How To Study the Bible for Greatest Profit
By R. A. Torrey
This book has been written for two reasons: first, because it seemed to be needed; second, to save the writer time and labor. Letters are constantly coming in from all quarters asking how to study the Bible. It is impossible to refuse to answer a question so important as that, but it takes much time to answer it at all as it should be answered. This book is written as an answer to those who have asked the question, and to those who may wish to ask it. Nothing is more important for our own mental, moral and spiritual development, or for our increase in usefulness, than Bible study. But not all Bible study is equally profitable. Some Bible study is absolutely profitless. “How to study the Bible so as to get the largest profit from it,” is a question of immeasurable importance. The answer to the question, found in this book, has been for the most part given in addresses by the author, at the Chicago Bible Institute, before the summer gatherings of college students, at ministerial conferences and Y. M. C. A. conventions. Many, especially ministers, who have heard these addresses have asked that they might be put in a permanent shape. I have promised for two years to comply with this request, but have never found time to do so until now.
Table of Contents
Part First – Methods of Profitable Bible Study.
Chapter 1 Introductory to Methods of Bible Study
Chapter 2 Study of Individual Books
Chapter 3 Topical Study
Chapter 4 Biographical Study
Chapter 5 Study of Types
Chapter 6 Study of the Books of the Bible in the Order Given in the Bible and in Their Chronological Order
Chapter 7 The Study of the Bible for Practical Usefulness in Dealing With Men
Part Second – Fundamental Conditions.
Chapter 1 Fundamental Conditions of the Most Profitable Bible Study
Chapter 2 Final Suggestions
Part First – Methods of Profitable Bible Study.
INTRODUCTORY CHAPTER TO METHODS OF BIBLE STUDY.
We shall consider the most profitable Methods of Bible Study before we consider the Fundamental Conditions of Profitable Bible study. Many readers of this book will probably be frightened, at first, at the seeming elaborateness and difficulty of some of the methods of study suggested. But they are not as difficult as they appear. Their practicability and fruitfulness have been tested in the class-room, and that not with classes made up altogether of college graduates, but largely composed of persons of very moderate education; in some cases of almost no education. They do require time and hard work. It must be remembered, however, that the Bible contains gold, and almost any one is willing to dig for gold, especially if it is certain that he will find it. It is certain that one will find gold in the Bible, if he digs. As one uses the methods here recommended, he will find his ability to do the work rapidly increasing by exercise, until he can soon do more in fifteen minutes than at the outset he could do in an hour.
The first method of study suggested will be found to be an exceptionally good mental training. When one has pursued this method of study for a time, his powers of observation will have been so quickened, that he will see at a glance what, at first, he only saw upon much study and reflection. This method of study will also train the logical powers, cultivating habits of order, system and classification in one’s intellectual processes. The power of clear, concise and strong expression will also be developed. No other book affords the opportunity for intellectual development by its study, that is to be found in the Bible. No other book, and no other subject, will so abundantly repay close and deep study. The Bible is much read, but comparatively little studied. It will probably be noticed by some that the first method of study suggested is practically the method now pursued in the study of nature; first, careful analysis and ascertainment of facts; second, classification of facts. But the facts of revelation far transcend those of nature in sublimity, suggestiveness, helpfulness and practical utility. They are also far more accessible. We cannot all be profound students of nature; we can all be profound students of Scripture. Many an otherwise illiterate person has a marvelous grasp of Bible truth. It was acquired by study. There are persons who have studied little else, who have studied the Scriptures, by the hour, daily, and their consequent wisdom is the astonishment and sometimes the dismay of scholars and theologians.
Part First – Methods of Profitable Bible Study.
THE STUDY OF INDIVIDUAL BOOKS.
The first method of Bible study that we shall consider is the study of the Bible by individual books. This method of study is the most thorough, the most difficult, and the one that yields the largest and most permanent results. We take it up first because in the author’s opinion it should occupy the greater portion of our time.
I. The first work to do, is to select the book to study. This is a very important matter. If one makes an unfortunate selection he may become discouraged and give up a method of study that might have been most fruitful.
A few points will be helpful to the beginner:
1. For your first book-study, choose a short book. The choice of a long book to begin with, will lead to discouragement in any one but a person of rare perseverance. It will be so long before the final results, which far more than pay for all the labor expended, are reached, that the ordinary student will give it up.
2. Choose a comparatively easy book. Some books of the Bible present grave difficulties not to be found in other books. One will wish to meet and overcome these later, but it is not the work for a beginner to set for himself. When his powers have become trained by reason of use, then he can do this successfully and satisfactorily, but, if he attempts it, as so many rashly do, at the outset, he will soon find himself floundering. The First Epistle of Peter is an exceedingly precious book, but a few of the most difficult passages in the Bible are in it. If it were not for these difficult passages, it would be a good book to recommend to the beginner, but in view of these difficulties it is not wise to undertake to make it a subject of exhaustive study until later.
3. Choose a book that is rich enough in its teaching to illustrate the advantages of this method of study and thus give a keen appetite for further studies of the same kind. When one has gone through one reasonably large and full book by the method of study about to be described, he will have an eagerness for it, that will make it sure that he will somehow find time for further studies of the same sort.
A book that meets all the conditions stated is the First Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians. It is quite short, it has no great difficulties of interpretation, meaning or doctrine, and it is exceedingly rich in its teaching. It has the further advantage of being the first in point of time of the Pauline Epistles. The First Epistle of John is not in most respects a difficult book, and it is one of the richest books in the Bible.
II. The second work to do, is to master the general contents of the book. The method of doing this is very simple. It consists in merely reading the book through without stopping and then reading it through again, and then again, say a dozen times in all, at a single sitting. To one who has never tried it, it does not seem as if that would amount to much, but any thoughtful man who has ever tried it will tell you quite differently. It is simply wonderful how a book takes on new meaning and beauty upon this sort of an acquaintance. It begins to open up. New relations between different parts of the book begin to disclose themselves. Fascinating lines of thought running through the book appear. The book is grasped as a whole, and the relation of the various parts to one another apprehended, and a foundation laid for an intelligent study of those parts in detail. Rev. James M. Gray of Boston, a great lover of the Bible and prominent teacher of it, says that for many years of his ministry he had “an inadequate and unsatisfactory knowledge of the English Bible.” The first practical idea which he received in the study of the English Bible was from a layman. The brother possessed an unusual serenity and joy in his Christian experience, which he attributed to his reading of the Epistle to the Ephesians. Mr. Gray asked him how he had read it, and he said he had taken a pocket copy of the Epistle into the woods one Sunday afternoon, and read it through at a single sitting, repeating the process as many as a dozen times before stopping, and when he arose he had gotten possession of the Epistle, or rather its wondrous truths had gotten possession of him. This was the secret, simple as it was, for which Mr. Gray had been waiting and praying.” From this time on Mr. Gray studied his Bible through in this way, and it became to him a new book.
III. The third work is to prepare an introduction to the Book. Write down at the top of separate sheets of paper or cards the following questions:(1) Who wrote this book? (2) To whom did he write? (3) Where did he write it? (4) When did he write it? (5) What was the occasion of his writing? (6) What was the purpose for which he wrote? (7) What were the circumstances of the author when he wrote? (8) What were the circumstances of those to whom he wrote? (9) What glimpses does the book give into the life and character of the author? (10) What are the leading ideas of the book? (11) What is the central truth of the book? (12) What are the characteristics of the book ?
Having prepared your sheets of paper with these questions at the head, lay them side by side on your study table before you, and go through the book slowly, and, as you come to an answer to any one of these questions, write it down on the appropriate sheet of paper. It may be necessary to go through the book several times to do the work thoroughly and satisfactorily, but you will be amply repaid. When you have finished your own work in this line, and not until then, it will be well, if possible, to compare your results with those reached by others. A book that will serve as a good illustration of this introductory work is “The New Testament and Its Writers,” Rev. J. A. McClymont.
The introduction one prepares for himself will be worth many times more to him than any that he can procure from others. The work itself is a rare education of the faculties of perception, comparison and reasoning.
The answers to our questions will sometimes be found in some related book. For example, if we are studying one of the Pauline Epistles, the answer to our questions may be found in the Acts of the Apostles, or in the Epistle written to the place from which the one studied was written. Of course, all the questions given will not apply to every book in the Bible.
If one is not willing to give the time and labor necessary, this introductory work can be omitted, but only at a great sacrifice. Single passages in an epistle can never be correctly understood unless we know to whom they were written. Much false interpretation of the Bible arises from taking some direction manifestly intended for local application to be of universal authority. So, also, oftentimes false interpretation arises from applying to the unbeliever what was intended for the saint. Noting the occasion of writing, will clear up the meaning of a passage that would be otherwise obscure. Bearing in mind the circumstances of the author when he wrote, will frequently give new force to his words. When we remember that the jubilant epistle to the Philippians, with its oft-repeated “rejoice in the Lord” and its “in nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus,” was written by a prisoner awaiting possible sentence of death, how much more meaningful it becomes. Bearing in mind the main purpose for which a book was written, will help to interpret its incidental exhortations in their proper relations. In fact, the answers to all the questions will be valuable in all the work that follows, as well as valuable in themselves.
IV. The fourth work is to divide the book into its proper sections. This work is not indispensable, but still it is valuable. Go through the book and notice the principal divisions in the thought, and mark these. Then go through these divisions and find if there are any natural subdivisions and mark these. In this work of dividing the epistle, the Revised Version, which is not chopped up by a purely mechanical and irrational verse division, but divided according to a logical plan, will be of great help. Having discovered the divisions of the book, proceed to give to each section an appropriate caption. Make this caption as precise a statement of the general contents of the section as possible. Make it also as terse and striking as possible, so that it will fix itself in the mind. As far as possible let the captions of the subdivisions connect themselves with the general caption of the division. Do not attempt too elaborate a division at first. The following division of 1st Peter, without many marked subdivisions, will serve as a simple illustration of what is meant:
1. Chap, i:i, 2. Introduction and salutation to the pilgrims and sojourners in Pontus, etc.
2. Chap, i:3-12. The Inheritance reserved in heaven and the Salvation ready to be revealed for those pilgrims who in the midst of manifold temptations are kept by the power of God through faith.
3. Chap, i:13-25. The pilgrim’s conduct during the days of his pilgrimage.
4. Chap, ii:1-10. The high calling, position and destiny of the pilgrim people.
5. Chap, ii:11, 12. The pilgrim’s conduct during the days of his pilgrimage.
6. Chap, ii:13-17. The pilgrim’s duty toward the human governments under which he lives.
7. Chap, ii:18:-iii:7. The duty of various classes of pilgrims.
a. Chap, ii:18-25. The duty of servants toward their masters enforced by an appeal to Christ’s conduct under injustice and reviling.
b. Chap, iii:1-6. The duty of wives toward husbands.
c. Chap, iii:7. The duty of husbands toward their wives.
8. Chap, iii:8-12. The conduct of pilgrims toward one another.
9. Chap, iii:13-22. The pilgrim suffering for righteousness’ sake.
10. Chap, iv:1-6. The pilgrim’s separation from the practices of those among whom he spends the days of his pilgrimage.
11. Chap, iv:7-11. The pilgrim’s sojourning drawing to a close and his conduct during the last days.
12. Chap, iv:12-19. The pilgrim suffering for and with Christ.
13. Chap, v:1-4. The duty and reward of elders.
14. Chap, v:5-11. The pilgrim’s walk humble and trustful, watchful and steadfast and a doxology.
15. Chap, v:12-14. Conclusion and benediction.
V. The fifth work is to take up each verse in order and study it.
I. The first thing to be done in this verse by verse study of the book is to get the exact meaning of the verse. How is this to be done? There are three steps that lead into the meaning of a verse.
a. The first step is to get the exact meaning of the words used. There will be found two classes of words those whose meaning is perfectly apparent, those whose meaning is doubtful. It is quite possible to find the precise meaning of these doubtful words. This is not done by consulting a dictionary. That is an easy but dangerous method of finding the scriptural significance of a word. The only safe and sure method is to study the usage of the word in the Bible itself, and especially in that particular Bible-writer, one of whose writings we are studying. To study the Bible usage of words one must have a Concordance. Altogether, the best Concordance is Strong’s “Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.” The next best, Young’s “Analytical Concordance.” Cruden’s Complete Concordance will do, if one cannot afford a better. But the student should, as soon as possible, procure Strong’s “Exhaustive Concordance.” All the passages in which the word, whose meaning is being sought, occurs should be found and examined, and in this way the precise meaning of the word will be determined. Many an important Bible doctrine turns upon the meaning of a word. Thus, for example, two schools of theology divide on the meaning of the word “justify.” The critical question is, does the word “justify” mean “to make righteous,” or does it mean “to count or declare righteous”? The correct interpretation of many passages of Scripture turns upon the sense which we give to this word. Let one look up all the passages in the Bible in which the word is found, and there will be no doubt as to the Bible usage and meaning of the word. Deut. xxv:i; Ex. xxiii:7; Is. v:23; Luke xvi:15; Rom. ii:13; iii:23, 24; Luke xviii:14; Rom. iv:2-8, R. V., will serve to illustrate the Biblical usage. By the use of Strong’s Concordance, or Young’s, the student will see that the same word may be used in the English version as the translation of several Greek or Hebrew words. Of course, in determining the Biblical usage, we should give especial weight to those passages in which the English word examined is the translation of the same word in Greek or Hebrew. Either of the Concordances just mentioned will enable us to do this, even though we are not at all acquainted with Greek or Hebrew. It will be much easier to do it with Strong’s Concordance than Young’s. It is surprising how many knotty problems in the interpretation of scripture are solved by the simple examination of the Biblical usage of words. For example, one of the burning questions of to-day is the meaning of I Jno. i:7. Does this verse teach that “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us” from all the guilt of sin; or does it teach us that “the blood of Jesus Christ” cleanseth us from the very presence of sin, so that by the blood of Christ, indwelling sin is itself eradicated? Many of those who read this question will answer it off-hand at once, one way or the other. But the off-hand way of answering questions of this kind, is a very bad way. Take your concordance and look up every passage in the Bible in which the word “cleanse” is used in connection with blood, and the question will be answered conclusively and forever. Never conclude that you have the right meaning of a verse until you have carefully determined the meaning of all doubtful words in it by an examination of Bible usage. Even when you are pretty sure you know the meaning of the words, it is well not to be too sure until you have looked it up.
b. The second step in ascertaining the meaning of a verse is to carefully notice the context (what goes before and what comes after). Many verses, if they stood alone, might be capable of several interpretations, but when what goes before and what comes after is considered, all the interpretations but one are seen to be impossible. Take for example Jno. xiv:18, “I will not leave you desolate: I come unto you.” (R. V.) To what does Jesus refer when He says “I come unto you”? One commentator says, He refers to His reappearance to His disciples after His resurrection to comfort them. Another says that He refers to His second coming, as it is called. Another says He refers to His coming through the Holy Spirit’s work to manifest Himself to His disciples and make His abode with them. Which does He mean? When “doctors disagree,” can an ordinary layman decide ? Yes, very often. Surely in this case. If any one will carefully note what Jesus is talking about in the verses immediately preceding (verses 15-17) and in the verses immediately following (verses 19-26), he will have no doubt as to what coming Jesus refers to in this passage. You can see this by trying it for yourself.
A very large proportion of the vexed questions of Biblical interpretation, can be settled by this very simple method of noticing what goes before and what comes after. Many of the sermons one hears, become very absurd when one takes the trouble to notice the setting of the preacher’s text and how utterly foreign the thought of the sermon is to the thought of the text, regarded in the light of the context.
c. The third step in ascertaining the correct and precise meaning of a verse, is the examination of parallel passages, viz., passages that treat the same subject passages, for example, that give another account of the same address or event, or passages that are evidently intended as a commentary on the passage in hand. Very often, after having carefully studied the words used and the context, we will still be in doubt as to which of two or three possible interpretations of a verse is the one intended by the writer or speaker. In such a case there is always somewhere else in the Bible a passage that will settle this question. Take for example, Jno. xiv:3, “I come again and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (R.V.) A careful consideration of the words used in their relation to one another, will go far in determining the meaning of this passage, but still we find among commentators whose opinion ought to have some weight, these four interpretations First, the coming here referred to is Christ’s coming at death to receive the believer unto himself, as in the case of Stephen. Second, the coming again at the resurrection. Third, the coming again through the Holy Spirit. Fourth, the coming again of Christ when He returns personally and gloriously at the end of the age. Which of these four interpretations is the correct one? What has already been said about verse 18 might seem to settle the question, but it does not; for it is not at all clear that the coming in verse 3 is the same as in verse 18, for what is said in connection with the two comings is altogether different. In the one case it is a coming of Christ to “receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also”; in the other case it is a coming of Christ to manifest Himself unto us and make His abode with us. But fortunately there is averse that settles the question, an inspired commentary on the Words of Jesus. This is found in I Thess. iv:16, 17. This will be seen clearly if we arrange the two passages in parallel columns.
I come again
and will receive you unto myself
that where I am there ye may be also.
I Thess. iv:16, 17
The Lord himself shall descend
we … shall be caught up … to meet the Lord
so shall we ever be with the Lord.
The two passages manifestly match exactly in the three facts stated, and beyond a doubt refer to the same event. But if any one will look at all closely at I Thess., iv:16, 17, there can be no doubt as to what coming of our Lord is referred to there. “The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge” will be of great assistance in finding parallel passages. These are the three steps that lead us into the meaning of a verse. They require work, but it is work that any one can do, and when the meaning of a verse is thus settled we arrive at conclusions that are correct and fixed. After taking these steps it is well to consult commentaries, and see how our conclusions agree with those of others. Before we proceed to the next thing to be done with a verse after its meaning has been determined, let it be said, that God intended to convey some definite truth in each verse of scripture, and any one of from two to a dozen interpretations of a verse is not as good as another. With every verse of scripture we should ask, not What can this be made to teach? but What was this intended to teach? and we should not rest satisfied until we have settled that. Of course, it is admitted a verse may have a primary meaning and other more remote meanings. For example, a prophecy may have its primary fulfilment in some personage or event near at hand, e. g. , Solomon, and a more remote and complete fulfilment in Christ.
2. We are not through with a verse when we have determined its meaning. The next thing to do is to analyze the verse. This is most interesting and profitable work. It is also a rare education of the various faculties of the intellect. The way to do it is this: Look steadfastly at the verse and ask yourself, What does this verse teach? and then begin to write down: This verse teaches, 1st,—–; 2d,—– ; 3d,—– , etc. At the first glance very likely you will see but one or two things the verse teaches, but, as you look again and again, the teachings will begin to multiply, and you will wonder how one verse could teach so much, and you will have an ever growing sense of the divine authorship of the Book. It is related of the younger Prof. Agassiz that a young man came to him to study ichthyology. The Professor gave him a fish to study and told him to come back when he had mastered that fish and get another lesson. In time the young man came back and told Prof. A. what he had observed about the fish. When he had finished, to his surprise he was given the same fish again, and told to study it further. He came back again, having observed new facts, and, as he supposed, all the facts about the fish. But again he was given the same fish to study, and so it went on, lesson after lesson, until that student had been taught what his perceptive faculties were for, and also taught to do thorough work. In the same way ought we to study the Bible. We ought to come back to the same verse of the Bible again and again, until we have gotten, as far as it is possible to us, all that is in the verse. Then the probability is that when we come back to the same verse several months afterward we will find something we did not see before. It may be, that an illustration of this method of analysis will be helpful. Let us take I Pet. i:I, 2. (Here we have an instance in which the verse division of our Authorized version is so manifestly illogical and absurd that in our analysis we cannot follow it, but must take the two verses together. This will often be the case.)
I Pet., 1:1, 2. These verses teach:
(1.) This epistle is by Peter.
(2.) The Peter who wrote this epistle was an apostle of Jesus Christ.
(3.) Peter delighted to think and speak of himself as one sent of Jesus Christ. (Comp. II Pet., 1:1.)
(NOTE Apostle is Greek for Latin “Missionary.”}
(4.) The name, Jesus Christ (used twice in these two verses). Significance:
b. Annointed One.
c. Fulfiller of the Messianic predictions of the O. T. “Christ” has especially reference to the earthly reign of Christ.
(5.) This Epistle was written to the elect, especially to the elect who are sojourners of the dispersion in Pontus, i. e, Paul’s old field of labor.
(NOTE The question whether speaking of the dispersion implies that the destination of this Epistle was to Jewish Christians will have been taken up and answered in the introduction to the Epistle.)
(6.) Believers are:
a, elect or chosen of God.
b, foreknown of God.
c, sanctified of the Spirit.
d. sprinkled by the blood of Jesus Christ.
e. sojourners or pilgrims on earth.
f. subjects of multiplied grace.
g. possessors of multiplied peace.
a. Who are the elect? Believers. Comp. vs. 5.
b. To what are they elect?
b, sprinkling of the blood of Jesus.
According to what are they elect? The foreknowledge of God. Comp. Rom. viii:29, 30.
In what are they elect? Sanctification of the Spirit.
The test of election: Obedience. Comp. II Pet. i:10.
The work of the three persons of the Trinity in election
a. The Father foreknows.
b. Jesus Christ cleanses from guilt by His blood.
c. The Spirit sanctifies.
(8.) God is the Father of the elect.
(9.) The humanity of Christ: seen in the mention of His blood.
(10.) The reality of the body of Jesus Christ: seen in the mention of His blood.
(11.) It is by His blood and not by His example that Jesus Christ delivers from sin.
(12.) Peter’s first and great wish and prayer for those to whom he wrote was that grace and peace might be multiplied.
(13.) It is not enough to have grace and peace. One should have multiplied grace and peace.
(14.) That men already have grace and peace is no reason to cease praying for them, but rather an incentive to prayer that they may have more grace and peace.
(15.) Grace precedes peace. Comp. all passages where these words are found together.
This is simply an illustration of what is meant by analysing a verse. The whole book should be gone through in this way.
There are three rules to be observed in this analytical work. 1st. Do not put anything into your analysis that is not clearly in the verse. One of the greatest faults in Bible study is reading into passages what God never put into them. Some men have their pet doctrines, and see them everywhere, and even where God does not see them. No matter how true, precious or scriptural a doctrine is, do not put it into your analysis where it is not in the verse. Considerable experience with classes in this kind of study leads me to emphasize this rule. 2d. Find all that is in the verse. This rule can only be carried out relatively. Much will escape you, the verses of the Bible are such a great deep, but do not rest until you have dug, and dug, and dug, and there seems to be nothing more to find. 3d. State what you do find just as accurately and exactly as possible. Do not be content with putting into your analysis something like what is in the verse, but state in your analysis precisely what is in the verse.
VI. The sixth work in the study of the book is to classify the results obtained by the verse by verse analysis. By your verse by verse analysis you have discovered and recorded a great number of facts. The work now is to get these facts into an orderly shape. To do this, go carefully through your analysis and note the subjects treated of in the Epistle. Write these subjects down as fast as noted. Having made a complete list of the subjects treated in the book, write these subjects on separate cards or sheets of paper, and then, going through the analysis again, copy each point in the analysis upon its appropriate sheet of paper, e. g. , every point regarding God the Father upon the card at the top of which this subject is written. This general classification should be followed by a more thorough and minute subdivision. Suppose that we are studying the First Epistle of Peter. Having completed our analysis of the Epistle, and gone over it carefully, we will find that the following subjects, at least, are treated in the Epistle:(1) God. (2) Jesus Christ. (3) The Holy Spirit. (4) The Believer. (5) Wives and Husbands. (6) Servants. (7) The New Birth. (8) The Word of God. (9) Old Testament Scripture. (10) The Prophets, (11) Prayer. (12) Angels. (13) The Devil. (14) Baptism. (15) The Gospel, (16) Salvation. (17) The World. (18) Gospel Preachers and Teachers. (19) Heaven. (20) Humility. (21) Love.
These will serve for general headings. But after the material found in the analysis is arranged under these headings, it will be found to subdivide itself naturally into numerous subdivisions. For example, the material under the head God can be subdivided into these subdivisions:1. His names. (The material under this head is quite rich). 2. His Attributes. (This should be subdivided again:(1) His Holiness. (2) His Power. (3) His Foreknowledge. (4) His Faithfulness. (5) His Long-suffering. (6) His Grace. There are twenty-five or more points on God’s Grace in the Epistle. (7) His Mercy. (8) His Impartiality. (9) His Severity.) 3. God’s Judgments. 4. God’s Will. 5. What is Acceptable to God. 6. What is Due to God. 7. God’s Dwelling Place. 8. God’s Dominion. 9. God’s Work. What God does. 10. The Things of God, e. g. “The mighty hand of God,” “the house of God,” “the gospel of God,” “the flock of God,” “the people of God,” “the bondservants of God,” “the Word of God,” “the Oracles of God,” etc., etc.
An illustration in full of the classified arrangement of the teaching of a book on one doctrine, will probably show better how to do this work than any abstract statement, and it will also illustrate in part how fruitful is this method of study. We will take I Peter again its teaching regarding the Believer.
WHAT THE EPISTLE TEACHES ABOUT THE BELIEVER.
I. His PRIVILEGES.
1. His Election.
a, He is foreknown of the Father, 1:2.
b, He is elect or chosen of God, 1:1.
c, He is chosen of God, according to His foreknowledge, 1:2.
d, He is chosen unto obedience, 1:2.
e, He is chosen unto the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, 1:2.
f, He is chosen in sanctification of the Spirit, 1:2.
2. His Calling.
a, By whom called:
The God of all grace, 5:10.
b, To what called:
The imitation of Christ in the patient taking of suffering for well doing, 2:20, 21.
To render blessings for reviling, 3:9.
Out of darkness into God’s marvellous light, 2:9.
To God’s eternal glory, 5:10.
c, In whom called:
In Christ, 5:10.
d, The purpose of his calling:
That he may show forth the praises of Him who called, 2:9.
That he may inherit a blessing, 3:9.
3. His Regeneration.
He has been begotten again
a, of God, i:3.
b, unto a living hope, 1:3.
c, unto an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven, 1:4.
d, By the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1:3.
e, Of incorruptible seed by the word of God that liveth, etc., 1:23.
4. His Redemption.
He has been redeemed,
a, not with corruptible things, as silver and gold,:1:18.
b, with precious blood, even the blood of Christ, 1:19.
c, from his vain manner of life, handed down from his fathers, 1:18.
d, His sins have been borne by Christ, in His own body, on the tree, 2:24.
5. His Sanctification.
He is sanctified by the Spirit, 1:2.
6. His Cleansing.
He is cleansed by the blood, 1:2.
7. His Security.
a, He is guarded by the power of God, 1:5.
b, He is guarded unto a salvation ready, or prepared, to be revealed in the last time, 1:5.
c, God careth for him, 5:7.
d, He can cast all his anxiety upon God, 5:7-12
e, The God of all grace will perfect, stablish, strengthen him, after a brief trial of suffering, 5:10. R. V.
f, None can harm him if he is zealous of that which is good, 3:13.
g, He shall not be put to shame, 2:6.
8. His Joy.
a, The character of his joy.
(i) . His present joy.
A great joy, 1:8. R. V.
An unspeakable joy, 1:8.
A joy full of glory, 1:8.
(NOTE This present joy cannot be hindered by being put to grief, because of manifold temptations, i:6.)
(2) His future joy: exceeding, 4:13.
b, In what he rejoices:
(1) In the salvation prepared to be revealed in the last time, 1:6.
(2) Because of his faith in the unseen Jesus Christ, 1:8.
(3) In fellowship in Christ’s sufferings, 4:13
c, In what he shall rejoice.
(1) In the revelation of Christ’s glory, 4:13
NOTE Present joy in fellowship with the sufferings of Christ, is the condition of exceeding joy at the revelation of Christ’s glory, 4:13.
9. His Hope.
a. Its character.
(1) A living hope, 1:3.
(2) A reasonable hope, 3:15.
(3) An inward hope, ” in you,” 3:15.
b. In whom is his hope,
(1) In God, 1:21.
c. The foundation of his hope.
(1) The resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1:-21.
10. His Salvation.
a, A past salvation.
(1) Has been redeemed, 1:18-19.
(2) Has been healed, 2:24.
NOTE By baptism, after a true likeness, the Believer, as Noah by the flood, has passed out of the old life of nature into the new resurrection life of grace, 3:21.
b, A present salvation.
(i) He is now receiving the salvation of his soul, 1:9.
c, A growing salvation, through feeding on His word, 2:2, R. V.
d, A future salvation ready or prepared to be revealed in the last time, 1:5.
11. The Believer’s Possessions.
a, God as his Father, 1:17.
b, Christ as his
(1) Sin bearer, 2:24.
(2) Example, 2:21.
(3) Fellow sufferer, 4:13.
c, A living hope, 1:3.
d, An incorruptible, undefined, unfading inheritance reserved in heaven, 1:4.
e, Multiplied grace and peace, 1:2.
f, Spiritual milk without guile for his food, 2:2.
g, Gifts for service each believer has, or may have, some gift, 4:10.
12. What Believers Are.
a, An elect race, 2:9.
b, A royal priesthood, 2:9.
c, A holy priesthood, 2:5.
d, A holy nation, 2:9.
e, A people for God’s own possession, 2:9, R. V.
f, Living stones, 2:5.
g, The House of God, 4:17.
h, A spiritual House, 2:5.
i, The flock of God, 5:2.
j, Children of obedience, 1:14, R. V.
k, Partakers of, or partners in, Christ’s sufferings, 4:13.
l, Partakers of, or partners in, the glory to be revealed, 5:1.
m, Sojourners or strangers, 1:1.
n, Foreigners on earth he has no civil rights here his Citizenship is in heaven, 2:11, com. Phil. 3:20, R. V.
o, A sojourner on his way to another country, 2:1.
p, A Christian representative of Christ, 4:16.
13. The Believer’s Possibilities,
a, He may die unto sin, 2:24.
b, He may live unto righteousness, 2:24.
NOTE We must die unto sin if we are to live unto righteousness 2:24.
c, He may follow in Christ’s steps, 2:21.
d, He may cease from sin, 4:1.
e, He may cease from living to the lusts of men, 4:2.
f, He may live unto the will of God, 4:2.
NOTE It is through suffering in the flesh that he ceases from sin and living to the lusts of men, and lives to the will of God.
14. What was for the Believer.
a. The ministry of the Prophets was in his behalf, 1:12.
b, The preciousness of Jesus is for him, 2:7, R. V.
15 . Unclassified.
a, Has the gospel preached to him in the Holy Ghost, 1:12.
b, Grace is to be brought unto him at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 1:3, com. Eph. 3:7.
c, Has tasted that the Lord is gracious, 2:3.
II. THE BELIEVER’S TRIAL AND SUFFERINGS.
1. The fact of the Believer’s sufferings and trials, 1:6.
2. The nature of the Believer’s sufferings and trials.
a, He endures griefs, suffering wrongfully,
b, He suffers for righteousness’ sake, 3:14.
c, He suffers for well doing, 3:17; 2:20.
d, He suffers as a Christian, 4:16.
e, He is subjected to manifold temptations, 1:6.
f, He is put to grief in manifold temptations, 1:6.
g, He is spoken against as an evil doer, 2:12.
h, His good manner of life is reviled, 3:16.
i, He is spoken evil of because of his separated life, 4:4.
j, He is reproached for the name of Christ, 4:14.
k, He is subjected to fiery trials, 4:12.
3. Encouragements for believers undergoing fiery trials and suffering.
a, It is better to suffer for well doing than for evil doing, 3:17.
b, Judgment must begin at the House of God, and the present judgment of believers through trial, is not comparable to the future end of those who obey not the gospel, 4:17.
c, Blessed is the believer who does suffer for righteousness’ sake, 3:14, comp. Matt. 5:10-12.
d, Blessed is the believer who is reproached for the name of Christ, 4:14.
e, The Spirit of Glory and the Spirit of God rests upon the believer who is reproached for the name of Christ, 4:14.
f, The believer’s grief is for a little while, 1:6, R. V.
g, The believer’s suffering is for a little while, 5:10, R. V.
h, Suffering for a little while will be followed by God’s glory in Christ, which is eternal, 5:10.
i, The suffering endured for a little while is for the testing of faith, 1:7.
j, The fiery trial is for a test, 4:12.
k, The faith thus proved ;is more precious than gold, 1:7.
l, Faith proven by manifold temptations will be found unto praise, and honor, and glory, at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 1:7
m, It is that his proved faith may be found unto praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ, that the believer is for a little while subjected to manifold temptations, 1:7.
n, It is pleasing to God when a believer, for conscience toward God, endures grief, suffering wrongfully, 2:19, R. V.
o, It is pleasing to God when a believer takes it patiently, when he does well and suffers for it, 2:20.
p, Through suffering in the flesh we cease from sin, 4:1.
q, Those who speak evil of us shall give account to God, 4:5.
r, Sufferings are being shared by fellow believers, 5:9.
s, Christ suffered for us, 2:21.
t, Christ suffered for sins once (or once for all), the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the spirit, 3:18.
u, Christ left the believer an example that he should follow in His steps, 2:21.
v. In our fiery trials we are made partakers of, or partakers in, Christ’s sufferings, 4:13-15
w, When His glory is revealed we shall be glad also with exceeding joy, 4:13.
4. How the believer should meet his trial and sufferings.
a, The believer should not regard his fiery trial as a strange thing, 4:12.
b, The believer should expect fiery trial, 4:12.
c, When the believer suffers as a Christian let him not be ashamed, 4:16.
d, When the believer suffers as a Christian let him glorify God in this name, 4:16.
e, When the believer suffers fiery trials he should rejoice, insomuch as he is made partaker of Christ’s suffering, 4:13, R. V.
f. When the believer suffers, let him not return reviling with reviling, or suffering with threatening; but commit himself to Him that judgeth righteously. 2:23.
g, When the believer suffers, he should in well-doing commit the keeping of his soul unto God, as unto a faithful Creator, 4:19.
III. THE BELIEVER’S DANGERS.
1. The believer may fall into fleshly lusts that war against the soul, 2:11.
2. The believer may sin, 2:20, R. V.
3. The believer may fall into sins of the gravest character, 4:15.
(Note in this verse the awful possibilities that lie dormant in the heart of at least a sincere professed believer.)
4. The believer’s prayers may be hindered, 3:7-
5. The believer is in danger that his high calling and destiny tempt him to despise human laws and authority, 2:13.
6. The believer is in danger that his high calling lead him to lose sight of his lowly obligations to human masters, 2:18.
7. Young believers are in danger of disregarding the will and authority of older believers. 5:15.
IV. THE BELIEVER’S RESPONSIBILITY.
1. Each believer has an individual responsibility, 4:10, R. V.
2. Each believer’s responsibility is for the gift he has received, 4; 10.
V. THE BELIEVER’S DUTIES.
I. What the believer should be.
a, Be holy in all manner of living.
(1) Because God is holy, 1:15.
(2) Because it is written ” ye shall be holy,” 1:16, R. V.
b, Be like Him who called him, 1:15-16.
c. Be sober, (or of a calm, collected, thoughtful spirit,) 1:13; 4:7; 5:8.
d. Be sober, or of a calm, etc. , unto prayer, 4:7
e. Be of a sound mind: because the end of all things is approaching, 4:7.
f. Be watchful, 5:8.
g. Be steadfast in the faith, 5:9.
h. Be subject to every ordinance of man.
(1) For the Lord’s sake, 2:13.
(2) To the King, as supreme, 2:13.
(3) To governors, as sent by the King for the punishment of evil doers, and for praise to them that do well, 2:14.
(4) Because this is God’s will, 2:15.
i. Be like minded, 3:8.
j. Be sympathetic, 3:8.
k. Be tenderhearted, 3:8.
l. Be humble minded, 3:8.
m. Be ready.
(2) To give an answer to every man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in him.
(3) With meekness and fear.
(4) In order to put to shame those who revile their good manner of life in Christ, 3:16.
n, Should not be troubled, 3:14.
2. What the Believer should not do.
a, The believer should not fashion himself according to the lusts of the old life of ignorance, 1:14.
b, The believer should not render evil for evil, 3:9.
c, The believer should not render reviling for reviling, 3:9.
d, The believer should not fear the world’s fear, 3:14.
e, The believer should not live his remaining time in the flesh to the lusts of men, 4:2.
3. What the Believer should do.
a, He should live as a child of obedience, 1:14.
b, Pass the time of his sojourning here in fear, 1:17.
c, Abstain from fleshly lusts that war against the soul, 2:11.
d, Observe God’s will as the absolute law of life, 2:15.
e, Let his conscience be governed by the thought of God and not by the conduct of men, 2:19.
f, Sanctify Christ in his heart as Lord, 3:15. R. V. Comp. Is. 8:13.
g. Live his remaining time in the flesh to the will of God, 4:2.
h, Put away
(1) All malice, 2:1.
(2) All guile, 2:1.
(3) Hypocrisies, 2:1,
(4) Envies, 2:1.
(5) All evil speaking, 2:1.
i. Come unto the Lord as unto a living stone, 2:4.
j. Show forth the excellencies of him who called him out of darkness into His marvellous light, 2:9
k, Arm himself with the mind of Christ: i. e. to suffer in the flesh, 4:1.
l, Cast all his care upon God because he careth for him, 5:7.
m, Stand fast in the true grace of God, 5:12.
n, Withstand the devil, 5:9.
o, Humble himself under the mighty hand of God, 5:5.
(1) Because God resisteth the proud and giveth grace unto the humble, 5:5-6.
(2) That God may exalt him in due time, 5:6.
p, Glorify God when he suffers as a Christian, 4:16.
q, See to it that he does not suffer as a thief or as an evil doer or as a meddler in other men’s matters, 4:15.
r, Rejoice in fiery trial, 4:13.
s, Toward various persons.
(1) Toward God fear, 2:17.
(2) Toward the King honor, 2:17.
(3) Toward Masters be in subjection with all fear (not only to the good and gentle, but to the forward) 2:18.
(4) Toward the Brotherhood,
Love, 2:17; 1:22; 4:8.
Love from the heart, i:22, R. V.
Love fervently intensely, i:22; 4:8.
Gird themselves with humility as with a slave’s apron unto one another, i. e.,
1st, Be one another’s slaves.
2nd. Wear humility as a token of their readiness to serve one another, 5:5, com. Jno. 13:4-5.
Minister the gift he has received from God among the brethren as a good steward of the manifold grace of God, 4:10.
Use hospitality one to another without murmuring, 4:9.
Salute one another with a holy kiss, 5:14.
(5) Toward his revilers.
Render blessing for reviling, 3:9.
(6) Toward the Gentiles.
Have his behavior seemly among the Gentiles, 2:12.
NOTES 1st. The reason why he should have his behavior seemly among the Gentiles; that the Gentiles might glorify God in the day of visitation, 2:12.
2nd. This seemly behavior should consist in good works which the Gentiles could behold, 2: 12.
(7) Toward foolish men.
By well doing put to silence their ignorance, 2:15.
(8) Toward all men honor, 2:17.
NOTE The especial duties of believing husbands and wives, toward one another, comes under a special classification.
t, Long for the sincere milk of the word, 2:2.
u, Gird up the loins of his mind, 1:13.
v, Grow, 2:2.
w. Set his hope perfectly on the grace to be brought unto him at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 1:13, R. V.
VI. THE BELIEVER’S CHARACTERISTICS.
1. His faith and hope is in God, 1:21.
2. Believes in God through Jesus Christ, 1:21.
3. Calls on God as Father, 1:17.
4. Believes in Christ, though he has never seen Him, 1:8.
5. Loves Christ though he has never seen Him, 1:8.
6. Is returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of his soul, 2:25.
7. Has purified his soul in obedience to the truth, 1:22.
8. Has unfeigned love for the Brethren, 1:22.
9. Has a good manner of life, 3:16.
10. Does not run with the Gentiles among whom he lives, to the same excess of riot, (lives a separated life), 4:4.
11. Refrains his tongue from evil. 3:10.
Refrains his lips that they speak no guile, 3:10.
12. Turns away from evil, 3:n.
13. Does good, 3:11.
14. Seeks peace, 3:11.
15. Pursues peace, 3:11.
NOTE From 11 to 14. would very properly come under duties.
VII. THE BELIEVER’S WARFARE.
The believer has a warfare before him, 4:1.
The mind of Christ is the proper armament for this warfare, 4:1.
The warfare is with the devil, 5:8-9.
Victory is possible for the believer, 5:9.
Victory is won through steadfastness in the faith, 5:9.
VII. We come now to the seventh and last work. This is simply to meditate upon, and so digest, the results obtained. At first thought it might seem that when we had completed our classification of results our work was finished, but this is not so. These results are for use: first, for personal enjoyment and appropriation, and afterward to give out to others. The appropriation of results is effected by meditation upon them. We are no more through with a book when we have carefully and fully classified its contents than we are through with a meal when we have it arranged in an orderly way upon the table. It is there to eat, digest and assimilate. One of the great failures in much of the Bible study of the day is just at this point. There is observation, analysis, classification, but no meditation. There is perhaps nothing so important in Bible study as meditation. (See Josh, i:8; Ps. 1:2, 3.) Take your classified teachings and go slowly over them, and ponder them, point by point, until these wonderful truths live before you and sink into your soul, and live in you, and become part of your life. Do this again and again. Nothing will go further than meditation to make one great and fresh and original as a thinker and speaker. Very few people in this world think.
The method of study outlined in this chapter can be shortened to suit the time and industry of of the student. For example, one can omit the Fifth work (V.), and proceed at once to go through the Book as a whole and note down its teachings on different doctrines. This will greatly shorten and lighten the work. It will also greatly detract from the richness of the results, it will not be as thorough, as accurate or as scholarly, and will not be nearly so good a mental discipline. But many people are lazy, and everybody is in a hurry. So if you will not follow out the fuller plan the shorter is suggested. But any man can be, if he will, a scholar at least in the most important line that of Biblical study.
A still briefer plan of Book Study and yet very profitable, if one has no time for anything better, is to do the Second work (II.) and then go through the Epistle verse by verse looking up all the references given in “The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge.” But we urge every reader to try the full method described in this chapter with at least one short book in the Bible.
Part First – Methods of Profitable Bible Study.
A second method of Bible study is the Topical Method. This consists in searching through the Bible to find out what its teaching is on various topics. It is perhaps the most fascinating method of Bible study. It yields the largest immediate results, though not the largest ultimate results. It has advantages. The only way to master any topic, is to go through the Bible, and find what it has to teach on that topic. Almost any great subject will take a remarkable hold upon the heart of a Christian man, if he will take time to go through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, and note what it has to say on that topic. He will have a more full and more correct understanding of that topic than he ever had before. It is said of Mr. Moody, that many years ago he took up the study of “Grace” in this way. Day after day he went through the Bible, studying what it had to say about “grace.” As the Bible doctrine unfolded before his mind his heart began to burn, until at last, full of the subject and on fire with the subject, he ran out on to the street, and, taking hold of the first man he met, he said:”Do you know grace?” “Grace who?” was the reply. “The grace of God that bringeth salvation.” Then he just poured out his soul on that subject. If any child of God will study “Grace,” or “Love,” or “Faith,” or “Prayer,” or any other great Bible doctrine, in that way, his soul too will become full of it. Jesus evidently studied the Old Testament scriptures in this way, for we read that “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.” (Luke, xxiv:27.) This method of study made the hearts of the two who walked with Him to burn within them. (Luke xxiv:32.) Paul seems to have followed his Master in this method of study and teaching. (Acts xvi1:2, 3.)
But the method has its dangers. Its very fascination is a danger. Many are drawn by the fascination of this method of study to give up all other methods of study, and this is a great misfortune. A well-rounded, thorough-going knowledge of the Bible is not possible by this method of study. No one method of study will answer, if one desires to be a wellrounded and well-balanced Bible student. But the greatest danger lies in this, that every man is almost certain to have some line of topics in which he is especially interested, and if he studies his Bible topically, unless he is warned, he is more than likely to go over certain topics again and again, and be very strong in this line of truth, but other topics of equal importance he neglects, and thus becomes a one-sided man. We never know one truth correctly until we know it in its proper relations to other truths. I know of people, for example, who are interested in the great doctrine of the Lord’s Second Coming, and pretty much all their Bible studies are on that line. Now this is a precious doctrine, but there are other doctrines in the Bible which a man needs to know, and it is folly to study this doctrine alone. I know others whose whole interest and study seems to center in the subject of “Divine Healing.” It is related of one man that he confided to a friend that he had devoted his time for years to the study of the number “seven” in the Bible. This last is doubtless an extreme case, but it illustrates the danger in Topical Study. It is certain that we will never master the whole range of Bible truth if we pursue the Topical Method alone. A few rules concerning topical study will probably be helpful to most of the readers of this book.
I. Be systematic. Do not follow your fancy in the choice of topics. Do not take up any topic that happens to suggest itself. Make a list of all the subjects that you can think of that are touched upon in the Bible. Make it as comprehensive and complete as possible. Then take these topics up one by one in logical order. The following list of subjects is given as a suggestion. Each one can add to the list for himself and subdivide the general subjects into proper subdivisions.
LIST OF TOPICS.
God as a Spirit.
The Unity of God-
The Eternity of God.
The Omnipresence of God.
The Personality of God.
The Omnipotence of God.
The Omniscience of God.
The Holiness of God.
The Love of God.
The Righteousness of God.
The Mercy or Loving Kindness of God.
The Faithfulness of God.
The Grace of God.
The Divinity of Christ.
The Subordination of Jesus Christ to the Father.
The Human Nature of Jesus Christ.
The Character of Jesus Christ.
His Love to God.
His Love to Man.
His Love for Souls.
His Meekness and Humility.
The Death of Jesus Christ.
The Purpose of Christ’s Death:
Why did Christ die?
For Whom did Christ Die?
The Results of Christ’s Death.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Fact of the Resurrection.
The Results of the Resurrection.
The Importance of the Resurrection.
The Manner of the Resurrection.
The Ascension and Exaltation of Jesus Christ.
The Return or Coming Again of Jesus Christ.
The Fact of His Coming Again.
The Manner of His Coming Again.
The Purpose of His Coming Again.
The Results of His Coming Again.
The Time of His Coming Again.
The Reign of Jesus Christ.
THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Personality of the Holy Spirit.
Deity of the Holy Spirit.
Distinction of the Holy Spirit from God the Father, and the Son, Jesus Christ.
The Subordination of the Holy Spirit to the Father and to the Son.
Names of the Holy Spirit.
The work of the Holy Spirit:
In the Universe.
In Man in General.
In the Believer.
In the Prophet and Apostle.
In Jesus Christ.
His Original Condition.
The Present Standing before God and Present Condition of Man outside of the Redemption that is in Jesus Christ.
The Future Destiny of those who Reject the Redemption that is in Jesus Christ.
The New Birth.
The Believer’s Assurance of Salvation.
Love to God.
Love to Jesus Christ.
Love to Man.
The Future Destiny of Believers
Their Nature and Position.
SATAN OR THE DEVIL.
His Nature and Position.
Our Duty Regarding Him.
For a student who has the perseverance to carry it through, it might be recommended, to begin with the first topic on a list like this, and go right through it to the end, searching for everything the Bible has to say on these topics. This the author of this book has done, and, thereby, gained a fuller knowledge of truth along these lines, and an immeasurably more vital grasp of the truth, than he ever obtained by somewhat extended studies in systematic Theology. Many, however, will stagger at the seeming immensity of the undertaking. To such it is recommended to begin by selecting those topics that seem more important. But sooner or later settle down to a thorough study of what the Bible has to teach about God and Man. The “Abstract of Subjects, Doctrinal and Practical,” in the back of “The Bible Text Cyclopedia” is very suggestive.
II. Be thorough. Whenever you are studying any topic, do not be content with examining some of the passages in the Bible that bear upon the subject, but find, as far as possible, every passage in the Bible that bears on this subject. As long as there is a single passage in the Bible on any subject that you have not considered, you have not yet gotten a thoroughly true knowledge of that subject. How can we find all the passages in the Bible that bear on any subject? 1st. By the use of the Concordance. Look up every passage that has the word in it. Then look up every passage that has synonymous words in it. If, for example, you are studying the subject of prayer, look up every passage that has the word “pray” and its derivatives in it, and also every passage that has such words as “cry,” “call,” “ask,” “supplication,” ” intercession,” etc., in it. 2nd. By the use of a Bible text book. A text book arranges the passages of Scripture, not by the words used, but by the subjects treated, and there is many a verse, for example on prayer, that does not have the word “prayer” or any synonymous word in it. Incomparably the best Bible text book is Inglis’ “The Bible Text Cyclopedia.” 3rd. Passages not discovered by the use of either concordance or text book will come to light as we study by books, or as we read the Bible through in course, and so our treatment of topics will be ever broadening.
III. Be exact. Get the exact meaning of each passage considered. Study each passage in its connection, and find its meaning in the way suggested in the chapter on “Study of Individual Books.” Topical study is frequently carried on in a very slip-shod fashion. Passages, torn from their connection, are strung or huddled together because of some superficial connection with one another, and without much regard to their real sense and teaching, and this is called “topical study.” This has brought the whole method of topical study into disrepute. But is possible to be as exact and scholarly in topical study as in any other method, and when we are the results will be instructive and gratifying, and not misleading. But the results are sure to be misleading and unsatisfactory if the work is done in a careless, inexact way.
IV. Classify and write down your results. In the study of any large subject one will get together a great mass of matter. Having gotten it, it must now be gotten into shape. As you look it over carefully, you will soon see the facts that belong together. Arrange them together in a logical order. An illustrative topical study is given below. What the Bible teaches concerning the Deity of Jesus Christ.
JESUS CHRIST:HIS DEITY.
1. Divine names.
a. Luke, 22:70.
“The Son of God.” This name is given to Christ forty times. Besides this the synonymous expression “His son,” “My son,” are of frequent occurrence. That this name as used of Christ is a distinctly Divine name appears from Jno. 5:18.
b. Jno. 1:18.
“The only begotten Son.” This occurs five times. It is evident that the statement, that “Jesus Christ is the Son of God only in the same sense that all men are sons of God” is not true. Compare Mark xi1:6. Here Jesus Himself, having spoken of all the prophets as servants of God, speaks of Himself as “one,” “a beloved Son.”
c. Rev. 1:17.
” The first and the last. ” Comp. Is. xii:4; xliv:6. In these latter passages it is “Jehovah,” “Jehovah of hosts,” who is “the first and the last.”
d. Rev. xxi1:12, 13, 16.
First, ” the Alpha and Omega.”
Second, ” the beginning and the ending.” In Rev. 1:8, R. V. It is the Lord God who is the Alpha and Omega.
e. Acts ii1:14.
“The Holy One.” In Hosea xi:9, and many other passages, it is God who is “the Holy One.”
f. Mai. iii:1; Luke ii:11; Acts ix:17; Jno. xx:28; Heb. i:11.
” The Lord.” This name or title is used of Jesus several hundred times. The word translated “Lord ” is used in the New Testament in speaking of men nine times, e. g., Acts 16:30, Eph. iv:1, Jno. xii:21, but not at all in the way in which it used of Christ. He is spoken of as “the Lord” just as God is, cf. Acts iv:26 with iv:33. Note also Matt, xxii:43-45, Phil, ii:21, Eph. iv:5. If any one doubts the attitude of the Apostles of Jesus toward Him as Divine, they would do well to read one after another the passages which speak of Him as Lord.
g. Acts x:36.
“Lord of all.”
h. I Cor. i1:8.
” The Lord of Glory.” In Ps. xxiv:8-10, it is “the Lord of Hosts” who is the King of Glory.
i. Is. ix:6.
(1) ” Wonderful ” (cf. Judges xiii:18, R. V.)
(2) “Mighty God.”
(3) “Father of Eternity. ” See R. V. marg.
j. Heb. 1:8.
“God.” In Jno. xx:28, Thomas calls Jesus “my God,” and is gently rebuked for not believing it before.
k. Matt, 1:23.
“God with us.”
l. Tit. 2:13, R. V.
“Our great God.”
m. Rom. 9:5.
“God blessed forever.”
Proposition: Sixteen names clearly implying Deity are used of Christ in the Bible, some of them over and over again, the total number of passages reaching far into the hundreds.
2. Divine Attributes.
(1) Luke 4:39. Jesus has power over disease, it is subject to His word.
(2) Luke;:14-15; 8:54-55; Jno. 5:25. The Son of God has power over death, it is subject to His word.
(3) Matt:8:26-27. Jesus has power over the winds and sea, they are subject to His word.
(4) Matt. 8:16; Luke 4:35, 36, 41. Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, has power over demons, they are subject to His word.
(5) Eph. 1:20-23. Christ is far above all principality and power and might, and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. All things are in subjection (R. V.), under His feet. All the hierarchies of the angelic world are under Him.
(6) Heb. 1:3. The Son of God upholds all things by the word of His power.
Proposition. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is omnipotent.
(1) Jno. 4:16-19. Jesus knows men’s lives, even their secret history.
(2) Mark 2:8; Luke 5:22; Jno. 2:24- 25; (Acts 1:24.) Jesus knows the secret thoughts of men. He knew all men. He knew what was in man. (cf. 2 Chron. 6:30;Jer. 17:9, 10. Here we see that God “only knoweth the hearts of the children of men.”)
(3) Jno. 6:64. Jesus knew from the beginning that Judas would betray Him. Not only men’s present thoughts but their future choices were known to Him.
(4) Jno. 1:48. Jesus knew what men were doing at a distance.
(5) Luke 22:10, 12; Jno. 13:1; Luke 5:4-6. Jesus knew the future regarding not only God’s acts, but regarding the minute specific acts of men, and even the fishes of the sea.
NOTE Many, if not all, of these items of knowledge up to this point could possibly, if they stood alone, be accounted for by saying that the Omniscient God revealed these specific things to Jesus.
(6) Jno. 21:17; 16:30; Col. 2:3. Jesus knew all things, in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Proposition. Jesus Christ is omniscient.
NOTE There was, as we shall see when we study the Humanity of Christ, a voluntary veiling and abnegation of the exercise of His inherent Divine omniscience. (Mark 11:12-14; Phil. 2:7.)
(1) Matt. 18:20. Jesus Christ is present in every place where two or three are gathered together in His name.
(2) Matt. 28:20. Jesus Christ is present with every one who goes forth into any part of the world to make disciples, etc.
(3) Jno. 3:13. The Son of man was in heaven while He was here on earth.
NOTE This text is doubtful. (See R. V. and the Variorum Bible.}
(4) Jno. 14:20; II. Cor. 13:5. Jesus Christ is in each believer.
(5) Eph. 1:23. Jesus Christ filleth all in all.
Proposition. Jesus Christ is omnipresent.
Jno. 1:1; Mic. 5:2; Col. 1:17; Is. 9:6; Jno. 17:5 (Jno. 6:62; Jno. 8:58; I Jno. 1:1, 27); Heb. 13:8.
Proposition. The Son of God was from all eternity.
Heb. 13:8; 1:12. Jesus Christ is unchangeable. He not only always is, but always is the same.
f. Phil. 2:6.
Jesus Christ before His incarnation was in the form of God.
NOTE ” Morphe” translated “form” means “the form by which a person or thing strikes the vision; the external appearance” (Thayer, Grk-Eng. Lexicon of the N. T.)
g. Col. 2:9.
In Christ dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead in a bodily way.
Proposition. Five or more distinctively divine attributes are ascribed to Jesus Christ, and all the fulness of the Godhead is said to dwell in Him.
3. Divine Offices.
Heb. 1:10; Jno. 1:3; Col. 1:16. The Son of God, the eternal Word, the Lord, is creator of all created things.
Heb. 1:3. The Son of God is the preserver of all things.
c, The forgiveness of sin.
Mark 2:5-10; Luke 7:48-50. Jesus Christ had power on earth to forgive sins.
NOTE He taught that sins were sins AGAINST HIMSELF. Luke 7:40-4.7, both Simon and the woman as sinners were debtors to Him, but in Ps. 57.- 4 sin is seen to be against God and God only.”)
d, Raising of the dead.
Jno. 6:39-44; 5:28-29. It is Jesus Christ who raises the dead. Ques. Did not Elijah and Elisha raise the dead? No; God raised the dead in answer to their prayer, but Jesus Christ will raise the dead by His own word. During the days of His humiliation it was by prayer that Christ raised the dead. Jno. 11:41.
e, Transformation of bodies. Phil. 3:21, R. V.
Jesus Christ shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation into the likeness of His own glorious body.
f, Judgment. II Tim. 4:i, R. V.
Christ Jesus shall judge the quick and the dead.
NOTE -Jesus Himself emphasized the Divine character of this office. (Jno. 5:22-23.}
g, The bestowal of eternal life.
Jno. 10:28; 17, 2. Jesus Christ is the bestower of eternal life.
Proposition. Seven distinctively Divine offices are predicated of Jesus Christ.
4. Statements which in the O. T. are made distinctly of Jehovah God taken in the N. T. to refer to Jesus Christ.
a, Ps. 102:24-27, comp. Heb. 1:10-12.
b, Is. 40, 3-4, comp. Matt. 3:3, Luke 1:68, 69, 76.
c, Jer. u:20; 17, 10, comp. Rev. n:23.
d, Is. 60:19 (Zech. 2:5) comp. Luke 2:32.
e, Is. 6:i; 3:10, comp. Jno. 12:37-41.
f, Is. 8:13-14, comp. 1 Pet. 2:7-8.
g, Is. 8:12-13, comp. 1 Pet. 3:14-15, R. V.
h, Num. 21:6-7, comp. 1 Cor. 10, 9. (See R. V.)
i, Ps. 23:1;Is. 40:10-11, comp. Jno. 10:11.
j, Ez. 34:11; 12:16, comp. Luke 19:10.
k, Lord in the O. T. always refers to God except when the context clearly indicates otherwise: Lord in the N. T. always refers to Jesus Christ except where the context clearly indicates otherwise.
Proposition. Many statements which in the O. T. are made distinctly of Jehovah God are taken in the N. T. to refer to Jesus Christ, i. e. , in N. T. thought and doctrine Jesus Christ occupies the place that Jehovah occupies in O. T. thought and doctrine.
5. The way in which the name of God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son are coupled together.
II Cor. 13:14.
I Thess. 3:11.
1 Cor. 12:4-6.
Tit. 3:4,5, comp. Tit. 2:13.
Rom. 1:7. Many instances of this sort (see all the Pauline Epistles).
Jno. 14:23, “we,” i. e. , God the Father and I.
2 Pet. 1:1. (Comp. R. V.)
Col. 2:2. (See R. V.)
Jno. 14:1, comp. Jer. 17:5-7.
Rev. 5:13; comp. Jno. 5:23.
Prop. The name of Jesus Christ is coupled with that of God the Father in numerous passages in a way in which it would be impossible to couple the name of any finite being with that of the Deity.
6. Divine Worship to be given to Jesus Christ.
a. Matt. 28:9; Luke 24:52; Matt. 14:33, comp. Acts 10:25-26; Rev. 22:8-9; Matt. 4:9-10.
Jesus Christ accepted without hesitation a worship which good men and angels declined with fear (horror).
Ques. Is not the verb translated worship in these passages used of reverence paid to men in high position? Yes; but not in this way by worshippers of Jehovah, as is seen by the way in which Peter and the angel drew back with horror when such worship was offered to them.
b. 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 12:8, 9; Acts 7:59. (R. V.)
Prayer is to be made to Christ.
c, Ps. 45:11; Jno. 5:23; comp. Rev. 5:8, 9, 12, 13.
It is God the Father’s will that all men pay the same divine honor to the Son as to Himself.
d, Heb. 1:6; Phil, 2:10, n. (Comp. Is. 45:21, 23.)
The Son of God, Jesus, is to be worshiped as God by angels and men.
Proposition. Jesus Christ is a person to be worshiped by angels and men even as God the Father is worshiped.
General Proposition. By the use of numerous Divine names, by the ascription of all the distinctively divine attributes, by the predication of several divine offices, by referring statements which in the O. T. distinctly name Jehovah God as their subject to Jesus Christ in the N. T., by coupling the name of Jesus Christ with that of God the Father in a way in which it would be impossible to couple that of any finite being with that of the Deity, and by the clear teaching that Jesus Christ should be worshiped even as God the Father is worshiped in all these unmistakable ways, God in His word distinctly proclaims that Jesus Christ is a Divine Being, is God.
One suggestion remains to be made in regard to topical study. Get further topics for topical study from your book studies.
Part First – Methods of Profitable Bible Study.
A third method of study is the Biographical. This needs no definition. It consists in taking up the various persons mentioned in Scripture and studying their life, work and character. It is really a special form of Topical Study. It can be made very interesting and instructive. It is especially useful to the minister with a view to sermon building, but is profitable for all Christians. The following suggestions will help those who are not already experienced in this line of work.
1. Collect all the passages in the Bible in which the person to be studied is mentioned. This is readily done by turning in Strong’s Concordance to the person’s name, and you will find every passage in which he is mentioned given.
2. Analyze the character of the person. This will require a repeated reading of the passages in which he is mentioned. This should be done with pencil in hand, that any characteristic may be noted down at once.
3. Note the elements of power and success.
4. Note the elements of weakness and failure.
5. Note the difficulties overcome.
6. Note the helps to success.
7. Note the privileges abused.
8. Note the opportunities neglected.
9. Note the opportunities improved.
10. Note the mistakes made.
11. Note the perils avoided.
12. Make a sketch of the life in hand. Make it as vivid, living and realistic as possible. Try to reproduce the subject as a real, living man. Note the place and surroundings of the different events, e. g., Paul in Athens, Corinth, Philippi. Note the time relations of the different events. Very few people in reading the Acts of the Apostles, for example, take notice of the rapid passage of time, and so regard events separated by years as following one another in close sequence. In this connection note the age or approximate age of the subject at the time of the events recorded of him.
13. Summarize the lessons we should learn from the story of this person’s life.
14. Note the person in hand in his relations to Jesus, e. g., as a type of Christ (Joseph, David, Solomon and others), forerunner of Christ, believer in Christ, enemy of Christ, servant of Christ, brother of Christ (James and Jude), friend, etc., etc.
It will be well to begin with some person who does not occupy too much space in the Bible, as, e. g., Enoch or Stephen. Of course many of the points mentioned above cannot be taken up with some characters.
Suggestive books in character studies are Stalker’s Lives of Christ and Paul, and Stalker’s “Imago Christi”; Rev. F. B. Meyer’s “Elijah,” and also other O. T. characters; Mr. Moody’s “Bible Characters.”
Part First – Methods of Profitable Bible Study.
STUDY OF TYPES.
A fourth method of study is the Study of Types. We have illustrations of this in the Bible itself, as for example in the Epistle to the Hebrews. It is both an interesting and instructive method of study. It shows us the most precious truths buried away in what once seemed to us a very dry and meaningless portion of the Bible. It need scarcely be said that this method of study is greatly abused and overdone in some quarters. But that is no reason why we should neglect it altogether, especially when we remember that not only Paul but Jesus were fond of this method of study. The following may serve as principles to govern us in this method of study:
1 . Be sure you have Bible warrant for your supposed type. If one gives free rein to his fancy in this matter, he can imagine types everywhere, even in places that neither the human or divine author of the book had any intention of a typical sense. Never say this is a type unless you can point to some clear passage of Scripture where the truth said to be typified is definitely taught.
2. Begin with the more simple and evident types, e.g., the Passover (comp. Ex. 12 with I Cor. 5: 7 etc.), the High Priest, the Tabernacle.
3. Be on your guard against the fanciful and overstrained. Fancy is almost sure to run away with any man who is blessed with any imagination and quickness of typical discernment, unless he holds it in check. Our typical sensitiveness and sensibleness will become both quickened and chastened by careful and circumspect exercise.
4. In studying any passage of possible typical suggestion, look up all the Scripture references. The best collection of references is that given in “The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge.”
5. Study carefully the meaning of the names of persons and places mentioned. Bible names often have a very deep and far reaching suggestiveness. Thus, for example, Hebron, which means “joining together,” “union” or “fellowship,” is deeply significant when taken in connection with its history, as are all the names of the Cities of Refuge, and indeed very many Scripture names. Was it accidental that Bethlehem, the name of the place where the Bread of Life was born, means “House of bread”? C. H. M.’s notes on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are suggestive to one who has had little experience in the study of types.
Part First – Methods of Profitable Bible Study.
THE STUDY OF THE BOOKS OF THE BIBLE IN THE ORDER GIVEN IN THE BIBLE AND IN THEIR CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER.
A fifth method of Bible study is the old-fashioned method of the study of the Bible in course, beginning at Genesis and going right on until Revelation is finished. This method of study is ridiculed a good deal in these days, but it has some advantages which no other method of study possesses. It is sometimes said, you might as well begin at the top shelf of your library and read right through, as to begin at the beginning of this library of sixty-six books and read right through. To this it is a sufficient answer, If you had a library that it was important to master as a whole, that you might understand the separate books in it, and that was as well arranged as the Bible is, then this method of going through your library would be excellent. The advantages of studying in the Bible in course are: First, It is the only method by which you will get an idea of the Book as a whole. The more we know of the Bible as a whole, the better prepared we are for the understanding of any individual portion of it. Second, It is the only method by which you are likely to cover the whole Book, and so take in the entire scope of God’s revelation. It will be many a long year before any man covers the whole Bible by Book studies, or even by Topical studies. Every part of God’s word is precious, and there are gems of truth hidden away in most unexpected places, e. g., I Chron, iv: 10, we hit upon these priceless gems by studying the Bible in course. Third, It is the best method to enable one to get hold of the unity of the Bible and its organic character. Fourth, It is a great corrective to one-sidedness and crankiness. The Bible is a many sided book, it is Calvinistic and Arminian, it is Trinitarian and Unitarian, it clearly teaches the Deity of Christ and insists on His real Humanity, it exalts faith and demands works, it urges to victory through conflict and asserts most vigorously that victory is won by faith, etc., etc. If we become too much taken up with any one line of truth in our Book or Topical studies, and we are more than likely to, the daily study of the Bible in course will soon bring us to some contrasted line of truth, and bring us back to our proper balance. Some people go insane through becoming too much occupied with a single line of truth. The thoughtful study of the whole Bible is a great corrective to this tendency. It would be well to have three methods of study in progress at the same time: first, the study of some book; second, the study of topics (perhaps topics suggested by the book studies); third, the study of the Bible in course. Every other method of study should be supplemented by studying the Bible in course. Some years ago I determined to read the A. V. through every year, the R. V. through every year, and the N. T. in Greek through every year. It has proved exceedingly profitable, and I would not willingly give it up.
A sixth method of study is closely related to the fifth method and has advantages of its own that will appear as soon as the method is described. It is studying the various portions of the Bible in their Chronological Order. In this way the Psalms are read in their historical settings, as are prophecies, epistles, etc. The whole Bible has been excellently arranged for Chronological study in Miss Petrie’s Clews to Holy Writ. (American Tract Society.) The course as outlined by Miss Petrie covers three years, and there are questions given for study and examination.
Part First – Methods of Profitable Bible Study.
THE STUDY OF THE BIBLE FOR PRACTICAL USEFULNESS IN DEALING WITH MEN.
The seventh and last method of study is the Study of the Bible for Practical Usefulness in Dealing with Men.
To study the Bible in this way, make as complete a classification as possible of all the classes of men that one will meet. Write the names of the various classes at the head of separate sheets of paper or cards. Then begin the Bible and read it through slowly, and when you come to a passage that seems likely to prove useful in deal ing with any class write it down upon its appropriate sheet. Go through the Bible in this way. It would be well to have a special Bible for this purpose, and have different colored inks, or different letters or symbols, to represent the different classes, and underscore the texts with the proper colored ink, or mark it with the appropriate symbol. The results of the labors of others in this line can be found in a number of books, such as Munhall’s Furnishing for Workers, Alexander Paterson’s Bible Manual for Christian Workers, Drury’s Hand-Book for Workers, and the Author’s Vest Pocket Companion for Christian Workers and his book “How to Bring Men to Christ.” But the best book is the one you get up yourself. The books mentioned will give you suggestions how to do it. As a suggestion for beginning in the work we give a list of classes of men, to which you can add for yourself.
The careless and indifferent.
Those who wish to be saved but do not know how.
Those who know how to be saved but have difficulties
“I am too great a sinner.”
“My heart is too hard.”
“I must become better before I become a Christian.”
“I am afraid I can’t hold out.”
“I am too weak.”
“I have tried before and failed.”
“I can not give up my evil ways.”
“I will be persecuted if I become a Christian.”
“It will hurt my business.”
“There is too much to give up.”
“The Christian life is too hard.”
“I am afraid of ridicule.”
“I will lose my friends.”
“I have no feeling.”
“I have been seeking Christ, but can not find Him.”
“I have sinned away the day of grace.”
“God won’t receive me.”
“I have committed the unpardonable sin.”
“It is too late.”
“Christians are so inconsistent.”
“God seems to me unjust and cruel.”
“There are so many things in the Bible which I can’t understand.”
“There is some one I can’t forgive.”
Those who are cherishing false hopes.
The Hope of being saved by a righteous life.
The Hope that “God is too good to damn anyone.”
The Hope of being saved by “trying to be a Christian.”
The Hope of being saved, because “I feel saved,” or “I feel I am going to heaven.”
The Hope of being saved by a profession of religion, or church membership, or a faith, that does not save from sin.
Those who lack assurance.
Those who wish to put off the decision.
The results of this work will be of incalculable value. In the first place, you will get a new view of how perfectly the Bible is adapted to every man’s need. In the second place, familiar passages of the Bible will get a new meaning as you see their relation to the needs of men. The Bible will become a very living book. In the third place, in seeking food for others you will be fed yourself. And in the fourth place, you will get a vast amount of material to use in sermons, Bible-readings, prayer meeting talks and personal work. You will acquire a rare working knowledge of the Bible.
Part Second – Fundamental Conditions.
THE FUNDAMENTAL CONDITIONS OF THE MOST PROFITABLE BIBLE STUDY.
We have considered seven profitable methods of Bible study. There is something, however, in Bible study more important than the best methods, that is, The Fundamental Conditions of Profitable Study. The one who meets these conditions will get more out of the Bible, while pursuing the poorest method, than the one who does not meet them will, while pursuing the best method. Many a one who is eagerly asking, “What method shall I pursue in my Bible study?” needs something that goes far deeper than a new and better method.
1. The first of the fundamental conditions of the most profitable Bible study is the student must be born again. The Bible is a spiritual book, it “combines spiritual things with spiritual words” (I Cor. ii: 13, R. V. Am. Ap.), and only a spiritual man can understand its deepest and most characteristic and most precious teachings.” The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged.” (I Cor. ii: 14, R. V.) Spiritual discernment can be obtained in but one way, by being born again. “Except a man be born anew he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John iii: 3, R. V.) No mere knowledge of the human languages in which the Bible was written, however extensive and accurate it may be, will qualify one to understand and appreciate the Bible. One must understand the divine language in which it was written as well, the language of the Holy Spirit. A person who understands the language of the Holy Spirit, but who does not understand a word of Greek or Hebrew or Aramiac, will get more out of the Bible, than one, who knows all about Greek and Hebrew and cognate languages, but is not born again, and, consequently, does not understand the language of the Holy Spirit. It is a well demonstrated fact that many plain men and women who are entirely innocent of any knowledge of the original tongues in which the Bible was written, have a knowledge of the real contents of the Bible, its actual teaching, in its depth and fulness and beauty, that surpasses that of many learned professors in theological faculties. One of the greatest follies of the day, is to set unregenerate men to teaching the Bible, because of their rare knowledge of the human forms of speech in which the book was written. It would be as reasonable to set a man to teach art because he had an accurate technical knowledge of paints. It requires aesthetic sense to make a man a competent teacher of art. It requires spiritual sense to make a man a competent teacher of the Bible. The man who had aesthetic discernment, but little or no technical knowledge of paint, would be a far more competent critic of works of art, than a man, who had a great technical knowledge of paint, but no aesthetic discernment; and so the man who has no technical knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, but who has spiritual discernment, is a far more competent critic of the Bible than the one who has a rare technical knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, but no spiritual discernment. It is exceedingly unfortunate that, in some quarters, more emphasis is laid upon a knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, in training for the ministry, than is laid upon spiritual life and its consequent spiritual discernment. Unregenerate men should not be forbidden to study the Bible; for the Word of God is the instrument the Holy Spirit uses in the New Birth (I Pet. i: 23; James i: 18): but it should be distinctly understood, that, while there are teachings in the Bible that the natural man can understand, and beauties which he can see, its most distinctive and characteristic teachings are beyond his grasp, and its highest beauties belong to a world in which he has no vision. The first fundamental condition of the most profitable Bible study, is, then, “Ye must be born again.” You cannot study the Bible to the greatest profit if you have not been born again. Its best treasures are sealed to you.
2. The second condition of the most profitable study is a love for the Bible. A man who eats with an appetite, will get far more good out of his meal than a man who eats from a sense of duty. It is well when a student of the Bible can say with Job, “I have treasured up the words of his mouth more than my necessary food,” (Job, 23: 12 R. V.) or with Jeremiah, “Thy words were found and I did eat them; and thy words were unto me a joy and the rejoicing of mine heart; for I am called by thy name, O, Lord God of hosts.” (Jer., 15: 16, R.V.) Many come to the table God has spread in His word with no appetite for spiritual food, and go mincing here and there and grumbling about everything. Spiritual indigestion lies at the bottom of much modern criticism of the Bible. But how can one get a love for the Bible? First of all by being born again. Where there is life there is likely to be appetite. A dead man never hungers. This brings us back to the first condition. But going beyond this, the more there is of vitality the more there is of hunger. Abounding life means abounding hunger for the Word. Study of the Word stimulates love for the Word. The author can well remember the time when he had more appetite for books about the Bible than he had for the Bible itself, but with increasing study there has come increasing love for the Book. Bearing in mind who the author of the Book is, what its purpose is, what its power is, what the riches of its contents are, will go far toward stimulating a love and appetite for the Book.
3. The third condition is a willingness to do hard work. Solomon has given a graphic picture of the Bible student who gets the most profit out of his study, “My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and lay up my commandments with thee; so that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; yea, if thou cry after discernment, and lift up thy voice for understanding; if thou seek her as silver, and search for her as for hid treasures; THEN shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Prov. ii: 1-5, R. V.) Now, seeking for silver and searching for hid treasures, means hard work, and the one who wishes to get not only the silver but the gold as well out of the Bible, and find its “hid treasures, ” must make up his mind to dig. It is not glancing at the word, or reading the word, but studying the word, meditating upon the word, pondering the word, that brings the richest yields. The reason why many get so little out of their Bible reading is simply because they are not willing to think. Intellectual laziness lies at the bottom of a large per cent, of fruitless Bible reading. People are constantly crying for new methods of Bible study, but what many of them wish is simply some method of Bible study by which they can get all the good out of the Bible without work. If some one could tell lazy Christians some method of Bible study whereby they could put the sleepiest ten minutes of the day, just before they go to bed, into Bible study, and get the profit out of it that God intends His children shall get out of the study of His Word, that would be just what they desire. But it can’t be done. Men must be willing to work and work hard, if they wish to dig out the treasures of infinite wisdom and knowledge and blessing which He has stored up in His Word. A business friend once asked me in a hurried call to tell him “in a word” how to study his Bible. I replied, ” Think.” The Psalmist pronounces that man “blessed ” who ” meditates in the law of the Lord, day and night” (Ps. i: 2.) The Lord commanded Joshua to ” meditate therein day and night,” and assured him that as a result of this meditation” then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” (Josh, i: 8.) Of Mary, the mother of Jesus, we read, “Mary kept all these sayings, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke ii: 19, R. V.) In this way alone can one study the Bible to the greatest profit. One pound of beef well chewed and digested and assimilated, will give more strength than tons of beef merely glanced at; and one verse of scripture chewed and digested and assimilated, will give more strength than whole chapters simply skimmed. Weigh every word you read in the Bible. Look at it. Turn it over and over. The most familiar passages get a new meaning in this way. Spend fifteen minutes on each word in Ps. xxiii: I, or Phil, iv: 19, and see if it is not so.
4. The fourth condition is a will wholly surrendered to God. Jesus said, “If any man willeth to do his will he shall know of the teaching.” (Jno. vii: 17, R. V.) A surrendered will gives that clearness of spiritual vision which is necessary to understand God’s book. Many of the difficulties and obscurities of the Bible rise wholly from the fact that the will of the student is not surrendered to the will of the author of the book. It is remarkable how clear and simple and beautiful passages, that once puzzled us, become when we are brought to that place where we say to God, ” I surrender my will unconditionally to Thine. I have no will but Thine. Teach me Thy will.” A surrendered will will do more to make the Bible an open book than a university education. It is simply impossible to get the largest profit out of your Bible study until you do surrender your will to God. You must be very definite about this. There are many who say, “Oh, yes, my will, I think, is surrendered to God,” and yet it is not. They have never gone alone with God and said intelligently and definitely to him, “O God, I here and now give myself up to Thee, for Thee to command me, and lead me, and shape me, and send me, and do with me, absolutely as Thou wilt.” Such an act is a wonderful key to unlock the treasure house of God’s Word. The Bible becomes a new book when a man does that. Doing that wrought a complete transformation in the author’s theology and life and ministry.
5. The fifth condition is very closely related to the fourth. The student of the Bible who would get the greatest profit out of his studies must be obedient to its teachings as soon as he sees them. It was good advice James gave to early Christians, and to us, “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your ownselves. ” There are a good many, who consider themselves Bible students, who are deceiving themselves in this way to-day. They see what the Bible teaches, but they do not do it, and they soon lose their power to see it. Truth obeyed leads to more truth. Truth disobeyed destroys the capacity for discovering truth. There must be not only a general surrender of the will, but specific practical obedience to each new word of God discovered. There is no place where the law, “unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath,” is more joyously certain on the one hand and more sternly inexorable on the other, than in the matter of using or refusing the truth revealed in the Bible. Use, and you get more; refuse, and you lose all. Do not study the Bible for the mere gratification of intellectual curiosity, but to find out how to live and to please God. Whatever duty you find commanded in the Bible, do it at once. Whatever good you see in any Bible character, imitate it immediately. Whatever mistake you note in the actions of Bible men and women, scrutinize your own life to see if you are making the same mistake, and if you find you are, correct it forthwith. James compares the Bible to a looking glass. (Jas. i: 23, 24). The chief good of a looking glass, is to show you if there is anything out of fix about you, and, if you find there is, you can set it right. Use the Bible in that way. Obeying the truth you already see, will solve the enigmas in the verses you do not as yet understand. Disobeying the truth you see, darkens the whole world of truth. This is the secret of much of the scepticism and error of the day. Men saw the truth, but did not do it, now it is gone. I knew a bright and promising young minister. He made rapid advancement in the truth. He took very advanced ground upon one point especially, and the storm came. One day he said to his wife, “It is very nice to believe this, but we need not speak so much about it.” They began, or he, at least, to hide their testimony. The wife died and he drifted. The Bible became to him a sealed book. Faith reeled. He publicly renounced his faith in some of the fundamental truths of the Bible. He seemed to lose his grip even on the doctrine of immortality. What was the cause of it all? Truth not lived and stood for, flees. That man is much admired and applauded by some to-day, but daylight has given place to darkness in his soul.
6. The sixth condition is a child-like mind. God reveals His deepest truths to babes. No age needs more than our own to lay to heart the words of Jesus, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and has revealed them unto babes. ” (Matt, xi: 5.) Wherein must we be babes if God is to reveal His truth unto us, and we are to understand His Word? A child is not full of its own wisdom. It recognizes its ignorance and is ready to be taught. It does not oppose its own notions and ideas to those of its teachers. It is in that spirit we should come to the Bible, if we are to get the most profit out of our study. Do not come to the Bible full of your own ideas, and seeking from it a confirmation of them. Come rather to find out what are God’s ideas as He has revealed them there. Come not to find a confirmation of your own opinion, but to be taught what God may be pleased to teach. If a man comes to the Bible just to find his notions taught there, he will find them; but if he comes, recognizing his own ignorance, just as a little child, to be taught, he will find something infinitely better than his own notions, even the mind of God. We see why it is that many persons cannot see things which are plainly taught in the Bible. The doctrine taught is not their notion, of which they are so full that there is no room left for that which the Bible actually teaches. We have an illustration of this in the apostles themselves at one stage in their training. In Mark ix: 31 we read “he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill Him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day.” Now, that is as plain and definite as language can make it, but it was utterly contrary to the notions of the apostles as to what was to happen to the Christ. So we read in the next verse “they understood not that saying.” Is not that wonderful? But is it any more wonderful than our own inability to comprehend plain statements in the Bible when they run counter to our preconceived notions? What trouble many Christians find with portions of the Sermon on the Mount, that would be plain enough, if we just came to Christ like a child to be taught what to believe and do, rather rather than coming as full grown men, who already know it all, and who must find some interpretations of Christ’s words that will fit into our mature and infallible philosophy. Many a man is so full of an unbiblical theology he has been taught, that it takes him a lifetime to get rid of it, and understand the clear teaching of the Bible. “Oh, what can this verse mean?” many a bewildered man cries. Why, it means what it plainly says; but what you are after is not the meaning God has manifestly put into it, but the meaning you can by some ingenious trick of exegesis twist out of it, and make it fit into your scheme. Don’t come to the Bible to find out what you can make it mean, but to find out what God intended it to mean. Men often miss the real truth of a verse by saying, “But that can be interpreted this way.” Oh, yes, so it can, but is that the way God intended it to be interpreted? We all need to pray often, if we would get the most profit out of our Bible study, “Oh, God, make me a little child. Empty me of my own notions. Teach me thine own mind. Make me ready like a little child to receive all that thou hast to say, no matter how contrary it is to what I have thought hitherto.” How the Bible opens up to one who approaches it in that way! How it closes up to the wise fool, who thinks he knows everything, and imagines he can give points to Peter and Paul, and even to Jesus Christ and to God Himself! Some one has well said the best method of Bible study is “the baby method.” I was once talking with a ministerial friend about what seemed to be the clear teaching of a certain passage. ” Yes, ” he replied, ” but that doesn’t agree with my philosophy. ” Alas! But this man was sincere, yet he did not have the child-like spirit, which is an essential condition of the most profitable Bible study. But there are many who approach the Bible in the same way. It is a great point gained in Bible study when we are brought to realize that an infinite God knows more than we, that indeed our highest wisdom is less than the knowledge of the most ignorant babe compared with His, and when we come to Him as babes, just to be taught by Him, and not to argue with Him. But we so easily and so constantly forget this, that every time we open our Bibles we would do well to get down humbly before God and say, “Father, I am but a child, teach me.”
This leads to the seventh condition.
7. The seventh condition of studying the Bible to the greatest profit is, that we study it as the word of God. The Apostle Paul, in writing to the Church of the Thessalonians, thanked God without ceasing that when they received the word of God they “accepted it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth the word of God.” (IThess. ii: 13, R. V.) Well might he thank God for that, and well may we thank God when we get to the place where we receive the word of God as the word of God. Not that the one who does not believe the Bible is the word of God should be discouraged from studying it. Indeed, one of the best things that one who does not believe that the Bible is the word of God can do, if he is honest, is to study it. The author of this book once doubted utterly that the Bible was the word of God, and the firm confidence that he has to-day that the Bible is the Word of God, has come more from the study of the book itself than from anything else. Those who doubt it are more usually those who study about the book, than those who dig into the actual teachings of the book itself. But while the best book of Christian evidences is the Bible, and while the most utter sceptic should be encouraged to study it, we will not get the largest measure of profit out of that study until we reach the point where we become convinced that the Bible is God’s Word, and when we study it as such. There is a great difference between believing theoretically that the Bible is God’s Word and studying it as God’s Word. Thousands would tell you that they believed the Bible is God’s Word, who do not study it as God’s Word. Studying the Bible as the Word of God involves four things, (I) First, it involves the unquestioning acceptance of its teachings when definitely ascertained, even when they may appear unreasonable or impossible. Reason demands that we submit our judgment and reasonings to the statements of infinite wisdom. There is nothing more irrational than rationalism, which makes the finite wisdom the test of infinite wisdom, and submits the teachings of God’s omniscience to the approval of man’s judgment. It is the sublimest and absurdest conceit that says, “This cannot be true, though God says it, for it does not approve itself to my reason.” ” Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? ” (Rom. ix: 20.) Real human wisdom, when it finds infinite wisdom, bows before it and says, “Speak what thou wilt and I will believe.” When we have once became convinced that the Bible is God’s Word, its teachings must be the end of all controversy and discussion. A “thus saith the Lord” will settle every question. Yet there are many who profess to believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and if you show them what the Bible clearly teaches on some disputed point, they will shake their heads and say, “Yes, but I think so and so,” or “Doctor, or Prof, this, or our church don’t teach that way.” There is little profit in that sort of Bible study. (2) Studying the Bible as the word of God involves, in the second place, absolute reliance upon all its promises in all their length and breadth. The man who studies the Bible as the word of God, will not discount any one of its promises one iota. The one who studies the Bible as the word of God will say, “God who cannot lie has promised,” and will not try to make God a liar by trying to make one of his promises mean less than it says. The one who studies the Bible as the word of God, will be on the lookout for promises, and as soon as he finds one he will seek to ascertain just what it means, and, as soon as he discovers, he will step right out upon that promise, and risk everything upon its full import. That is one of the secrets of profitable Bible study. Be hunting for promises and appropriate them as fast as you find them this is done by meeting the conditions and risking all upon them. That is the way to make your own all the fulness of blessing God has for you. This is the key to all the treasures of God’s grace. Happy is the man who has so learned to study the Bible as God’s word, that he is ready to claim for himself every new promise as it appears, and to risk everything upon it. (3) Studying the Bible as the Word of God involves, in the third place, obedience prompt, exact obedience, without asking any questions to its every precept. Obedience may seem hard, it may seem impossible, but God has bidden it and I have nothing to do but to obey, and leave the results with God. If you would get the very most profit out of your Bible study resolve that from this time you will claim every clear promise and obey every plain command, and that as to the promises and commands whose import is not yet clear you will try to get their meaning made clear. (4) Studying the Bible as the word of God involves, in the fourth place, studying it as in God’s presence. When you read a verse of scripture hear the voice of the living God speaking directly to you in these written words. There is new power and attractiveness in the Bible when you have learned to hear a living, present person, God, our Father, Himself talking directly to you in these words. One of the most fascinating and inspiring statements in the Bible is “Enoch walked with God.” (Gen. v: 24.) We can have God’s glorious companionship any moment we please, by simply opening His Word and letting the living and ever present God speak to us through it. With what holy awe and strange and unutterable joy one studies the Bible if he studies it in this way! It is heaven come down to earth.
8. The eighth and last condition of the most profitable Bible study is Prayerfulness. The Psalmist prayed “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” (Ps. cxix: 1 8.) Every one who desires to get the greatest profit out of his Bible study, needs to offer that or a similar prayer every time he undertakes the study of the word. Few keys open so many caskets that contain hidden treasure as prayer. Few clews unravel so many difficulties. Few microscopes will disclose so many beauties hidden from the eye of the ordinary observer. What new light often shines from an old familiar text as you bend over it in prayer! I believe in studying the Bible a good deal on your knees. When one reads an entire book through upon his knees and this is easily done that book has a new meaning and becomes a new book. One ought never to open the Bible to read it without at least lifting the heart to God in silent prayer that He will interpret it, illumine its pages by the light of His Spirit. It is a rare privilege to study any book under the immediate guidance and instruction of its author, and this is the privilege of us all in studying the Bible. When one comes to a passage that is difficult to understand or difficult to interpret, instead of giving it up, or rushing to some learned friend, or to some commentary, he should lay that passage before God, and ask Him to explain it to him, pleading God’s promise, “if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of GOD, that giveth to all men liberally, and upraideth not, and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing doubting.” (Jas. i: 5, 6, R. V.) It is simply wonderful how the seemingly most difficult passages become plain by this treatment. Harry Morehouse, one of the most remarkable Bible scholars among unlearned men, used to say, that whenever he came to a passage in the Bible which he could not understand, he would search through the Bible for some other passage that threw light upon it, and lay it before God in prayer, and that he had never found a passage that did not yield to this treatment. The author of this book has had a quite similar experience. Some years ago I was making with a friend a tour afoot of the Franconian Switzerland, and visiting some of the more famous zoolithic caves. One day the country letter-carrier stopped us, and asked if we would not like to see a cave of rare beauty and interest, away from the beaten tracks of travel. Of course, we said, yes. He led us through the woods and underbrush to the mouth of the cave, and we entered. All was dark and uncanny. He expatiated greatly on the beauty of the cave, telling us of altars and fantastic formations, but we could see absolutely nothing. Now and then he uttered a note to warn us to have a care, as near our feet lay a gulf the bottom of which had never been discovered. We began to have a fear that we might be the first discoverers of the bottom. There was nothing pleasant about the whole affair. But as soon as a magnesian taper was lighted, all became different. There were the stalagmites rising from the floor to meet the stalactites as they came down from the ceiling. There was the great altar of nature, that peasant fancy ascribed to the skill of ancient worshipers, there were the beautiful and fantastic formations on every hand, and all glistening in fairy-like beauty in the brilliant light. So I have often thought it was with many a passage of Scripture. Others tell you of its beauty, but you cannot see it. It looks dark and intricate and forbidding and dangerous, but when God’s own light is kindled there by prayer, how different all becomes in an instant. You see a beauty that language cannot express, and that those alone can appreciate who have stood there in the same light. He who would understand and love his Bible must be much in prayer. Prayer will do more than a college education to make the Bible an open and a glorious book. Perhaps the best lesson I learned in a German university, where I had the privilege of receiving the instruction of one of the most noted and most gifted Bible teachers of any age, was that which came through the statement of the famulus of this professor, that Professor Delitzsch worked out much of his teaching upon his knees.
Part Second – Fundamental Conditions.
There are some suggestions that remain to be given before we close this book.
1. Study the Bible daily. Regularity counts for more in Bible study than most people fancy. The spasmodic student, who at certain seasons gives a great deal of time to the study of the Word, and at other seasons quite neglects it, even for days at a time, does not achieve the results that he does who plods on regularly day by day. The Bereans were wise as well as “noble” in that they “searched the scriptures daily.” (Acts, xvii: n; see also R. V.) A man who is well known among the Christian college students of America, once remarked at a student convention, that he had been at many conventions and had received great blessings from them, but the greatest blessing he had ever received was from a convention where there were only four persons gathered together. The blessing had come to him in this way. These four had covenanted together to spend a certain portion of every day in Bible study. Since that day much of his time had been spent on the cars or in hotels and at conventions, but he had tried to keep that covenant, and the greatest blessing that had come to him in his Christian life had come through this daily study of the Word. No one who has not tried it realizes how much can be accomplished by setting apart a fixed portion of each day, (it may not be more than fifteen or thirty minutes, but it surely should be an hour) for Bible study, and keeping it sacredly for that purpose under all circumstances. Many will say I cannot spare the time. It will be time saved. Lord Cairnes, one of the busiest as well as most eminent men of his day, before his death testified, that the first two hours of every day were given to the study of the Bible and prayer, and he attributed the great achievements of his life to that fact. It will not do to study the Bible only when we feel like it. It will not do to study the Bible only when we have leisure. We must have fixed principles and habits in this matter, if we are to study the Bible to the greatest profit. Nothing that we do will be more important than our Bible study, and it cannot give way to other less important things. What regularity in eating is to physical life, regularity in Bible study is to spiritual life. Fix upon some time, even if it is no more than fifteen minutes to start with, and hold to it until you are ready to set a longer period.
2. Select for your Bible study the best portion of the day that you can give to it. Do not put your Bible study off until nearly bed-time, when the mind is drowsy. It is well to take a parting verse for the day when one retires for the night, but this is not the time for study. No study demands all that there is in a man as Bible study does. Do not take the time immediately after a heavy meal. The mind is more or less torpid after a heavy meal, and it is unwise to put it on the stretch then. It is almost the unanimous opinion of those who have given this subject careful attention, that the early hours of the day are the best for Bible study, if they can be secured free from interruption. It is well, wherever possible, to lock yourself in and lock the world out, when you are about to give yourself up to the study of the Bible.
3. In all your Bible study look for Christ in the passage under examination. We read of Jesus that “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning HIMSELF.” (Luke xxiv: 27.) Jesus Christ is the subject of the whole Bible and the subject pervades the book. Some of the seemingly driest portions of the Bible became instinct with a new life when we learn to see Christ in them. I remember in my early reading of the Bible what a stupid book Leviticus seemed, but it all became different when I learned to see Jesus in the various offerings and sacrifices, in the high-priest and his garments, in the tabernacle and its furniture, indeed everywhere. Look for Christ in every verse you study, and even the genealogies and catalogues of the names of towns will begin to have beauty and power.
4. Memorize Scripture. The Psalmist said, “Thy word have I laid up in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. ” (Ps. cxix: 11, R.V.) There is nothing better to keep one from sinning than this. By the word of God laid up in His heart Jesus overcame the tempter. (Matt. iv: 4, 7, 10.) But the word of God laid up in the heart is good for other purposes than victory over sin. It is good to meet and expose error; it is good to enable one “to speak a word in season to him that is weary,” (Is. 1:4.) It is good for manifold uses, even “that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.” (II Tim. iii: 17, R. V.) Memorize scripture by chapter and verse. It is quite as easy as merely memorizing the words, and it is immeasurably more useful for practical purposes. Memorize the scripture in systematic form. Do not have a chaotic heap of texts in the mind, but pigeon-hole under appropriate titles the scripture you store in memory. Then you can bring it out when you need it, without racking your brains. There are many men who can stand up without a moment’s warning, and talk coherently and cogently and scripturally, on any vital theme; because they have a vast fund of wisdom in the form of scripture texts stored away in their mind in systematic form.
5. Finally, utilize spare moments in the study of the Bible. In most men’s lives there is a vast amount of wasted time. Time spent in traveling on the street cars and railroads; time spent in waiting for persons with whom they have engagements; time spent in waiting for meals, etc., etc. Most of this can be utilized in Bible study, if one carries with him a pocket Bible or pocket Testament. Or one can utilize it in meditation upon texts stored away in memory. Many of the author’s sermons and addresses are worked out in that way. It is said that Henry Ward Beecher read one of the larger histories of England through while waiting day after day for his meals to be brought on to the table. How many books of the Bible could be studied in the same time? A friend once told me that the man who had, in some respects, the most extraordinary knowledge of the Bible of any man he knew, was a junk dealer in a Canadian city. This man had a Bible open on his shelves and in intervals of business he was pondering the Book of God. The book became very black by handling in such surroundings, but I have little doubt his soul became correspondingly white. There is no economy that pays as does economy of time, but there is no way of economizing time so thriftily as putting the moments that are going to waste into the study of or meditation upon the word of God.