Many years ago I was invited to conduct a weekly "spiritual hour" at one of the drug/alcohol rehab facilities in our town. Realizing that the term "spiritual hour" could take on many different definitions and be very ambiguous, I wanted to clarify with the director of the facility what he could expect from me. We both agreed that "spiritual hour" at his facility would simply be "Jesus Christ and the Bible." It would not include a specific church, denomination or religion. I can thank the inmates in the Big Spring Federal Prison who attended my Bible class for making me aware of clarifying terms under discussion. Everyone needs to be on the same page when discussing anything. This brings me to my subject…Bible study.
I think it is common knowledge that we have more different bibles and less knowledge than ever before. Most of our churches are Biblically inept in key positions. Most of the staff could not give you three scriptures on salvation, separation, marriage, divorce and remarriage, the second coming of Christ, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, forgiveness, Sunday or Sabbath, Jew and Gentile, etc. The list is endless. I am not referring here to the casual member, but to the leaders of the church. Their training in our denominational or so-called Bible schools has been how to manage people, not how to minister the word of God.
Go to your "Christian Book Store" and you will find few, if any, expository teaching books. Most of the books are on improving your self-image, self love, self improvement and developing "the child within you." If you were interested in a verse by verse expository on the book of Romans, they would probably have to order it. If you wanted to purchase one of the great study Bibles, such a the old Scofield Bible or the Companion Bible, they will definitely have to order it!
Most of the so-called Bible studies in our churches are not really Bible studies. More likely than not, they are book reviews or studying someone else's study. Scripture is not the focal point, the students are. The study on prayer is mostly on how to get more stuff from God than it is on how to be more like Him. A verse by verse study of the third chapter of Philippians would rearrange Christendom. It would empty the self-help shelves in our book stores, silence most television evangelists and bring some much needed honesty back into Christianity.
Psychology has replaced Bible preaching. Psychology has always and will always exalt man. The Bible has always and will always exalt Jesus Christ. The Bible always positions man as a sinner and in a bad light outside of Christ. What difference does that make?
The psychologists like Freud, Jung or Narramore will not be your judge, Jesus Christ will!
As a rule, what little Bible study is practiced, is not "rightly divided" (2 Timothy 2:15.) The "Sermon on the Mount" is taught as practice for today (which is impossible to practice) and nobody would even attempt to practice all of it, such as Matthew 5:40-42.
Most teach no difference between the old covenant and the new covenant (Hebrews 8:6-13,) and don't have a clue about a race of people with no covenant (Ephesians 2:11-13.) Even though we are to practice "rightly dividing," (2 Timothy 2:15) we just keep lumping together and picking out that which we prefer, like we do at a cafeteria.
Our attitude toward the Bible is revealed by 230+ English translations on the market. Let me tell you what any third grader knows…if two differ on anything, they both can't be right! They both can be wrong, but it is not possible for them to be right. If one is right, which one is right. One gentleman told me that 'his heart told him which one was right.' Jeremiah said,:
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Jeremiah 17:9
The truth of matter is we pick the one that fits what we want it to say. I saw a very appropriate cartoon of a man in a Bible book store asking the clerk, "Do you have a version easier to obey?"
If we don't believe it, why would we study it anyway? Most professing Christians use the "hully gully" method of Bible study. They let the book fall open and then think that is what God has got for them. There are at least four (4) internal principles of Bible study that we should use.
1. Compare like things with like things (apples with apples.)
"Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." 1 Corinthians 2:13-14
2. You can cross-reference truths (mentioned more than once.)
"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation." 2 Peter 1:20
3. Approve the things that are excellent (have a good rating system.)
"That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ." Philippians 1:10
4. Rightly divide the truth (have a good filing system.) Don't comingle different truths.
"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15
Miles Coverdale, the first English translator of the Bible, said it this way:
"It shall greatly helpe ye to understand Scripture, if thou mark, not only what is spoken, or wrytten, but of whom, and to whom, with words, and at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstance, considering what goeth before, and what followeth."
Until we get back to the Bible as our authority, all these other problems will just keep escalating.
Keep Looking Up!