“MAN SHALL NOT LIVE BY BREAD ALONE, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). This is an amazing statement by the Lord Jesus, quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3. The subject is God’s provision for His people. God has provided more than earthly food. He has given us the Scriptures. In the Old Testament, from which Jesus quoted so regularly, and the New Testament, which is the fulfillment of much that is written in the Old, we have the Bible as the completed Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-21). It is a book in which “Thus saith the Lord” and like expressions recur constantly. God speaks in the first person or through His representatives. The Word of God is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12). It lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23). Its glories are sung in Psalm 119. Since the Bible is God’s communication to man, the instructional manual by man’s Owner and Maker, we ought to diligently consult it every day we live on earth. This constant attention and obedience is precisely what is commanded in the Bible (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).
The transforming power of the Word of God in the lives of those who study it with reverent obedience is evident in countless instances. Consider the many ways in which this remarkable volume works in the lives of those who draw upon its resources:
1. Salvation. The new birth is brought about by means of the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23). When implanted, the Word brings us to a salvation that is “through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). It is to be believed and shared with others.
2. Spiritual Food. The prophet spoke of eating the Word, receiving it inwardly into his soul (Jeremiah 15:16). It is compared to milk (1 Peter 2:2), to honey (Psalm 19:10; 119:103) and to strong food or meat (Hebrews 5:12, 14). Spiritual life is sustained by nourishment from the Word.
3. Growth. As it ministers to our souls, the Word builds us up in our most holy faith (Acts 20:32). Spiritual development requires the food of the Word (1 Peter 2:2).
4. Wisdom. The value of education is exalted on every hand and from it people hope to gain wisdom. Yet the Scriptures can make us wiser than our enemies and give us more understanding than worldly teachers (Psalm 119:99-100).
5. Cleansing. The world is filled with moral pollution. The great purifier of mind and heart is the Word (Psalm 119:9; John 15:3). It protects us from sin (Psalm 119:11).
6. Guidance. Knowing what to do and where to turn is a constant problem. The Word is light unto our way (Psalm 119:105).
7. Comfort or encouragement in our difficulties and sorrows comes from this never-failing source (Psalm 119:28, 50, 76; Romans 15:4).
8. Joy in a world of sorrow can be ours through the Word (John 15:11).
9. Blessings upon those who take heed to obey the Word are dramatically evident in Scripture (Deuteronomy 28:1-8). Success, by God’s standards, will be the portion of those who continue in the Word and observe its precepts (Joshua 1:8).
Varieties Of Bible Intake
Proper diet from the Word can come to us in many forms. When we pray for God to open our eyes (Psalm 119:18) and the Holy Spirit is our divine instructor (John 14:26), we can eat the bread of God by taking it into our innermost being. The growing believer practices these disciplines:
1. Hear the Word (Proverbs 28:9; Luke 19:48). Before the invention of printing and the easy availability of Bibles, most people could only listen to the Scriptures at a church service. We must cultivate the habit of listening attentively when God’s Word is proclaimed. We must think carefully about what is being said. We can improve our retention by taking notes and then comparing or otherwise discussing their content with others.
2. Read the Word (Deuteronomy 17:19; Revelation 1:3). Use some systematic plan rather than random selection. Go through the Bible at a definite rate each day. It is a combination of blessing, privilege and duty to know the contents of this book completely, rather than parts here and there. Both Old and New Testament must be mastered.
3. Study the Word (Acts 17:11; Proverbs 2:1-5). This is more than reading through a passage. This is digging into it. Write down key thoughts. Ask questions or share thoughts with others. Look up things you do not know. In particular, apply it personally. Effective Bible study is application-oriented.
4. Memorize the Word (Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Psalm 37:31; Proverbs 7:1-3). The surest way to hide God’s Word in our hearts is to memorize it. We will forget almost all of that which we hear and most of what we read, but we can retain 100% of what we memorize, if we review regularly. When we need to call to mind a key verse for the sake of our own soul, or in ministering to others, the memorized Word is invaluable. The Lord Jesus quoted from memory in resisting temptation (Matthew 4:1-11). Small cards with significant verses are widely available to help in Scripture memorization.
5. Meditate on the Word (Psalm 119:15, 23, 48, 78, 148; Philippians 4:8). To meditate is to ponder, muse and converse with yourself silently or aloud. It is a time of reflection upon some truth or some aspect of the person of God. It has been likened to the calm and leisurely way in which a cow chews its cud. Meditation can come after our morning study in which we have felt that a certain verse has particularly spoken to our hearts. Write thoughts down. Share them with someone.
Our attitude in approaching the Word has a great deal to do with effective intake. The devout student of the Word is committed to the Lord Jesus Christ, to His Word for regular study and to application of that Word to the daily life. There is firm expectance of gradual learning and growth, rather than magical effects from spasmodic rushing to Scripture in emergencies. There is understanding that intake of the Word is a spiritual interaction with God, not mechanical exercises or academic dissection by an observer sitting in judgment on God’s Word.
Bible Study Method
There is no particular method of Bible study suggested in the Word itself. However, the believer with a dynamic relationship with the Word usually has the following:
A TIME set aside on a daily basis
A PLACE of study, free from distraction
A PLAN to consecutively study all Scripture
A GOAL of personal conformity to Christ Submission to Christ, eagerness to learn and regular study of the Word will yield results in most cases, without special instruction. It is helpful to use the three following questions in approaching the Word. Answer them in order as you read the text.
1. What Does It Say? Observe carefully the facts of the passage. Note the characters, details, actions, and doctrinal emphasis. Underline important words in your text and make notes on a separate paper. Take plenty of time and concentrate.
2. What Does It Mean? To interpret correctly you must understand the meaning of what you have read. Make sure of word definitions and check when you are in doubt. Ask why this incident is included in Scripture. Note the effect of certain actions or words. What is God’s attitude in this? What doctrine is set forth? What is the significance of this teaching in the lives of believers? What went before this section and what went afterward? This is called context. We do not want to insert an idea which is out of place with the context. Try not to linger too much over what you do not understand. If necessary make note of questions for future study. Then set these aside and concentrate on what you do understand.
3. How Will I Apply It? This question has to do with application of the Word to your personal life or your understanding of God. Application is the fruit of your study. It brings you to face what you intend to do about what you have read. Bible study is intended to change us, to bring us into conformity with Christ and to a fuller appreciation of God. Information without application is a miscarriage of the intended purpose of Scripture. Look for promises, warnings, commands, examples, sins and encouragements or truths about the character of God. Earnestly beseech God to speak to you through His Word while you study. Wait on God when necessary and do not rush in and out of His presence. Write down each day what you have learned in a notebook or devotional diary for future study and reference. Use the personal pronoun “I” when you write an application. Use a verb of action to indicate what you intend to do. Eliminate weak or impersonal observations about Scripture from your study. Do not be an avoider. God is willing to be your Teacher if you truly want to learn at His feet.
Bible Study Tools Or Aids
There are more helps for Bible study today than at any other time in history. The Bible alone is sufficient, when the Spirit is our guide, but we can gain from study aids. Here is a brief word about several of them:
1. Basic Versions. Seek to carefully determine what the Bible says, in words that you can understand. In the English language, many readers still prefer the King James Version (KJV). Lately a revision of this has been made available, with out-of-date words eliminated (New King James Bible). Others prefer such translations as the New American Standard Bible (NASB), New International Version (NIV), and the New English Bible (NEB). Many of these translations are also available in reference editions with study notes, commentary, cross-references, concordance or maps. A new believer, however, probably should begin with a basic text.
2. Paraphrased Bibles. There are other Bibles which are not exact translations but paraphrases. These include the Living Bible, Phillip’s, Today’s English (Good News) and Amplified editions. Study from one good translation and refer to paraphrases or other translations for comparison as a study help.
3. Concordance. This is an alphabetic index of words in the Bible which helps locate passages and cross-references on any subject being studied. The meaning of words from the Hebrew and Greek languages, in which the Old and New Testament were originally written, is also given. Concordances by Strong and Young are excellent.
4. Dictionaries. An ordinary English dictionary helps you to gain deeper understanding of unfamiliar or key words in the text. Bible dictionaries, such as Unger’s or The New Bible Dictionary, are helpful for general background and brief explanations of many topics, Bible names and books.
5. Other Helps. Maps and some information on geography and history are often available in Bibles. A Bible atlas or Bible geography is used by many students. Bible encyclopedias, such as International Standard or Zondervan are fuller versions of Bible dictionaries. Simple Bible courses can help with background material, doctrinal and book studies.
A good readable version of the Bible and a few simple study aids are all that are necessary at first. When buying any Bible study tools, one should be very careful to avoid cult material and all books written by those with liberal or critical attitudes toward the Bible.
Where do you want to be in your understanding of God’s Word one, five, ten years from now? Will you be a child, adolescent or adult? Will you be able to eat the “strong meat” of the Word—or will you still be drinking milk (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)? “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for some one to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For every one who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14 NASB).
The choice is ours. If we are new in the faith, or immature, let us “long for the pure milk of the Word” that we may grow up in the Lord (1 Peter 2:2 NASB). If we are more mature in the Word, let us go on to “solid food,” training our spiritual senses for discernment.
Eating The Word Of God
Each morning this week we will do a devotional exercise using passages related to different aspects of the Word of God. This will prepare us for the discussion on “Eating the Word,” and it will reinforce last week’s lesson on “Appointment with God.” The following order is suggested to help in our preparations:
1. Pray for illumination by the Spirit of God.
2. Read the passage several times.
3. Give each section a short title. Write a brief summary of the main point. Make a personal application.
4. After completing your devotional time each day answer the questions on the back of this study guide relating to that passage.
Day 1—Psalm 19:7-11
Day 2—Deuteronomy 11:18-21
Day 3—2 Timothy 2:14-19
Day 4—Psalm 119:9-16
Day 5—Psalm 1
Day 6—James 1:22-25
Passage: Galatians 1:11-17 Date: June 10, 1976
Title: Not According to Man (v. 11)
Summary: Paul shares how he received the gospel directly from God and not
from “flesh and blood.”
Lord, help me to read the word freshly for myself. I will study the notes of
1. Day 1—Psalm 19:7-11. What do the different names for the Word of God suggest to you? What characteristics of the Word are mentioned? What effect can the Word have on your life?
2. Day 2—Deuteronomy 11:18-21. What different areas of life are suggested by the words “heart,” “hand,” frontlets,” “doorposts,” “gates”? From this passage, how is the Word best learned?
3. Day 3—2 Timothy 2:14-19. What problem is set forth in vv. 14, 16, 17, 18? What is the solution in v. 15? Name four reasons to be a student of the Word of God.
4. Day 4—Psalm 119:9-16. What attitudes and actions are displayed by the Psalmist? How does one “hide” the Word in his heart?
5. Day 5—Psalm 1. Describe the “blessed man” of this Psalm. Why is he successful? What must he avoid?
6. Day 6—James 1:22-25. How is the Word like a mirror? What action is required? What is the relationship between obedience and spiritual self-deception?
7. Day 7—REVIEW. What have you learned about the importance of the Word of God in your life? What attitudes/actions will you change as a result of this study?