How to Study the Bible, Pt. 1

Scripture: John 7:17, Acts 17:11
This broadcast looks at the importance of studying the Bible. It begins with opening up and reading it. But, is there are difference between reading the Bible and studying the Bible? Where should you begin to study if you are just beginning?
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Announcer: It's time now for Bible Talk. Join our hosts Gary Gibbs and John Bradshaw as they open the Bible and talk about themes that affect your life today. Stay tuned because the next 15 minutes will deepen your understanding of God's word.

John Bradshaw: Hi, this is Bible Talk where we talk about the Bible and how the Bible affects us today. I'm John Bradshaw and with me is Gary Gibbs. Hi, Gary.

Gary Gibbs: Hi, John. Today we're going to be talking about how to study the Bible. Now on Bible Talk, it's a good topic, isn't it?

John: We've been talking recently about the keys to spiritual success. The biblical keys to spiritual success and you can't get very far in the Bible without the Bible urging you to study the Bible. At one time Jesus said, "Search ye the scriptures, in them you think you have eternal life, and they are they that testify of me." Jesus recommended studying the Bible if you want to know him because the Bible testifies of him. How do we study the Bible?

Gary: Well, first you have to read it. You have to read it and you have to understand it. Let me tell you a story though before we get into that. You've heard of Mark Twain?

John: Yes, sure.

Gary: Mark Twain's house is there in Missouri on the Mississippi river. Have you ever been to it?

John: Hannibal, Missouri. Never been there, I know it's there.

Gary: I haven't been there either but understand that what you do is you walk around the outside of the house and you could look through the windows and see the house that Mark Twain lived in. Two gentlemen were visiting, they didn't know each other. One gentleman said, "I love this place. I come by here every time I'm passing through the city here and I've been here 60 times." The other guy said, "Is that so? Well, which one of Mark Twain's books do you enjoy the most?"

The guy said, "I don't know. I've never read one of them." Now here he was worshiping at the shrine of Mark Twain but had never read his books and many Christians do the same thing.

They go to church every Sunday or every Sabbath and yet they've never read the book. They've never spent time in the Bible and that's why I think it's important here that we talk about how to study the Bible. And we begin with, you got to open it up, you got to start reading it.

John: Hey now, let me ask you a question then. You said you got to read the Bible in order to study the Bible. You can't study it without reading it but is reading it, necessarily studying it? You get all kinds of people who read it just for something to read or they read through the Bible once a year or once every two years. I'm thinking though that that might be a little bit different from actually studying the Bible, minding it to get out the gems of truth.

Gary: There definitely is a difference but I think it's profitable to read. For instance, if I'm studying the Gospel of Mark and I'm looking at chapter one, first thing I like to do is just read through chapter one.

John: Sure.

Gary: To get the overview of it. Then I'll come back and I'll take it verse by verse and I will look at it very carefully and try to find out what it means. It might mention a place that I don't know where it is. It may talk about the Jordan River. Here in John 1, it talks about Jesus was baptized of John in Jordan in verse nine. Well, where is the Jordan River? What does it look like? And today with so many tools on the computer on the Internet, you can go in. You can see pictures of the traditional site where Jesus was baptized in the Jordan.

So you can kind of get the feel and you can work through this and that is what study is. It's digging in, asking questions. The who, what, when, where, how, how does this apply to me of each verse?

John: Now, we're going to go through this slowly, OK because what you've just shared there is worth our consideration. You read it through, someone said to me one time, "If you want to study a passage of the Bible, read through many times, become familiar with it, really get the hang of it." What you're saying now is walk through this slowly, asking questions of what's going on, who, who is here, who is there, who is saying what to who, what, what's going on, where are we, when did it happen, why did this take place.

I think if we approach studying the Bible in a similar way that a person would approach studying another branch of science, I didn't mean to cheapen Bible study but get in there and tear it apart and make notes and ask questions and get research books and so forth that would really be profitable, wouldn't it?

Gary: It is. I like to keep a journal, a notebook where I write down my thoughts and as I go through it and when I come back to it the next day, I can review what I learned the first day and then it enables me to go deeper the second day. Then you mentioned, using a Bible helps.

John: Sure.

Gary: Encyclopedias, Bible commentaries, how much weight should we put into these books?

John: I think they're useful. You've got to be careful though. The Bible is the inspired word of God. A Bible commentary is the thought out, uninspired word of man, right?

Gary: Yes.

John: The Bible is the final authority. Anything else is just somebody commenting on the Bible. You got to remember that. Hey, something that people really got to look out for is the study Bibles. Now, they're OK. A lot of them had a lot of good historical background, societal, cultural information in them but the danger is someone is going to be reading here in the Bible. OK, what does that mean?

They drop down to the notes at the bottom, "That's what it means," and you do it and run around studying the Bible. You're just reading what someone else is saying about the Bible.

So study Bibles, though they can be helpful, I think you got to be very careful how much weight you give them and how much emphasis you allow them to have in your own Bible study live.

Gary: I think that happens a whole lot because Bible study is not easy, let's face it. You're reading this story that's old. It goes back several thousands years.

John: Sure.

Gary: If you're reading the Old Testament, it goes back 3,000 years or more and you're reading this old story and it's a totally different culture. You really have to think to figure out what this means to you and then it's a spiritual book as well. So you have that element, so it's very easy to jump down to those notes in the Bible and just read what somebody else says and not get really what God is wanting to speak to you personally and individually.

John: Now, let's say a person wants to study the Bible. They haven't been studying the Bible. We're not going to recommend they go and start in Ezekiel chapter one, right? Where would you recommend someone who wants to start? I'm going to say there's a difference here between two things -- reading the Bible just devotionally and then digging in and studying the Bible. Gary, where would you tell the people listening to Bible Talk to begin studying the Bible?

Gary: If you're just beginning to study the Bible, I think you start with one of the Gospels. Perhaps Mark is one of the simplest Gospels to read or I like John. You have a lot of the teachings of Jesus, how to live the Christian life in the Gospel of John but if you want an overview of Christ's life, Mark is a really good book to read.

John: Even though there are some difficulties, difficult passages in the Bible, I'm going to go back to Mark Twain. I haven't been to Hannibal, Missouri where he lived but I have been to Twain Harte, California where he lived. If you go over that place, there's legend out there as well and here's what I found out he said one time he said. He said, "It's not the parts of the Bible that I don't understand that give me trouble. It's the parts of the Bible that I do understand."

There's plenty in the Bible that you can read and study and drink in without having to go banging your head against the theological brick wall and maybe ending up frustrated. Perhaps later on as you study you go to those difficult, more difficult passages, maybe.

Gary: The Bible, it says in Isaiah that we ought to compare scripture with scripture and as you encounter a text you want more information on it. What you need to do is compare it with other like scriptures. Now if you have a Bible, the traditional Bible on paper, what you do is you get the Bible with center margin references that has other Bible text that the publishers believe use similar wording and you can cross reference and go over those and one text will illuminate another.

If you have a computer Bible, you also have these cross references you can click on and go over to them and so one Bible text will illuminate another. For instance, we were just looking at this in Mark one about the Jordan River.

You can cross reference that to several other places in the Gospels, in Matthew, in Luke and you can read the same story but through another writer's eyes and you get a clearer and more complete picture of what Mark is talking about.

John: I'm going to mention in just a moment another indispensable tool when it comes to Bible study but right now I've got to tell you that here on Bible Talk, we got a tremendous offer for you. We want to offer to you a Bible study lesson entitled "Back to Jerusalem." This is going to bless you in the context of studying and appreciating and understanding the Bible so call the number that you're going to hear or write us at the address that you're going to hear towards the end of this program and be sure you contact us and ask for "Back to Jerusalem," another Bible study tool. Got to get a concordance, right?

Gary: A concordance is invaluable and a concordance, what it does is it gives you every word in the Bible and then you can look up the original meaning and if you have a computer Bible, you can actually research it in the original language. It will give you every text in the Bible that uses that particular Greek or Hebrew word, very valuable tool. John, let me ask you this.

John: Sure.

Gary: Why do you think we come up with so many different interpretations of the Bible? We're all studying the same book. Is it something that we're doing in our Bible study that causes us to come up with conflicting interpretations?

John: Well, it might be. Here is one thing that I've noticed a lot of and that is that when people study the Bible, they don't study the Bible independent of their own personal biases. In other words, they'll come to the Bible saying, "Well, here's what I believe. Now that I'm reading this, I want to make this square with what I believe." Now there are some things you can come to the Bible and hold on to, Jesus Christ as the divine son of God, the Bible is the word of God. God is Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Certain things you don't have to let go of.

But when you come to the scriptures, you've got to be prepared to put aside your own personal biases, prejudices, and beliefs in order to receive from the word of God, what the word of God is saying. For instance, Paul is writing to the Corinthians, you don't read a verse and say well I think that means.

You've got to try and figure out what Paul was saying to those Corinthians. It's not always that hard to do so we take the Bible and context that will help us avoid a lot of these pitfalls of Bible misunderstandings.

Gary: Jesus said in John 7:17 the attitude with which we come to the Bible makes a major difference in whether we arrive at truth or not. He said, "If anyone wants to do his, that is God's will, he'll know of the doctrine." He'll be able to understand doctrine so when we come to the Bible I think it's very important that we start it with prayer and we say, "Lord, teach me your will. I'm coming here, you may show me something here that is different than what I already believe but I want to know your will that I might do it."

When we pray like that, we open our mind. We open our heart to the impression of the Holy Spirit.

John: There's another verse where Jesus said in John 8, "If you continue in my word then you're my disciples indeed and you shall know the truth and the truth will make you free." If you want to know the truth you've got to be prepared to continue in the word of God. A lot of people will grow so far and want to grow no more. I've arrived. I don't need to know anymore, what I believe is all I need to know. Jesus never said that, he said there's got to be a continual growing, a continual continuing in his word.

Gary: Another issue I think that we face as Christians is we often accept what others have told us about the Bible and we stop right there. We need to be like this folk mentioned in the Book of Acts, the Bereans. They live in Berea, which is in Northern Greece.

It says in Acts 17: 11 that these were more noble than the people who lived in Thessalonica in that they received the word with all readiness of mind and search the scriptures daily whether those things were so. In other words, they were checking out what the Apostle Paul was preaching to them, weren't they?

John: They were. We ought to be able to trust preachers and teachers and family members and so on and it's OK to take in what they say and listen and with a measure of respect but our final authority has got to be the holy Bible. We want to encourage you to dig into the holy Bible, the word of God, and find out what the Bible says to you, you will find God, will bless your life, illuminate your pathway and you'll experience that successful, vibrant Christian life that Jesus wants you to have.


Gary: The Bible is life transforming and as you study it, it just blesses you so much. It gives you insights. It really connects you to God and I hope people will write or call to get this resource that we're going to offer here in a moment, John.

John: We will take up this subject more next time. Our time is gone. Thanks for being with us today, with Gary Gibbs, I'm John Bradshaw. This has been Bible Talk.

Announcer: If you'd like more information on what we've been studying today, we have a comprehensive Bible study guide we'd love to share with you that's absolutely free. This study includes many of the texts we've just discussed and expands on the subject including information you'll want to know. To receive this free informative Bible study guide, simply call, write or email and ask for "Back to Jerusalem." The toll free number is 866-BIBLE-SAYS. That's 866-242-5372. You can write to us at Bible Talk, PO Box 1058 Roseville, CA, 95678 or email us at

Bible Talk is being produced in association with Amazing Facts in the studios of LifeTalk Radio.

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