Right Tools & Wrong Tools
Elder Keith Ellis
Certainly with any task that we hope to accomplish we must have the proper tools. Just try pulling a nail from a board with a screwdriver, or installing a pipe fitting with a claw hammer. Needless to say you will probably encounter many difficulties.
The same principle applies when approaching the study of the Bible. The resources we draw from, or the tools we choose to use are critical to the accomplishment of the task to be performed. So it is important that we choose the right tools for the job. Now I know there is a prevailing thought in the religious world today that we need lots of handy study aids to help us understand the Bible. I hope if you think this, you can overcome it. Most likely it could prove to be a stumbling block to your Christian growth if you do not confine yourself in the initial stages of your growth to just a few tools. In the previous three chapters we have discussed the spiritual resources necessary to begin your Bible study. So now we need to discuss the material resources that we need. I believe there are only three needed.
Now when my children were younger and they wanted to join in on a construction project I had going, I had to stop and consider their individual experience level. My oldest boy could use a power saw under supervision. My younger son I would task with using the measuring tape, understanding that he could get seriously injured by using the power saw. Both tasks were critical in order to get the job done right, but one required less experience than the other.
If we were to think about this in relation to our spiritual experience, we can see for an inexperienced Christian we need to start out with something that is on his or her experience level. Recognizing this, I would not suggest we give a new convert a copy of Gill's Body of Divinity, or a book which was a debate on the atonement for example. If we were to do so then we could cause damage. The idea for study is to build us up in the word of God, not to damage. I cannot stress enough how important it is for us to lay a solid and proper foundation in God's word FIRST. And I believe that one of the keys to accomplish this is to limit the resource materials we use until we become grounded in what the Bible says. There is so much confusion in the world today. I feel that one of the reasons is that people do not become grounded in the word of God before they begin to take up resources for their study that will influence them to believe a particular denomination's system of belief. Even as much as I or anyone else believes they have the truth concerning the word of God, the fact remains that there are many cults among us in the world today that seek to lead us away from what the Bible teaches. In this writing you are now reading I am not intending to teach you what my particular church believes, but rather to steer you to lay your foundation for your Christian knowledge upon the word of God and not the doctrines and commandments of men. Now no one is going to come to you and say, "we believe in the doctrines and commandments of men." Just as the devil does not come to you and say. "I am the devil. Serve me." But when he comes, he comes pretending to be good and right for you.
He is a master counterfeiter. And he can transform himself into an angel of light. That is why it is so necessary to know for yourself what the Bible teaches, so when you see or hear something you can know for a certainty that it is either true or false (see 1 John 4:1-6 & Isaiah 8:19-20).
Once the time comes that you have been grounded in the word of God you may desire to look into other resources and the writings of men to supplement your Bible study. But one may ask, how do I know when I am ready to begin to use these other writings in my
studies? I think once you have been in the Bible alone for a good season, at least a year of reading every day, and you become comfortable with it and feel that you DO NOT NEED other writings then you are probably ready.
I have seen young Christians who were approached with these things in the beginning and it usually resulted in their falling away from the church. Now this is not the only reason this happens, but it is one.
When we begin to read God's word under the direction of God's Holy Spirit some wonderful things begin to happen to us. The Bible comes alive to us. As the Spirit of God begins to lead our everyday lives we will find that our new Christian experience will be described by the Bible. In other words, instead of just having a head knowledge of what the Bible says, we begin to have an experimental knowledge. The Bible and our experience line up. It is one thing to be lead and influenced by the Holy Spirit. It is quite another to be led by men. This is another reason why it is so important to get grounded in the Bible alone at first.
But it may be when you read other writings, what they say does not line up with your experience. This should sound an alarm inside of us.
It does not matter to me how much your pastor or preacher may say that it is OK to read these works in the beginning. If they are attempting to please God then they will agree with what I am saying here and will agree that it is right and safe. But if they are afraid that by you reading the Bible alone, you will discover their system does not line up with God's word, then it is better that you find it out NOW, rather than remaining under a false system. This is a challenge to all who read this.
I hope that no one mistakes the spirit in which I write this. I have a great desire for God's children to walk as closely to The Lord as possible in this lifetime. And the method I am advocating is one way to ensure that God's children are less likely to be duped or deceived by many of the false teachers in the land today.
Let's hear the Bible on the matter;
"All scripture 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." 2 Timothy 3:16-17
The word "perfect" as used in this text means "mature" or "complete." It does not mean sinless. So here we see testimony that the Bible alone is sufficient to meet all our needs so we are completely and throughly furnished or fitted for ALL good works.
As the subject we have been discussing may seem to be unpopular with the worldly religions, even so will the next one find out those people who have been taught differently. Please bear with me and prayerfully consider what I am saying.
Now as far as materials are concerned, the first thing you will need is a King James Bible. Yes, I did say a King James Bible. Though there are many in the denominations of the world that prefer other translations, I am convinced that the King James is more reliable and closer to the original text than any other now in existence. At last count there were about 200 different books on the market which all claim to be God's inspired word. How are we to know which one is right?
The King James version of the Bible was written in A.D. 1611. Then personal opinions and prejudices were not as ably communicated as they are today. Now I did not say there were not any personal opinions in that day, but they were not as readily passed along as they are today.
You will find the King James is the accepted version among all the English-speaking bodies in the world. And it is still the top-selling translation the world over as the number one all time best seller. So why do people want a different version?
You will find if you do some research that right around the time when the industrial age began to blossom, things started to change. Once the wireless telegraph and the telephone came on the scene in American life, people were better equipped to more rapidly communicate. About this time is when folks began to think maybe we should update or improve God's word. The idea may have been to make it easier to understand. The same reason is mentioned to justify today's counterfeit versions. The fact of the matter is, if God does not open the understanding of His word to us, then trying to make the Bible read like a "Jane and Dick" book which we read in first grade will not help the cause. They simply miss the point. People do not want to humble themselves before God and want to force the word of God to align with their own system rather than letting the word of God mold their lives and beliefs.
The first few "new" versions made their appearance around the turn of the century. At this point in time we find that radio, television and satellite communications improved man's ability to reach the four corners of the earth, and that the number of versions has sky rocketed.
Usually when talking with folks about these versions they will say something like, "this version just took out some of the thee's and thou's and brings the language up to date," but as each new version is introduced it just changes a few seemingly minor
things. After this takes place a few times, by degrees the word is reduced to something other than what God intended and is no longer "the word." Listen to what God has to say about this:
"For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." Revelation 22:18-19
This is written at the end of the Bible as a warning to those who want to add or take away from God's word. I suggest we leave it be, and preach and teach what it says regardless of the popular opinions of man.
So we see that if the devil cannot stop us from reading God's word, then he will guide us to a counterfeit version, and he has accomplished his job to deceive us.
Now think of the confusion there must be when a man preaches from one version and the members of the congregation are reading from ten different versions. That is like saying:
"Those of you on the front row turn to page eighty-four in your song books. Those in back turn to page twenty-one, and those in the balcony turn to page fifteen, and those in the middle section turn to page ninety-nine. Now everyone ready--sing."
Can you imagine? I wonder how many people leave their church confused or feel that they did not get anything from the service? Can allowing so many different so-called Bibles be good for the church? Does it promote unity? Should not everyone be on the same sheet of music (so to speak)? We all need to speak the same things.
Hopefully you can see the importance of having a King James Bible. And if the issue of understanding it arises, then remember unless God shows it to you, no matter how the language is broken down, you will not see the truth (see Luke 24:44-45 & John 6:45).
There are some good chain reference Bibles on the market today (King James versions) which will be helpful in your studies. With these you need to understand that not every verse you are referred to necessarily deals with the same subject you are reading about. Some of the references are what the publisher may think is an associated verse. Most of the time they are reliable, but not always.
A note is necessary here about the italic words you will see in your King James Bible. These words were supplied by the translators in order for the text to flow.
You will find they do not harm the context of the verse. They are amazingly consistent with the context. So they have been italicized in order to let you know which words they are.
Next you will find a need for a good concordance. I personally prefer Strong's exhaustive concordance. This is a useful tool in several ways.
Say for instance you can not remember where a verse of scripture is located, but you can remember the words. Take the concordance and look up the word that is the least common word from the verse you want to find. The concordance will show you everywhere that particular word is used everywhere throughout the Bible. It will show you chapter and verse. Try not to use a word like "God" when searching because the word "God" appears approximately 4,444 times in the Bible. It would take a long time to find your verse using a word that is used so much throughout the Bible. So try to use the word from the verse you want that is the least common word and your search will go much faster.
You can also use the concordance to assist your subject study. Say for instance you want to study the subject of "grace." You simply look up the word "grace" in the concordance and it will show you all the Bible references to the word "grace." In time you will learn associated words and subjects to particular
subjects such as grace.
You will find that Strong's concordance will use the first letter of the word you are looking for (in part) in every verse. This partial sentence will help you identify the verse you are looking for. To the right of the partial verse you will find a number such as "435." This is part of Strong's key system. Pay careful attention to where the verse is in the Bible, whether in the Old Testament or the New Testament. Then, using the number at the right of the verse, you may turn either to the Hebrew dictionary for the Old Testament verses, or to the Greek dictionary for the New Testament verses. The dictionaries are in the back of the concordance. Make sure you are in the right one, or it can become confusing right away. Once you have found the number in the proper dictionary it will tell you the word meaning, its root, etc. You will find this to be very helpful in your word and subject study. So do not take for granted the word meanings. Many times they will surprise you. As modern-day language may use the same word that is found in the King James, many times the word is used differently by us in the modern day. But we want to know what God means by the word rather than its modern day usage.
For instance I earlier pointed out the word "perfect." The use of the word today is often thought to mean "sinless," when in the Bible it means "mature" or "complete." So do not take anything for granted.
The third resource you will need is a notebook to take notes while you are studying. It helps some people who like to commit a verse to memory. Writing things down helps in remembering, whether for memory commitment or future reference. I personally record most of my notes on my computer. This allows me to store literally millions of bytes of information in a small space. Let me make a comment about computer Bibles here. I have a King James Bible installed on my computer. It can be helpful when I am preparing an article or for searching for certain phrases or words. It also has the capability of a concordance. It can do what a manual concordance can not do. A regular concordance will only let me use one word at a time. But with a computer concordance I can narrow my search time way down. I can use up to ten words and it will search it out in a matter of a few seconds. A search that would take me days with a regular concordance will only take a few minutes with a computer concordance. Keep in mind that even with a computer Bible the screen can appear blank if you do not ask and rely upon God's help.
I never intended for any of these things to come across in a negative light. Yet if we deal with reality we must admit many things in this life are of a negative nature. And we would be found to be unfaithful if we did not deal with these issues. So that brings me to the last thing we need to briefly discuss before we bring this chapter to a close. As we have discussed some things that we do need to help in Bible study, there is
one more we do not need, and that is the T.V. or radio evangelist. Until such a time as you are grounded in God's word, leave them alone, period. My experience with stations that run religious programs back to back, is that it is rare when any two will agree. More often the end result will be confusion. The same is true on the radio. If we are young in the faith it may result in us being carried about by every wind of doctrine (see Hebrews 13:9 & Ephesians 4:14). Once we become established we will be able to pick the meat off the bones and throw away that which is not any good, as the saying goes.
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths."