It is possible to study scripture in ways that hurt you instead of helping you. When we approach scripture, we must make sure we do it on God’s terms, not our own. Below you will find seven tips to grow in biblical knowledge that will help you avoid some of the pitfalls and come away with a true understanding of God’s word. This advice is taken directly from Jonathan Edwards, but I have rewritten it for today’s reader.
1. Study Scripture with Diligence
Read the scriptures with constant effort. The Bible is the fountain of the knowledge of God. Therefore, do not neglect this treasure. Anyone, who can read, if they want, can have personal knowledge of the scriptures, and what an excellent accomplishment this would be.
2. Study Scripture Deeply
Do not be satisfied with only a superficial reading that pays no regard to context. Cursory reading is a poor way of reading, and many never rise above this their entire lives. When you read, pay close attention to how verses are introduced. Take notice of the flow and the use of language, and compare one scripture with another. Scripture is in harmony with itself, and different parts cast significant light on other parts. Jesus himself tells us to search the scriptures, which means more than a quick reading. Also, work to retain it when you have a breakthrough in understanding. For example, when you hear a passage explained in the preaching of the word, take notice of it, and if you gain clarity on a scripture that was giving you trouble, mark it down, and if possible, commit it to memory.
3. Study Scripture with Help
Collect and diligently use other books and digital resources that will help you grow in this knowledge. There are many excellent books, audio, and videos available, which will greatly assist you in understanding and they can fill your leisure time not only with delight but they will also be profitable, unlike most forms of entertainment. There is doubtless a significant defect in many people because they are reluctant to pay the price needed to equip themselves with materials of this kind. They may have a few Christian resources they occasionally pick up on Sundays, but because they rarely seek further biblical knowledge, they are weary of them and now find them dull.
4. Study Scripture with Others
Talk to others with the goal of understanding scripture in mind. How much would we improve each other’s knowledge of spiritual truth if we would turn our conversation to this topic? If we were less concerned with pretending we already know it all and ask questions about what we do not understand, we would be better off. If those who understand scripture would talk about it without pride and showiness, we might find a more willing audience. Finally, if we would simply talk about what we are reading in scripture more often, we would all be enlightened and instructed by it.
5. Study Scripture for Spiritual Growth
Fight the desire to grow in knowledge for the sake of applause and to win arguments. Instead, seek it for the benefit of your souls and to put it into practice. If being praised for your intelligence is your goal, you will unlikely come to the knowledge of the truth and will most likely, as is often the case of those who are proud of their knowledge, be led into error and ruin. If your goal is for people to recognize how smart you are, you may gain all kinds of rational knowledge, but it would not be of any spiritual benefit to you. It would only further puff you up with pride and set you up for a fall.
6. Study Scripture with Humility and Prayer
Seek God, and ask that he direct you and bless you as you pursue knowledge of his word. This is what James tells us in chapter 1, verse 5 of his epistle. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” God is the source of all divine knowledge: “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding (Prov. 2:6). Endeavor to be aware of your own blindness, ignorance, and your need for God’s help. If we do not, we will be led into error instead of true knowledge. “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise (1 Cor. 3:18).
7. Study Scripture by Practicing What You Know
Put the knowledge you do have into practice. Doing this will be the way to more understanding. The psalmist warmly recommends this way of seeking to know more divine truth from his own experience. He says, “I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts (Psalm 119:100).” Christ also recommends the same thing. “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own (John 7:17).”
May we all grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.