Most of our readers are probably aware of Paul’s admonition to Timothy (KJV): “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Strictly speaking, the Greek word that has been translated “study” (spoudazo) means “to make effort, be prompt or earnest…diligence, be diligent, endeavour, labour” (Strong). It means “to hasten, make haste” (Thayer). The word was used in ancient military literature to compliment a soldier who followed his orders out of more than a sense of duty or obligation, but because the warrior was convinced that the fight was worth the sacrifice. He not only followed his orders but he believed in them. Of the infantry man who gave his all in the line of fire, it was said he had spoudason. He was intensely in pursuit of his objective. The King James translators selected the word “study” in view of the closing words of the verse: “rightly dividing the word of truth.” It seems rather obvious that in order for someone to “rightly divide the word of truth” he must be “diligent” in something that would help him to achieve that end; hence he must be a good “student” of the word.
Study is hard work. There is a difference between “reading” and “studying.” A person might “read” the newspaper, but unless he is deeply involved in the stock market, it is unlikely that a person would spend much time “studying” the newspaper. Study is a gathering of facts; it is determining the meaning of words, and their relationship one to another in any given sentence, paragraph or larger context such as a book, manuscript or essay. Study seeks to determine the meaning of a passage based upon the intent of the author. A good student of any science or art takes the time to study various fields related to the particular subject he is endeavoring to learn. It is no different with the Bible.
Study begins with reading the Bible; unfortunately most folks never get past this first step. Having read a passage, the challenge lies in digging deep into that passage to glean heaven’s meaning, and then make application to our life. It has been properly observed, “The books which help you most are those which make you think most. The hardest way of learning is by easy reading; but a great book that comes from a great thinker is a ship of thought, deep freighted with truth and beauty” (author unknown). No book challenges the thinking of men more than the Bible. Simple in its structure, it is a storehouse of spiritual truth that is easily understood while at the same time challenging to even the most scholarly of men. As one writer put it, “The Bible is an ocean of knowledge that little children can wade around in, yet no man can fathom the depths thereof.”
Perhaps one of the reasons men do not study the Bible is due to a failure to understand the rich value of Bible study. The following is attributed to Henry Van Dyke: “Born in the East and clothed in Oriental form and imagery, the Bible walks the ways of all the world with familiar feet and enters land after land to find its own everywhere. It has learned to speak in hundreds of languages to the heart of man. Children listen to its stories with wonder and delight, and wise men ponder them as parables of life. The wicked and proud tremble at its warnings, but to the wounded and penitent it has a mother’s voice. It has woven itself into our dearest dreams; so that love, sympathy, devotion, memory, and hope put on the beautiful garments of its treasured speech. No man is poor or desolate who has this treasure for his own. When the landscape darkens, and the trembling pilgrim comes to the valley of the shadow, he is not afraid to enter; he takes the rod and staff of scripture in his hand; he says to friend and comrade, ‘Goodbye; we shall meet again’; and, confronted by that support, he goes toward the lonely pass as one who walks through darkness to light”
Perhaps as this year draws to a close it would benefit each of us to make our resolution a month in advance of ushering in 2009. Let each one of us determine that we are going to be students of God’s word so that we might reap the wonderful spiritual benefits that comes with “Giving diligence to show thyself approved unto God.”
By Tom Wacaster
Reading the Bible versus studying the Bible: A Bible survey on reading the Bible versus studying the Bible. Do you most often “read the Bible” or do you most often “study the Bible”?