Bible study is hard work. Haddon Robinson, the Radio Bible Class teacher, rightly said, “The people involved in the public relations department of the church always make Bible study sound as though it is easy. It is not. It takes a great deal of effort to understand [a] text, and even more to understand how it applies to our lives.” Yet for all of its hard work, a diligent and orderly study of the Scriptures is both commended, commanded, and rewarded in the New Testament.
The Apostle Paul was commending the believers in Berea when he said: “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). That the Bereans were careful students of Scripture on a daily basis was a great compliment. That they willingly listened to the teaching of the Word by Paul was equally praiseworthy.
Commendation is not reserved for the Bereans only, however. As saved people, we can all pursue the labor of Bible study with similar enthusiasm. To be a follower of Jesus Christ is to be His student. Disciples are to be learners and imitators. And as such, we are also commanded to study the Word of God: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The Greek word for “study” (σπουδάζω, spoudazō) means “to do something with intense effort and motivation — ‘to work hard, to do one’s best, to endeavor.’” Again, study is hard work. It does not come easily. Wise King Solomon even said it: “. . . much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). To labor diligently by making intense mental application to the meaning of a text can be exhausting work. Indeed, it takes an earnest workman to rightly divide the Word of Truth!
Diligent Bible study is well worth the effort. Though the work is hard, the reward is great. Specifically, we “study [in order to show ourselves] approved unto God” (2 Timothy 2:15). Having God’s approval on one’s life, according to this verse, makes one unashamed, and comes by carefully laboring in “the Word of Truth.” According to Steven White, being “approved” is “the action of a definite and intense probing and testing of something to reveal its quality.”
The same word occurs in Philippians 1:10, where we are instructed to “approve things that are excellent.” We test for those things which surpass in quality. We repeatedly prove those things as excellent every time we use them. If one discovers, for example, a ball-point pen that is of superior quality, one that excels above all the rest by writing smoothly and consistently each time it is used, then that pen becomes “approved” by its continual usage. By daily trial the pen proves superior. Likewise, in 2 Timothy 2:15, we are to prove the quality of our own character to God by our diligent labor in Bible study. The difference being that now we are the subjects of God’s testing. We are seeking His approval on us. Our character and quality is revealed to God by our efforts in regular Bible study.
Herein lies the benefit of laboring in Bible study. By rolling up the sleeves of our mind and digging into the Word of Truth, we gain commendation. We also fulfill the command of God. And finally, we obtain the reward of God’s approval. These are three good reasons to study the Bible diligently.
. Haddon Robinson, “The Wisdom of Small Creatures,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 93.
. Johannes P. Louw, and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, s.v. “Louw Nida 68.63” (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996). Logos Bible Software 6.
. Steven J. White, White’s Dictionary of the King James Language, vol. 1, A-E, s.v. “approved” (2005), 113.