Who among us, if we’re being honest with ourselves, are really satisfied with how much we know about the Bible? We read our Bibles and pay attention during sermons and Bible classes, but if we are honest our reach for Bible knowledge has never really extended beyond that. It’s not that we don’t want to try; it’s just that we don’t know how. We marvel at our heroes of the faith who seem to have forgotten more about the Bible than we feel like we’ve ever known and ask “how?” How did they do it? How did they learn the Bible so well? What can we do to take our own Bible study to the next level? The following are a few suggestions that I try to put to use in my own study. Maybe they’ll be helpful to you.
Stop relying on the cookie cutter plans. We’ve all seen them and we’ve all tried them – “read through the entire Bible in a year,” “read through the New Testament every 30 days,” “read through the Old Testament every quarter,” etc. They are all well meaning and they are all effective for some people but none of them are effective for everyone. We are all our own unique people when it comes to study habits so what is effective and what works for us may be different than what works with this person or that. What we have to do is remember that effective Bible study isn’t just about reading. Anybody can read words off a page. What we need to focus on in our reading is retention and comprehension. So many of the cookie-cutter reading plans focus on quantity of reading and not necessarily quality. By all means if one works for you continue using it, but if it isn’t working then it’s time to experiment with other forms of Bible study even if it means covering less ground at a time. Find what works for you and use it.
Utilize different methods of Bible study to keep things fresh and to gain a more comprehensive knowledge of the Bible. I have heard certain forms of Bible study recommended and other forms denounced for years. Should we study topics, themes, words, phrases, or characters? Should we study verses, paragraphs, or entire books at a time? Should we rely on our English translations or should we look deeper into Hebrew and Greek word studies? And certain forms of study have been recommended and denounced for years to the extent that even if one of them works more for us than another we feel guilty (or like there’s something wrong with us) because it’s one of the “forbidden methods.” What if instead of pigeonholing ourselves into believing that only one method of Bible study is the right one we utilized them all? One immense danger that threatens our Bible study is the potential of that study, or our interest in it growing stale. By utilizing different methods of Bible study we avoid that potential danger and tap into the possibility of a wider reaching Bible knowledge.
Don’t be afraid to use extra-Biblical resources to help you along the way. I’ve heard people who adamantly oppose the idea of reading from anything outside of the Bible. “The Bible is enough” is the typical response. And you know, the Bible is enough; and if all we had access to was the Bible we would have everything we need. However, I’ve never heard those people who condemn reading from extra-Biblical resources in written form condemn extra-Biblical resources in spoken form. Isn’t that all a sermon is? Any extra-Biblical work that we might use to guide our study should never move beyond the boundaries of scripture any more than our sermons. What’s more, is it seems the height of arrogance to assume that there’s nothing we can learn about the Bible from those who have spent considerable time studying certain aspects of it. There are Bible scholars who have studied specialized areas of the Bible for decades that have the ability to open our eyes to realities in scripture that we might not otherwise see. If there’s something there for us to learn why wouldn’t we want to?
Ask for help when you need it. But doesn’t needing help imply weakness? The Ethiopian eunuch didn’t think so. When Philip found him reading from Isaiah 53 he asked him if he understood what he was reading. The eunuch responded “How can I except some man should guide me” (vs. 31). However, it isn’t the eunuch’s response that is so interesting to me, but Philip’s. Because when the eunuch asked for help in understanding the scriptures Philip didn’t say “you ignorant twit, aren’t the scriptures clear? What more explanation do you need?” Instead Philip patiently started in Isaiah 53 and taught him about Jesus. The eunuch wasn’t afraid to ask for help and Philip wasn’t afraid to give it. Sometimes we all get stuck. When we get stuck we can either try to selfishly get unstuck alone or we can selflessly ask someone for help. It may be a particular verse or a particular subject that we’ve been working and studying on for some time and we just don’t know where to go from here. What’s the shame in asking someone we respect and who might be able to simplify things for us for help? Some of the most valuable extra-Biblical resources we have access to are preachers, elders, Bible class teachers, or other Christians who have been effective Bible students for years. Let’s take advantage of those resources while we have them.
There’s more that could be said, but suffice it to say that if we will put forth the effort God has already provided the increase for us through His word. The fact that you saw the title of this article and chose to read it means you want to take your Bible study to the next level. Take these ideas and go do it.