What is required to study scripture on your own? Can an average person study scripture on their own and understand it? Do you need to have a degree or seminary background to understand deep theological truths? Is deep bible study just for pastors or theology professors? Are bible study books required to understand truth?
First, what does scripture say about understanding truth?
““I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.””
John 16:12-15 NIV
““All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
John 14:25-26 NIV
According to God’s word, the only thing needed to understand scripture and truth to be revealed is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our teacher and our counselor. He will guide us into all truth and he will make known to us what is the Lords. He will bring to mind what we have been taught and will teach us all things.
Not all have the indwelling of the Spirit. It is only those who have received the good news of Christ. That he has come and died in our place for our sins. And that he rose again defeating death and making a way for us to have eternal life with him. When we repent of our sinful ways, accept the truth and believe in Him through faith He seals us with His Spirit.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16 NIV
“Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.””
Acts 2:38-39 NIV
Now if you have the indwelling of the spirit there is no reason that you cannot study scripture for yourself and begin to have understanding.
The enemy would love nothing more than to convince Gods children to believe that they cannot understand his word. It benefits the the enemy for you to believe that you need special education or degrees to grow in maturity of faith. He would love for you to become dependent upon men rather than the Holy Spirit to tell you what you need to believe. When we place this dependence upon men and never reading and studying for ourselves we can easily be deceived.
If our understanding of scripture begins with sentences of, “Pastor ( ) said, ……..” then we have placed a man as the authority of scripture and not the The Lord Himself.
So with all of that being said, how do you actually study scripture? There are different methods of the mechanics of studying Gods word. They are just practical methods of breaking down text to take one part at a time.
To me for the most basic and most reliant on the Spirit method is this:
1. Choose a single verse, a few verses or a passage to study or seems to be challenging to you.
2. before trying to dissect its meaning: Pray for the Lord to clear your heart and mind of your own way of thinking. Then asking the Holy Spirit to teach you and give you understanding and ask for wisdom and God gives it freely.
3. Read the piece MULTIPLE times. Meditate on what is saying. (Meditate is thinking about the scripture and just rolling the ideas around in your head.)
4. Then start asking questions about that scripture. What are the facts, what are the promises, what are warnings. What are the truths.
5. If something profoundly stands out ask the Lord to reveal what you are to do with that. Ask how do I apply these truths to my life. Is there conviction of sin? Is there a call to surrender or sacrifice? Is there a challenge to change or a need for transformation of thinking.
If we get in a habit of studying God word this way and studying in context of his word he will indeed reveal truths to us and give us understanding.
There are several other simple methods that can help break down the scripture but the real power and real work comes from the Spirit highlighting the truth that He wants to teach you.
So, my challenge to you is this: if you are a believer and have never studied Gods word for yourself I pray that you ask the Lord to teach you how. Take a week to go over one passage and meditate on it and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the Lords truth to you.
The church was not meant for you to sit in a pew and be fed but be taught how to eat. The church is a school and an equipping ground to teach skills so that we may go out and serve.
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
Ephesians 4:11-16 NIV