We are starting a four part series from RA Torrey on the importance of and the how to’s of Bible study. In today’s post Torrey examines the absolute necessity of Bible study and gives a method to do so systematically. RA Torrey served with DL Moody for a season as the superintendent of Moody Bible Institute and eventually became pastor of Moody Church in Chicago. He often traveled the country as an evangelist and wrote over 40 books.
There is nothing more important for the development of a Christian’s spiritual life than regular, systematic Bible study. It is as true in the spiritual life as in the physical life, that health depends on what we eat and how much we eat. “Man shall not live by bread alone” (Matt. 4:4). The soul’s proper food is found in one book, the Bible.
Of course, a true minister of the gospel will feed us on the Word of God, but that is not enough. He feeds us only one or two days in the week, and we need to be fed every day. Therefore, we must learn to feed ourselves. We live in a day in which false doctrine is everywhere, and only the Christian who studies his Bible for himself, daily, will be safe from being led into error.
Through the study of the Bible, one will be sound in doctrine and led to see his sins and to put them away. He will find discipline in the righteous life and be equipped for all good works. Our spiritual health, growth, strength, victory over sin, soundness in doctrine, joy, and peace in Christ come from study of God’s Word. Cleansing from inward and outward sin and fitness for service all depend on daily study of the Bible.
The one who neglects his Bible is bound to be a failure in the Christian life. The one who studies his Bible in the right spirit and by a constant method is bound to make a success of the Christian life.
This brings us face to face with the question, “What is the right way to study the Bible?”
How to Study Your Bible
First of all, we should study it daily. “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 those things were so” (Acts 17:11). This is of prime importance. No matter how solid the methods of Bible study, how much time one may put into Bible study now and then, the best results can only be secured when one never lets a single day go by without earnest Bible study. Any day that is allowed to pass without faithful Bible study is a day which opens our hearts and lives to error and sin.
A regular time should be set aside each day for Bible study. I do not think it is wise, as a rule, to say that we will study so many chapters a day, because that leads to undue haste, skimming, and thoughtlessness. But it is good to set apart a certain length of time each day for Bible study. Some can give more time to Bible study than others, but no one should devote less than fifteen minutes a day.
I set a short time span so that no one will be discouraged in the beginning. If a young Christian planned to spend an hour or two a day in Bible study, there is a strong probability that he would not keep the resolution and would become discouraged. Nevertheless, I know of many very busy people who have taken the first hour of every day for years for Bible study. Some have even given two hours a day.
The late Earl Cairns, Lord Chancellor of England, was one of the busiest men of his day. Lady Cairns told me that no matter how late at night he reached home, he always woke up at the same early hour for prayer and Bible study. She said, “We would sometimes get home from Parliament at two o’clock in the morning, but Lord Cairns would always arise at the same early hour to pray and study the Bible.” Lord Cairns is reported as saying, “If I have had any success in life, I attribute it to the habit of giving the first two hours of each day to Bible study and prayer.”
It is important that one choose the right time for this study. Whenever possible, the best time for study is immediately after waking up in the morning. Of course, it is good to spend a little time just before we go to bed reading the Bible so that God’s voice will be the last voice we hear. The bulk of our Bible study should be done when our minds are clearest and strongest. Whatever time is set apart for Bible study should be kept sacredly for that purpose.
We should study the Bible systematically. A lot of time is frittered away in random study of the Bible. The same amount of time put into systematic study would yield far greater results. Have a definite place where you study and have a definite plan of study. A good way for a young Christian to begin the study of the Bible is to read the gospel of John. When you have read it through once, read it again until you have gone over the gospel five times. Then read the gospel of Luke five times in the same way. Then read the Acts of the Apostles five times. Then read the following epistles five times each: 1 Thessalonians, 1 John, Romans, and Ephesians.
By this time you will be ready to take up a more thorough method of Bible study. A profitable method is to begin at Genesis and read the Bible through chapter by chapter. Read each chapter through several times and then answer the following questions on each chapter:
1.What is the main subject of the chapter? State the principal contents of the chapter in a single phrase or sentence.
2.What is the truth most clearly taught and most emphasized in the chapter?
3.Who are the principal people mentioned?
4.What does the chapter teach about Jesus Christ?
Go through the entire Bible in this way.