Study To Shew Thyself Approved

I have come to a conclusion, after years of observing and inquiry of a plethora of preachers, that there are about as many different study and sermon preparation ways as there are preachers. But one thing is certain—preachers must be students—students of the Word, of people, events and life in general.

To “study” is not really that easy to nail down when it concerns the work of the ministry. “To study,” when used in secular education is much easier to ascertain—the study of geography, for instance, would only require the student to focus on a certain set of materials without having to cipher in a lot of externals. But preaching is a whole new “world,” because it is not good enough to just give facts nor to even quote verses—but a complexity of matters must come together in order to do the Lord’s service.

The preacher who preaches will find that the action of preaching is multifaceted. The sing-song of Latin liturgies and the chant of the Islamic prayer beckoners, among others, all have death and decay reverberating from them because they are lifeless without any source of the Divine but preaching is first and foremost a living and divine impartation of God to man—and for it to become a reality God must make a preacher His student. The ways in which God makes man His student may vary but “study to shew thyself approved” is a necessity.

So with these things in mind perhaps we could start with some basics and then later broaden the spectrum. Some things should go without saying—there can be no flow without a connection—prayer, personal devotion, and correct motive are essentials –open the heart before opening the Book. Therefore having a correct platform for construction is a must and volumes could be written on just that one premise alone but let us look at some basics beyond the “square one” of heart preparation:

Briefly, and again not so much as to set an a-b-c of order but rather to specify the ingredients in the study salad—individually:

>>> Read, read, read the Word. In order for God to “bring to mind” there must be Biblical data IN the student—and this is only possible by reading the Word. A casual and indifferent reader of the Bible is always a casual and indifferent preacher with casual and indifferent sermons. Read to familiarize, read to recognize and read to have a starting place for the Spirit to strike a spark.

>>> Never be without pen and paper! As essential as having the Bible itself the student must always and at all times and in all places be prepared to note down the insights that may come either from spiritual musing on the Word or from stimuli from one’s surroundings—externals that make illustrative points. In the car, on the night stand—everywhere be prepared to hear and see with ears and eyes of the student.

>>> Direction is vital. All of God’s revelations and insights flow FROM the Word outward not visa-versa. Inspiration, God breathed, lessons must have a Biblical foundation—“to behold the delight of Jehovah, and to inquire in His temple.” Start at the beginning and go on from there. Beware of making the Bible a secondary instrument in preaching!

>>> It must be understood that not ALL Word study is necessarily sermon material. In other words, we may learn “on our own” certain Biblical intricacies that aid us in better understanding and we may even delve into areas of the “silence of God” all for personal edification and for data but when the Spirit leads us to study in an area it is usually for the aid of others and therefore must be pursued with all reverence and fear as the Mind of Christ.

>>> The Divine Painter sees the overall picture—but to apply it to the canvas of the preacher’s heart and spirit it is usually applied in small brush strokes—each adding to the scene. God will usually have us wait on Him until He has applied enough strokes to make a picture. Don’t, as they say, rush off with the just the brown paper bag without the lunch. Don’t be a Ahimaaz –a runner without a message! Far too many young men seek the thrill of the pulpit over the preparation of the pulpit.

>>> Balance. The importance of balance cannot be overstated. Human nature is by nature a tangent seeker—a guided missile toward its likes and a fleer from its dislikes. Therefore, this tendency must be avoided by the honest Bible student else he will pursue only the subjects that interest him personally and avoid the ones he is uninterested in. Tangents in a man’s ministry comes about when there is not sufficient input from other areas of study. The Bible deals with mankind through many diversities of subjects, therefore, a Bible student must not channel himself to a single area of study overall. Some subjects that a church needs may not be the preacher’s favorite topic—but God never instructed the preacher to only deal with his likes but rather what God wants declared. “Speak that which I have placed in thy mouth.” Preaching is not a “preach to feel good” but rather an obedience to the Mind of God—whether you enjoy it or not. God does use certain men in certain ways for certain reasons but this is no excuse for neglect of the whole counsel of God.

Balance in prayer and study—cannot be equated on percentages. Often times the prayer portion must eclipse the study time and then at other times the study portion eclipses the prayer time. The important thing is that it takes both—and a preacher must balance them in the fear of God.

>>> Don’t go to the Bible to just find a message—go to the Bible to know Jesus Christ. One of the gravest mistakes, I think, is that we can make is to begin to use the Bible as “Toastmaster’s Compendium” to find “something” to say. There is a lot of intimidation among preachers to “come up” with “stem-winders” and “masterpieces” and as a result the quest is for more “spell-binding” sermons. While every minister should minister according to the ability that God has given — 1Pe 4:11 “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” However, to be students of the Word is to be students of Jesus Christ. As Paul we must also seek “to know Him and the power of His resurrection.” To preach is to preach Jesus Christ. In other words, know Him to know the message. Once anyone separates The Christ from the study they go forth with only words and not The Word. The message will come when we come to Him.

>>> Always seek the partner. Since the correct way of Biblical doctrine is “line upon line and precept upon precept” we ought never to extract a single verse and seclude it from its partners. Error is quick to come to those that forget this principle. Not only should we consider context but also to be considered is proper conjunction.

There is a wonderful picture of this illustrated in Isa 34:14-15 “The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest. There shall the great owl make her nest, and lay, and hatch, and gather under her shadow: there shall the vultures also be gathered, every one with her mate.”

And then notice how verse 16 ties this “mate” process directly to the Word of God:

Isa 34:16 “Seek ye out of the book of the LORD, and read: no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate: for my mouth it hath commanded, and his spirit it hath gathered them.”

Always seek the mate(s) of verses and principles. Building a message on a single verse is against Bible instruction. The honest student will “study” to show himself approved—a workman that needeth not to be ashamed!

>>> Make it yours. Paul states three times in Romans 2:16; 16:25 and in 2 Timothy 2:8 possessively “according to my gospel.” While we understand that the gospel he is referring to is the gospel of Jesus Christ we also must understand that that gospel was both committed to and engrained within the Apostle. One of the necessities of learning any subject is possession. True Biblical study is a process that not only fills the mind with facts but also the heart with the subject matter. If someone must use a calculator or some other method of gaining the sum of 12 times 6 then it can be deduced that that person does not own the multiplication table. Much the same is true of the preacher that must rely on another for doctrinal answers. There is a time of learning (the process that leads to understanding–you don’t own it till you understand it) “With all your getting get understanding” and then there is the time when from the doctrine and the message passes from the head to the heart—and the student possesses it. The Berean heart of the student makes it his. When this ownership is lacking then usually the premise of “Buy the truth and sell it not” means little—but to those that buy it at any cost and sells it not for any price—these are true the Bible students – the workmen of Scripture.


Leave a Reply