Thursday, January 29, 2015

12 Hindrances to Bible Study

What a great privilege to have the pure word of God (Ps. 12:6-7)! With great privilege comes great responsibility. Every believer is responsible to personally study the word of God (2 Tim. 2:15). Faithful Bible teachers are a blessing but we will learn more and retain it better if we personally study the word. When you put in the work you will get more out of it!
In this post I want to warn you about some hindrances to Bible study. These are things that will hinder you from getting the most out of your Bible (this is not an exhaustive list).

1. Unbelief
Even those that profess to believe the Bible can be guilty of not believing it at times. Unbelief is the natural tendency of the flesh. Every word in the King James Bible is exactly what God wants it to be (Prov. 30:5-6). When we come across something in the Bible that we don't understand, we need to just leave it as it is and trust God to give us light on it (sometimes it may take awhile). We must never mess with the word of God by going to the original languages (which we don't know) and then changing what the plain English says. The Holy Spirit must enlighten us and He will not do that if we have a heart of unbelief concerning what He wrote. Too many will try to change the word of God to get it lined up with their understanding instead of getting their understanding lined up with what the Bible plainly says. I recently heard a Baptist preacher that didn't understand Mark 16:16 actually claim that Mark 16:9-20 doesn't even belong in the Bible!

2. Not Relying on the Holy Spirit
The Bible is a spiritual book and is therefore spiritually discerned (see 1 Cor. 2). The Bible is God’s Book and so we must not approach it like any other book. Human intelligence cannot open the scriptures. God must teach us His word (Lk. 24:45).

3. Failure to Consistently Follow the Divine Keys
Many get caught up in manmade theology and rules of hermeneutics. We must study the Bible according to the keys that God Himself gave us in His word.
·      Comparison (1 Cor. 2:12-13) - We must compare scripture with scripture as we search the scriptures (Acts 17:11).
·      Consideration (2 Tim. 2:7) - The apostle Paul is the divinely appointed spokesman to the body of Christ in this present age. What Moses said to Israel under the Law certainly does not always match what Paul said to us under grace. Therefore, we must consider first what Paul said by inspiration and follow the doctrine Christ gave through him for us (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1; Phil. 4:9).
·      Division (2 Tim. 2:15) - We must acknowledge and consistently maintain the divisions that God put in His word. For example, the things that He spoke through all the prophets since the world began concerning the kingdom (Acts 3:21) are not the same things He kept secret since the world began concerning the body of Christ (Rom. 16:25).

God means what He says and says what He means. We must take literal language as literal and figurative language as figurative. Most of the Bible is written in literal language and right division is the only way to understand the literal language without having to "spiritualize" it. For example, by rightly dividing we do not have to spiritualize the covenants God made with Israel and claim He is fulfilling them through the church in this age.

4. Laziness
Bible study is work (Ecc. 12:12; 2 Tim. 2:15). It involves diligence in faithfully paying close attention to the context, comparing scripture with scripture, rightly dividing, and using the Bible to define the Bible (The KJB has its own built-in dictionary). Is the Bible not worthy of our work to understand its precious contents (Ps. 119:161-162)? For example, laziness will cause you to just assume that words such as "baptism" and "gospel" always refer to the same thing. However there are different baptisms and gospels in the Bible, the context determines the meaning. God must teach us His word but He won't do it if we are too lazy to study it the way He tells us to.

5. Ignoring the Context
Because the Bible is divided into chapters and verses (which I am thankful for and have no problem with) many make the mistake of isolating a verse from its context. In Bible study paying close attention to the context is of utmost importance. We must consider the dispensational context of the part of the Bible we are studying (Law, Grace, Kingdom?), the book or epistle itself (historical, doctrinal, prophetic?), and the immediate passage (what was said just before and after). In the prologue to the 1535 Coverdale Bible, Miles Coverdale wrote:

"It shall greatly help thee to understand Scripture, if thou mark, not only what is spoken or written, but of whom, and to whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstances, considering what goeth before and what followeth after."

The way many preachers use 2 Chron. 7:14 is an example of ignoring the context. This promise was given by God to Israel in accordance with the Law Covenant He made with them (see 2 Chron. 7:12-22). I do believe we can apply the moral principles (humility, prayer, repentance) but we cannot claim the promises for America.
6. Devotional Approach
While every passage may have various applications, there is only one right doctrinal interpretation. We must not try to make a devotional application to be the doctrinal interpretation of a verse or passage. Many Christian’s treat the Bible like a devotional book but God gave us His word first and foremost for doctrine (2 Tim. 3:16). See my post on "Application and Interpretation" for an example.

7. Preconceived Ideas
We must not read into the Bible what we already believe. We must let the Bible itself formulate what we believe! Many always read the Bible with their denominational glasses on.

8. Traditional Interpretations
Most preconceived ideas are based on traditional interpretations. Wrong interpretations become traditional when they get passed down from one generation to another as people accept it without checking it out in personal Bible study. 

9. Private Interpretation
The scripture is its own best interpreter. We must not isolate a scripture from the rest of the Bible and give it our own private interpretation (2 Pet. 1:20). As we already considered under our point on the divine keys, we must compare scripture with scripture (1 Cor. 2:12-13).

For example, the way some interpret 1 Cor. 9:27 (castaway = lose salvation) is an example of private interpretation. If we compare this verse with other verses in which Paul plainly teaches eternal security of the believer (Rom. 8:28-39) we will know that the Spirit is not contradicting Himself through Paul here. The context of 1 Cor. 9:27 is service and rewards, NOT salvation.

10. Anticipating Revelation
The Bible was revealed progressively and not all at once. We have the complete revelation and if we are not careful we will read what was not revealed yet back into a passage where it does not belong. A common example of this is reading the gospel of the grace of God back into the Gospel records. The twelve apostles were indeed preaching the gospel (Lk. 9:6) but the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, which is the very basis of the gospel Christ revealed to Paul (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Gal. 1:11-12) was HID from them (Lk. 18:31-34)! They were preaching the gospel of the kingdom.

11. Selfishness
All the Bible is for our learning and admonition (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11) but not all the Bible was written directly to us. We must not have the childish mindset, "every promise in the book is mine". We should want to know God's will and plan for the ages (the BIG picture) and not just things that apply to our little life and situation. The Bible is Christ-centered and not man-centered, and that's why many never read it.

12. Wrong Motive

We must not study the Bible with the motive of trying to know it all just for the sake of knowing it (1 Cor. 8:1-3; 13:2). God hates pride! We should study the bible that we might grow in our knowledge of the Lord, grow spiritually, and be able to share what we learn with others for their edification.


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