Faithlife Sermons

The Discipline of Bible Study

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Why is studying the Bible important? How do I study the Bible?

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Why Study the Bible?

2 Timothy 3:16–17 NIV
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Psalm 119:97–104 NIV
97 Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. 98 Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. 99 I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. 100 I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. 101 I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. 102 I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. 103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.
Two basic reasons to study the Bible:
Because it’s useful
Ultimately useful so that “the servant of God” (you and I) can be “thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Because we love God and God’s words to us.
God’s words ought to be “sweeter than honey to [our] mouth[s]!

How to Study the Bible

John Wesley’s Guidelines for Studying Scripture:

With thanks to John Wesley and M. Robert Mulholland Jr. and his book Shaped By the Word: The Power of Scripture in Spiritual Formation

First Guideline: Time

“…set apart a little time, if you can, every morning and evening” to read scripture ~John Wesley
A significant part of any “discipline” is time. Give yourself daily time to read the scriptures.

Second Guideline: Balance

“At each time, if you have leisure, read a chapter out of the Old and one out of the New Testament. If you cannot do this, take a single chapter, or a part of one.” ~John Wesley
Remember that all of Scripture is “God-breathed”. If possible read from a variety of parts and types of scripture regularly. Don’t read only from the New Testament; or only from the Old.
You could intentionally choose to read a bit from the Old and New Testaments each day.
Or, you could choose to read a bit of each genre of scripture over the course of the week:
Gospel
Epistles (letters)
Prophetic literature
Old Testament narrative
Wisdom literature (Psalms, Proverbs, Job & Ecclesiastes)
Apocalyptic literature (Revelation & parts of Isaiah, Daniel and Jeremiah and other Prophets)
Regardless of how you seek “balance” in your reading, be sure to read a complete “pericope” each time.
A “pericope” is a complete unit of scripture. It could be as small as a verse (especially in much of proverbs), or it could be a whole chapter or more.
Examples of “pericopes”:
A parable from Jesus
The story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus
The story of the fall of the walls of Jericho.

Third Guideline: Intentional Focus

Approach the passage you’re going to read “with a single eye, to know the whole will of God and a fixed resolution to do it.” ~John Wesley
If you don’t come to the scriptures consciously intending to do something about what you read there, chances are very good that what you read will make no difference in your life.
Say to yourself, and to God, “open my heart and mind to know your will, and strengthen my will to do it.”

Fourth Guideline: See the Big Picture

“Have a constant eye to the analogy of faith, the connection and harmony there is between those grand fundamental doctrines, original sin, justification by faith, the new birth, inward and outward holiness.” ~John Wesley
Remember the whole context of Scripture: it is God’s story of God’s dealings with humanity—Creation, Fall, Redemption, Recreation.
Remember that you are part of that story, and that everything you read in scripture is not only “someone else’s story”, but is also your story.
No piece of Scripture stands on it’s own—rather it is part of the whole—inseperable and indivisible from all the others.

Fifth Guideline: Prayerful Reading

“…serious and earnest prayer should be consistently used before we consult the oracles of God, since ‘Scripture can only be understood through the same Spirit whereby it was given.’ Our reading should likewise be closed with prayer, that what we read may be written on our hearts.” ~John Wesley

Sixth Guideline: Address and Response

“It might also be of use if, while we read, we frequently pause and examine ourselves by what we read, both with regard to our heart and lives.” ~John Wesley
Self-examination is key to reading and studying scripture. In essence, self-examination allows the Spirit to read and study us in a way that we can discern!
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