Monday, March 30, 2015

12 Do’s and Don’ts for Effective Bible Study

Bible study. As Jehovah's Witnesses we want to do it, we know we’re supposed to do it, but have you ever stopped to think that there are right ways and wrong ways to do it?

The most outstanding benefit of taking delight in God’s Word is a close relationship with Jehovah. Bible study enables us to know his standards and appreciate his love, generosity, and justice. No other pursuit is more important or more rewarding. Immersing ourselves in the study of God’s Word is truly time well spent.

This week, we’re going to take a look at a few do’s and don’ts of “handling the word of the truth aright” in Bible study. (2 Timothy 2:15)


  1. Do approach your Bible reading session in a prayerful and focused frame of mind. Ask Jehovah to help you develop an eagerness to study his Word. Petition him to open your mind and heart to grasp his wisdom more fully. (Psalm 119:34) Without this kind of approach, Bible study can quickly become mechanical, and you may lose the desire to continue.
     
  2. Do use a good translation, not a paraphrase. You want to get as close to the original wording as possible. There are a number of easy to read, accurate translations out there. But the best is the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (2013 revision). The JW Library App also has several other translations for comparison purposes.
     
  3. Do read the entire Bible from cover to cover at least every few years. It will give you a better understanding of the “big picture” of the Bible and how all the little pieces inside it fit together. (I highly recommend a chronological reading plan since the books of the Bible aren’t always arranged chronologically. You can download such a plan from MinistryIdeaz.com/theocratic-downloads).
     
  4. Do consider the cultural context. Who wrote the passage, and what do we know about him and his perspective? To whom was the passage written - (i.e. Jews or Gentiles)? Those under the Law or not? Men or women? Congregations or individuals? At what period in history, in which country, and in what language was the passage written? The JW Library app is a tremendous help here. (See also Appendix A and Appendix B online.)
     
  5. Do consider the type of literature you’re reading. Is this book of the Bible history? Poetry? Law? Prophecy? Epistle? Is the particular passage a song, metaphor, hyperbole, comparison, allegory, parable? The Bible uses various vehicles to drive truth home, and they must all be understood in different ways. Visualize the Bible accounts. Let God’s message live in your mind by imagining what the Bible characters were seeing. Try to hear what they were hearing and feel what they were feeling. Associate their experiences with specific circumstances in your life. Learn from the way they handled situations. This will enhance your understanding and retention of Bible accounts.
     
  6. Do read the Bible in orderly chunks, not in single verses. Think about the way you would read a magazine. Do you pick it up each day and read a random sentence or paragraph? Do you read the third page of an article before you read the first page of it? You’ll best understand a book of the Bible if you start at the beginning and read the chapters in order to the end.
     
  7. Do use your Bible’s cross-references to related verses. Reading several different passages on a particular topic you’re studying can give you a broader understanding of what the Bible has to say about it.
     
  8. Check corresponding published references.
  9. Do devote time to difficult scriptures and to explanations of them so that you understand them clearly. Let clear passages interpret unclear passages. This is another reason cross-references are so handy. Allow yourself plenty of time for each study session. If you come across a passage you just don’t get, try reading related passages that are clearer, and understand the unclear passage in light of the clearer ones. Look up unfamiliar words, consider footnotes. The more you understand and apply what you read, the more you will find delight in God’s written Word. (TIP: When reading the New World Translation online, hover your mouse pointer over the verse you are reading. Published references regarding that verse will pop up!)
     
  10. Do value what you learn and avoid rushing through the material. Be reasonable in the amount of time you schedule for personal study. Remember that understanding and applying Bible truths means your life. Therefore, don’t just “read to get it over with.” Make a conscientious effort to find practical points and apply them.
     
  11. Do set goals for yourself. Try to learn something new about Bible characters. You can find fascinating facts about many of them by consulting the Watchtower Library. As you get to know men and women of the Bible as real people with personalities and feelings, they will come alive in your mind.
     
  12. Do meditate on Scriptural passages. Great benefit comes from meditating on what you read. This will help you to link together spiritual topics that you have investigated. Soon you will acquire a string of spiritual pearls of wisdom—a delightful possession.
     


    Finally....
     
  13. Don’t be intimidated, thinking you’ll never really understand it. It really is OK to just pick up the actual Bible and study it. Jehovah God made His word understandable, made you smart enough to understand it, and gives you his Holy Spirit to illuminate your understanding.
     
Sticking with good study habits takes effort, but the blessings are immeasurable. Your spiritual comprehension will thus improve. The discernment and wisdom you acquire from the inspired Scriptures bring happiness, pleasantness, and peace. This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list of do’s and don'ts, but now it’s your turn:

Have you ever found it difficult or daunting to study the Bible?
What are some of the benefits of rightly handling God’s word?
How has a right understanding of Scripture helped you to grow in your relationship with Jehovah?

Please let us know in the comments below!

8 comments:

  1. I find when i make the time to dig deep in studying gods word the bible and the many publications to help me get the knowledge and understanding,i feel much closer to jehovah and find it easier to talk to him in prayer.i feel at peace and much happier in life,im able to cope better with the pressures of satans system.

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  2. Prayer definitely helps clear my mind and open it for successful bible study. I like using the cross references, too, because it shows where else in the bible the same idea was written, especially the prophecies! I do like the suggestion for setting goals to learn about other bible characters. I never thought of it that way, and there's still a lot of people mentioned that I don't know that much about, so thanks for that idea...thanks for the whole list!

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  3. I love reading the Bible online at jw.org. I can hover the cursor over asterisks and see what a specific word means, and the little 'plus' signs reference other scriptures on the same subject. I only read about four chapters at a time, that way I can meditate on what I read and get even more out of the subject being covered. For example, I just read in Acts Stephen's defense before the Sanhedrin, how Jehovah went from Moses being Mediator, to Jesus! Stephen did such a fine job of explaining how Jehovah's blessing went from the Jews to the new christian religion!

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    1. That is such a great point you brought out about Stephen, thank you!!!

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  4. Thanks for such an encouraging blog. It made me reach right now for my bible and start reading. I love your products too. Do you give discounts to regular pioneers? That would be a big help.

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  5. Absolutely needed this!! Thank u!!!

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  6. I needed this. It's the wee hours of the morning so I am going to save this page, reread after rest and print out. This is a definite re-blog and/or post to FB.

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