STUDY THE BIBLE COURSE
Lesson 4: How to Study the Bible
Bob Thiel, Editor-in-Chief
Published 2014 by the Continuing Church of God
Preface: This course is based upon the personal correspondence course initially developed in 1954 that began under the direction of the late C. Paul Meredith in the old Radio Church of God. Various portions have been updated for the 21st century (though much of the original writing has been retained). It also has more scriptural references, as well as information and questions not in the original course. Unless otherwise noted, scriptural references are to the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright Thomas Nelson Publishing, used by permission. The KJV, sometimes referred to as the Authorized Version is also often used. Additionally, Catholic-approved translations such as the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) are sometimes used as are other translations.
Why do so few really UNDERSTAND the Bible?
Why do we find such confusion—such disagreement as to what it says? WHY don’t the hundreds of differing church denominations and sects AGREE on what their acknowledged textbook SAYS? WHY do so many individuals, capable of understanding almost any other book, say: “I just can’t understand the BIBLE”?
Take a recognized textbook on biology. Show this book to ten different biology professors from ten different colleges and universities. Ask them what it says. They’ll all give you the same answer. PEOPLE NORMALLY DO NOT DISAGREE AS TO WHAT BOOKS ACTUALLY SAY—EXCEPT WHEN IT COMES TO THE ONE BOOK of ALL the books—the Holy Bible! Did you ever stop to think of that?
But take the Holy Bible to ten different ministers or to professors of theology from ten different religious denominations, and ask them what God’s Book says-and you’ll probably receive ten different answers!
Didn’t you ever wonder WHY? Here, certainly is the enigma of the ages! The most important, yet the least understood Book of all the books! Year after year, the world’s BEST SELLER—the Book owned by more people than any other. The one Book that has lived, in spite of every effort to stamp it out, down through the ages-and still outsells all others! THE ONE BOOK WHICH HAS foretold, centuries in advance, the very chaotic and uneasyconditions of the world today—THE ONE BOOK THAT EXPLAINS THE MEANING of this perturbed condition—that opens before us to behold IN ADVANCE, the WONDERFUL, PEACEFUL, HAPPY WORLD that is coming TOMORROW! The one Book that predicted, inadvance, the rise and fall of specific nations and governments—that reveals the DESTINY OF THE WORLD!
No mere human-devised book could reveal such things! If you want to know the most necessary, basic knowledge of all life—the very FOUNDATION of all right knowledge—WHERE WOULD YOU GO?
Purpose of the Bible
WHAT are we? Were we put on earth for a PURPOSE? And WHAT is that purpose? WHY are human lives empty, discontented, unhappy? How may human life become HAPPY, filled with interest, ABUNDANT, successful, prosperous? WHAT is the real cause of wars, and THE WAY to world peace? WHAT happens after death—what is THE WAY to a happy, abundant, ETERNAL life? No book ever written, except the Holy Bible, REVEALS this FOUNDATION of all knowledge.
Are these questions important? One might ask, is anything ELSE important? You can find the answers to THESE questions only in this one divinely inspired, sacred volume!–and yet almost NO one has ever found the answers so PLAINLY written there! Here is the Book that, in spite of the human perversion of it, has changed more lives than all other books combined! And yet—it is the BOOK THAT NOBODY KNOWS!
The most misunderstood book of history! The most twisted, distorted, misrepresented, maligned and lied-about! WHAT’S WRONG?
Why Is the Bible Misunderstood?
Here is the answer—and it is very plain!
The answer lies in the fact that people have NOT BEEN WILLING TO OBEY the precepts of this holy, divine Word—and therefore this world has LOST ITS WAY. In so doing it has not only lost PEACE, and HAPPINESS, and PROSPERITY, but it has also lost the knowledge of the PURPOSE of the Bible—it doesn’t know what the Bible really is!
Stop and think! Would a Creator, having supreme intelligence, wisdom and love to think out, to plan, design, and bring about all creation—this earth, and all life and life-functions upon it—have left His created beings in IGNORANCE of HIS PURPOSE—the PURPOSE of their being here—THE LAWS that would bring us PEACE, and HAPPINESS, and JOY, and everything good?
THE BIBLE IS GOD’S DIVINE REVELATION OF BASIC NEEDED KNOWLEDGE which mankind is not otherwise capable of finding out!
Absolutely no tools or instruments of science can ever tell you whether there is life after death—the PURPOSE of your being alive—where you are going—or the WAY to a happy, abundant life, or to universal PEACE. Our scientists, our world leaders and our statesmen have failed UTTERLY to tell us these answers, or to lead us into the universally desired PEACE with happiness, and JOYOUS living!
God Almighty did not hide from human minds these all-important truths. He made them accessible to mankind. He committed His TREASURE-HOUSE of basic knowledge to WRITING. He revealed THE WAY TO PEACE and everything the human heart desires!
Now, WHY do so few understand the Bible? WHY do all the different church denominations disagree as to what it says?
We find the answer in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture”—not just those few verses of PARTS of sentences you wish to apply to suit your desires, but—“ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” It is ALL inspired—EVERY Scripture is inspired by the Eternal GOD—“and is profitable for”—WHAT? “…is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in RIGHTEOUSNESS, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
So the Scriptures are PROFITABLE for the purpose of REPROVING, of CORRECTING us! But how do we do resent being reproved, and corrected! How many people do you know who are even WILLING to be corrected where they are in error—to be REPROVED for the wrong things they do!
Humanity Resents Correction
People DO NOT LIKE to BE REPROVED AND CORRECTED! They love PRAISE—they like FLATTERY—but reproof and correction they surely HATE! Now do you see why it is so hard for so many people to understand the Bible, and to agree on just what it says? The Bible is God’s great spiritual MIRROR. IT SHOWS UP EVERY FLAW IN OUR THINKING, reveals every spot on our characters. It pictures us AS WE REALLY ARE—as God sees us, not as we like to THINK we are, or as we like to have other men look upon us!
“For the Word of God,” we read in Hebrews 4:12 (KJV), “is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword”—IT CUTS DEEP, and it CUTS BOTH WAYS,”…and is a discerner of the thoughts and INTENTS of the heart.” Yes, it opens up and exposes and LAYS BARE THE INNER SOUL OF MAN!
When your little children do things that are wrong—that you have forbidden—do they usually own up to it freely and frankly? Do they say: “Father, I cannot tell a lie. I did it”?—or do they usually DENY it as long as possible, then try to cover it up, excuse it, JUSTIFY it, or place the blame on something else? Yes, it’s just human nature. WE are all only little children grown up; and so, when our heavenly Father speaks to us, through His Holy Scriptures, and reproves and rebukes, and corrects us, we usually do not like to ADMIT our errors, our faults, our wrong WAYS.
Too often, people have APPLIED SOME DIFFERENT MEANING to Scriptures that reproved them—they have passed right OVER some Scriptures that corrected and rebuked them or they have ignored them utterly, and have studied diligently to find some OTHER Scripture, or portion of Scripture, into which they could read a meaning THAT WOULD JUSTIFY THEIR COURSE! And so people began, centuries ago, to INTERPRET the Bible! God’s Word has become twisted, wrested, perverted. But it goes back before more modern times—Jesus reported that the Pharisees and others would not understand what the Bible said in His time—various ones reasoned around it (cf. Matthew 15:3-9).
Almost every false and counterfeit meaning imaginable is read INTO it, instead of drinking the natural meaning—the plain, simple INTENDED meaning out of it! Today we have hundreds of human INTERPRETATIONS of the Bible. You NEVER HEAR OF HUNDREDS OF INTERPRETATIONS OF A CERTAIN BIOLOGY TEXTBOOK IN HUNDREDS OF COLLEGES! WHY? BECAUSE BIOLOGY TEXTBOOKS DO NOT REBUKE AND CORRECT PEOPLE!
Instead of acknowledging the truth, repenting of the sin, having it legally justified by the blood of Christ, humans seek to JUSTIFY THEIR OWN ACTS BY PERVERTING THE SACRED AND HOLY WORD OF GOD!
The MOST DIFFICULT thing on earth for the average person to do is to ADMIT IT and CONFESS IT and repent of it when he is wrong. OH HOW hard that seems to be! Almost the rarest thing in this world is a person who will always acknowledge it when he is wrong, repent, and turn the other way. This world is FULL of people who PROFESS to be willing to do this. But the one who does it is a rare jewel.
Under God’s inspiration, Paul continued to say, in 2 Timothy 4:1-4, that the time truly has come when the many do not endure SOUND DOCTRINE. People have turned away their ears from the TRUTH and have turned to FABLES and other traditions of men! Yes, fables palmed off AS the truth of God’s Word! Some hope, contrary to what Jesus taught in Matthew 24:29-31, that He will come prior to the start of the Great Tribulation and ‘rapture’ them away—but that is not what will happen.
Isaiah prophesied that in these latter days people would demand, “Do not prophesy to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits” (Isaiah 30:8-11).
Yet Another Reason
Here is another reason why the Bible is not understood. Did you ever stop to think that KNOWLEDGE can be transmitted to the human mind, naturally, ONLY THROUGH FIVE CHANNELS? The ONLY means by which the mind can receive ANY KNOWLEDGE, naturally, is through the eye, the ear, the nose, the mouth, or the sense of feeling—the five physical senses. But the Bible reveals SPIRITUAL things—and SPIRITUAL THINGS CANNOT NORMALLY BE SEEN, nor heard, nor tasted, nor felt, nor smelled. And so the NATURAL human mind is INCAPABLE of understanding these spiritual revelations.
Then notice 1 Corinthians 2:14: “The NATURAL man” (that is, the natural-born, unconverted mind), “does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned!”—revealed by GOD’S SPIRIT; for it says in the 10th verse “…God has REVEALED them to us through His Spirit.” And then again, you read that it is “the SPIRIT of Truth” which “will guide you into all Truth” (John 16:13). Since the Bible is God’s Word (it distinctly says “THY WORD IS TRUTH”), then it requires the HOLY SPIRIT TO OPEN UP to the human mind this marvelous revelation of God. Understand: THE HOLY SPIRIT within IS THE KEY WHICH ALONE CAN UNLOCK THE DOORS TO SCRIPTURAL UNDERSTANDING.
Thus, as this Scripture has said, WHEN WE RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT—when the mind becomes SPIRIT-led, then through this supernatural process of God, spiritual knowledge is REVEALED, and the spiritual mind can begin to UNDERSTAND!
REPENT and BELIEVE
The CONDITIONS in the Bible for receiving God’s Holy Spirit are basically TWO—REPENT, and BELIEVE. But, REPENT means more than being sorry. It means a complete YIELDING to the WILL OF GOD, as that Will is expressed in His Word! It means a complete willingness to accept, and to DO what Scripture teaches, no matter what the cost, the persecution, the sacrifice, or the effort!
Jesus said, as recorded in John 7:16, 17 (KJV): “My doctrine is not mine, but HIS THAT SENT ME. If any man will DO HIS WILL, he shall know the doctrine.” Yes, there is a condition: You must SURRENDER TO THE WILL OF GOD IF YOU WOULD COME TO UNDERSTAND the Bible.
MANY are like the man who once said, “I wouldn’t do anything I thought was wrong for the world!” he was sincere, but the BIBLE says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death!” (Proverbs 14:12) Therefore, since death is the penalty of SIN, then the ways that seem RIGHT to the natural mind of man MUST BE THE WAYS OF SIN.
GOD’S WHOLE PURPOSE is to RESCUE humans from this FALSE way that appears so alluring—this way that seems RIGHT—and yet ends up in despair, and suffering, and death!
We read from Psalm 111:7-8, 10 (KJV): “…ALL His commandments are SURE. They stand fast FOREVER AND EVER and are done in truth and uprightness. The FEAR OF THE LORD IS THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM: A GOOD UNDERSTANDING HAVE ALL THEY THAT DO HIS COMMANDMENTS!”
We can see now why people do not understand the Bible. They are not yielded to the Eternal’s will—they are filled with fear of HUMANS, instead of the fear of God. They tremble at the thought of what PEOPLE say—but we had all better begin to tremble at the WORD OF THE LIVING GOD.
TRUTH is REVEALED. It is revealed by GOD’S SPIRIT—and that involves a SUPERNATURAL ACT OF GOD. The terms and conditions are utter surrender—REPENTANCE, and FAITH.
DAVID had understanding. And David said, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
Today’s generation is like that of Jesus’ day, of which He said, “…this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19)
Yes, the Bible is LIGHT—a lamp to our feet—a LIGHT to our path. Surely the world is in gross darkness.
How, then can you understand the Bible?
Here is how you may begin this thrilling, soul-satisfying adventure.
Here is how you can begin to really UNDERSTAND the Bible.
First, SURRENDER to God, and the authority of His Word. Forsake your ways—your thoughts—and those of this world’s society—this societal portion is very hard for many (Matthew 10:34-38). Study to find TRUTH—to show yourself approved to God. Ask God for guidance—ASK Him to reveal the true meaning. Then BELIEVE GOD—BELIEVE His Word—accept it in its plain, simple, NATURAL meaning, just as you would accept any other book in which you had confidence. Be careful to PROVE all things. Be cautious—avoid jumping to hasty conclusions, or taking things carelessly for granted. And above all—do not try to interpret the Bible. Don’t take the interpretation of any human being or church that are in conflict. THE BIBLE GENERALLY INTERPRETS ITSELF.
God would not have us shut up our ears and our minds from HEARING what is being preached—even though it differs from what you have been taught. When the Apostle Paul came to Berea, the Bereans found he was preaching something utterly DIFFERENT than that which they had been taught and had believed. THEY did not know whether Paul was a false prophet, or a man from God. We read of them, in Acts 17:11 “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness” (that is, WITHOUT PREJUDICE) and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” STUDY WITHOUT PREJUDICE—but be CAREFUL—PROVE all things—search the SCRIPTURES WHETHER THOSE things be so.
THIS PARTICULAR LESSON IS TO SHOW YOU HOW TO STUDY YOUR BIBLE. It is devoted entirely to giving you methods explaining HOW TO GRASP THE LESSONS WE ARE GOING TO PRESENT IN THE FUTURE. These methods of Bible study are like TOOLS in your work. You will use them often. Refer to this Lesson often!
Use the time you have set aside for this Lesson in familiarizing yourself with its contents. You will undoubtedly purchase a Bible Concordance. Familiarize yourself with this valuable tool, and be sure to review the three previous Lessons. As you review these previous Lessons, apply to them any new ideas you learn here. For instance, you may want to mark your Bible. Then, when the next regular Lesson comes out, you will find yourself better equipped than ever for studying this fascinating Course!
Now for the actual method of Bible study. But remember, the right SPIRIT—the RIGHT ATTITUDE—full SUBMISSION to scriptural dictates, BEING WILLING TO BE CORRECTED and reproved—that is the MAIN THING.
Necessities for Bible Study
God wrote the Bible. He inspired men to pen it (2 Timothy 3:16). It is God’s message to man!
Meaning Locked Up Until NOW!
Bruce Barton, the late author, has called the Bible The Book Nobody Knows—and he has been right for those in the world! This lack of understanding is the very cause for so many religions today—they cannot agree on what the Bible teaches. There is a reason for this.
God said, “For precept must be upon precept…line upon line…here a little and there a little, for WITH STAMMERING LIPS AND ANOTHER TONGUE He will SPEAK to this people”. (Isaiah 28:10-11)
The dictionary defines “stammering” as the making of PAUSES in speaking. God has written the Bible with GAPS or PAUSES BETWEEN RELATED MATERIAL—material which MUST BE BROUGHT TOGETHER before its meaning becomes clear. Later, when you come to understand God’s PLAN, you will know WHY He did this. Even Christ, in His day, spoke in PARABLES TO CLOUD THE MEANING (notice Mark 4:11-12 and also Matthew 13:11-13).
But was there to be a future time when the true message of the Bible could become known to those willing to be corrected? Yes! When?
God told Daniel to “Seal the book until the time of the end: (when) many shall run to and fro [through the pages of this book], and KNOWLEDGE SHALL INCREASE.” (Daniel 12:4). The explosion of knowledge in the 20th and 21st centuries, accelerated by the internet is fulfilling part of this prophecy.
IN THE TIME OF THE END BIBLE KNOWLEDGE WAS TO BE INCREASED! Moffatt translates “the time of the end” as “the CRISIS at the close.” The whole world is now approaching chaos–we are now entering the WORLD-CRISIS, at the CLOSE of this age! God said that at this crisis time–NOW–“None of the wicked shall understand, but the WISE SHALL UNDERSTAND” (Daniel 12:10).
Proper Attitude for Understanding
1. You must ACT on knowledge
Let’s get one thing straight right now! If you do not grasp this point, you have NO assurance that you will be able to understand this course regardless of all HUMAN effort to make it plain to you. God has vowed that none of the wicked would be able to understand His Word in this closing crisis time, but that the wise would understand (Daniel 12:10).
Since the Bible reveals that “sin is the transgression of the law” (I John 3:4, KJV), those who conduct themselves as though His law is done away, are, in Bible terminology, called “the wicked.”
Who, then, are “the wise” who shall now understand? God says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of WISDOM: a GOOD UNDERSTANDING HAVE ALL THOSE WHO DO—[we must DO]—His Commandments” (Psalm 111:10). What has this to do with your being able to understand this course?
These Lessons will reveal to you many things that God commands you to do. If you fear Him enough to begin to build into your life habits of obedience to Him (DOING His Commandments). He has said, as we have just seen, that you WILL BEGIN TO BECOME WISE! THE GREATER YOUR OBEDIENCE TO GOD, THE GREATER YOUR WISDOM WILL BE–you will have less and less trouble in understanding the Lessons made available to you.
If, on the other hand, somewhere along the way, you rebel at some of the things He wants you to do, your wisdom will be cut off.
None can understand by himself. The carnal mind cannot “see” spiritual things. “…the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him: nor can he know them, because THEY ARE SPIRITUALLY DISCERNED” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Christ said, “The Spirit of truth…will guide you [the OBEDIENT] into all truth” (John 16:13).
These truths are revealed through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit–and God gives the SPIRIT only to them that OBEY and keep His commandments (Acts 5:32). The choice is in your hands. Yet, just believing in Jesus and keeping God’s commandments is not all God expects.
Jesus also taught that only some of His true followers would be doing the Philadelphia work at the time of the end, and thus be subject to understanding various aspects of end time prophecy—as they will ‘hold fast’ to the truth of God’s word and doing His will (Revelation 3:7-13). The non-Philadelphians will not be living their lives with proper understanding of various matters (cf. Revelation 2:21-29; 3:1-6; 3:14-22).
2. You must PRAY
Jesus wanted His people to pray to be accounted worthy:
36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:36)
Other than watching and specifically praying that, how else?
Pray to God that He will give you more of His Spirit–the Spirit of TRUTH (Ephesians 5:17-18). Christ derived his power from God. He prayed for hours to God–sometimes all night. Surely we can spend an hour or so a day in such practice–we are incomparably weaker and less wise than Christ was. WE REALLY NEED HELP! IN YOUR PRAYERS ASK GOD THAT HE OPEN YOUR MIND TO HIS TRUTHS!
3. You must STUDY
This Study the Bible Course has been designed with the idea that thirty minutes a day devoted to it will enable the student to finish each lesson in thirty days. We know that anyone should be able to give at least this amount of time to such a valuable subject. There is a time coming, and it is not far away, when many who take this course will be judged by the Word of God—the Bible. We MUST have a knowledge of its teachings!
The Father commands: “STUDY TO SHOW THYSELF APPROVED unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV). We should be preparing ourselves for a high calling in God’s service!
4. You must BE ZEALOUS
You are going to learn, as you study these Lessons, that God is working out a purpose here below. Each of us must use the minutes, hours, days, and years of conscious life which God has given us, to prepare ourselves to fit into this purpose of His.
We do not have forever to do this, but God has given us enough time! We, today, do not even have a lifetime—WE HAVE BUT A RELATIVELY FEW SHORT YEARS to prepare possibly—and even in the latter part of these, conditions will make it more and more difficult for us to study. We live in the time of the “crisis at the close.”…Now, while there is a relative calm–BEFORE THE STORM BREAKS–is the time to study and prepare for the future (cf. Zephaniah 2:1-3)!
As most of you have to make a living and it requires a great deal of your time, you must use your remaining time to the greatest advantage. Above all, DON’T LET THE CARES OF THIS WORLD CROWD OUT THE TIME YOU SHOULD DEVOTE TO STUDY AND PRAYER (Matthew 13:22).
God is making clear for a short time now–just before the close–the message that the Bible REALLY conveys. Let’s make the most of this brief period! Be zealous in your Bible study! Go far! Dig deep! God says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). WHAT YOU DO NOW CAN AFFECT YOUR LIFE FOR ALL ETERNITY! (Daniel 12:3)
What You are Going to Learn
In the lessons of the STUDY THE BIBLE COURSE God is going to:
1. Reveal the terrible events immediately ahead for you–and instruct you how you may escape the unprecedented slaughter which the nations are soon to bring upon themselves by their own folly.
2. Prove He does exist and He is going to show you His over-all PLAN.
3. Give you His requirements which you must meet IF YOU ARE TO HAVE A PART IN FURTHERING HIS PLAN FOR ALL ETERNITY.
Course Written to Aid Retention and Review
1. RETENTION EASY
A LOGICAL SEQUENCE of subjects will be found running throughout the course. Beginning with a description of the world as it is today, the necessity of Divine intervention is next studied. Following this, is the glorious revelation of the world as Christ will make it.
Then we shall go back to the very beginning and learn how God reveals Himself. Who –what is God? Very few people today know. What is the purpose He has set Himself to accomplish? Subjects continue to be treated, in order, until all phases of the Bible are covered.
The Bible is logical when its over-all pattern is grasped. BUT its over-all pattern cannot be grasped until all its uncorrelated parts, which are scattered here and there, are FITTED TOGETHER. This course is intended to help accomplish just that! This is what makes this course different from all others. When you have finished the STUDY THE BIBLE COURSE the Bible will no longer be, to you, the “Book That Nobody Knows”, but you will see that even a little child can understand its principles!
Notice the “COMMENTARY” STYLE NOTES which are inserted where the meaning would otherwise not be as clear as it should be. These comments also fill in necessary backgrounds.
The very logic of the Bible, when it is presented by this NEW METHOD, will enable you to RETAIN IN YOUR MIND THE BROAD PRINCIPLES WHICH GOD WANTS PEOPLE TO GATHER FROM IT!
2. REVIEW RAPID
Scattered throughout the written material of the Lessons will be found words or phrases printed in two types: LARGE TYPE, such as this, or ITALICIZED PRINT, such as this. These will either indicate the SUBJECT MATTER of the surrounding words or will be used to EMPHASIZE IMPORTANT POINTS. With these guideposts, you can quickly skim back over a subject and impress the outstanding points again upon your mind. Reviewing can be accomplished rapidly in this manner.
Keep all material together. In BOOK FORM, you will desire to review it often!
Use of Time and Material
1. SET TIME ASIDE
You should set aside a definite amount of time for your Bible study and religious worship. You can decide what time of the day is best. Your mind is most likely to be more alert in the morning.
2. DIVISION OF TIME
When he was relatively young, the late Herbert Armstrong divided his time for Bible study into three parts, using one third of that time on his knees in prayer to God, devoting another third of the time to the study of the Bible, and using the remaining third to think over the things just studied. In following this method, God has opened the Bible truths to him. Sometimes he has studied the Bible while on his knees.
While that is not necessary (or possible) for all, it does show that he had a certain seriousness to Bible study that we should all have.
3. NO OUTSIDE LITERATURE
Religious literature of other sects should not be studied until you are thoroughly grounded in this course and have the whole pattern of the Bible fixed in mind. This takes time. Our Bible Course works towards being complete and it leads from one scripture to another and lets the Bible interpret itself as it goes along. NO LITERATURE CAN DO MORE! It would only confuse you to read other religious tracts at first. It is not recommended as a practice for beginning students.
4. SELECTING A BIBLE
We recommend, as first choice, that you use the New King James Version.
Most people prefer a Bible having heavy black print, large letters, and containing a center reference column. A good selection of maps in the back helps greatly. Many prefer a Bible measuring 6 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches for home use. (Often they carry smaller copies on their person for use during the day.) Most like a thumb index and relatively wide page margins.
Concordances which are found in the back of Bibles are not complete enough, so this should have little weight in your selection of Bibles. There are also many electronic concordances. I (Bob Thiel) tend to use a program I purchased from BibleSoft, but others are also available at no charge (like E-Sword) and often work just fine.
First skim rapidly over the words that are ENLARGED in the Bible Course section you are about to study. This will allow you to obtain a grasp of the general field you are about to cover and will enable you from the very start to draw a better mental picture. Then study the section.
After you have finished studying the assigned material, it is often helpful to know the meaning of the Bible verses or chapters SURROUNDING the matter you have studied. Don’t spend much time at this–glance over it. WHY is this helpful?
BECAUSE more writers than you realize have lifted whole passages of the Bible out of setting and have attempted to use these to prove the reverse of what the passages are intended to convey.It is very important that you become aware of this.
Gradually you will learn you have been GROSSLY MISLED in many things. LET THE BIBLE BE YOUR GUIDE, not men! ALSO, sometimes the surrounding material is so closely related to a verse discussed in the Bible Course that it will cast ADDITIONAL LIGHT on the subject.
At the old Ambassador College, both faculty and students marked their Bibles. Many have found that to be EXTREMELY USEFUL for purposes of review and Bible study.
The idea in marking is to MAKE CERTAIN KEY WORDS OR PASSAGES STAND OUT above the surrounding words. These key words or passages, in turn, recall to mind the general thought of the whole subject.
STUDY the key words or phrases which are written in large letters in the Bible Course for the purpose of aiding review. This will give you an idea of HOW TO MARK your Bible. You will learn the principle of emphasizing the right words. It may take some time before you master the method to your complete satisfaction, but it will be well worth the effort.
The SIMPLEST METHOD is to use an ordinary pencil and make an up and down line in the margin opposite the material you wish to find again.
The MOST USED METHOD here is to UNDERLINE WITH A COLORED PENCIL THE IMPORTANT PLACES.
PENCILS which have been found valuable for this purpose and which may be purchased at bookstores are the Prismacolor Number 924 (which is red), or Number 909 (which is green). But the specific brands and colors are not critically important. Studying, however, is.
Some will wish to make REFERENCE ADDITIONS IN THE MARGINS of their Bibles. This is best accomplished by use of a pen (fountain pen or other types) with a “bookkeeping” point. These vary somewhat in fineness. This is where wide-margined Bibles come in handy. Also SMALL NOTES can be inserted IN THE MARGINS. A small circle may be drawn around any IMPORTANT CENTER OF THOUGHT OR MARGIN REFERENCE.
Some may wish to INDEX IMPORTANT SUBJECTS in the back of their Bibles. This is best done by writing, or better yet printing, the name of the subject in small letters in the back of the Bible together with one reference. Any other references are then written nearest the outer margin at this point of reference. In this way there is no crowding for lack of room.
You can see that your marked Bible will become very valuable to you. You should PRESERVE this BIBLE. If the cover gives way, it can be rebound at a bindery. The cost will not be too great considering its value to you. If the Bible comes apart, there are binderies which specialize in hand sewing.
What is YOUR OBJECTIVE in studying this Bible Course? It is to learn and retain facts God gives you which will aid you in living. But even more, you are to interweave these God-given facts with the experiences of your daily life in such a way that you will LEARN THE PRINCIPLES of the right way of living.
If you learn these principles you will know the right way to conduct yourself under all circumstances. You will not feel the need of an exact parallel case in which God said “do this” or “do that.” But HOW can you learn to make the application of these principles?
David, God’s beloved, gave the ANSWER! He said, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly…his delight is in the law of the LORD, and IN HIS LAW HE MEDITATES DAY AND NIGHT (Psalm 1:1-2).
David recalled the events that occurred during the day. He also remembered God’s commands–His “law.” And during the spare hours of his time–during the day, and especially during the evening when he had even more leisure–he recalled both, and THOUGHT on them–he DREW BROAD CONCLUSIONS as to what God really wanted. He applied these conclusions! For this reason, he was able to walk “Not in the counsel of the ungodly” to the extent that he became one of those who stood highest in God’s good grace. WE MUST DO THE SAME! How should we go about doing this?
Most people can’t pour knowledge into their minds and at the same time sort and analyze it properly. They, like David, will find it helpful to USE THE EVENING OR EARLY MORNING HOURS FOR ANALYZING it. Also, knowledge quickly slips away the first twenty-four hours after it is learned. The rate of loss lessens somewhat after this. If we lose the knowledge we obtain, there is very little use of acquiring it. How can you be relatively sure you will retain the knowledge you learned during the day, until you can analyze it? Here is how!
If you hear or study some religious knowledge during the day, it is advisable that you review it mentally just as quickly as you can after hearing or reading it. PICTURE IT IN YOUR MIND in its real setting as nearly as possible. These two habits will greatly aid you in remembering what you do not wish to lose. (If you can take notes, these will be of much value if reviewed.) PRACTICE THESE METHODS UNTIL THEY BECOME HABIT!
In the evening of each day, or early the next morning, you can group off these newly learned thoughts with similar thoughts you remember, and draw from them conclusions or principles. ANSWER for yourself such questions as, “WHAT?” “WHERE?” “WHEN?” “WHO?” “HOW?” and “WHY?” These will about cover the field.
Decide immediately how these newly learned principles will guide you in your daily problems that you know are going to come up. Apply these principles constantly! It will gradually become second nature for you to act by them! GOD WANTS YOU TO LEARN DEEPLY EVERY DAY!
Reviewing will be very profitable in order to fix the knowledge you have learned in your mind so you will not forget it–after two or three weeks, REVIEW ALL YOU HAVE COVERED. On this review, you need only “HIT THE HIGH SPOTS,” both when you reread the material and when you turn it over in your mind later. ASSOCIATE ALL OF THE TWO OR THREE WEEKS’ MATERIAL TOGETHER IN YOUR MIND. Read lessons in order for thought SEQUENCE.
You will probably be surprised at the new and better understanding you will obtain by this method. It will help greatly in “putting you on your own” in reading and understanding your Bible.
9. OTHER BOOKS WILL AID
You can study the Study The Bible Course without any other books except for a Bible, but THERE ARE SOME WHICH WILL ADD A GREAT DEAL TO MAKING THE BIBLE REAL to you.
A broad knowledge of the customs, social and educational life, history of the people, together with knowledge of the geography of the country, is a great aid in visualizing and understanding events mentioned in the Bible. From experience, we know what books will help you most. Some of these books are MUCH MORE NECESSARY to have than others. (We have no connection whatever with any of the publishers whose books will be recommended here.) The most necessary books will be mentioned first.
A Concordance is almost a must. Why? Because if you know a few words of a passage you wish to find in the Bible, it will FIND that PASSAGE for you.
It helps in another very important way also – and this is VERY IMPORTANT! IT UNLOCKS THE MEANING OF THE BIBLE to you. How does it unlock the Bible? In two ways:
(a) Recall that at the very start of this lesson on “How to Study the Bible” we said that God wrote the Bible with gaps between related material in order to hide the meaning (Isaiah 28:10-11). Related material naturally has the same subject and often many of the same words will be used in each of these passages. By using a CONCORDANCE, which has the words of the Bible arranged alphabetically and tells where they may be found, you can thus BRING RELATED MATERIAL TOGETHER and thereby CLOSE these GAPS and obtain the WHOLE TRUE MEANING of what the Bible has to say about anything!
(b) Now notice the second way. God has used another device to hide the meaning of Scripture until NOW!–the “time of the end” (Daniel 12:4). He has used SYMBOLS! A symbol is something which stands for something else. God often uses symbols which do not show clearly what they represent. He speaks (through the Bible) to us “with stammering lips [gaps] and ANOTHER TONGUE” (Isaiah 28:10-11)–a tongue which uses unknown SYMBOLS. He has to tell you what they mean, for only He knows what they represent. Here is how He tells you:
In another part of the Bible, He uses the same symbolical word and EXPLAINS CLEARLY WHAT IT MEANS there. The lesson? IF YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE MEANING OF A SYMBOLICAL WORD, TAKE IT TO A CONCORDANCE!
Here is a clear, simple EXAMPLE of what to do: Who is the “great red dragon” of Revelation 12:3? Turning to the concordance and locating the word “dragon,” we find the word “dragon” appears in this same chapter in verse 9 also. Turning back to the Bible, we read in verse 9, “The great dragon…called the Devil.” The symbolical mystery is solved! The “dragon” of verse 3 is the Devil! (Usually, however, the unknown word and the answer are not this close together.)
There are TWO types OF CONCORDANCES: large complete concordances (e.g. “Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance”), which are especially good for research; and much smaller, but relatively complete concordances which are easy to carry and are very convenient to locate passages with.
Caution: Because we recommend books, this does not mean we agree with all they say. We do say that the good they contain overbalances their errors. On the whole we find them accurate. The small Cruden’s Complete Concordance is popular with some.
A BIBLE DICTIONARY is also desirable. “Peloubet’s Bible Dictionary” is used by some. This book describes people, places, and things mentioned in the Bible. It also has chronological tables and maps concerning (but as there are new archaeological discoveries, some of its place locations have been challenged).
BIBLES other than the New King James Version are sometimes valuable. The old Ambassador College especially liked the MOFFATT version. Its wording sometimes makes sections clearer than the King James. The new ENGLISH and AMERICAN REVISED versions also aid at times, as even the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION in some verses.
A BIBLE ATLAS is a book which specializes in Bible maps. They are very helpful.
Length of course: Many months may be required. Equip yourself accordingly. As long as God’s people hunger and thirst for His Word, this Course will continue.
Two Final Thoughts
There are two things you must always keep in mind.
1. Remember, though insignificant scribal errors have crept in now and then, the BIBLE IS INFALLIBLE.
2. The BIBLE MAKES SENSE. IT MEANS WHAT IT SAYS. Regard it as God’s Word! It deals with places, events, and beings–actual realities–and REVEALS knowledge which you need to know, but which you could not otherwise discover.
FACTS YOU SHOULD KNOW
THE VALUE OF THIS BIBLE COURSE TO YOU!
Greetings!! – Fellow student of God’s Word:
You would be shocked to know the real “Bible I.Q.” of most professing Christians! Here is an eye-opening example of what was going on in some the churches,as REPORTED BY A STARTLED NEWSPAPER REPORTER:
“Some months ago, a protestant pastor administered a Bible quiz to members of his of his congregation. The questions were very simple. Anyone with a general knowledge of the Bible shouldhave been able to answer all of them easily.
“The results staggered the pastor!
“Only five per cent of his flock made a commendable grade on the test. Fifteen per cent failed to give a single correct answer. Sixty per cent were unable to name the four gospels. Seventy-five per cent could not identify Calvary as the place where Jesus was crucified.
“Some congregations might do better than that. But not many. THE VAST MAJORITY of Americans today ARE BIBLE ILLITERATES! They simply have never read the book which they profess to regard as the ‘Word of God.’ Why?…A great many people have turned away from THE BIBLE because, when they do try to read it, they find THEY CANNOT UNDERSTAND it…To the modern reader, it has remote and antiquarian flavor. It is likely to leave him with the impression the Bible is an ancient history book that has no real relevance to his life here and now.” (Louis Cassels; Tyler, Texas; Courier-Times, April 16, 1961.)
This amazing quotation is not an isolated case! Similar quotes flood our News-Gathering offices, and jam our files. It has gotten even worse in the 21st century. Most people who profess the name of Jesus Christ DO NOT EVEN KNOW WHAT HE SAID! Why?
Understand – and be AMAZED!
LISTEN to the words of Jesus CHRIST! He GIVES THE ANSWER!!
And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which says: By hearing you shall hear, and not understand; and seeing you shall see and not perceive. For this people’s ears are dull of hearing, and THEIR EYES they have CLOSED; LEST at any time they should understand with their heart, and should BE CONVERTED and I should heal them (Matthew 13:14-15, KJV).
THE VAST MAJORITY are BLINDED TO the GOSPEL OF THE TRUE WAY TO BE SAVED!
BUT TO YOU–yes, you who are taking this course–CHRIST SAYS,
…BLESSED are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. (Matthew 13:16)
THERE HAS BEEN A BLINDNESS COVERING OVER ALL NATIONS (Isaiah 25:7)! GOD TODAY IS BEGINNING TO REMOVE this BLINDNESS, BUT ONLY FROM A CHOSEN FEW!
Think of that for a moment! MOST of these professing “CHRISTIANS” ARE NOT EVEN BEING SAVED at this time because they are not seeing and receiving the words of the Bible! Jesus Christ said so!
CAN YOU REALLY GRASP the TREMENDOUS BLESSING that God has GIVEN YOU?
HE has PUT RIGHT WITHIN YOUR REACH–in a form that you are able to understand–the knowledge which really counts. You can gain this vital knowledge that is necessary for SALVATION. And it has been made so easy!
For you have found that following God’s revealed method of this course: of properly placing together again His own true intended meaning and message of His Bible–REFITTING it back into its true form and meaning, LINE UPON LINE, PRECEPT UPON PRECEPT, here a little and there a little (Isaiah 28:13), always letting God’s Word explain itself, the Holy Spirit of God guiding us–has MADE MORE OF YOUR BIBLE a living, intensely interesting, up-to-date DEPENDABLE GUIDE BOOK IN WHICH YOU MAY PLACE ABSOLUTE CONFIDENCE because suddenly all has become so CLEAR and SIMPLE. You have been astonished to find that our mode of instruction is not even to be remotely compared with any other course!
You have been amazed to find that your Bible deals less with ancient history than it does with our modern, pulsating fast-moving twenty-first century ‘information age’! That it GUIDES YOU INTO a KNOWLEDGE OF the ACTION YOU MUST TAKE IN THESE PERILOUS TIMES! You have begun to find that you are being made able to understand your Bible in a way you never could before!
We are very happy to say that NONE OF the STUDENTS enrolled in the STUDY THE BIBLE COURSE REMAIN BIBLE ILLITERATES FOR LONG. Many even who are ordained ministers find–for the first time–the Bible TRUTH!
The Words of a Perceptive Minister
HERE IS WHAT one such MINISTER WROTE TO THE OLD RADIO CHURCH OF GOD–AFTER ONLY FOUR LESSONS!
“I would like to express my appreciation and let you know how much I’m enjoying the Bible Correspondence Course. I’m expecting my first test in the next day or so. I feel like the first grade student who just learned that ‘LMNOP’ is not a word but five different letters of the alphabet.
“I’VE BEEN A PREACHER OF ONE OF the LARGER DENOMINATIONS for almost two years now. All this time I really thought I was doing God a favor. I’M AMAZED AND SICKENED TO SEE HOW MANY OF GOD’S ETERNAL TRUTHS BECOME ‘LMNOP’ when studied through denominational eyes. MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON THOSE POOR SOULS I’VE SO WRONGLY INSTRUCTED.”
THE BIBLE AS TAUGHT BY THE WORLD’S CHURCHES, BECOMES NO MORE MEANINGFUL THAN MERE INDIVIDUAL LETTERS OF THE ALPHABET!!
If even ministers of the earlier version of THIS Bible COURSE so revealing, think of what it can now mean to you. IT CAN MEAN YOUR ETERNAL SALVATION! IT’S UP TO YOU!!
God LOOKS ON THE HEART!
God has given you a precious GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY! He wants you to appreciate it. MAKE Bible study–the WORDS OF YOUR BIBLE–an actual PART OF YOUR LIFE, a part of you. As much a part of YOU as your good right hand, or your constantly beating heart.
If you are already doing this, then you know what a great blessing you have already received. The comfort, the wisdom, and foresight, with supreme serenity of mind you are on the right path to the eternal life. You now KNOW WHAT THE STUDY THE BIBLE COURSE is REALLY WORTH TO YOU!
If you are one who has not yet advanced far in this practice, AN ASTONISHINGLY GREAT GAIN AWAITS YOU. You too will learn that the time you spend studying your Bible, with the help and guidance of this Bible Course, will be the most fascinating, engrossing and rewarding pursuit you have ever engaged in. Time will literally fly! And you will realize that at long last you are finally on the one true path to joyous salvation!
TODAY we are living in the LAST DAYS OF THIS AGE–the time of the DEATH THROES of man’s CIVILIZATION! You need to realize you’re living in a time when you–yes, YOU – are being THREATENED with EXTINCTION!
We are actually living in the time of which Paul spoke when he said, “…Know this, that in the last days perilous times will come” (2 Timothy 3:1).
That time is now!
You are actually witnessing that climactic time of which so many prophecies speak–that time of atheistic, godless, defiant man, trembling on the brink of nuclear holocaust–that time marking the end of this age, and the approach of the glorious Utopia of the World Tomorrow!
YOU NEED DESPERATELY to KNOW HOW you can SURVIVE this hazardous time of threatening world-wide conflict–to know how to live on over into that wonderful World Tomorrow!
THAT’S WHY YOU NEED THIS COURSE SO BADLY!
NOWHERE ELSE can you find the plain, simple, step-by-step information you so desperately need to help you survive! Nowhere else is such precious, life-saving INFORMATION AVAILABLE!
ONLY IN THIS Bible COURSE will you find the clear cut, concise, straight-to-the point information you must have! It affects you, personally!
God has said there is only one way out–only one method of escape! He is freely giving you that way–if you want it!
BY ALL MEANS CONTINUE THIS COURSE!
So far, 4 lessons were published in this magazine. In the next Bible News Prophecy Magazine, instead of a Lesson, YOU WILL RECEIVE A SIMPLE TEST covering the material you have learned in the first four lessons.
TESTS are EASY!
The TEST will be a fairly EASY, practical one–just a review to help you to better put together for practical use the knowledge you have already received. To us your taking of this test will be an indication of your sincere desire to continue receiving this precious Bible knowledge.
FILE these FACTS YOU SHOULD KNOW sheets just following LESSON 4. REVIEW THEM now and then. They contain worthwhile thoughts you should remember.
STUDY THE BIBLE COURSE LESSONS:
Here is a: link to Lesson 1: Why Study the Bible?
Here is a: link to Lesson 2: Here’s good news…the MESSAGE sent from Heaven
Here is a: link to Lesson 3: Christ Will Stop World Suicide!
Here is a: link to Lesson 4: How to Study the Bible
Here is a link to Study the Bible Course: Test 1, for Lessons 1-4
Here is a: link to Lesson 5: The Millennium
Here is a: link to Lesson 6: Utopia!
Here is a: link to Lesson 7: Ending Your FINANCIAL Troubles
Here is a: link to Lesson 8: Why Are Natural Disasters Increasing?
Here is a link to Study the Bible Course: Test 2, for Lessons 5-8