Chapter 1. The Value of the Scriptures. Before embarking on some simple advice about Bible study, it is important to establish just how central the Scriptures are in a believers life. Prior to conversion, we were in the dark about salvation, but the Scriptures made us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim 3.15). Either by reading the Bible for ourselves, or having its truths explained through personal witnessing or public preaching, a shaft of Gospel light penetrated the darkness of our blinded minds. Until then, we were in unbelief, but hearing the Word of God dispelled that unbelief; faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom 10.17). We were unregenerate, but the Word of God was crucial in effecting the new birth; born again
by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever (1 Pet 1.23). That same Word of God which was such a major factor in our conversion now plays a vital role in our development as believers; it is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Tim 3.16). Growth. To get the flow of thought in Peters first epistle, ignore the division between the first two chapters. As quoted above, the Word of God was instrumental in effecting the new birth (1 Pet 1.23). Peter goes on to show that that same Word of God is necessary for spiritual growth. As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby (1 Pet 2.2). Some passages of Scripture teach that to be baby-like is to our shame, but Peter makes the point that in one sense we really should be like babies. Our craving for the Word of God should be comparable to a babys insatiable appetite for the mothers milk. In the physical realm, a miserable appetite results in stunted growth and bodily weakness; there is a parallel in the spiritual realm. Spiritual growth and strength are dependant among other things on having a hunger for the Word of God. That is why it is so important to read it consistently, treating it as you would your regular meals; you need to approach it systematically, and in a disciplined way. To extend the analogy, the growth of a child is not perceptible with every passing meal. It is with hindsight and the passing of time that we see the progress that has been achieved. Similarly, every session with your Bible will not disclose noticeable spiritual growth, but when you stand still, and look back to where you have come from, the cumulative effect of these times with the Scriptures will become evident. I emphasise that in case you become discouraged by just how slow your advance in Bible knowledge and spiritual growth appear to be. Get this first point then - reading the Bible is necessary for growth. Guidance. There are many hazards along the road of life. The prevailing immoral conditions and the very low standards of integrity can exert a negative influence. Also, the wide range of pleasures available in the world can become attractive to us. Added to that, the drive to clutter our lives with bigger and better things can induce spiritual inertia. How can a believer navigate a course through this minefield? Where can he find guidance about the legitimacy of life choices? Is there direction for even the less significant decisions that he faces? The main source of guidance is the Word of God. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path (Ps 119.105). The direct commands of the Word and its overarching principles provide the seeking soul with a road-map for life, steering him away from the threats to his spiritual well-being, and channelling him into options that will count for eternity. The entrance of thy words giveth light (Ps 119.130). So, reading the Bible is necessary for guidance. Godliness. Godliness is a reverence for God that results in holy living and devoted service, and the Scriptures play an important role in promoting this respectful attitude of heart. Acknowledging the truth of Gods revelation is linked with godliness (Tit 1.1). It follows then that those who really want to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world (Tit 2.12) are people who will make a lot of time for pondering the Word of God. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee (Ps 119.11). We were told when we were young, Either this Book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this Book. (A handwritten note on the flyleaf of John Bunyans Bible). Not only does the Word of God keep us from sinning, but it also has a cleansing effect upon our lives. Initially we were cleansed from our sins at conversion because of the precious shed blood of the Lord Jesus (Rev 1.5), but it has to be acknowledged that we live in a defiling world where there is so much that taints our thinking, and if permitted, would lead to bad behaviour. How can these influences be resisted? How can their effects be minimized? That question was posed and answered by the writer of Psalm 119. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word (v.9). A pathway of holy conduct is dependent on reading and obeying the Word of God. The Lord Jesus said, Ye are clean through the word that I have spoken unto you (Jn 15.3). This is pictured in the ancient tabernacle in the wilderness. A laver was positioned between the door of the tabernacle and the brazen altar. Priests who had been ceremonially washed all over at their initial consecration had to continually wash their hands and feet at the laver (Ex 40.7,12,30-32). It illustrates that the initial cleansing we experienced at conversion has to be followed by the constant cleansing that the laver of the Word of God provides. Reading the Bible is necessary for godliness. We have established that Scripture reading is necessary for growth, for guidance and for godliness. I suggest then that you adopt a reading plan. Some are available that ensure that you get through the whole Bible in a year and that can be helpful. But even without a ready-made plan, organise your reading so that there is variety. For example, you might want to have two Old Testament sections and one New Testament section being covered in a day. Just to start at Genesis and work your way through will lead you to toiling with difficult sections day after day. (All Scripture is profitable, but it is true to say that some parts are more difficult than others)! So vary your reading; advice that I was given was, never be too long away from the Gospels! When Moses was speaking about the beauties of the promised land, he described it as A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack anything in it (Deut 8.8-9). All of the crops and fruits mentioned were on the surface of the ground, to be taken and enjoyed, and every one of them would contribute to a balanced diet to maintain the health of the people. So, right on the surface of the Word of God, there are truths to be enjoyed and appropriated, all contributing to our spiritual health. But then Moses added this; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass (v.8b). The purpose of this booklet is to encourage digging into the rich veins of ore that lie beneath the surface, thoughts and truths that can be unearthed by diligent Bible study.