How can I help to make our assembly Bible Readings edifying?
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). This text should be the evaluator of all our Bible Readings. Each believer in assembly fellowship is committed to the profit of the assembly. May I suggest three things to help the character of our Bible Readings:
- For all: pray daily for brethren responsible to teach the Word; also, become acquainted revealed in the with the passage to be considered.
- For those responsible: learn the context of the passage by repetitive reading and prayer. Teaching the meaning and sense is true edification and, when applied to the need, will produce scriptural, intelligent action.
- For overseers: distribute the responsibility of opening the discussion. This encourages responsibility and development. It also enables responsible brethren to discern potential ability (2 Timothy 2:2). This avoids a stagnation of exercise fostered by one man’s monopoly.
Bible Readings are a pasture for the flock. Shepherds who learn to feed as did the Chief Shepherd will edify a happy, healthy flock being led in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
J. N. Smith
How can I consistently learn the truths of God’s Word?
First, carefully read the text. To Timothy, Paul said, “Give attendance to reading” (1 Timothy 4:13). Admittedly, this was public reading, but the principle applies. Again, “Consider what I say (AV), for the Lord will give thee understanding in all things” (2 Timothy 2:7, JND). The understanding will be from the Lord by the Holy Spirit, but not without careful mental application on our part. Second, meditate on the text (Joshua 1:8). This was the constant exercise of the fruitful man in Psalm 1:2. Jeremiah spoke of finding God’s words and eating them examination and assimilation (Jeremiah 15:16). Third, have a prayerful spirit. Psalm 119, which celebrates the supreme delight of an Old Testament saint in God’s Word, is saturated with prayer. As we listen to God speaking to us, we in turn speak to Him. Fourth, submit your will to God. The Lord Jesus said the secret to knowing doctrine was a willingness to do His will (John 7:17). Bible study that is merely technical is not enough. The secret of knowing more is to practice what we already know. Such techniques produce ready scribes like Ezra, who “prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach” (Ezra 7:10).
What basic books would you recommend for Bible study?
Accurate study of the Bible involves several principles: the meaning of a word in the original Hebrew and Greek (1 Corinthians 2:13); the context of the passage (since words may have more than one meaning, the context even determines their meaning) (words: Galatians 3:16; passages: Romans 4:9-13); related truth as revealed in the rest of Scripture (2 Peter 1:20). For studying the Bible by these principles, the following books give assistance with word meanings: Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words; Unger’s Bible Dictionary (more like an encyclopedia); Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance or Young’s Analytical Concordance (preferably both). These commentaries will help with context and related truth: The Collected Writings of W. E. Vine; What The Bible Teaches; Believer’s Bible Commentary, W. MacDonald; Synthetic Bible Studies, J. M. Gray; Systematic Theology, A. H. Strong;Egypt to Canaan, J. Ritchie; The Tabernacle in the Wilderness, J. Ritchie; The Tabernacle, H. Soltau; The Holy Vessels and Furniture of the Tabernacle, H. Soltau. This is a very brief list and could easily be lengthened to include several hundred excellent commentaries and books on Scriptural subjects.
Do other translations of Scripture help in understanding its message?
Yes, but be careful! You must know what you are reading. Is it a literal translation or a paraphrase? Does it employ “dynamic equivalence?” Were the texts in the original language reliable? God’s Word was given by verbal inspiration to men who wrote down the message. Those original writings do not exist, but copies do. Our responsibility is to ensure we are reading the most accurate translation of the most accurate copies.
With God’s Word, every word matters; therefore, using a literal translation is imperative (KJV, NKJV, RV, DARBY, SPURRELL, NASB). Sometimes the literal may be hard to understand because of idioms in the original language, so a paraphrase can help. Also, some versions employ a “dynamic equivalence,” where the translator uses words that convey to the modem mind what was understood by readers of the original text (NIV). Be aware, however, that a paraphrase or “dynamic equivalence” includes the editing committee’s own interpretation. That could introduce a bias which limits or changes what the Spirit intended in the original text.