Chapter 1: Introduction
If you are a Christian, you already recognize that the Bible is very,
very important. Our salvation stems from its message of good news.
Our values and beliefs are based on its teachings. And our daily
lives are guided by its many practical principles. In other words,
entire Christian experience is based on the Bible, the Word of God.
In view of the great importance of the Bible, all Christians should engage
in regular, meaningful, direct Bible study.
Christianity is unique when it comes to the question of its source.
Many religions rely on tradition as the source of spiritual information.
In other words, for many people, the source of their beliefs and practices
is the previous generation, or long standing traditions. But this
can produce secondhand beliefs that result in spineless convictions.
Ideally, Christianity knows no such dependency. This is not meant
to discount Christianity's rich heritage, for which every believer can
be thankful. Rather, it is meant to emphasize this fact: Christians
have the unique advantage of direct interaction with the only infallible
source of information on spiritual matters, the Bible.
Yet, in spite of the Bible's central importance to Christians, most
Christians have very little direct input from the Bible! Many
Christians' beliefs still come primarily from their parents or their church
rather than from their own direct study of the Bible. So Christians,
too, have perpetuated second hand beliefs.
Perhaps one reason for so little direct Bible input is a feeling of
estrangement toward the Bible. Many Christians think of the Bible
as a closed book, to be opened only by the specialists. It is almost
as if the Protestant Reformation had never taken place! One central
thrust of the Reformation was that the Bible should no longer be the exclusive
property of the church authorities. The Reformers believed that every
individual should be able to read the Bible in his own language.
They also believed that every individual should be free to interpret and
respond to the Bible on his own, without having to depend on the church
authorities. That is why Luther gave the Germans the Bible in their
own language. Has the Reformation caught up with you?
Do you have confidence in your own ability to study the Bible?
Or, are you depending on your church authorities (your pastor, Sunday School
teacher, or seminary or Bible college professor) to tell you what the Bible
says and means?
What would you think of a person who receives a telegram but does not
look at it, or reads only the first sentence? What would you think
of a person who hears someone describe a sunset but does not turn his head
to look? Are we any different when we have a message from God and
ignore it? Or when we remain satisfied with a mere occasional reading
of it? Or when we rely on others to tell us what it says?
Your personal study of the Bible can be meaningful and rewarding, but
you must know how to go about it. This book explains the principles
and the step-by-step procedures that will help you discover the correct
interpretation of the Bible on your own. This approach to personal
Bible study is called Direct Bible Discovery. (The initials
“DBD” are used throughout this book to stand for Direct Bible Discovery.)
DBD is an independent, inductive approach to personal Bible study.
It is a method of studying the Bible in which you go directly to
the biblical text and examine it for yourself without becoming dependent
on interpretive helps. Your main task is to discover what
the text actually teaches, rather than assume certain beliefs and then
go to the text to confirm those beliefs.
DBD could easily be called Analytic Bible Meditation. This type
of meditation is not to be confused with Transcendental meditation.
Bible meditation should be active, verbal, analytic, and reasoning.
In contrast, Transcendental Meditation and other Eastern forms of
meditation are much more mystical, since they are passive, nonverbal, distinctionless,
and intuitive. But there is nothing mystical about proper Bible meditation.
Bible meditation has become a lost art, despite the fact that the Bible
itself repeatedly mentions meditation and its benefits.
I will meditate
on Thy precepts. (Ps. 119:15)
The use of DBD can recover this meditation for you.
Let your mind dwell on these
things. (Phil. 4:8)
This book of the law shall
not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night,
so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it;
for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.
His delight is in the
law of the Lord,
And in His law he
meditates day and night.
And he will be like
a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit
in its season,
And its leaf does
And in whatever he
does, he prospers. (Ps. 1:2-3)
O how I love Thy law!
It is my meditation
all the day.
Thy commandments make
me wiser than my enemies,
For they are ever
I have more insight
than all my teachers,
For Thy testimonies
are my meditation.
I understand more
than the aged,
Because I have observed
Thy precepts. (Ps 119:97-100)
What This Book
Is and Is Not
This book is an explanation of the principles and procedures
that you should use in your personal Bible study.
This book is not a study guide for use in studying a particular
book or topic of the Bible. Study guides (such as A Study Guide
on Romans or A Study Guide on Prayer) which list a series of
questions for studying one particular book or topic are, of course, limited
to that book or topic. This book explains the principles and procedures
that you should apply to the study of every book and topic in the
This book is not a discussion of a dozen or more “methods” of
Bible study. It is best to think in terms of just one basic approach
that suits all books and topics in the Bible. Then make minor adjustments
and additions to the study procedure for special kinds of topics and special
kinds of literature.
This book is not a presentation of the results of Bible study,
as are many books bearing titles such as Bible Study Methods.
It is not the intent of this book to supply you with an outline of each
book of the Bible or with the conclusions of certain topical studies.
Rather, this book will help you become less dependent on such aids so that
you can arrive at your own results in Bible study.
Chapters 17 and 18 contain the actual steps for Bible study. These
two chapters are laid out like a procedure manual for a definite reason.
Many people never get started in proper Bible study procedure because
they lack specific, practical, step-by-step guidance. Chapters 17
and 18 answer the questions, “What exactly do I do first? What exactly
do I do next?” etc. However, do not jump ahead to chapters 17 and
18. The procedures given in those chapters will make much better
sense to you after you have read the first sixteen chapters. Read
this entire book straight through and then put chapters 17 and 18 to use.
(Suggestions regarding books and topics with which to begin your study
are given later.)
DBD can be used by a wide range of people: college students, people
without college educations, laymen, pastors — anyone who seriously wants
to understand the Bible firsthand. You do not need any special abilities
or lots of expensive reference books to start. If you have
a Bible and can read, you can begin.
Pastors and Teachers
People sometimes think of pastors and Bible teachers as Bible “authorities."
Being a Bible authority can be a good thing, if “authority” means
expertise in the subject area. However, it is a serious misuse of
authority if a pastor or Bible teacher, intentionally or not, exercises
authority over people's lives and makes them subject to himself.
We have seen some severe examples of how deadly such false authority
can be. Remember the Jonestown massacre of 1978? Jim Jones
had led members of the Peoples Temple to northern Guyana where he ordered
them to commit suicide by drinking poison. Nearly a thousand died.
Remember David Koresh? He convinced members of the Branch Davidian
sect in Waco, Texas that he was getting messages directly from God.
In 1993 he led his followers into a standoff against government agents
and scores of his followers paid with their lives. Of course, these
are extreme examples; the misuse of authority is blatant and obvious to
But there are similar misuses of authority all around us that are not
so obvious. Consider the pastor or Bible teacher who gathers many
followers by his personal attractiveness and strength. Perhaps his
speech is polished and eloquent and his manner is confident. Perhaps
he is the most trustworthy individual around. But when he allows
people to depend on him for their beliefs and convictions, he is doing
them a gross disservice. Every mature Christian who can read has
the responsibility to feed himself from the Bible and be able to say “I
believe . . . . ”
In many cases a so-called Bible authority will view himself as a success
if he has a large number of followers. But the number of followers
is not a sign of true success. Having many followers may simply mean
that many people are following for the wrong reasons. Nor is the
agreeableness of the followers a sign of success. Conformity of belief
probably means that the people are not thinking for themselves.
Pastors and teachers, it is a healthy sign when your listeners question
you. You should encourage them to study the Bible on their own and
come to their own conclusions. If they are dependent on you for their
beliefs, consider what might happen when you pass off the scene and someone
less honorable comes along to lead them astray. Don't expect your
people to be followers when it comes to Bible beliefs. Instead, encourage
them to be independent.
Of course, pastors and teachers who are elders in a local church do
have legitimate authority. But that authority does not include “lording
it over” those being taught (1 Pet 5:1-3).
If you are a pastor or Bible teacher, your task is to guide your listeners
to the Bible and help them study it for themselves. If you are the
listener, thank God for your pastor/teacher, but check everything you are
taught against the Bible.
Our Attitude and
In all areas of life, attitude and motivation are important. In
Bible study it is no different -- our attitude and our motivation will
determine the quality of our Bible study.
As we engage in Bible study, what should our attitude be? We must
come to the Bible with a prayerful, respectful, open, responsive, ready-to-obey
attitude (1 Cor. 2:14 - 3:3; John 7:17). We must keep in mind that
the Book we study is no ordinary book. This Book is God's Word to
man! Thus, our response to the Bible is in reality a response to
God, for to respond to what he says is to respond to him.
Also, we must beware of pride or of any desire for self enhancement
through puffing up our knowledge (1 Cor. 8:1-2; 13:2). We should
not seek to study the Bible so that we can be praised, but so that the
Lord will be glorified by our thoughts and lives.
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Direct Bible Discovery copyright © by Ronald W. Leigh. All rights reserved.