Michael L. Ford,
D.Min.; M.R.E.; M.Min.
Laying the Proper Foundation for Bible Study
Our Lord continued in the same verse quoted above with these
words about the Scripture “…and
they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39b).
You see, the Word of God does not contain eternal life, but tells us of
the One who is eternal life. It is not coming to God’s Word with a
sense of emptiness that is wrong. It is trying to use the Word as a
substitute for the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ that will get you
into trouble. A person who does not already know the Lord Jesus Christ
as their Savior has but one reason for coming to the Bible that is
legitimate. That reason is to learn how they then might be saved. Apart
from searching the Scripture for the truth about how they may satisfy
this need they can truly discover nothing of any eternal consequence.
If you have picked up this booklet because you have felt
emptiness within I am glad. If you have sought to satisfy your need by
learning about the Word of God, but you do not know Jesus Christ who is
the Living Word, I have already given you some information that will
help you. All you are really in need of knowing right now is that you
are a lost sinner and in need of a Savior, and that Jesus is able to
save you to the uttermost. All you must do is ask Him to come into your
life as your Savior and He will do so. Your assurance is that He always
keeps His word and you can find evidence of that in the book you have
set out to study.
After first having made your calling and election sure by
receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior you are now equipped with
the ability to begin to understand the Scripture. You see the Scripture
is a Book that is different from every other book that has been ever
written. It is not its uniqueness in having many men pen the pages over
several thousand years in a manner that uniquely fits together that
really makes it outstanding. It is the fact that in spite of having so
many writers it still has but one author. That author is the Person of
the godhead known as the Holy Spirit.
When an individual receives the Lord Jesus Christ as their
Savior, this same Person who is the One who moved holy men of old to
write will now supervise your education in the Word of God if you will
but allow Him. For our sakes it is written:
And I will
pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may
abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of Truth; whom the world cannot
receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him
for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you…But the Comforter, which
is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my Name, He shall teach
you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I
have said unto you.
14:16-17 & 26
the foundation is laid for the study of the Scripture:
foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now
if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones,
wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest for the
day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire
shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
we should learn the rest of the principles of Bible study, for there is
a test in this world and the next.
Approach Bible Study with the Right Attitude
people begin Bible study with the wrong attitude. There are a number of
issues here where a person needs to examine themselves and correct their
attitude if they are going to be a successful student of God’s Word.
In order to help you to recognize and successfully adjust any wrong
attitudes a checklist of correct attitudes with explanation of why it is
important is the way we approach this subject.
My desire in studying the Word of God is to find out what is the mind of
God, especially as His will applies to my life.
is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for
reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man
of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
My intent is that when I discover anything about how the Lord would have
me to live, I will immediately adjust my living to conform to His will.
I beseech you
therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a
living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable
service. And be not conformed to this 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.
I will never open God’s Word with the intent to find fault with the
Bible, but will always presume that when I discover something that seems
amiss, the problem is with my understanding, not the Scripture. I am
fallible; God’s Word is not.
For we know
in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is
come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child,
I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but
when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through
a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then
shall I know even also I am known.
I will continually cultivate and pursue a love for the truth of God’s
Word, not accepting any belief, doctrine, or statement by man unless the
Word of God first prove it.
were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false
teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even
denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift
destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of
which the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
My purpose in studying the Word of God is that I might draw nearer to
Him, and have a very real relationship with God the Father through His
Son Jesus Christ, not being satisfied just to be saved and having my
reservation made in heaven.
And be found
in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that
which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God
That I may
know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His
sufferings, being made conformable to His death.
3: 9 & 10
The precepts of God’s Word will be the vantage point from which I will
judge the society I live in, the church I join myself to, and the
actions of all men, especially myself. In this way I intend to walk
circumspectly in this world not allying myself with anything contrary to
the will of God.
Do ye not
know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be
judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
Know ye not
that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this
1Corinthians 6: 2&3
Understand What You Are Reading
Too many people approach God’s Word as if it is an alien
message from another planet. Actually it is a message from God that He
prepared for His people to read and understand. Since this is a God
prepared book, it follows that it should be easier to comprehend than
would a book written by men speaking of weighty matters. And it is. But
it speaks of great and lofty (holy) things. Some men have had the
temerity to try and simplify God’s Word. In every case they have
failed miserably while producing perversions of the true Word of God.
If you approach God’s Word as a message from God that is to be
studied and meditated upon, not lightly skimmed through, you have made a
good initial start.
The Bible is a library of books that compose God’s message
to man. It contains 66 different books. There are 39 books in the Old
Testament and 27 books in the New Testament. God took what seems a long
time working through men to deliver these books to us. But there was no
time during all that time that He was not working and dealing with all
men who would respond to His revelation of Himself. And He dealt with
men according to where His revealing of Himself had progressed to in the
written word. Along the way there were some works that were only
important for a time, but when the need for them was over, God in His
provision allowed them to be lost to men. We know of them because they
are referred to in His preserved book, the Bible.
In the Scripture we are told to rightly divide the word of
Study to show
thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly
dividing the Word of Truth.
follows then that the Bible has divisions. One division is blatantly
obvious. Your Bible is divided into two parts we commonly call the Old
and New Testaments. The word Testament means Covenant. The Old Testament
sets the groundwork for the New while at the same time bearing record to
God’s dealing with man during those days. The New Testament begins
with the appearance of the Messiah (Christ) Jesus in keeping with the
Then it goes on to give the history of the early days of this covenant
and to teach how to apply the redemption bought for us by the blood of
the Lord Jesus Christ.
Of course the Bible has further divisions within both the
Testaments. Not all parts of the Bible teach on the same things or have
the same measure of signification. But every part is important and every
word teaches us something. It teaches us real history. It displays the
mind and attitude of God in various situations. It enunciates His law
which man cannot live up to. It makes scientific statements. It counsels
us about life. But from Genesis to Revelation the Bible has one
outstanding hero that is talking about. That Person is none other than
the Lord Jesus Christ.
As you study the Bible you need to discern what it is you are
reading about, and not try to make it fit into something else. For
instance you can immediately see that it would be nonsensical to study
the “begats” of Genesis chapter five and try to make of it some
statement concerning the observance of baptism or of the Lord’s
Supper. That is not what is being written about. People do go to great
lengths to similarly twist Scripture though. If you are to receive from
the Word what God has for you do not do as they do. In this direction
lies gross error. In the process of Scripture twisting many of the cults
A helpful guide to understanding the Bible is the principle of
“context.” If someone sent you an instruction manual on how to do
things and you looked in the section on how to assemble a gym set, you
would presume that everything in that part would be focused on gym sets.
You would not look in that segment for information on how to put
barbecue grills together. This is a helpful general way to approach the
Bible when you are seeking to learn the truth. Though the Bible has a
construction that is unique, and some parts seem very foreign to the
natural mind, it does have an order. You will find some of that order is
obvious. Other parts of the order you will discern with much study as
you are taught by God.
He, the Spirit of Truth, is come. He will guide you into all truth: for
He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall
He speak: and He will show you things to come.
The Necessity of Prayer in Bible Study
A number of sayings, poetic expressions, and statements of axioms
have come into existence over the years that demonstrate how
inextricably intertwined prayer and Bible study are. For instance you
may have heard that “sin will keep you from prayer, or prayer will
keep you from sin.” But you may have also heard that “the Bible will
keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.” Both of the
statements are true to a point, but the first is truer than the latter.
You see, unreconciled sin in your life means that God will
not be with you in your prayer: If
I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.
(Psalm 66:18) This means that God in the Person of the Holy Spirit will
not be active in your life leading you into all truth when you open the
Word of God. It does not mean that you won’t open the Word. But, in
all likelihood, as long as you harboring known sin your desire for the
Bible will not be present. Yet a sinning believer may open the Bible.
And he should find the convicting power of the Holy Spirit present when
he does so.
The truth is Bible study requires discipline of heart and
dedication of purpose. When an individual decides to seek out the deep
and hidden things of God, he puts himself into a position of conflict
with Satan greater than that he experiences from just simply being
saved. That old devil does not like for you to study God’s Word and he
especially does not want you to apply it to
your life. So he is going to martial some forces against you. If
you are not in communication with the Lord of Hosts, you might very well
find yourself in the position of feeling you are standing all alone. I
learned an interesting little poem may years ago that goes like this:
Restraining prayer, we cease to fight.
Prayer makes the Christian armor bright.
And Satan trembles when he sees,
The weakest saint upon his knees.
we have seen that prayer is important to Bible study to keep our desire
for study alive, and it is valuable to resist evil from seeking to draw
us away from Bible study. But this is not all.
We have already touched on the importance of prayer in order that
our lives might be purged from iniquity so the Holy Spirit can teach us.
But this booklet has emphasized from the beginning that the primary
purpose of Bible study is first and foremost our personal relationship
with God through the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Scripture
itself proclaims to us over and over how important this is:
Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed thereto according to Thy word.
Psalm 119: 9
If an individual does not make this the first reason for their
Bible study, they are in very grave danger of being like the Pharisee of
old. They knew the theological doctrines of the Bible. They knew what
the law required for the outward observance, especially when they wished
to enforce it upon others, but they missed out on what Christ called the
precepts I get understanding:
hate every false way.
Thy word is a
lamp unto my feet,
and a light
unto my path.
By now you should understand that it is not wrong to desire to
know a great deal about the Bible from the standpoint of understanding
doctrine, history, and even prophecy. It is just that we need to have
some priorities in our lives about what we do. I garnered a good piece
of advice many years ago that has been around so long that the first
record I have of it is in Latin:
Te totum applica ab textum;
Rem totum applica ab te.
being translated into English could be read:
Apply yourself to the whole text;
Apply the whole text to yourself.
should be the first rule of Bible study. If you do this, all you learn
whether it be about doctrine, history, prophecy, or proper conduct will first govern your life before it does anything
The final issue of prayer in Bible study that we will
discuss here has to do with our need to find understanding when we open
up the Word of God. The Bible is unique in that it is a genuinely
spiritual book and must be understood through the activity of the Holy
Spirit. It is for this reason that we read in 1John 2:27:
anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not
that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all
things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it has taught you, ye
shall abide in Him.
is the third Person of the Triune God, the Holy Spirit that abides in
all who are saved, and it is He who is the divine teacher dwelling in
us. He continues the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was often titled
teacher when He was upon the earth. The wonderful thing about this is
that He, the Holy Spirit, actually continues this work within us.
Because the Holy Spirit is the divine teacher and because He is
present and active in our prayers it is important that we begin our
Bible study with prayer. It is also probable that we will find times in
the course of our study when we will need to stop and pray. And, it is
appropriate that we should also end each study session with prayers of
thanksgiving for what we have been shown. This is what people mean when
they talk about bathing their study in prayer.
There are two good reasons for beginning Bible study with prayer.
The first is to have divine guidance into what should be studied and
understood. The second is for protection against falling into error
through a misunderstanding and misapplication of Scripture. The reasons
for stopping in the middle of study and praying are many. They include
such issues as conviction, awe, gratitude, and the desire for
clarification of something that has been read.
It should be apparent from what you have been shown in this
section that prayer is a central part of Bible study. The development of
the proper prayer relationship in Bible study will be an ongoing part of
your Bible study experience. It will grow as you grow.
Choosing the Right Bible
Choosing the right Bible is actually a simple process once you
understand what the facts are. It seems complicated because of the
multitude of books being presented on the market. It should not surprise
you that the production of books called bibles by so many people is very
much about making money. They do it to make a profit. For that reason
most of what is being produced for consumption is not worth your
If you are intent on genuinely studying the Bible, your selection
of the correct one to use should be based upon that purpose. If you
cannot read the original tongues the Bible was written in, then you will
want to obtain a Bible that correctly translates the Word of God into
the English language. Out of some four hundred fifty plus attempts to do
so, I know of only one Bible that has succeeded in that quest. That is
the book we commonly refer to as the King James Bible.
The King James Bible is a true representative of the Scripture
once and for all given to the saints. It is a direct inheritor of the
literal message of God to His people as it was recognized in the first
Christian congregations that remained faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ.
No other rendition has yet been made that is a literal presentation of
God’s holy Word in a direct line from the original accepted
manuscripts. If you truly want to study the Word less is unacceptable.
The next point in selecting a Bible has to do with the things
placed in them often referred to as Bible helps. You must realize that
these things represent the opinions of men. They are not necessarily
correct opinions. It would be possible for a person to select a Bible
without any of these add-ons. Through regular study, prayer, and
of Scripture one may become very knowledgeable in the Word
without the use of any of these resources. But they do represent a
shortcut to understanding if one is careful in their use. They can also
be a shortcut to error if a man is careless.
The solution to the initial selection of a study Bible is to
choose a Bible that connects ideas, topics, issues, and prophecies found
throughout the Bible in a simple manner devoid of extraneous comment.
For many years my personal choice has been the Thompson Chain Reference
Bible. I say this with the warning that its helps are neither perfect
nor complete. I would caution the student to disregard such statements
in its marginal notes that says “this does not appear in some
manuscripts.” Also, marginal renderings of readings from “other
version” should be ignored just as they should be in any other Bible
on the market. When such things appear in the margin of any Bible, a
wise person asks the question, “Who says so?”
A number of good Bibles in the King James text are on the market
that have specialized notations and are useful to the Bible student who
is pressing on studies in specific areas. You may obtain Bibles with
useful notations by such notables as D. A. Waite, Henry Morris, Salem
Kirban, and others that would be very beneficial to you in pursuing
specialized knowledge. You can purchase Bibles designed to help you do
things like share the Gospel with others. But if you put such things in
front of your primary purpose in Bible study you have erred. Always
remember that your first and foremost goal in Bible study is your own
conformance to the will of God in Christ Jesus.
Earlier I pointed out that you might choose a Bible that is
virtually devoid of Bible helps for the purpose of Bible study. Most
people do not do this. There are a number of reasons they choose not to.
Two of those reasons are discussed here. The first of these is the very
human desire to get more “bang for the buck.” Bibles with extensive
helps command a much higher price than do Bibles devoid of such
resources. In choosing a Bible with helps your buck loses its bang if
the resources are not something you will use. The second reason for
choosing a Bible with helps is that they provide a ready compact
resource you may use as you go about your life. Having a mini resource
library contained within one volume is an advantage to people who take
time for studying their Bible in a variety of locations as they move
about. Helps give you mobility, but should not free you from the
established regular study hour.
Using Supplemental Study Aids
Like your choice of Bibles, care must also be exercised in the
choice of study aids you will keep in your library or study and use to
assist you in the exploration of the Word. You might already have some
misgivings about the dangers associated with the selection of resources
because of things you have heard from others or perceived in this text.
I do not want to make you more comfortable at all. The reason is that
over a hundred years there has been an ever-increasing production of
study materials by people who either do not have a proper respect for
the Scripture, or worse yet, are inimical to it.
Earlier I told you that the forces of Satan would be rallied
against you when you gave yourself to a correct study of God’s Word.
Should it surprise you then to discover that Word and the study of it is
also under attack? The newer a Bible study aid is, and the more a part
of the established large print and production conglomerates that it
springs from, the more carefully is it to be viewed. I would not even
have you to look at your Sunday School literature carelessly. What do
you really know about the people who wrote the material? We once were
careful of the small independent publishers, but more and more those who
hold to the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith are pushed into
Would that you always should bathe your Bible study in prayer
that the Lord God would keep you from falling into error. As you go out
in pursuit of Bible helps let me reassure you that there are still good
resources to be found. And it is always worthwhile to compare several
different people when they speak to a subject in the various books,
checking them against the totality of what the Scripture has to say on
the subject. And learn about the person who wrote the commentary or
expository. Where did they come from? To what church did they belong?
What causes did they promote? What did they say about the inerrancy and
infallibility of Scripture?
Once I started out young believers in their course of Bible study
with a single aid called the Halley’s Bible Handbook, but
got hold of the handbook and made some additions to it. These reflected
some of the modernist revisionist thinking in very subtle ways. Then
later, I understand the Billy Graham Association acquired the rights to
the book and removed everything Halley had to say about the history of
the Catholic Church. A great asset to the beginning Bible student was
lost. May God have mercy on the souls of the individuals responsible for
carrying out such evil deeds.
There are some good resources you can draw from in your
study of the Bible. Smith and Vine’s Bible dictionaries are useful
tools. An Exhaustive Concordance such as Strong’s can prove helpful,
but his Hebrew and Greek text references have not escaped being tainted.
Commentaries and Expositors can contribute to your knowledge just as
long as you remember that men wrote these too.
would advise you against the purchases of sets of books. The argument is
that writers are generally better in certain areas and subjects than in
others. There is a lot of truth in this, but the more you read a writer,
the better you understand where they are coming from and what prejudices
influence their work. If you maintain objectivity and can afford it, the
acquisition of books by people who have some credibility is not a bad
investment. For instance the collected works of Herbert Lockyer are
useful tools. His series of writings, the title to each beginning “All
the…” is a great help to Bible study. But he is not without error.
Understand there is a difference between good Christian men
who love the Lord and are generally right in what they say and teach and
others who have corrupt albeit religious minds. The first can be a
blessing in your life of Bible study. the latter can be a bane. Pray for
discernment and try what they say by the very Word of God you are
seeking to study! Be a Berean Christian.
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.
Where to Start Studying
This is a question that always faces the novice Bible student. A
lot of people try to start off in Genesis. The most dedicated of these
usually bog down by Leviticus. The truth is a person is not studying the
Bible when he begins that way, he is reading it. It is not bad to read
it. I recommend that quite apart from the time of Bible study. But if
you want to study the Scripture you must begin with a purpose. I would
suggest to you that your purpose must be centered on the Lord Jesus
Christ, that I might know Him and
the power of His resurrection. (Philippians 3:10a)
Because the Lord Jesus Christ is the subject of the Bible and the
knowledge of Him is central to our purpose, my advice to nearly every
student would be to begin with the Gospel of John. In that Gospel the
Lord Jesus Christ is presented most thoroughly as the God-man. It would
not be ill considered of me to say this. No student of the Scripture has
gleaned sufficient knowledge from that text till His thinking processes
cannot bear to consider the Name of Jesus without prefacing it with the
title Lord. A great problem of Christendom is too many proclaimers with
too small a concept of the One they proclaim allegiance to. …I
am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that
He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that
Then you might move on to Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. This
is a book with a division that is notable. The first half of the text is
theological. It is the theology of the Christian life. The second half
of the book is practical. It is the practice of the Christian life. As
you study this book you will find many opportunities to read related
material in other parts of the Bible. In studying this book an
expository help could prove useful to you. I would recommend H. A.
Ironsides book In the Heavenlies published by Loizeaux Brothers. Since
that book first appeared no one to my knowledge has ever written a
worthwhile commentary on Ephesians without referring to this excellent
work. It is not perfect because it was made by a man, but it will
certainly bless you with its content.
From the conclusion of your first time studying Ephesians
completely through, you will have plenty of ideas of your own about
where to proceed. But should you be hesitant at that point you might
like to study the First Epistle of Peter or get to know the history of
the early church a little better by studying Acts. The more time you
spend and the more carefully you consider every word the clearer and
easier the Bible becomes.
Remember to always start in your study of the Scripture
considering the Bible to mean exactly what it says as well. That is as
important as where in the Bible you begin. There are very few allegories
in the Bible if any. Parables and other expressions where something is
used as a picture of another thing are clearly pronounced as such. And,
the Bible defines itself. It tells you what it means when it gives those
pictures. Part of Bible study is seeking out that understanding. It is
not God’s purpose to give the wonderful things He might reveal to
people content to be of little understanding.
Another thing about starting your study of the Bible is beginning
with the attitude that you are in this for the long haul. You must
realize that you are not going to become an overnight Bible authority.
Start you study with the attitude that you have a lot to learn and need
to submit yourself to the study of the Word. Recognize that this is a
worthwhile endeavor that requires no less of you than does the Lordship
of Jesus Christ. When others begin to recognize some competency in your
handling of God’s Word consider this a goad to push you toward really
having some portion of the mastery they think you have.
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.
For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept;
line upon line, line upon line;
here a little, and there a little;
In this booklet we have discussed the need for a person to first
be saved in order to study the Bible. We have seen the need for
communion and continuing relationship with the Lord in order to
correctly understand what is contained in the Scripture. Not only that,
the reader should now understand that the attitude and purpose that one
comes to Bible study with is significant. In addition you have been
given some good advice about how to choose your study Bible and how to
approach resources that you might use to aid you in study.
A great deal more might be said about the subjects just covered
not to mention other issues related to Bible study. But the idea in
preparing this work is simply to equip whoever the Lord should see the
booklet is read by with some basic tools of understanding that will get
them off to a good start.
Some people ask about using such things as Bible correspondence
and Bible college courses to help force themselves into a regimen of
Bible study. This is alright as long as you are highly selective about
who you take the courses from. Then you must still willing to apply the
same careful consideration to the material you are provided that I have
encouraged you to use toward other Bible helps. It works for some
people, but for others there is a discovery that they were not well
enough grounded before they embarked on such an adventure. It has a
built in problem for most. People often get so involved in learning what
is needed to pass the course they forget the greater need for
application to their life.
But then there is the danger of going it on your own. Being able
to meet with and share with others helps keep us on the right track.
Remember that Scripture is of no private interpretation. The truth is if
it is new, it isn’t true. If it is true, it is highly likely a lot of
people already have thought of it before. Remember that is the third
Person of the Triune God who is the ultimate teacher, and in the church
age He is working in the life of every true believer.
Finally, I wish to pray for you that the Lord will bless you and
keep you, and cause His face to shine upon you as go forward seeking out
the wonderful things of God.
the Proper Foundation for Bible Study
Bible Study with the Right Attitude
What You Are Reading
Necessity of Prayer in Bible Study
the Right Bible
Supplemental Study Aids
to Start Studying
Scripture quoted is from
King James Bible
No copyright is placed upon this work.
When you are in a war you do not ration bullets.
We trust the Lord for our provision,
and our brothers in the Lord for ethical conduct.