The Most Important Bible Study Tools – Part 1
Good preachers and teachers are always looking for better and best tools to help them do their work of preparing and delivering God-honoring, effective messages. To that we should all say, “Amen.” If there are better methods that will make us better preachers and teachers, we should be open to learning about them.
But when we think about better tools for Bible study, we often only think about Bible software programs, books, methods, or other practical approaches. It’s easy to forget that the best study and explanation of Biblical truth comes from a life, not just a process or a method.
Every so often someone will ask how long it took me to prepare a particular message. Sometimes I feel like answering, “It took me more than 20 years.” It wasn’t that it took 20 years to understand a particular passage; what I mean is that some tools for Bible study and teaching grow out of a life, not a process. These are in some ways the most important tools. Again, the best study and explanation of Biblical truth comes from a life, not just a process or a method.
In saying that it comes from a life, I don’t simply mean a life of moral purity, though that is certainly part of it. Really, what I have in mind is the kind of character one needs to have to effectively study, prepare, and present effective expository teaching. To be sure, the lists in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:6-9 tell what God and His church should expect in the character of leaders, but I think there are character traits that are especially relevant to good Bible study and good Bible teaching.
The most important Bible study tools are found in our
character, not our methods.
In this first article I’ll present three important character traits that make a good student and teacher of the Bible; in a second article I will present three more.
Character Quality #1: Honesty
If you are going to study and understand the Bible, you must be honest with what the Biblical text says and doesn’t say. If you come to a place where the manuscript evidence may be tough to deal with (such as in 1 John 5:7-8 – see my comments on this problem text here), the honest student and teacher will not make the Biblical text say what he wished it said, but understand and explain what it truly says. Don’t come to the Bible with predetermined ideas of what it says. Determine that you will be true to the text, especially when it challenges you and your previous ideas.
Character Quality #2: Security
What I mean by this is a true security in who we are as children of God and in whatever calling God has put in our life. When we are insecure in these areas it makes us people pleasers, who will shape our understanding and explanation of the Bible to satisfy others. The Apostle Paul had this kind of security, reflected by what he wrote at Galatians 1:0: For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. Paul didn’t allow pressure or rejection make him shape his understanding and teaching of the Bible. He had enough security in Jesus Christ to present the Bible faithfully.
Character Quality #3: Hard Working
Certainly there are some difficult passages in the Scriptures, but I believe God gave us the Bible so we could understand it. At the same time, that understand often comes through hard work. Many treasures in the Bible will never be found without digging. The lazy Bible student or teacher will never fulfill their potential. Paul the Apostle is once again a great example of hard work. He wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:10: But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Paul would say, “Yes, it was all a work of God’s grace in my life; but one way His grace was displayed in my life was through my own hard work.”
I’ll write about three more important character qualities for Bible students, preachers, and teachers in part two.