Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 24, 1953
NUMBER 20, PAGE 1,13

Some Rules Of Bible Study

Charles A. Holt, Jr., Mt. Pleasant, Texas

The Bible is as subject to RULES and PRINCIPLES, both general and specific, as any other book. These rules and principles MUST be observed while studying it, if we understand and appreciate it. If people would only recognize this it would solve much trouble along this line. Persons who take up the book, open it at random, read a chapter, perhaps hastily, and with little thought; and after about a week or more do about the same thing, making a dozen or more hasty and careless readings in a year, will never understand, or rightly value the Bible. This course would never acquaint them with any science, or with any history. Even the glorious history of the United States could never be understood that way, and especially by an alien. Hence, we must recognize that there are certain rules to govern the study of the Bible, as well as any other book. The Bible deserves an intelligent and sensible approach in learning its teaching.

Here are some rules that will simplify Bible study and assure a correct knowledge of the same. They are largely just "common sense" rules but are all too often ignored.

RULE ONE: Cherish the love of the truth.

This is an absolute essential. One must love and DESIRE the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Paul says (2 Thess. 2:10) the enemy came "and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved." Here we learn the importance of loving the truth. It is necessary to be saved. These were deceived, and for this cause, because they loved not the truth," God shall send them a strong delusion that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned..." Study this passage carefully. One must love the truth. I know many people do not love the truth and do not want to know it. Well do the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 4:4 describe such people: "And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." We must study the Bible with an open and receptive mind, always ready to change if we find we are wrong.

RULE TWO: We must act from proper motives when we search for the truth.

This rule is closely connected with and grows out of Rule One. Jesus said to the selfish Jews (John 6:26): "Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat the loaves, and were filled." They were following him from the wrong motive.

Many study the Bible with wrong motives. If a man destitute of the love of God and the love of the truth, searches the scriptures to pick flaws, find imaginary contradictions, etc.; he will not learn the truth. One should study the word of God to see what it says, not to prove what he already believes. One should not be biased or prejudiced in favor of some doctrine, creed, or what he thinks, when studying the scriptures. This will hinder one's ever learning the truth. In other words, one should go to the Bible to get what he believes, rather than go there to prove what he already thinks is right. We should "examine ourselves" when we approach the Bible to see if we really love the truth and are prompted by pure and proper motives.

RULE THREE: "Rightly divide the word of Truth."

This rule cannot be emphasized too strongly, for there is none any more neglected. The major division of the Bible to be observed is the division between the Old and New Testaments. Many never give this any consideration. They think the Old and the New are alike binding upon us today. Just as long as men have this idea and go alternately and indiscriminately to the Old and New Testaments for religious laws and authority (as so many do) they will be confused and most of the time deceived.

Let us observe some facts regarding this division of the Bible. The words "Covenant," "Testament" and "Will" can all aptly apply to the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament can correctly be called the "Old Covenant" or the "Old Will." Now notice some facts about the Old Covenant — the Law of Moses. First, when was it given? "And there have I set a place for the Ark, wherein is the Covenant of Jehovah, which he made with our fathers, WHEN HE BROUGHT THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT." (1 Kings 8:21) This was about 2500 years after the creation. It was given at Mount Sinai about fifty days after the children of Israel came out of bondage. (Exodus 19-20) Second, with whom was this covenant made? It was made with the Jews only — the children of Israel whom God had delivered from Egyptian bondage. (Exodus 20:1-2; Deut. 5:1-2) The Old Covenant, the Law of Moses, was never given to Gentiles, and they, as such, were never subject to it. What manner of reasoning can make one think that Gentiles today are subject to it? Third, why was the Old Covenant given? "It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made." (Gal. 3:19) This promised seed was Christ. (Gal. 3:16) Thus we see that the Old Covenant was given at a SPECIAL TIME, to a SPECIAL PEOPLE, for a SPECIAL PURPOSE and for a LIMITED TIME.

The entire Old Testament has been abolished as far as its being the law under which we are to worship God. It is no longer binding — no longer in authority. This includes its system of worship and service. Hence, such things as circumcision, burning of incense, instrumental music and the sabbath days (including the seventh-day sabbath) were all removed as religious rites and observances. For proof see the following passages: Col. 2:14-17; Heb. 7:12; 8:6-13; 10:9-10.

We do not therefore, live under the Old Covenant. We live under and are subjects of the New Testament — the gospel or law of Christ. Christ now has all authority (Matt. 28:18), and we must hear Him (not Moses) in all things (Acts 3:22-23), for God speaks to us today by His Son and by Him only. (Heb. 1:1; Matt. 17:5) We must hear and obey Christ to be saved. Let us remember this fundamental rule. Other minor divisions will be mentioned as we go along.

RULE FOUR: Observe who is the author of, and the speaker in, the passage under consideration. Many times the devil is the speaker. It is well to know when he is speaking at least. Observe whether it is Abraham, Moses, David, Christ or Paul speaking. This will certainly help to understand any passage.

RULE FIVE: See who is addressed in the passage.

Some passages are addressed to God, some to the Apostles alone, some to alien sinners, some to Christians, etc. One should not apply language addressed to the Apostles alone to himself. Neither should an alien sinner apply statements to Christians to himself. One must be in the class addressed before the words apply to him. Surely all can see immediately the importance of this rule, and yet it is often overlooked.

RULE SIX: Find, if possible, what was intended to be accomplished (or the lesson to be taught) by the passage under consideration.

Most passages that require careful consideration, have, as may be seen, a special object to accomplish. It may be to prevent an error, or to correct one already existing. It may be to remove a special difficulty, or to prompt to particular duties.

RULE SEVEN: Find, if possible, what gave rise to the lesson under consideration.

This can usually be done by observing the context and circumstances connected with it, and will go far to clarify the end aimed at, and everything pertaining to it. Do not remove a passage from its setting and connection — for it must be interpreted in the light of these. By taking a passage here and a passage there, one can "prove" anything.

But that is mishandling the word of God and is unfair. Some people think one can prove anything by the Bible. It is not so. One can wrest the scriptures and make them SEEM to teach various ideas, but this is done to their own destruction. Let us be careful that we handle aright God's word.

RULE EIGHT: Consider carefully all the surrounding circumstances.

This rule means consider the time, the place, the persons engaged and their special conditions and positions, RULE NINE: Collect all the Divine Testimonies on the matter under consideration; find just what each clearly means, claim all of that and no more.

This is just studying all the Bible says on the subject in hand. In the Bible there is no excess evidence on any subject. So, when we have it all before us, we have none too much, in order to reach an intelligent and safe conclusion. For example, on the subject of how to become a Christian, one should gather all the instruction on the matter, sum it all up and then he will have the correct information God wants him to have on the subject. Let's be sure that we get all the truth.

RULE TEN: Doubtful passages, which may be capable of more than one construction, must be construed so as to harmonize with those which are positive and plain, and can have but one meaning.

The Bible is a harmonious book. The Bible contains no contradictions, nor errors. We should never construe one passage to mean something that contradicts another. It may sometimes APPEAR that one passage is out of harmony with another. The safe rule is to let the plainest passage govern. Make the most difficult passage harmonize with the plainer one. A passage containing figurative language should always be made to conform to the clear passages on the subject. To illustrate: Many people take Revelation 20, which is admittedly a doubtful and figurative passage, and try to make all the rest of the scriptures harmonize with THEIR CONCEPTION of it. This is the sad mistake of the Premillennialists — those who teach that Jesus will come back to earth, establish His kingdom and reign here for a thousand years. The New Testament does not teach such an idea, there are too many plain passages to the contrary.

RULE ELEVEN: Consider the meaning of each word, sentence and paragraph.

This rule is manifestly important but often overlooked. People many times read passages that contain words or expressions they do not comprehend. Rather than find out the meaning they pass on. Certainly they do not understand the passage. Words are signs of ideas. If one does not know what the words mean, one does not get the idea. We must know what the words used mean — especially in the sense the Bible uses them. If we fail to understand the parts, how can we understand the whole?

If these rules are followed one can understand and know God's will for him. Familiarize yourself with these principles and use them in your study of the Bible. "Be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is."

NOTE: I am indebted to a book, Rules of Bible Study, for the substance of this article.