How to Study the Word - My Personal Rules of Engagement.
War Has Rules of Engagement and We Are at War.
The Word is Our Rules of Engagement
Know what you believe and what you are seeking to understand.
What do you believe?
First: you need to establish your personal baseline of belief. This is your foundation as a Christian; which hopefully the majority of true believers also hold dear. It does not include the doctrines which divide denominations, churches and friends. Establish your personal no-compromise zone and as you seek the Truth you will find that your baseline will grow more rock solid with some doctrines giving way to peace among the brethren. Start small and let the Spirit and your due diligence be your teacher. After 50+ years as a Christian I have seen churches split apart, friendships destroyed and shame brought upon the name of our Lord due to doctrines that good men and women disagree upon. The following is my baseline consisting of seven doctrines of which I will not compromise in anyway or fashion, tho' I am resolved not to cause discord among the brethren, that which our God hates. It is my baseline. I believe.....
- ..in the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
- ..in the absolute sovereignty, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence and faithfulness of our Triune God.
- ..in salvation by grace through faith, by the sovereign election of God.
- ..that Jesus is fully God and fully man; made in the likeness of man, died for the sins of the redeemed, bodily arose from the grave and ascended to heaven where He sits at the right hand of the Father in His pre-incarnate glory.
- ..that there is no other name than that of Jesus, "under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
- ..in the inerrancy of the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek manuscripts; the Bible we have today are copies made by imperfect men, but perfected in the lives of His saints.
- ..Jesus is coming again.
Secondly: no assumptions outside of your baseline. It is not wrong to adamantly hold a view of a doctrine but since we are finite creatures and do not know all, be prepared to be challenged in your study. A doctrine you hold may be correct on the surface but shallow in its foundation and application in your and other's personal lives. Give yourself room to grow and let God lead into an understanding of His Word you could never have imagined. Assumptions can also lead to private interpretation of scripture ignoring the warning: Second Peter 1:20-21 "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." The Word of God comes by the Holy Spirit: the holy men of God were not inspired; the Word is inspired. Anyone who preaches, teaches or writes concerning the Word falls under much stricter rules of engagement per James 3:1! Take it very seriously, please. Also, assumptions can destroy relationships and peoples lives as was the case with recent, highly publicized groups assuming a specific date for the Lord's return. As Israel being the reason for God's name being shamed among the heathen, we too when we carry our personal doctrines to unholy extremes. I have taken the James passage very seriously for the vast majority of my years of teaching and I along with my hearers have been greatly blessed.
Lastly; consistency, consistency, consistency. Everyone of us will approach the Scriptures with somewhat of a preconceived idea of where it will lead us. The key is bring along the professional tools necessary to assist us in rightly dividing the Word of Truth. In the beginning I used commentaries a great deal but the past several years I have made it a point to avoid them if possible. When I occasionally consult a commentary I have learned the older the commentary the more trustworthy they seemed (i.e. Henry, Poole, Ironside, Spurgeon, Gurnall). Remember this, no commentator knows all either and too much worldly influence seems to permeate the modern writers. We need to depend upon our faith and diligence being blessed by the Holy Spirit's work in our study. The tools I currently use extensively but not exclusively are:
- Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible (KJV) World Bible - Edited by Zodiates
- Interlinear Hebrew-Greek English Bible Hendrickson - Edited by Jay P. Green
- The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (KJV) Nelson - Edited by Jerome H. Green
- Strong's Complete Dictionary of Bible Words (KJV) Nelson
- The New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (KJV) Nelson
- Vine's Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (KJV) Nelson
Every true teacher, called by God, seeks to rightly divide the Word and longs to hear the words from our Lord's lips, "..well done thy good and faithful servant."
Caveat: Never expect your study of any passage, doctrine, or book of the Bible to end with the same results as a previous study. If you are faithful, diligent and consistent; the Holy Spirit will make sure your understanding of the whole of Scripture deepens. Our God is unfathomable.
The game is afoot as Sherlock Holmes would say.