grace to You in either a personal or group study.
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