The first requirement for Bible study that is profitable to the student is the firm conviction that the Bible is indeed God's very Word. The Bible is the only means by which we can know God's plan and purpose for mankind. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (II Timothy 3:16).
"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that neeeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth" - II Timothy 2:15
Second, we must "rightly divide the Word of Truth" (II Timothy 2:15b) if we are going to acquire a proper understanding of what we read and study in the Holy Scriptures. "Rightly dividing the Word of Truth" The Greek word that is translated "rightly dividing" (orthotomeo) has a literal meaning of "to cut straight." We must separated the dvisions, or dispensations, found in the Scriptures for proper Bible study in order to be found to be "a workman that needeth not to be ashamed." This does not mean that we are to discount or ignore any part of the Bible or its importance, but we are to understand it in light of who it was addressed to, what the subject was, why it was said, when it was given , where it was given from, and how it was delivered. We need to handle God's word in a proper manner so that what it teaches can be properly understood and applied. To add to it or subtract from it results in Bible study that is empty or confusing. This, of course, can only lead to an improper and distorted understanding of the Bible, which results in misapplication of what it actually teaches.
The obvious conclusion from this passage of Scripture is that the individual is to diligently study the Bible for himself/herself. While Bible study books, commentaries, and other aids are good and useful, they are not to take the place of personally reading and studying the Bible. There is blessing, enjoyment, and understanding that comes through personal Bible study that simply cannot be achieved any other way.
The context of a passage of Scripture are those parts that go before and after it and serve to clarify its meaning. These passages help us to better understand the subject matter that is being dealt with in a particular passage. Many times the meaning is established or "fixed" by the context. Paying close attention to the context will never cause confusion in understanding Scripture, but disregard for the context and the dispensational nature of the Bible many times hinders proper understanding of what God is trying to say to us. The immediate context that any word, verse, or passage of Scripture is found in is very important to understanding its meaning.
At times God has specifically warned against adding to or subtracting from His Word (Deuteronomy 12:32; Revelation 12:18-19). And it is taught as a binding principle throughout the Scriptures. While there are those who actually change or remove parts of the Bible, there is a more common and subtle that people add to or subtract from God's Word.
"Subtracting" from the Bible is often done by either ignoring certain parts of it as if they were not there, or flatly denying that clearly stated passages of Scripture actually mean what they say. "Adding" to the Word of God is done by putting meaning into a passage of Scripture that simply is not there. The Apostle Paul refers to this kind of mishandling as the corrupting, or perverting of God's Word (II Corinthians 2:17, 4:2; Galatians 1:6-7).
It is sinful to add to or take away from God's Word. One cannot introduce a statement "the Bible says" and then cite what the Bible does not say. When one says something totally different conceptually, then those words have no relationship to the meaning of the original author. ["...In all his epistles, speaking in things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction" (2 Peter3:16 KJV).] To do this with the Bible is forbidden (Deuteronomy 4:2; Revelation 22:18,19).
Mishandling the eternal Word of God can have eternal consequences. Of the many things that can be misunderstood or confused by the wrong understanding and and misapplication of Scripture, the subject of salvation is the most important. To misunderstand that salvation is by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins is to miss everything. Each individual must make their own decision to trust in Christ alone for their salvation from the power and penalty of sin in order to recieve the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Ephesians 2:8-9).
That is why, according to the Apostle Paul's Words and when it comes to this website, I will not walk in trickery, adulterating the Word of God, and tampering with the gospel to make it less-offensive, in order for men (and women) to commend me. Instead, I will be faithful to the gospel, manifesting the truth in order to commend myself to every man's conscience, with God watching (2 Corinthians 4).
The Berean's eagerness led them to examine "the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so."
No matter how gifted or charismatic or well-trained and experienced your Bible teacher or pastor may be, form the healthy habit of checking what is being said against the Scriptures.
Architects and construction people use precise measurements to ensure a precise result. They don't go by how they feel. Both carefully mark their work by inches and by feet. Not even seasoned builders rely on guesses and hunches. They stay with the standard. The scriptures are your measure tool for making sure the teaching you receive is straight and true. Keep comparing!
As you grow in your spiritual life, the triangles need to be congruent between what's being said and what has been written in the Bible. If you can't support it with the Scriptures, there's something missing in the teaching. Don't believe the teacher. If he or she contradicts the divine standard, you're building on sand. Stay with the Scriptures. They remain your ultimate authority for life.
Today we have the entire or completed Word of God. God is not giving new revelation today. We find all that we need to know in what God has given us in His Word. His plan and purpose for all ages is revealed in the Bible. We have a decided advantage over those of previoius dispensations as we have the entire script in our hands.
However, if we do not "rightly divide the Word of Truth," we will confuse the dispensations and will not properly understand our part in God's program for today, the Dispensation of Grace. While the idea of a play with a director, a script, and actors may help to illustrate the concept of dispensations for our understanding, we must always remember that what we are actually involved in is not make-believe but very real. The salvation and spiritual well being of the souls of men and women are at stake.