HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE
The other day I received a letter from a young Officer asking for
a few suggestions as to how to read and study the Bible. Here they
I. Read and study it as two young lovers read and study each other's
letters. As soon as the mail brings a letter from his sweetheart,
the young man grabs it and without waiting to see if there is not
another letter for him, runs off to a corner and reads and laughs
and rejoices over it and almost devours it. If he is a particularly
desperate and demonstrative lover -- (the Lord make us desperate and
demonstrative lovers of our Lord Jesus Christ!) -- he will probably
kiss it and carry it next to his heart till the next one comes.
He meditates on it day and night, and reads it over again and then
again. He carries it down town with him, and on the street car
appears very quiet and thoughtful, till all at once a twinkle comes
into his eye, out comes the letter and choice portions are read over
again. He delights in that letter. If any part is hard to
understand, a letter is sent off post haste for explanations, and
the explanation and letter will be most carefully compared, and
possibly also previous letters will be studiously compared with this
one. I knew a young man whose fate was hanging in the balance. He
wanted assurance, but the young woman was coy, and she veiled her
true feelings and left him in uncertainty, and he studied her
letters and weighed every word and phrase and brought them to me,
and had me compare letter with letter, as we should compare
Scripture with Scripture, in order, if possible, to discover the
state of her mind and heart and his prospects. In due time he was
Now, that is the way to read the Bible. It is God's will and
testament. It is His own carefully written instructions as to what
manner of people He would have us be; as to how we shall behave
ourselves; what we shall do and not do; what our rights and
privileges in Jesus are; what are our peculiar dangers; how we shall
know our enemies and conquer them; how we shall enter into and
constantly enjoy his favor and escape Hell and get safely home to
II. Read in Acts xvii. 11, what the disciples in Berea did.
'They received the word with all readiness of mind.' A frank and
noble mind is open to the truth, and wants it more than gold or
pleasure or fame or power.
'They searched the Scriptures.' They wanted to know for themselves,
and not by mere hearsay. They searched. Precious things are deeply
hidden. Pebbles and stones and autumn leaves abound everywhere, but
gold and silver and precious stones are hidden deep in the bowels
and rocky ribs of the earth; shells cover the sea-shore, but pearls
are hidden in its depths. And so with truth. Some truth may lie on
the surface of the Bible, but those that will altogether satisfy and
distinguish us and make us wise unto salvation are found only after
diligent search, even as for hid treasure. 'Search the Scriptures;'
said Jesus, 'for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are
they which testify of Me' (John v. 39). If you would know Jesus,
search the Scriptures, and you will come to know Him and see His
face, and be like Him.
'They searched daily.' Daily, not spasmodically, by fits and starts,
but daily, habitually, they dug into the word of God, to find out if
the things Paul preached were so. And just so must you do. 'Thou
shalt meditate therein day and night' (Joshua ii. 8), was God's
instruction to Joshua. And once this habit is formed the delight in
God's word will become unspeakable.
'Thy words were found, and I did eat them;' said Jeremiah, 'and Thy
word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart' (Jer. xiii.
16). 'O how love I Thy law!' cried the Psalmist. 'It is my
meditation all the day' (Ps. cxix. 97).
In forming the habit of Bible study we may have to begin and follow
it up for a time from a sense of duty, but once the habit is formed,
if we are not only hearers but doers of the word, we shall follow it
up for very joy, until we can say with Job, 'I have esteemed the
words of His mouth more than my necessary food' (Job xxiii. 12).
III. Read and study the word not to get a mass of knowledge in the
head, but a flame of love in the heart. 'Knowledge puffeth up' (I
Cor. viii. I), but love buildeth up. Read it to find fuel for
affection, food for reflection, direction for judgment, guidance for
Read it not that you may know, but that you may do.
IV. Follow carefully the line of thought from verse to verse and
chapter to chapter. Often the first part of one chapter belongs to
the last part of the preceding chapter. For instance, in the last
verse of the fourth chapter of Ephesians, we read, 'And be ye kind
one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God
for Christ's sake hath forgiven you,' and in the first verse of the
fifth chapter we read, 'Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear
Those two verses belong together. We are to follow God in what? Why,
in the spirit of kindness and tender-heartedness and forgiveness.
Again, in John vii. 53, we read, 'And every man went unto his own
house,' and in viii. 1, 'Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives.'
These two verses belong together. Jesus had no house. Bless Him! So
when they went each to his own house for the night, Jesus went to
the cold, dark mount!
Finally, do not be discouraged if progress in the knowledge of the
word seems slow as first. It is like learning to play an instrument
or master a trade; for the first few days or weeks it appears
impossible, but it is not so. Some glad day a brain-cell will expand
or a veil drop from your face and scales from your eyes and you will
find yourself doing the impossible with ease.
So it will be in acquainting yourself with the word of God. Keep at
it, keep at it, keep at it! Cry to God with David, 'Open Thou mine
eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law' (Ps. cxix.
Pray for an understanding heart. You will only love and understand
the word as Jesus reveals it to you. So walk with Him, take up your
cross and follow Him through evil as well as good report.
After His resurrection, He came to His trembling, heart-broken,
disappointed disciples, and Luke tells us that 'beginning at Moses
and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures
the things concerning Himself' (Luke xxiv. 27), and later Luke says,
'Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the
Scriptures' (Luke xxiv. 45).
There are things in the Bible hard to be understood, and we may not
know them till we stand by the crystal sea, but we can learn those
things that will make us meek and lowly in heart as was Jesus,
watchful, patient, loving, kind, forgiving, and utterly zealous and
self-sacrificing for the salvation of men. Hallelujah!
Happy shall we be, if; like David, we can say, 'Thy word have I hid
in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee' (Ps. cxix. 11).