Bible 101 Part 1
How to Study the Bible
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
February 23, 2003

More than 90% of us has a copy of it. The average household has 3. It’s the all-time bestseller. There are so many copies sold each year that an exact number is impossible to calculate. There are at least 20 millions copies sold, and that doesn’t even include the tens of thousands that are distributed freely each year. About two-thirds of the population believes the Bible holds the answers to the basic questions of life. It seems that the Bible is important in our society.


Fewer than half of us can name the first book of the Bible (Genesis).

Only a third of us know that Jesus is the one who delivered the Sermon on the Mount. In fact, many people think it was Billy Graham.

A quarter of us don’t know why we celebrate Easter.

80% of people think that the Bible includes the statement; “God helps those who help themselves.” It doesn’t. It actually comes from an old myth about Hercules.

We’ve all seen people at sporting events holding up a sign saying, “John 3:16”, but 65% of us don’t know that John 3:16 teaches that whoever believes in Jesus can have eternal life.

Only 52% of us can name at least 5 of the Ten Commandments.

10% of people believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.

We claim to value what the Bible says, but culturally we don’t.

You’re probably familiar with Gallup Polls. They’re conducted by George Gallup and his organization. In fact, that’s where some of those statistics I just told you comes from. Listen to what George Gallup concluded:

"We revere the Bible, but we don't read it."
~ George W. Gallup

What I want to propose to you this morning is that we need to revere the Bible AND read it. It should have a central place in our lives. We need to read it, study it, meditate on it, memorize it, and allow it to transform our lives.

So let’s start with something very basic: How the Bible’s put together.


How is the Bible put together?


The Bible is separated into two testaments, also called covenants. You’ve got the Old Testament, which contains writings before the birth of Jesus, and the New Testament, which contains writings about the life of Jesus and the formation of the early church.
If you flip through your Bible you’ll see how the Bible is really one book comprised of several smaller books. Some are written as historical documents, some are written as letters, some are written as poetry, some are written as prophecies. There are sixty-six books in all, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. Next week we’re going to go a bit further with this and talk about the content of each book in the Old Testament, and then the week after that we’ll look at the New Testament.

Each book is further broken down by chapter and verse. This was not part of the original writing but was added later to help us find our way around the Bible. So instead of saying something like, “turn about a seventh of the way into the book of John) we can say, turn to John 3:16. That means, turn to the third chapter in the book of John and then locate the 16th verse.

Okay. So we’ve got this big book of 66 smaller books written over a span of about 1500 years, the oldest of which were originally written over 3000 years ago. And they’re all nicely bound together into what we call our Bible. Big deal. I mean, why should we even care? Why should we study the Bible?


Why should I Study the Bible?


I read a cute story yesterday about a six-year old girl in Boulder, Colorado. Her church held a Presentation Day when she was given her own Bible. Later on after the service people were hanging around having some coffee (much like we do here) and people were congratulating her. A man who attended the church asked if he could take a look at her brand new Bible. And she said, “Okay, but don’t open it.”

“Don’t open it? Why shouldn’t I open it?”

“You’ll let God out.”

That’s actually what we want to do. We want to open the Bible and let God out.

2 Timothy 3:15-17 (NLT)
You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God's way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.

How many of you have email? How many of you at least have a mailbox? And how many of you read the emails or letters you receive from your friends? Why?


The Bible is God’s email to you. And you discover things He wants to tell you by reading it. God speaks to us through His Word.

  • God Speaks to You through His Word

It’s not rocket science. It’s about as simple as it gets. God speaks to you through His Word. That’s one reason you should study the Bible.


I want you to take ten seconds and do something for me. For just ten seconds I want you to sit there and think of anything other than a pink elephant. Okay? Think about whatever you want to think about, but don’t think about pink elephants. And I’m going to time you for ten seconds. Don’t think about pink elephants. Go.


Okay, time’s up. How’d you do? Anyone not think of pink elephants even once? Kind of a stupid little exercise, but the point is this: What goes in is what you think about. You heard me say “pink elephant” and you couldn’t help but think about a pink elephant.

  • What goes in is what you think about.

And there is nothing better for you to think about than the Word of God because it has the power to transform your life. It helps you connect to the creator of the universe and discover true meaning in life. As you read the Word of God, as you study the Word of God, as you meditate on the Word of God, it will infiltrate your thinking more and more, and you will be left with a better understanding of who God is, a stronger relationship with Him, better relationships with friends and family, a better self-esteem, more direction and purpose in life, a clearer sense of right and wrong, and more. It will improve every area of your life, guaranteed. That’s the next reason:


  • The Word of God Has the Power to Transform Your Life

John W. De Gruchy is a minister from South Africa, and he tells a story about a time when he was travelling through Heathrow Airport in London. Let me read it for you:

“My hand luggage emitted the ominous sound which alerts police to the presence of a hidden weapon. Having been taken aside by a police office, my luggage was searched, and eventually the officer confronted me with the offending article. It was a Bible with a metal zipper. My immediate reaction was to protest: “that’s only a Bible,” to which the officer with some theological insight replied: “Maybe, but the Bible can be a very dangerous book!”
(from Leonard Sweet’s AquaChurch, p.63)


  • It is the Foundation for a Growing Relationship with God

You discover God’s likes and dislikes, you discover how you can live a life that pleases Him, you can discover how He has arranged for you to enter into a relationship with Him, you can discover how that relationship can grow and how you can become more like Him.

Okay. So that’s why we should study it. So if we’re going to do it, how should we do it? How do I study the Bible?


How do I Study the Bible?


Let me give you some tips.

  • Choose a version you can understand

If you go down to the Canadian Bible Society on University Avenue you’ll find what seems to be an endless supply of versions of the Bible that you can either buy right there or have ordered in. In fact, there are so many options that it’s hard to keep track. But that’s a good thing. The reason there are so many versions is so that people can find one that they can understand, that’s written in their own language, and that might have some added features that help them make better use of their Bible.

The original manuscripts for the Bible were written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek over a period of about 1500 years from the time of Moses to the time of Jesus and his disciples. Of course, if we were still reading the Hebrew or Aramaic or Greek versions we’d have a couple problems. First of all, I couldn’t read them. Secondly, you couldn’t understand them. But thankfully, we don’t have to deal with that because the Bible has been translated from those original manuscripts into English for us.

The most popular translation of the Bible is the King James Version. It wasn’t the first version of the Bible in English, but it became the most accepted. And it has certainly served its purpose over the years. It was a beautiful translation which could remind you a lot of Shakespeare’s writings, which would be fitting since Shakespeare was alive when the KJV was first published in 1611.

But language changes over time. I remember hearing on a documentary once that language changes 20% every 100 years. So it’s understandable that the KJV isn’t as understandable as it was 400 years ago. So every once in a while a team of scholars gets together and translates the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into a more understandable version for us today. Here at Sunrise we use the New Living Translation. Some other suggestions would be the New International Version or the Contemporary English Version. If you prefer to listen than read, perhaps you should look at getting a version on tape or CD. Or you could even pick up a Children’s Bible done in comic book form.

There are lots of options available, and the important thing is that you choose one that has a good reputation (meaning that it’s accurate) and that you can understand it. You don’t need a theology degree to understand the Bible.


  • Start with an easier section

You don’t have to start in Genesis and read straight through. If you’re brand new to scripture reading, I would suggest you start with the book of Luke in the New Testament.


  • Read for application, not just knowledge or information

I found out this week that Pamela Anderson is teaching Sunday School. I saw her in an interview where she said that she thought everyone should read the Bible. And that’s good advice, but I’ve got a problem. Pamela Anderson doesn’t seem to mind posing for Playboy and has appeared on more covers than anyone else in the history of the magazine (9). She doesn’t seem to mind sleeping around with people she’s not married to. She doesn’t seem to mind making movies that make a mockery of morality.

Ashley Judd is someone else who’s been know to loose her clothing or use profanity in movies. She said:

“I don’t go anywhere without my Bible.”
~ Ashley Judd

The problem I have with both Pamela and Ashley isn’t that they read the Bible; it’s that they don’t apply it. You can read the Bible all you want but until it makes a difference in your life it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.

“Christian maturity is not understanding the principles of the Bible; Christian maturity is character. If what we come to accept as truth doesn’t affect our love for God and man, something is radically wrong. ‘Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies’ (1 Corinthians 8:1).”
~ Neil Anderson, Five Hindrances, Devotional for Sunday, November 12, 2000

So here’s the key for you. While you’re reading, ask yourself, “So What?” It’s fine and dandy that you’re reading it, but so what? What difference does it make? How can you put it into practice in your life. God’s not looking for inflated brains, He’s looking for changed lives.


  • Go Slow

It’s more important that you understand and apply what you read than it is that you get through it in record time.


  • Combine your Study with Prayer

John 14:26 (NLT)
But when the Father sends the Counsellor as my representative—and by the Counsellor I mean the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I myself have told you.

Pray that the Holy Spirit will teach you, pray that He will help you understand, and pray that He will help you put the Word of God into practice in everyday life.


  • Ask yourself key questions

Remember this: “Say-Mean-Apply”

Say? How can I summarize this passage in my own words?
Mean? What is God saying to me through this passage?
Apply? What action should I take in response to God’s Word?


To Go Deeper…


  • Use your pen.

Underline or highlight passages that are especially meaningful to you. Write notes in the margins of your Bible. A well used Bible looks worn-out. Let me show you the Bible I used in high-school.


You may want to keep a journal. You can record your insights, questions, feelings, and your response to a particular passage.

You could even rewrite a portion of Scripture or put it into your own words.


  • Memorize Selected Verses

Psalm 119:11 (NLT)
I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Every week there’s 2 or 3 verses included in your Sunrise update. Perhaps you will want to memorize that.


  • Use Additional Tools

There are a lot of other tools you can use to help you understand and apply the Bible. Let me show you a few.

Study Bible
Bible Handbook
Bible Encyclopedia
Study Guides
Devotional Books


Q & Eh?



Copyright © 2003