“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
As Evangelical Christians we believe that the bible is the word of God. Therefore, a good understanding of scripture is absolutely crucial in our walk with God and with this in mind, allow me to outline the steps that I have found helpful in the study of scripture.
- Pray – without the help of the Holy Spirit, the bible will be forever a mystery to the reader, not that anyone has all of the answers, but God does speak by his Spirit through his word. There are countless people with an academic understanding but without the Spirit the bible is just an interesting book from history. Before you read it, pray, and ask that God will open your mind to all that he has to say to you.
- Read – I’m afraid there is no short cut to simply reading the bible. Many years ago when I was in school, we were given the novel Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I did read quite a lot as a teenager but it was always non fiction and factual. I can still remember my heart sinking as they gave me this huge novel. I made a half-hearted attempt to read it and then gave up and worried about the impending exam. In desperation, I bought a book of study notes and read that. I wish I had just read the book in the first place, it would have been so much easier and my marks would have been a lot better. It is good to read Christian books and commentaries etc but there is really no substitute for reading the bible.
- Read around – when studying a passage of scripture it is important to read the passage a number of times but it is also helpful to read the views of other Christians. The truth is most of us are not experts in ancient Greek and Hebrew or familiar with the culture of first century Ephesus or Corinth, it makes sense then, to make use the work of those who are.
We can be thankful that we live in a day when there are great resources available free via the internet. The internet is of course full of some pretty weird stuff and I would warn anyone seeking a better understanding of the bible online to check out any sites carefully. However, this should not be a reason to ignore some of the great stuff that is just a click away. With this in mind, I thought it might be good to highlight some of the wealth of good material available.
An excellent site with numerous different translations, including the latest 2011 NIV and the UK version of the 1984 NIV for those who find American spellings a distraction. You can also click on the Additional Resources option on the left and then scroll down to the Commentaries page. The IVP Commentaries are very good.
A great, sound, accessible online commentary.
A brilliant site if you want to check a word in the original language. First enter the verse into the Search the Bible option.
Then click on the ‘c’ box next to the verse that you are studying
You will see the English and Greek in parallel. You can then click on any Greek words that are of particular interest.
You can then see the full definition of the word, where else it is used in scripture and there is even an option to play an audio clip of the Greek word being correctly pronounced. Brilliant!
When you just can’t find that verse
Fantastic tool, you don’t have to remember the whole thing, you don’t even have to spell it correctly, Mr Google will find it in a fraction of a second.