Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Studying The Scriptures III
In yesterday’s post we talked about the need to read enough to get the complete meaning in order to gain a proper understanding. I mentioned that many of the so-called scientific studies are inaccurate or or openly fraudulent, because they do not report all the facts or even make up references. In an effort to keep up with all the latest discoveries, doctors or scientists begin to just skim the things they read, looking only for major points or subtitles without reading the supporting material. As a result they have only a superficial understanding of what they read, and many inaccurate or misleading statements are accepted without question. If the doctors were to concentrate on reading a few articles thoroughly instead of trying to read every article, the authors of the studies would be forced to make sure their material was accurate.
The same principle applies to understanding the scriptures. Our reading is critical if we are to learn what God wants us to know, and I Timothy 4:13 commands, “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” Unfortunately, some people fall into a trap of trying to read a certain amount each day, and begin to just skim the passages, looking only for points that catch their attention. Asa result they get only a superficial and incomplete picture of what the scriptures say, leaving them susceptible to false doctrines and misinterpretations of the scriptures. It is far better to read a smaller portion of scripture and understand it than to read five chapters each day so you can read the Bible through in a year.
To avoid that problem we need to focus on accurately understanding what we read, rather than on covering a certain amount of material. Two verses down from the command to read, I Timothy 4:15 commands, “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.” The Greek word used means to take care of, to revolve in one’s mind. Literally, Paul said we should examine the scriptures thoroughly, making sure we do not distort or damage them in the process. The Seven Laws of Teaching tells us that nothing will be learned until the pupil takes the time to think the subject through for themselves. We cannot skim through the scriptures and learn what we need to know.
II Timothy 2:15 commands, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Studying requires making a conscious effort to understand the subject in detail. Sometimes studying requires looking up the meanings of words when they are used in an unfamiliar way, because language is constantly changing. If using a translation from Greek or Hebrew, it may be helpful to look up the meanings of the original word since many words have somewhat different meanings when translated into other languages. Language is the medium of communication, so and understanding of the language and grammar used is essential for proper understanding.
If we want to be pleasing to God, we are going to need to make the effort to get a proper understanding of his word. Joshua 1:8 promises, “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” If we will make the effort, all of the verses tell us we can be the Christians God wants us to be. A good dictionary, listing archaic definitions and a Hebrew or Greek dictionary such as those in Strong’s Concordance can be very helpful in getting a correct understanding, but they are not essential.
Unfortunately, the use of commentaries, devotionals, and other helps frequently become a substitute for studying for one’s self, and should be used sparingly. We need to realize they are someone’s interpretation of the scriptures, and are not scripture themselves. Dependence on them frequently leads to false doctrine.