Well, I was considering not having the “part two” to this article, as my thoughts weren’t clearly coming together. But here are some, perhaps rambling, thoughts. (And here is part one.)
I recently acquired a copy of The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge . Basically it is a giant and exhaustive Bible cross-reference source, and a very useful Bible study tool. In the preface, I was deeply touched and convicted by the note written by Jerome Smith. He reminisces that way back in the summer of 1955 he was first introduced to The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge in a high school vacation Bible school class on “How to study the Bible” at a Baptist church. That Christmas he got a Christmas card with a gift of $5. On December 24 he rode his bicycle 4 miles to a Bible book store to buy a copy of The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. During the years immediately following high school, he faithfully used the volume as many as 3 hours a day in personal Bible study. To this day, he believes that this book was the best investment he ever made for Bible study.
Wow – maybe that doesn’t hit you like it hits me, but it sure was convicting. A teenager…using Christmas money to buy a Bible study book, riding his bike 4 miles to purchase it, and using it up to 3 hours a day to study the Word!
As much as I enjoy learning and study, I often lack discipline. I often waste time. I often fail to take full advantage of all the resources available to me. I’ll be honest – I have spent many hours at once studying the Bible but usually only when I am in the position of being either a student or the teacher…doing a homework assignment, studying for a test, or preparing to lead. Meaning…it is only every so often that I can get myself to study the Word just for purely personal reasons, or for the pure joy of it.
We are blessed in the United States and in the English language to have a huge amount of material to help us study the Bible. Yet, general Bible knowledge seems to be at an all time low for our day and age. It seems to me that we have sadly come full circle since the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation made the Word of God available for the people to own and read for themselves. Many became martyrs to bring us this right. The Bible was a special treasure. But now it seems we have become so accustomed to the ubiquitous Word of God, that we take it for granted and don’t appreciate it. Perhaps we give lip service to the value of the Bible, but our actions clearly don’t match up.
This quote from RC Sproul, was also very convicting:
We fail in our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy.
It is not enough to simply feel convicted about something, we also need to make an action plan. Although I mentioned in a more negative light that it usually takes a class or an assignment to get me more deeply studying the Word, this isn’t necessarily a negative. I think many of us need the structure of a class, and the encouragement of community to study the Word like we should be. Indeed, it was in a vacation Bible school class that Jerome Smith (above) learned how to study the Bible, and this lead to self-motivation for him. Community is actually imperative! While we should be in the Word on our own, we need others too. If we only study the Bible in isolation, we can end up misunderstanding or misapplying it. We need the community of faith to keep us on track.
I’m a seminary student, but I realize that is not a path for everyone. But there are other ways to learn the Word of God in a more structured way. Before I was in seminary, I took correspondence courses (by mail) through Emmaus Correspondence School. These courses are “popular” in nature, meaning that you are not earning an official degree but they do give you certificates for courses completed. This link on the site even shows suggested courses of study depending on your beginning level of Bible knowledge, whether it is very little or more advanced. The courses are very inexpensive. Most cost around $4 to $7, and that includes the booklet, and the correction of your test questions. The graders are very personable. If you ask questions or did not understand something in the lesson, they will personally respond. This is all by mail, but for me this was enough structure that it kept me on track studying the Bible. **By the way, Emmaus courses are available in 110 countries and in over 125 languages!
If you need more “in person” structure, Bible Study Fellowship is a great option. These classes meet all over the USA and world, and are for laypeople to learn the Bible. Although I have never done BSF myself, several friends of mine have, and I have been very impressed by how they have grown in their knowledge of the Word.
Another option is to audit classes at a local Bible College or even seminary. For a small fee (like $50) most colleges will permit you to sit in on a class for the semester. You attend the class like everyone else but it is unofficial. As an auditor, you do not have to do the assignments. There have been auditors in many of my seminary classes.
I hope some of these options might help you study the Word. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Do we really believe this? Let us not give lip service only…But through the power of the Spirit, may we take action and start to study the Bible.