To be able to apply God’s word, we must know God’s word. This means a strong knowledge of the entire Bible, not just parts of it. Paul tells the Colossians in Col. 1:29 that making the word of God known is toilsome. Just the same, if we intend to understand the word we are going to need to work.
This comes through study.
As Charles Spurgeon says, “Be masters of your Bibles, brethren… be at home with the writings of the prophets and apostles. Let the Word of God dwell in you richly.” As we learn the whole of the Bible we are better qualified to teach and apply its parts, and gain a greater sense of awe for our creator.
Study the Word
Paul tells Timothy that all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching and rebuking and training the congregation (2 Tim 3:16). We must study the text to know what God is saying, and then turn around and proclaim that truth to our people. This takes hard work, as the Apostle says above, “we must toil and strive” in our proclamation of the gospel.
If we do not study, we end up misusing the text.
If we do not study, we lose the authority of our ministry.
Prayer and Study
The power in our studying ability flows from prayer, and we must constantly ask God for the illumination of the Holy Spirit as we study. This means we must be people of prayer.
When you study the four Gospels, this was the pattern of our Lord - to always spend time in prayer in the midst of His teaching ministry. As we have seen, the apostles also devoted themselves “to the word of God and prayer” (Acts 6:4). If our teaching were a campfire, the word of God would be the wood and prayer would be the spark.
Studying the Disciplines
Paul once said to a young pastor, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Therefore, we must meditate on the text, read commentaries, and pray. Hours should be spent in the text, but studying other disciplines is necessary to be able to grasp God's word.
In study, there are several disciplines that enrich our knowledge of the text: Biblical Theology, Systematic Theology, Christian History, Philosophy, Missiology, and areas of general studies. Studying these disciplines brings depth to our understanding of the Bible and strength to our souls. John Calvin says, “None will ever be a good minister of the word of God unless he is first of all a scholar.”
The Goal of Studying
We must be so intoxicated by the Truth we have studied that we only care to unload the burden of the message from God to others - because you are somebody's theologian.
Ultimately, we study because the theology of our faith is intensely practical. We study because theological concepts change the world. We don’t study theology as a dead doctrine, but we study it because our theology is a person. All of the academic truths, all of the ethical insights, all of the historical facts point us to Him, the Lord Jesus Christ.
He becomes real when we study the word. We hear his voice. We experience his presence. We consume His beauty. We are stirred by the Holy.
And Him we proclaim.