Fourteen Rules for Bible Study
Spiritual Keys to Understanding the Word of God
There are definite spiritual keys to understanding the Scriptures. The primary key is to continually remain in a loving, faithful and obedient relationship with God. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep the commandments—namely, My commandments” (John 14:15). Likewise, in the Psalms we find that those who keep the commandments of God will be given understanding: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments” (Psa. 111:10). This is the foundation of understanding the Word of God.
In order to understand doctrine, we must study the Bible “line upon line and precept upon precept.” The prophet Isaiah writes: “Whom shall He teach knowledge? And whom shall He make to understand doctrine? Those who are weaned from the milk and drawn from the breasts [that is, fully grounded in the basics of the Word of God]. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, there a little” (Isaiah 28:9-10). That is exactly how we need to study any scriptural question—look at all relevant passages on any given subject. The New Testament confirms this approach to understanding the Bible and establishing sound doctrine. The apostle Paul instructed Timothy: “Diligently study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman [in the Word of God] who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing [precept upon precept, and line upon line] the Word of the truth” (II Tim. 2:15).
The Word of God is called the Word of truth—and it is the Spirit of truth that teaches us all things. Jesus said, “But when the Comforter comes, even the Holy Spirit, which the Father will send in My name, that one shall teach you all things, and shall bring to your remembrance everything that I have told you….However, when that one has come, even the Spirit of the truth, it will lead you into all truth because it shall not speak from itself, but whatever it shall hear, it shall speak. And it shall disclose to you the things to come.” (John 14:26; 16:13). This is a promise Jesus gave!
The Bible makes it clear that the Word of truth works together with the Spirit of truth to give understanding to those who love God and seek His will. It is self-evident that it is not possible for the carnal mind—which is deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9)—to come to the knowledge of the truth of God. In fact, the carnal, unconverted mind is naturally hostile toward God and is not willing to be subject to God’s laws (Rom. 8:7). Regardless of how brilliant or how great one’s intellect may be, God’s Word is not understood by human wisdom or reasoning. It is only through the Spirit of God that the Word of God can be understood.
Paul taught that spiritual truths can only be discerned and understood through the Spirit of God: “But God has revealed them to us by His Spirit, for the Spirit searches all things—even the deep things of God. For who among men understands the things of man except by the spirit of man which is in him? In the same way also, the things of God no one understands except by the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is of God, so that we might know the things graciously given to us by God; which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Holy Spirit in order to communicate spiritual things by spiritual means. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:10-14).
Notice what Paul has to say about the profound value of studying the Scriptures which he writes to Timothy: “And that from a child you have known the holy writings, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work” (II Tim. 3:15-17).
The following “Fourteen Rules for Bible Study” outline how to “rightly divide” the Word of God. When these rules are followed, the student will find the truth of the Bible as revealed by the Spirit of truth. These rules are not designed to justify various doctrinal positions of men—but only the truth of God and the true doctrines of the Bible.
In addition to carefully examining the historical context of a particular passage of Scripture, students should refer to the original Hebrew and Greek in order to determine the precise meanings of key words. But one should never base doctrine solely on commentaries or other such “Bible helps.” Doctrine must never be based on traditions of men—regardless of how knowledgeable or authoritative such men may appear.
Finally, we should all heed the apostle Peter’s warning about allowing personal ideas and interpretations to cloud the truth of Scripture: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture originated as anyone’s own private interpretation; because prophecy was not brought at any time by human will, but the holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (II Pet. 1:20-21).
Fourteen Rules for Bible Study
1) Begin with Scriptures that are easy to understand.
2) Let the Bible interpret and prove the Bible. Don’t look for what you want to prove—look for what the Bible actually says.
3) Understand the context—the verses before and after, and the chapters before and after. Does your understanding of a particular verse harmonize with the rest of the Bible?
4) As much as possible, try to understand the original Hebrew or Greek. But never try to establish doctrine or teachings by using only Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Strong’s can be helpful at times, but is very limited.
5) Ask: What does the Scripture clearly say?
6) Ask: What does the Scripture not say?
7) Ask: To whom was the book written?
8) Ask: Who wrote it?
9) Ask: Who said it?
10) Understand the historical time frame in which the book was written.
11) Base your study on the scriptural knowledge you already have. What do you know up to this point in time?
12) Do not allow personal assumptions or preconceived ideas to influence your understanding and conclusions.
13) Do not form conclusions based on partial facts, insufficient information, or the opinions and speculations of others.
14) Opinions—regardless of how strongly you feel about them—don’t necessarily count. Scripture alone must be your standard and guide.
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