The Importance of Study
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.—Matthew 11:29
A Spiritual Necessity
In all probability, very few individuals of rational mind would fail to appreciate the wise man’s counsel, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting, get understanding” (Prov. 4:7).
The dictionary defines wisdom as the power of true and just discernment of a high degree of knowledge. Understanding is described as the sum of the mental powers by which knowledge is acquired, retained and extended; the power of apprehending relations and making inferences from them.
Although there are shades of difference between the terms wisdom and understanding, inherent in the acquisition of either is the process of diligent study. The attainment of success in virtually every secular field of endeavor depends largely upon the degree to which one commits himself to study. For the Christian, study is an all-important ingredient in following the Master’s admonition, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).
The Source of Strength
The word of God, as contained in the Bible, is the source from which true believers derive their strength. It commends itself by providing direction, hope, peace, and understanding to all who are spiritually enlightened and apply its precepts in their lives. The Apostle Paul, describing the power of the Bible, asserts: “All Scripture, divinely inspired, is profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for that discipline which is in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly fitted for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17 Diaglott).
Although the Bible has a generally elevating influence upon all who carefully read its pages, it is primarily designed to benefit the “man of God,” who has received its teachings and import to the intent that he has yielded his own will to that of seeking the heavenly Father’s will in all of his affairs. It is for this reason that we also read,”But the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14).
Those who fully appreciate the importance of studying God’s word are engaged in the process of being changed from earthly-mindedness to spiritual-mindedness so that their lives can more nearly reflect the Christ-like character. Such individuals, who have accepted the present invitation to become disciples of Christ through self-denial and sacrifice, find their acceptance to God manifested by an increasing ability to “be not conformed to the world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:2).
The importance of study is so all-encompassing, it is the Christian’s work of a lifetime. Of the many aspects related to our subject, we shall consider the importance of Bible study as it relates to doctrine, prophecy, service, and imbibing divine principles
Doctrine refers to teaching, and if the believer is to be guided aright he must refer to God’s counsel as revealed in the Scriptures. During his ministry, men marveled at Jesus’ words. He properly credited the heavenly Father as the fountain from which his words flowed. After expounding to the people at the feast of tabernacles, the Master declared, “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:16-18).
So it should be with each faithful follower of Christ. To appreciate the attributes and character of God and to comprehend the harmonious grandeur of his magnificent plan of salvation which includes such themes as the ransom, sin offering, justification, sanctification, the call of the church, the nature of Christ, etc., one must first be emptied of self and demonstrate a meek and humble attitude. Under the holy spirit’s influence, Christians will be directed to examine carefully what the Bible teaches on these and other subjects. While it is true that God has raised up human agencies throughout the Gospel age (Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers) for the edifying of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11, 12), individual diligence and personal study are necessary in order to make the truth one’s own.
Among the many exhortations given by the Apostle Paul regarding doctrine, we read, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). The assimilation of scriptural instruction was deemed necessary to be kept from the errors promulgated by false teachers after the Apostles fell asleep. The many conflicting doctrines which presently exist among Christians demonstrate that in these “last days” believers must be circumspect and rely upon a “thus saith the Lord” as a basis for their faith. The commendation given regarding the Jews of Berea, when compared to their counterparts from Thessalonica, gives evidence of a practice which should be internalized by all believers regarding the doctrine they accept: “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
The study of prophecy would surely be of interest to the child of God who yearns for the kingdom for which Jesus taught his disciples to pray. Prior to his crucifixion the Master gave many signs concerning his second presence and the preparatory work which would be accomplished before this present social order would give way to a reign of righteousness. Under divine guidance, Old and New Testament writers recorded future events. Since many of them were fulfilled in the past, believers have confidence that if they “watch and pray” they will recognize prophetic unfoldings at the time when they are due to be understood.
One prophecy which seems to be descriptive of our day relates to the time of the end when many would run to and fro and knowledge would be increased (Dan. 12:4). Although Daniel desired to understand the meaning of his prophetic utterances, they were not due to be comprehended at that time but were reserved until our day for the benefit of faithful Christians who would be involved in searching the Scriptures. “And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed to the time of the end. Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried, but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” (Dan. 12:9, 10).
The restoration of the Edenic paradise on a worldwide scale is a hope which Bible students have proclaimed as the answer to the misery and suffering which mankind has endured since Adam’s fall into sin. Recognizing that only a comparatively small number from among humanity (a little flock) will strive seriously to emulate the life which Jesus lived while he was on earth, Christian believers rejoice that the Scriptures reveal the promised future opportunity of life of earth for every obedient individual, and not merely the saintly few which will live in heaven.
“He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21). Since all God’s holy prophets have declared there would be a time of restitution which would offer future blessings to mankind, the sincere Christian would certainly desire to proclaim these truths so that others might be comforted. A conviction based upon other prophecies, that the time for the fulfillment of these promises is close at hand, makes the study of these matters even more urgent.
Service in the cause of Christ is an indispensable duty of all believers who desire to manifest an appreciation of the heavenly Father’s love in giving his Son to be their Savior and Redeemer. The Lord’s followers, in studying the Scriptures, find many passages which indicate the responsibility and privilege of preaching the gospel as a form of Christian service (Isa. 52:7; Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20). Although the majority of the Lord’s people are not engaged in a public ministry, each believer will look for service opportunities on every suitable occasion in accordance with the Apostle Paul’s admonition, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:11).
The Scriptures give many examples of service which might be performed to assist others. A partial list includes meeting regularly with other believers to encourage their faithfulness to God, sympathizing with brethren who are undergoing heavy burdens (being a good listener, pointing to scriptural references which might afford comfort, or inquiring as to whether you can be of special assistance and following through on the offer), remembering to pray for others both in their trials and when the heavenly Father would bless their endeavors along some line of service according to his will, testifying of your own experiences to encourage others to learn lessons which they can apply in their lives, and sacrificing in using resources to help further the cause of Christ. Remember that the Lord commended the spirit which prompted the giving of a widow’s mite. If any true believer feels he has no opportunity for Christian service, a prayerful consideration of what the Bible declares on this subject should prove most profitable.’
The study of divine principles is a critical undertaking for all believers who wish to be conformed to the Master’s image. Since the heavenly Father is a God of principles, it is incumbent upon the believer to probe the Scriptures in order to discover a lifestyle which would be pleasing to the Creator in accordance with his will as revealed by the holy spirit.
Frequently the same principle is indicated in different parts of the Bible. One such example is that confession of sin is a prerequisite to forgiveness (Psa. 32:5; Isa. 55:7; Prov. 28:13; 1 John 1:9).
A few of the many other principles which the scriptures reveal and commend themselves to the Christian’s study include:
- Obedience is more acceptable than sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22).
- We reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7).
- Justice is the foundation of God’s throne (Psa. 89:14).
- Humility precedes exaltation (James 4:10).
- Cross bearing is required for discipleship (Luke 14:27).
- Everyone is accountable to God (Rom. 14:12).
- The merciful shall receive mercy (Matt. 5:7).
- God is love (John 3:16).
The importance of study should be deemed as self evident to Christians. It is not to be considered merely an academic venture for the purpose of acquiring factual information but rather an integral feature of one’s spiritual development and acceptability to the heavenly Father. One scripture in particular seems to encapsulate the motive which should spur each believer to engage in a comprehensive study of every facet of the divine revelation as contained in the Bible: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman than needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). What purpose for study could be more lofty than that?