God commands ALL believers to study the Bible! Yet, most Christians are not willing to put forth the necessary effort to obey God’s explicit directive. God did not command Christians to study the Bible because He believed studying it to be undemanding, otherwise, He would not have referred to the Bible student as a “workman.” Instead, He commanded Bible study to present the individual with an opportunity to show himself “approved unto God” as one “that needeth not to be ashamed.” Yet, God even defined the very method by which man could accomplish this otherwise daunting task—“rightly dividing the word of truth.”
God never promised to reward laziness, especially the inconsistent fashion many believers have grown accustomed to approaching God’s word today. Men have grown critical of any suggestion that Bible study requires work, skill, or systematic thinking. As such, very few Bible subjects have garnered as much debate as the subject of “rightly dividing the word of truth.”Unfortunately, this single volume cannot possibly attempt to examine every area that could be covered without overwhelming the readers.
Due to the time and space constraints, we determined to set a deadline to go to print; however, we know that the questions we have answered in this volume will prompt further inquiries. To aid in these matters, we direct the reader to www.rightlydivided.com where questions can be submitted for further discussion. Additionally, the website will eventually contain teaching not completed by the deadline or too voluminous to make the cut. We will also use this website to announce the completion of any future publications such as an audio book, a digital book, a new YouTube channel, etc. For those desiring to stay abreast with current developments, you can sign up for the monthly newsletter from www.bibledoug.com. Our sincere desire is to assist Christians in their walk with Christ. If God is pleased with our efforts, we will have succeeded in some small way.
A Balanced Christian Walk
Bible teacher and pastor, David F. Reagan (now at home with the Saviour), once taught that a good way for a preacher to gauge his own spiritual maturity was to consider his center of focus. During the early days of a young and inexperienced preacher’s ministry, he tends to focus more upon himself (i.e., How do I look? Am I being accepted by my audience, etc.?). As he matures in the Lord, the preacher becomes more comfortable and begins to focus upon the message (i.e., Am I saying things right? Are the points coming together? Do I use this illustration here, etc.?). As the man of God gains experience and his preaching becomes more natural, he turns his focus toward his audience (i.e., Will they understand this? Will this impact them in the right way?). Finally, if the preacher continues to spiritually grow, he finds his focus squarely where it should be—upon the Lord (i.e., Is this sermon pleasing to the Lord? Is my heart right with Him? Do I intentionally glorify and honor Him without seeking personal glory?).
It is critically important for every preacher to reach this fourth phase of spiritual development and to reach it as quickly as possible. The shorter the time frame between steps one and four, the greater the overall effectiveness of the preacher. Much of the same is true of the Christian life in general, especially as it pertains to one’s growth and progression in matters of doctrine and practice. Preaching and life in general are all about pleasing God!
The novice Bible student is most concerned with finding approval among his peers or with those he respects or even idolizes in the ministry. He may seek out passages from the Bible to prove those things taught by those whom he most admires, or he may look for new and unfamiliar things simply to impress those with whom he is impressed. Fortunately, if he grows in the Lord, he becomes more concerned with whether what he believes to be true concerning the scriptures is pleasing to the Lord. He learns to take the truths believed and properly apply them to his life so that he can accomplish his God-given purpose for existing—pleasing the Creator!
In the quest to become more Christlike and Christ-pleasing, the believer must unwaveringly yield himself to God’s word and to God’s will. The man who truly garners God’s approval is not the man who takes a position and stands upon it whether right or wrong; but rather, the one who becomes God-centric in his thinking and actions: “to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (). If you want to please God and get His attention, exalt His word above all else!
All those who desire to truly grow in the knowledge of God must be students of God’s word. Sermons, blogs, radio, television, internet broadcasts, and books about the Bible can be tremendous resources but can NEVER take the place of one’s personal Bible reading and Bible study. In fact, for a man to protect himself from subtle and deceptive doctrinal assaults, he must be like the Bereans who “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (). Most error would be thwarted if the Church had more Bereans who searched the scriptures DAILY.
Everything one reads in a book, hears in a sermon, views in a broadcast, hears from a friend, or reads on the internet should be examined in light of personal and faith-filled Bible study. The work you now hold in your hands is no exception. It is not to be excluded from such scrutiny. In fact, we implore such scrutiny! While we are men striving to please the Lord, we are but men! Examine everything written herein to ensure that it aligns itself with the true teaching of scripture. Where this book departs from the scripture, give God’s word the preeminence.
The only way the word of God will be effectual in your life is for it to be believed! Paul said as much when he declared, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (). The standard was not set low by stating that the word of God was effectual in the lives of those who simply possessed it. In fact, the verse did not say if I havethe word of God, or if I read the word of God, or if I learn the word of God; Paul stated that if I believe the word of God, it will be effectual in my life.
Christianity is more divided than at any other time in the history of the Church. Historically, there were divisions along denominational lines, but even those believers frequently found common ground. Today, some of the deepest divides exist among those who claim to believe in the perfectly preserved words of God. How can this be? While people wave the Bible and claim their unwavering faith in its contents, far too many fail to know what the Bible truly proclaims.
While reading books about the Bible and listening to sermons on the Bible and being faithfully devoted to broadcasts dealing with the Bible, God’s people have stopped reading the Bible. The sad truth is that men can make the Bible say whatever they want it to say simply by ignoring or being ignorant of the context of any particular scripture. The only solution to this problem is for people to return to simple old-fashioned Bible reading. When reading, viewing, or listening to things about the Bible, test every teaching against what is learned by readingthe Bible for yourself. Read! Read! Read!
Truly, the publishing of the Bible enthroned God’s word to its rightful place in the lives of believers. Yet, many surveys have been conducted which reveal a steady decline in Bible reading. The resulting spiritual dearth and division in the Church should surprise no one as this failure hinders the search for truth.
Sadly, Christians have enthroned men with their varying opinions and have dethroned the Bible through rejection or neglect. As Christ stated, “laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men” () and have made “the word of God of none effect through your tradition” (). It is time to return to the scriptures and that is the goal of this book. We must not pigeonhole ourselves into systems or philosophies that detract from and lead astray from the plain teachings of God’s word. Instead, God’s words and His methods of studying those words must reign supreme!
While all this is true, man is limited when the word of God is not bathed in prayer just as prayer without the word of God limits the individual’s spirituality. It has been aptly stated that God speaks to man through the written word and that man speaks to God through prayer. James stated a powerful truth about prayer when he said, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (). Prayer should both precede, intermingle, and follow one’s time in God’s word. The psalmist aptly prayed, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (). This too should be our daily prayer. After reading and learning of God’s truth in His word, we should pray, “Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me in into the land of uprightness” ().
Neglect of these God-given resources is self-destructive. Additionally, God ordained and orchestrated the local assembly of believers to further equip and perfect the saints. As part of God’s plan, He “gave gifts unto men. … For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (). According to the context, these gifts are not inanimate objects, but men (). The purpose of these men is to bring growth, maturation, and unity in the body of Christ, but this only takes place according to the truth of God’s word.
Ephesians 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
If all things are right within the body, the varying parts keep in check the emotions, enthusiasms, and imperfections that seek to lure those in the body astray. Our constant fleshly desire “either to tell, or to hear some new thing” () can only be checked when we remain teachable and we choose to allow the Bible to change us rather than changing the Bible to fit our preconceived ideas or doctrinal positions. This process is most often accomplished in the challenge offered by brethren who have read, studied, believed, and applied the very words of God whom we seek to know. None of us is yet perfect in our practice, our doctrine, or our praying. That level of achievement will not be reached while we are still in this body of flesh. Yet, we need encouragement, rebuke, and enlightenment. As Paul once stated, “it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing” ().
The extremes dividing today’s Bible-believing Christians have come because of the neglect of any or all of these three God-given resources. For things to be righted, we need to be affected by the word, by prayer, and by biblically sound, God-fearing brethren. There is no other way to find God’s balance in our lives, and it also serves as God’s protection for us. God certainly wants His word to be our study and meditation, prayer to be our practice, and the constant fellowship of the saints to be our method of living. Why? Because these things offer balance to our Christian walk. The three together serve as checks and balances to keep one from unbiblical extremes. Man unchecked by these three gifts (scripture, prayer, and fellowship) becomes his own authority, and like Diotrephes, eventually craves “the preeminence” (). In his mind, he alone is right and anyone who disagrees with him should be labeled a Bible-denying reprobate. “My brethren, these things ought not so to be” ().