Berean Bible Study Notes
Learning to be Bereans - Lesson 1
What is the purpose of the Bible Study? Why study the Bible?
My whole purpose in doing this Bible study is to encourage you to get into the Bible on your own. I hope that we have wonderful fellowship in meeting together and studying together - and I hope we can continue doing that for a long time - but my main goal is to get you into the Bible and let the Holy Spirit work. The Holy Spirit is the best teacher you could possibly want. He always understands where you're at and where you need to be, and best of all, He knows exactly how to get you there. Whether that takes days or decades doesn't matter - it will always be at the perfect pace for you. He will put together people, resources and whatever else you require in order for you to learn what you are intended to learn.
I personally believe that Jesus will be returning a lot sooner than most people think, and the days before that happens will be very, very difficult days. When asked about that time, the first thing that Jesus said was "Watch out that no one deceives you."
Because deception is coming
1Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2"Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."
3As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"
4Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. 5For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.
10At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
23At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. 24For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible.
Deception is coming (and is here already) - so good that even mature Christians can be fooled. The only way to protect yourself is to be in God's Word. Knowing what it says can help you recognize falsehood. While the Bible talks about deception on an amazing scale coming (with signs and wonders), you know that something like that doesn't just appear overnight. Deception is already building. It is hard to recognize because it's always mixed with truth. Satan has had 6,000 years to practice his lies on us, and he's getting really good at it. You could be fooled - I could be fooled - our pastors could be fooled. What does that mean? It means that you need to go back to the Bible all the time and make sure it says what the person is saying it says. Remember that a clever person can take verses from here and there and prove nearly anything he or she wants. Look how far the Jehovah Witnesses have gotten doing that exact thing! The more familiar you are with God's Word, the easier this will be, and the quicker you can spot the lie. The DaVinci Code and other such things will be no match for you!
Acts 17:11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
Even Paul was checked up on - and he says this was a noble thing! He praised the Bereans for doing this. Note that the message was received with eagerness. They listened to what Paul had to say, and then they went and checked it out for themselves. There may be times when you will have "false prophet" alarm bells going off right away. The Bible says to stop listening at that point. The message should no longer be received with eagerness when that happens!
1 Thessalonians 5:21 Test everything. Hold on to the good.
This doesn't say to test some things, but to test everything, including those things that come from the Christian book store, from your church - and from me! We're going to spend some time learning how to do that - plus, the more time you spend in God's Word, the easier it will be.
Because the Word itself is powerful and will increase our faith
Romans 10:17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Isaiah 55:10-11 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
God has a purpose for his Word in your life. It is supernatural in how it works in you. It will achieve what He intends it to achieve for you. There's a trust issue here, especially in the beginning - but, the more you are in God's Word, the larger your faith will grow, and the more you WILL trust that God's Word is powerful and effective.
8:31-32 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If
you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then
you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
John 17:17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
There is link on the word "sanctify" above to let you study more on what that means in the Greek, and where else it is used in the Bible. That "truth will set you free" gets tossed around a lot, even in the secular world, but when you put these two verses together, you can see that there is more going on here. Spend some time on this verse, while praying for God to help you understand it. Jesus is doing more than just saying a nice phrase. He is putting "life" into the Word for us. He's asking God the Father to make the Word live in us, change us, transform us. It's an active, ongoing process. You can study more about that by studying the tense of the word "sanctify" here. Click on the "C" to the left of the verse, and then click on the "tense" next to the word "Sanctify". Click on each of the links on that page (the numbers in blue) to get a better understanding of the active nature of the word. You can also click the Strong's number for "Sanctify" and get an even better page on its meaning. I wish I could give you a direct link, but it goes into a temporary directory.
Matthew 4:4 Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
John 6:63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.
Did you catch that? God's Word is life to you - eternal life in heaven, yes, but something that becomes part of you NOW. When you are born again, that "life" becomes part of you HERE. And, just as a baby needs nourishment and care, that spiritual newborn inside you needs nourishment to grow and thrive. There is much to be learned from the picture of a child growing up. As an adult, you know there is only so much that an infant or a toddler can understand. You don't teach him algebra before he learns to count. All things come in their own time, and that includes growing up in faith.
It may have seemed in the past that the Bible was too hard for you, and there may be parts of it that are, right now. But, just as a child learns to talk and then count and someday do algebra, so will you understand more as time goes on. And, if you really want to grow and learn, you can't let other people do it for you - just as your child will never learn if you do his homework for him. Sometimes a child has to struggle - whether it's learning to walk or tie his shoes or solve equations, and we have to struggle sometimes, too. That's what "wrestling with God" is all about.
Can I understand the Bible?
Yes, yes - and again, yes!!!!! That doesn't mean you're going to become an instant expert the first time you read something. It DOES mean that God will help you understand what He intends for you to understand. If the person sitting next to you has some incredible insight, but you simply don't see it - it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you, or necessarily wrong with what she's seeing. It takes the Holy Spirit to understand God's Word, and He will not teach you everything all at once. Let's learn more about that:
The Parable of the Sower
1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop--a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9He who has ears, let him hear."
10The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?"
11He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 13This is why I speak to them in parables:
"Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 14In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
" 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15For this people's heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.'16But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
What made the difference in this passage, between those who could "hear" and those that could not? Jesus said, "He who has ears, let him hear" seventeen times in the Bible. It's kind of a code for "there's a spiritual lesson here and you need spiritual understanding to get it." If you're interested, you can see the other places here: Let him hear
It is the Holy Spirit who helps us "get it," but again, not necessarily all at once, but at the pace that's right for you.
Wisdom From the Spirit
6We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9However, as it is written:
"No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him" -- 10but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
11The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. 14The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
This says that without the Spirit of God within us, the Word of God seems foolish. Without the help of the Spirit, you cannot understand. But, remember, the converse is true - WITH the Spirit of God, you WILL understand what God intends for you to understand.
13We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. 14But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
Here, again, it says without Christ (and His Spirit within you), you will not understand what these things mean. You need wisdom, and wisdom comes through God's Word, from the Holy Spirit. When Jesus becomes your Savior, His Holy Spirit comes to dwell within you, and the "veil is taken away." So, in other words, when the Holy Spirit begins to work in you, you will begin to understand. The more you are in God's Word, the "louder" the Holy Spirit gets, and the more you understand. It's like a ball rolling downhill. The more you are in God's Word, the more the Spirit can work on you (because He uses the Word to work), and the more the Spirit works, the more you will understand. It's a process that, once started, will not stop!
John 16:12 I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
Jesus said this to his disciples, but it applies to us, too. There are some things that we are simply not ready to understand, but the Holy Spirit will guide you and teach you as time goes on - at the pace that is perfect for you.
1 John 2:27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit--just as it has taught you, remain in him.
This isn't saying that teachers aren't a good thing. It just means that you don't REQUIRE a teacher beyond the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that "some are called to be teachers" and Hebrews 5 even says that some of us ought to be teaching! Most of our pastors do a wonderful job of teaching. But, if you were on a desert island, just you and your Bible, God Himself would teach you through His Word.
The idea of having teachers is wonderful and completely biblical. However, they were never meant to become a layer between you and God. The Jehovah Witnesses tell their people that they are incapable of understanding the Bible without the JW leadership to explain what it REALLY means. The are taught that if they read the Bible on their own, they will fall into apostasy. I suppose, from the JW viewpoint, that is exactly correct, because they would start to see the falseness of the JW religion. Christian Scientists do the same thing (check out the cult page here on my web site if you're interested). That is John's point. In the previous verse, he says:
1 John 2:26 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray.
John is saying that the Holy Spirit will teach you truth, if you let Him. The more you know God's Word, the more "protected" you will be from falsehood.
Sometimes even godly, biblical teachers can be a hindrance to you, through no fault of their own. A teacher should show you the view, not BE the view. For example, if your only way of reading the Bible is through the commentaries that your church puts out, your understanding is then limited to theirs. That doesn't mean that what they have to say is wrong, but you may not be ready for it. Or, the Holy Spirit may want to connect things in an entirely different way for you.
Even the best teachers in the world are still just human, and are capable of making mistakes. Your trust should be in the One the teacher is pointing to, not the teacher. Inevitably, that person will disappoint you in one way or another, and if he or she was your only conduit to God, it can lead to disappointment with God. How many people have fallen away from faith entirely because their pastor got caught up in sin?
OK, so the Holy Spirit helps us understand God's Word. What if there's something you don't understand, no matter how many times you've read it? Just ask for help!
Jesus' Teaching on Prayer
9"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
11"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
I can't tell you how many times this has happened to me. It usually isn't instant, but over time, the understanding really does come. And then, it makes such perfect sense that I have trouble remembering why I didn't understand it! Most recently, it happened with "grace." I 'm not even sure why I started praying about it, but I started asking, "Lord, please teach me about grace." I asked over a period of a couple of weeks, at least. And, I really started to understand it a lot better, and just in time, too, because I was quickly put in a situation where the understanding was necessary. And then was I in awe! Not only had God helped me understand it, but He had had me pray about it at just the right time! Amazing. (It doesn't mean that I completely understand grace. I'm sure God will keep on teaching me, but I have a feeling that is one of those areas where I'll have to learn about it while sitting at Jesus' feet. I have a growing list of those.)
There will be times when you'll want to look up things in a commentary or ask a pastor or someone that you feel will be able to explain a part of the Bible to you. That's great!! That's what those things and people are there for!! But, just remember that their understanding may also be limited (we're all still learning or should be!) and God may give you a fuller answer in time. Don't be satisfied with an explanation, just because it would appear that the person knows better than you. Remember what Jesus said:
Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.
This is getting long, isn't it? Well, finally, another reason for getting into God's Word:
God's Word equips us to do the work we have to do
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
Romans 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Some tools for getting all the way through God's Word
I mentioned that my philosophy is that we need the whole council of God, and to me, that means we need to read the whole Bible. (Is there any other book in the world where we'd turn to page 273 and read a paragraph and try to get something out of it?) Please don't let that be a stumbling block, however! There are plenty of people (including pastors) who disagree with me. It's better to read some than none! God will still use it, no matter how much you get through. This isn't a legalism thing. There are no "musts" here. Please, just pray about it and let God be in control.
If God is motivating you to read His whole Word, you can get all the way through with any Bible. Some people recommend that you read John, Acts and Romans and then jump back to Genesis and go through. There are 1189 chapters in the Bible. A pace of four chapters a day with no breaks will get you through in a little less than 10 months. A once-a-week break stretches that out to a year. If you're really motivated, you can get through much faster.
Whether you read through the Bible - and how fast you go if you do - is between you and God. Please pray about it and let Him get you into it. The first time I read through, I knew that God was helping me keep going, because no matter how tired I was, I couldn't sleep until I had read my daily chapters. It took me a whole year, but wow, what a change had happened in me by the end of the year! Nothing changed me more - not getting married, not having kids - than that first year I spent going through the Bible.
I was pretty ignorant, and there is absolutely TONS of stuff that I didn't "get" that first time through, and yet, God still used it for me! (For example, I never realized that many of the Psalms are about Jesus and his suffering for us. I just thought David was being a whiner.) The next time, I understood much more.
NOTE: There's nothing wrong with skimming certain sections. In time, God may have you intensely study the "begats" or the zillions of laws in Leviticus, but admittedly, especially the first times through, they can be mind-numbing. Just skim, try to make a mental note of where they are in the Bible, and keep going. Don't let those sections bog you down.
Here are a couple of resources that are nice. These are NIV, but they come in other versions The “Daily Walk” Bibles split the Bible into 365 readings, with daily devotions & reading helps. They go straight through, which is the way my brain works best. The “One Year Bibles” also split the Bible into 365 readings, but each day includes an Old Testament reading, a New Testament reading, a Psalm and a Proverb. Some people like this better, because no one section is very long. It works well if you have a good memory for what's going on in each section. (I don't). Both of these are available at Amazon. I can't give you the direct links because that is forbidden on this free site. (believe it or not!) Here are other places to check. You may also find very good deals locally:
Christian Book Distributors: Daily Walk Bible One Year Bible
Walmart: Daily Walk Bible One Year Bible
AddALL Used Books: Used Daily Walk Bibles Used One Year Bibles
Again, you can read any Bible straight through. You don't need a special Bible to do that. These are just helps to keep you on track. If you get behind, though, they can make you feel like "catching up" is just impossible. It's not! There is no rule that says you have to read "February 12" ON February 12. Just read. Let the Holy Spirit guide you in whatever way He's going to guide you.
If you do choose to use your regular Bible, and it's one of those with commentary at the bottom, I encourage you to ignore it the first time (or more) through. It doesn't mean there's necessarily anything wrong with it, but again, you might not be ready for it - or the Holy Spirit may want to put things together in any entirely different way for you. I honestly believe that we can short circuit what God may want to teach us by relying too much on man's explanation. There is nothing inspired about the study notes. They can be helpful - but they can also be wrong.
When you want to study certain sections in depth, then read the notes - but not just those. Read various opinions, various commentaries. Keep an open mind - but be a Berean. Please apply that same rule to everything I write or tell you, also. That is the whole point of this study.
Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. - Acts 17:11
Berean Bible Study - Learning to Be Bereans
© 2010 This study was written by Jacqui Komschlies and last updated 9/17/2010. If you have questions, comments, corrections or concerns, please write me.
Berean Bible Study Home Page