"The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things" (Psa.15:28 KJV).
The word of God is not like any other book in the world, it is unique in authorship and purpose, and it is a book of mysteries, secrets, and revelation. It is through diligent Bible study that we can learn its true purpose and unlock its many mysteries and secrets.
Paul encourages Timothy to study the word of God in order to be equipped to perform a work for God:
"Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of God. But shun profane babblings: for they will increase to more ungodliness" (2.Tim.2:15-16 KJV). See also 1.Thes.4:10-12; 2.Pet.3:13-18.
Proper knowledge and understanding of the Bible is necessary for the spiritual growth and fulfillment of a person's calling to salvation and one's responsibilities to God the Father.
Because all who are called to salvation in this age are required to study the word of God, it is important to know some things about how to approach the study of the Bible.
The first thing to firmly fix in one's mind prior to studying the Bible, is that God's written word is truth and there are no contradictions in what he has caused to be written.
In speaking of the word of God, Jesus says, "Your word is truth" (Jn.17:17) and "The scripture cannot be broken" (Jn.10:35). God inspired the Bible to be written and it is impossible for God to lie (Heb.6:18; Tit.1:2); therefore, God's word will always be true, even if every person that wrote it were a liar (Rom.3:4)!
The problem with seemingly contradictory scriptures is never with what God has inspired to be written, it is always with people's perspective or understanding of what has been written or with how it has been translated or interpreted from the original writing.
Consider this for a moment: If God is a God of truth who cannot lie, and he has said that he inspired and instructed his prophets, servants, and apostles to record all that is his sacred word, there cannot be any errors, lies, or contradictions in his originally inspired written word.
Seemingly unsolvable scriptural contradictions are normally the product of the following:
Because the above conditions may exist, doctrine should never be established by using vague or difficult to understand scriptures. All major teachings of the Bible, such as those concerning God and his plan of salvation, are expounded with clear, concise statements that prove their validity to anyone whom God is calling to salvation.
No Original Text Available
It is important to remember that there are no original copies of the various writings which comprise the Bible available for use by Bible scholars or the general public. Therefore, it is impossible to confirm or deny what was originally written with physical evidence. What we have today are copies of the originals and translations of those copies.
A major error that should be avoided when studying the Bible and related documents is the belief that the more ancient a manuscript or document is, the more accurate it is. This is a very dangerous assumption to make. Just because a document is ancient, does not make it accurate. The test of accuracy is the test of truth and the continuity of truth. If an ancient writing does not conform to proven Biblical truth, and departs from the overall theme and continuity of the Bible, it should not be used to establish doctrine.
Because no original writings of the scriptures are available and centuries have passed since their writing, all modern translations and interpretations of the original text contain some error, due to one or more of the following:
The King James Version
The 1611 King James version of the Old and the New Testaments was translated from the Masoretic text and the Received text. From the historical evidence and the continuity of truth that is revealed through these texts, it appears that both of these are reference works through which God is conveying his truth and his will today.
Truth Will Endure
God has promised that his truth will never be lost. Although there may be copy errors or translation errors of the original writings, the truth and the will of God can still be understood by those to whom he chooses to reveal it. See Jer.33:3; Lk.11:9-13; Jn.14:26; 16:12-13; 1.Cor.2:9-16.
The Bible Interprets Itself
Trying to justify preconceived ideas and beliefs are a major obstacle to gaining a correct understanding of any biblical subject. The proper approach to understanding the Bible should be an open-minded, unbiased attempt to understand what is truly written and not what a person thinks is written. However, this is very difficult to do because of the vast amount of false teaching about God and the Bible today:
"We have also the sure word of prophecy, whereunto you do well that you take heed, as to the light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time [at any time] by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved of the holy spirit" (2.Pet.1:19-21 KJV).
Because of the way the Bible has been written, it will literally interpret itself if a person is willing to collect all of the relevant facts and references and let the holy spirit guide one's mind into truth.
Precept upon Precept
Those who think that the Bible sometimes contradicts itself have failed to understand that the Bible is a complex book, which must be studied as a whole, if its mysteries and secrets are to be understood.
One of the fascinating and inspiring aspects of the Bible's construction is the way various subjects are interwoven throughout its pages. Because of this, it is sometimes necessary to collect all of the references to a subject before one can begin to understand what is being taught:
"For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little" (Isa.28:10 KJV). Read also Isa.28:9-13.
Continuity of Truth
There is a continuity of truth throughout the entire Bible, which is very helpful in separating truth from error. Each specific teaching or doctrine of the Bible will conform to the overall theme and purpose of the entire Bible. If any teaching or doctrine is found to be in conflict with another, one or both of the teachings may be based upon false assumptions or incorrectly understood scriptures.
A PROMISE OF JESUS
Many feel that a person must be highly educated or very intelligent to understand the Bible. However, this is not true. All those whom the Father calls to salvation can understand what he has caused to be written for their inspiration, correction, and edification. Because the Father wants his children to succeed in their calling and to perform his will in their lives, he has provided a way for them to learn and understand his truth.
One of the many promises Jesus makes to those who believe in him, is that he will send the holy spirit as a teacher to guide them into truth. See Jn.14:26; 16:12-13.
One way that the holy spirit carries out teaching and guiding is through the written word of God. The acquisition of truth, spiritual knowledge, and understanding with the help of the holy spirit requires effort, on the part of the one being called, to study the Bible and related information.
WHOM SHALL GOD TEACH?
"Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts" (Isa.28:9).
Just as there is a physical growth process from infancy to adulthood, there is a spiritual growth process in the acquisition of spiritual knowledge and understanding. The more a person learns and the more one practices what they have learned, the more spiritually mature they become, and the more spiritual knowledge and understanding God can reveal to them. See Isa.66:1-2.
STUDY FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH
If a person only studies the Bible for information, very little understanding that is profitable for spiritual growth will be gained. However, if a person studies the Bible to gain knowledge and understanding in order to do the following things, their study will become profitable, and God will honor their request for him to reveal the secrets of the Bible that will benefit them and others with whom they come into contact:
PREREQUISITES AND REQUIREMENTS
The Bible itself reveals the prerequisites and requirements that are necessary in order to be successful in its study. Listed below are some of the major things that one can do in order to acquire more knowledge and a deeper understanding of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and their awesome plan for humanity:
Remove Obstacles to Learning
The Apostle Peter lists some things that hamper spiritual growth, which should be replaced with a desire to understand the word of God:
"Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby" (1.Pet.2:2 Para.).
The writer to the Hebrews makes a number of very important observations about growing in spiritual knowledge and understanding:
"About whom [Melchizedec] the word to say is much, and hard to interpret, since you have become dull in hearing. For indeed because of the time you are due to be teachers, you need to have someone teach you again the rudiments of the beginning of the oracles of God, and you having become in need of milk, and not of solid food; for everyone partaking of milk, is not skilled in the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the full-grown ones, who through habit have exercised the faculties for distinguishing both good and bad" (Heb.5:11-14 Para.).
Notice the following about these verses:
"But whosoever keeps his [God's] word, in him truly is the word of God perfected . . ." (1.Jn.2:5 KJV).
Ask for Truth and Guidance
The Psalmist and Jesus reveal that a person should ask God for guidance into his truth so that they can obey him with their whole being and be thoroughly established in his way of righteousness:
"Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I shall keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep your law; yes I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me to go in the path of your commandments; for therein do I delight. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to covetousness. Turn away my eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken you me in your way. Establish your word to your servant, who is devoted to your fear. Turn away my reproach which I fear: for your judgment is good. Behold, I have longed after your precepts: quicken me in your righteousness" (Psa.119:33-40 KJV). See also Jer.10:23.
"Blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled" (Matt.5:6 Para.).
Luke 11:9-13 KJV
"And I say to you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened" (vs.9-10).
Here, Jesus reveals a major key that will help unlock the great truth to be found in the Bible. Not only must a person desire to understand God's word, a person must also take positive action in order to acquire it.
First, a person must go to the Father and ask to be given knowledge and understanding. Second, a person must diligently seek knowledge and understanding by making a sincere effort to study:
"If a son shall ask bread of you that is a father, will you give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the holy spirit to them that ask him" (vs.11-13). See also Matt.7:7-8; Jn.14:4; 15:7; Lk.12:6-7, 23-31.
When asked for food, will any father who truly loves his child give them harmful things instead of the food they need to sustain their life? Of course not! A loving father will give them what they need and more, if it is within his power to do so.
God the Father is more than willing to give knowledge and understanding of the things that will benefit those he has called to salvation. It is his desire to give us the spiritual nourishment that is necessary for spiritual growth. See 1.Pet.2:2.
Meditate on God's Word
"Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law does he meditate day and night" (Psa.1:1-2 KJV). See also Psa.119:115-148; 1.Tim.4:12-16.
There are tremendous blessings for those who perform the will of God in their life. The person who is being blessed loves God's law (i.e., God's way of life) and is constantly thinking about it.
Prove all Things
"Test all things; and hold fast that which is good" (1.Thes.5:21 Para.). See also Rom.12:2.
This statement is in the context of a person doing the will of God in their life. Paul refers to the testing or examining of what one is doing in their life and comparing it against the righteous standards of behavior that God has established. Notice that Paul says to "hold fast that which is good". A person can only know what is good if they understand the word of God. Therefore, a person must study God's word in order to fulfill Paul's admonition.
Speaking of those at Berea, Luke says,
"These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so. Therefore, many of them believed . . ." (Acts 17:11-12 KJV).
Many of the Bereans were serious about the things of God; therefore, they seriously studied the scriptures in order to prove to themselves what was correct before God, and because of this, many of them believed. The kind of true enduring belief that God desires for his children to have is based in the knowledge and understanding of him and his ways. The only place this kind of knowledge and understanding is available is in the Bible.
The Bible was written to be understood, it is not a book of theory, philosophy, or meaningless stories; it is a logical factual presentation of the things that God wants people to know and understand.
The Bible is also a witness to the greatness of its author, a warning to those who will not obey the law of God, and an instruction manual for those who have been called to salvation.