Friday, June 8, 2012

Tips for Personal Bible Study

Women have many tasks within a day. Sometimes it seems that our spiritual lives can take a back burner to the more "pressing" needs of work, home and family. In the midst of all the busyness, we sometimes leave the more "theological" pursuits to others and let a quickly devoured verse or two get us through our day. While all of us have days where that might be the best we can do, we all need  the "meat" of God's Word to sustain our spiritual life and our growth.

If you are picturing Bible study as hours spent poring through thick commentaries and reading ancient works, you might reconsider. While these things can be helpful, let me share a few cautions about Bible study that I have learned in my Christian walk.

A Few Cautions

All Bible study and its application should be performed under the protection of your spiritual Head. I have seen women take verses of Scripture and run with them and, in extreme cases, use them as justification for a variety of unBiblical acts. God has created a safeguard for us in the authority structure which is outlined in His Word. It is imperative to check with our husbands on major points of theology to make sure we are balanced and Biblically correct. Our husbands, in turn, should be seeking Godly counsel from a pastor who follows the principles of God's Word.

Husbands and pastors are, of course, fallible; but any deviation from what our Christian husband and pastor ascribe to on major points of doctrine should be very prayerfully considered. We are ultimately to obey God rather than man, but God's chosen way of communicating His will is through His Word and through our spiritual authority structure. If you do not have a Christian husband, it is beneficial to seek the counsel of your pastor and his wife while respecting the feelings of your husband on this matter. 

The unadulterated Word of God should be our primary study tool.  With all the "helps" available to us today, it is easy to get caught up in reading more about the Bible than we read the Bible itself. While study helps can clarify what we have read, it is always important to start with the Word of God. While it contains deep truths, each person that is saved has the capacity to read it for herself and understand God's will for her life.

There is much debate about which translation to use. This is a personal matter between you and God. However, make sure what you are using is an actual translation and not a paraphrase. Surprisingly few of the available versions are actual translations. A translation is a Bible version that was copied from the original manuscripts and translated word for word as exactly as can be done between languages. A paraphrase is someone's idea of what a passage is saying in his own words. While paraphrases may be helpful for devotional reading, doctrines should be established by a version that does not add or take away  from the divinely inspired Word.

Careful (and prayerful) research is important before joining a group Bible study. Studying the Bible with a group of like-minded believers can be beneficial. However, unfortunately, it can also be detrimental. When choosing a group with which to study the Bible, it is important to make sure all members share the same basic doctrinal beliefs. Fellowship with believers of different faiths is one thing, but studying the Bible together can be very confusing and ultimately destroy beliefs of which one was once convicted by God.

I believe that the spiritual headship principle is important here as well. Your husband should approve of your time commitment and the membership if you choose to join a group Bible study. Couples Bible studies led by a spiritually mature couple are good because husbands and wives can discuss what they've learned to determine its Scriptural validity.

In a women's Bible study, I believe that the woman in charge should be under her spiritual headship and receive the counsel of her husband and pastor before teaching doctrine to other women. In turn, each of those women should be under the headship of their own husbands before embracing any doctrinal truth. Largely, women's Bible studies should focus on the curriculum laid out in Titus 2 by the Holy Spirit.

One common occurrence in group Bible studies is everyone sharing their opinions but not coming to any conclusions. Finding out what everyone thinks about a passage is a good beginning point, but in order for the Bible study to be effective, it is important to leave with the matter concluded by careful study and clarity offered by the group leader. Merely discussing the Bible doesn't help us to grow. Learning and applying that knowledge to our daily lives is what really counts in our spiritual walks.

There are many different ways to study the Bible. I will get into a few methods that I use on Monday. I would love to hear your thoughts as well! Feel free to comment or send me an e-mail.

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