Preach the Word: Because It Honors the Necessity of Personal Bible Study
by John MacArthur
Prior to the Reformation, personal Bible study would have been a foreign concept to all but the religious elite. Churchgoers didn’t have individual access to God’s Word, much less a Bible in their own language. Only the Roman Catholic clergy were able to view Scripture, and even then it could only be read in Latin.
The Reformers were instrumental in translating God’s Word into the language of the common man. In doing so, they reintroduced the centrality of biblical exposition and encouraged personal Bible study. Today we enjoy the fruit of their labor and sacrifice without much regular thought. But with the abundant blessings of easy access to Scripture also comes the responsibility we have to faithfully study it.
Last time we discussed the ways expository Bible teaching benefits the pastor. But his diligent study and faithful teaching also benefit his congregation, as he demonstrates the value and blessing of personal Bible study before them. People are dramatically impacted by the power of the Word through him. And when they see that the Word impacts them through their pastor, they are motivated to follow that model.
For more than four decades, God has given me the privilege of studying His Word and preaching it multiple times each week. Over those decades, my enthusiasm for the truth has only increased, as I become more and more aware of the glory of the God of Scripture and His awesome works. God’s people recognize that enthusiasm in their leaders because it inevitably spills over into the preaching each Lord’s Day. It prompts and encourages their personal study throughout the week and stimulates their spiritual growth.
Expositional preaching also teaches people how to interpret the Scripture in their own study. As a biblical preacher, you are a living demonstration of hermeneutics. When you preach effectively, you take people through the process of unpacking the text that yields the true interpretation. You are teaching your people a method of careful examination of the text so that they can be like the Bereans, who tested everything by a true understanding of the Word (Acts 17:10-11).
Show me a church where there is strong Bible teaching over an enduring period of time, and I will show you a congregation who are studying the Word of God on their own, applying the very principles of interpretation that have been modeled for them by their pastor. On the other hand, show me a church where the Word of God is not taught in the pulpit, and I’ll show you a congregation in which biblical illiteracy, doctrinal confusion, and spiritual apathy at the personal level are rampant.
The people will not rise to a level higher than that of their teacher. They will follow the example of their leadership. So if we love God’s Word, our people will too. If not, neither will they.
(Adapted from The Master’s Plan for the Church.)
#1 Posted by
Dave Haynes | Thursday, January 30, 2014at
It is from knowing the WORD that we receive instruction on how to live out the new life we have in Christ. And to know,,,, is a by
product of bible study. I'm so very greatfull to John for his systematic approach which keeps me informed on a regular steady feeding of thruth that helps me continue to grow in more
#2 Posted by
Nancy Moore | Thursday, January 30, 2014at
Every day I thank our Lord for leading me to this ministry. I have become aware of the need in me for the Word of God - but what a battle within me just to do it. True alone time with God reading His Word is proving to be so valuable and yet I still have to push myself to do just that everyday. I just don't understand sometimes why that can be such a battle. It is quite bothersome actually, but I have decided to turn that struggle around by telling myself that there must be something very special that God wants to say to me and I'll never know what it is unless I read His word. What a fool I would be to dismiss that opportunity.
#3 Posted by
Horace Ward | Thursday, January 30, 2014at
#4 Posted by
Joyce Atela | Thursday, January 30, 2014at
#5 Posted by
Harry Shainian | Thursday, January 30, 2014at
Dear Pastor John,
Personal Bible study has revolutionized my life. That is the only way to describe it. There is nothing like picking up the Word of God and letting it mold your thought life, which then works its way out in application by obedience to what the Scripture says. Yes, it takes time and yes it takes discipline, but the benefits are life transforming. I so appreciate what you mentioned on a recent Grace To You broadcast where you mentioned that believers need to read God's Word and furthermore that Grace To You is not a substitute for that. We live in a world that is always looking for shortcuts to everything and carving out time for prayer, study, reading and meditation is always a challenge. I very much appreciate the depth of teaching that is available through the Grace To You ministry. It is what makes Grace To You unique. Thank you so very much for your labors over so many years to explain to us the deep truths of Scripture, which can and will impact our lives both now and for eternity.
#6 Posted by
Aurora Louvet | Thursday, January 30, 2014at
This whole blog series Preach the Word has just fed my soul so richly. Thank you so much Pastor John and all at GTY, for all you do to continually bring the Truth of God´s Word to us . We are blessed!
#7 Posted by
William Johnson | Friday, January 31, 2014at
As we examine our world today we find that, indeed, God's Word is prevalent as so readily available. Yet why do we see so much that is contrary to His Word? Perhaps with all the Bibles out there, very many of them are gathering dust on bookshelves. Apps are never used. Websites are seldom accessed. We should all encourage It's reading and application. And if someone does not have a copy of His Word, then stand ready to give one out! Even more than that, be willing to have a Bible study with them, that It may be properly intepreted. Tks John and GTY for standing true to His Word, and being faithful to preaching it!
#9 Posted by
Shane Haffey | Friday, January 31, 2014at
Theology always drives behavior. Behavior never drives theology. Every single person that's ever lived has a theology. The question is, where does it come from. The more we know God through the power of His word the more our behavior will rightly inline with God's will.
#10 Posted by
Sharlene McKelvey | Saturday, February 01, 2014at
I feel extremely blessed to have found the GTY Website a few years ago, and now have learned more about God, Jesus and The Holy Spirit through your very detailed and expert expository teaching. I find if I read my JM Study Bible as I follow along with your teaching, I learn so much more than I have ever otherwise learned by simply reading Scripture on my own. You explain so much that I would have no way of knowing, and the details about the true meaning of each word and all the history you provide gives me a much more complete 'picture', if you will, in my mind. Also, I find if I listen to each sermon you teach more than once, sometimes as much as 3 or 4 times, not only do I absorb more, but I am also beginning to understand God's Word in a deeper manner; in otherwords, concepts I may have missed the first and second time I listen to your sermons, if I listen one or two more times, the verses become more and more rich to me; the deeper meanings resinate with me more so than if I only listen one time. It is very clear to me your love for God and His Holy Word is precious to you. I pray God is raising up more Bible teachers a commitment to Scripture w/your determination to read, study for hours on end so that you are able to teach as you do. From time to time, I ask God to give me a heart to love God's Word in the manner you do; your devotion as a Christian Leader mentors my own heart and that of my daughters. I am extremely thankful God has lead me to this website. Years ago, I learned of your ministry through Moody Radio and later, when I was able to have a computer and realized your website, I began reading and/or listening to your sermons periodically. In this past year, I do not miss a day or a night: I simply cannot learn enough quickly enough to suit me, but nevertheless, I am blessed, and when I was able to send sermons to an adult daughter who was at death's door this past year, it brought her to salvation and she now loves GTY, as well. I hope to be able to provide her with a JM Study Bible soon; it is all she has asked of me. Amazingly, in 2005, when I was financially suffering from a lay off at my job, I found the need to give up my home and move, (it was a long journey: 3 years to finally find the home to which God had been leading me), I told a dear Christian friend who worked in the Care Office at my home church that "All I want for Christmas is a John MacArthur Study Bible". I never dreamed she would present the Bible to me as a Christmas gift. I was stunned and overjoyed! All of your ministry is a blessing to me and to my family, and from time to time, I forward sermons to my Catholic friends; as for another friend, she told me she does not have time to listen or read the sermons (how sad for her); and as for my non-believing friends of 2o years, I was instructed in no uncertain terms to stop mentioning God to them altogether!! I found myself happy to let go of that 20 year friendship; I would rather have Jesus in my life! Smile!
#11 Posted by
Steve Carlton | Sunday, February 02, 2014at
If it is true that theology always drives behavior, and a cornerstone of my theology is that I am still a sinner even after I accept Christ, what kind of behavior is that theology going to produce?
#12 Posted by
Sharlene McKelvey | Sunday, February 02, 2014at
Dear Pastor MacArthur,
Had you not taught Scripture with such depth, I would have never realized I had such an aggregious sin in my life. I made a promise to the Holy Spirit in 2009 that I did not keep, although it has come through my mind from time to time since 2009, and each time I made a few more promisesalong the way about the same situation that I did not honor as promised. When I heard a sermon you taught about the horrendous consequences about 'lying' to the Holy Spirit, I was convicted and since then, I am correcting it by holding steadfast to my promise. Just one more reason how important it is for pastors to teach the Word in depth! I would not wanted to have faced Jesus with such shame of sin against our God and The Holy Spirit. Thank you so very much. I am relieved and grateful that I heard that sermon! Never stop teaching us the Word one verse at a time...and doing so with such depth. When a Pastor preaches a little sermonette..we walk out and forget all that he said..it is meaningless to us. However, when we hear the precious Word of God taught in Scripture with such depth, God's work brings it to us with breadth, as you have also revealed is necessary. Thank you. I am eternally grateful, and this is not a pun!
#13 Posted by
John Gerald C. Gomez | Sunday, February 02, 2014at
When i became a Bible christian May 1987, i received Jesus into my life, i got the honor to read Gods word. The benefits are great and God molds us into the kind of person He wants us to be. The Holy Scripture is available to us, we thank God for His Holy word and the ministry of Grace to you, John has open the door for us to understand His word and the massage. Jesus Christ is Lord as we read each pages of His word that transforms lives. Thanks to John and the ministry of Grace to you i learns a lot. Thy word is truth........
#14 Posted by
Shane Haffey | Monday, February 03, 2014at
Hi Steve, The pattern of one's life is marked by one's beliefs. This is not without exception of course. Rom 7:14-23. As our minds and conscience are so trained by our communion with God through His word and prayer it will indeed manifest itself in our behavior in spite of the flesh.
#15 Posted by
Steve Carlton | Monday, February 03, 2014at
Hi Shane. Thanks for your comment. I agree.
But your comment does not directly answer my question. If my theology is that I remain a sinner, what kind of behavior would that produce? If my identity is that I am a sinner, does that make it easier to accept my sin as behavior that is both normal and to be expected?
#16 Posted by
Gabriel Powell | Monday, February 03, 2014at
When we isolate a particular doctrine and emphasize it to the exclusion of the rest of Scripture, we will inevitably fall into a wrong way of thinking such as you describe.
The Apostle Paul used your line of thinking as a rhetorical device in Romans 6 where he says, "Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?" In other words, since we receive abundant grace when we sin, should we just keep sinning so as to receive more and more grace? That's not the same question you're asking, but it uses a similar line of reasoning. The answer?
"By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? ... We were buried therefore with [Christ] by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."
Or consider 2 Corinthians 5:15, "and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised." In other words, to continue intentionally living in sin (despite it's weakened presence in our lives) is to deny and indeed even reject the very work of Christ.
The power of remaining sin is neutered by the reality that in Christ, our identity is no longer that of "sinner", but "new creation in Christ." We should never become comfortable in our sin because as new creations, sin is now a hostile foreign entity in our lives. On the one hand we do understand that sin remains until death, but on the other hand we understand that our lives are no longer our own, and by the power of the Spirit we are to live for the glory of God with increasing victory over sin.
#17 Posted by
Shane Haffey | Monday, February 03, 2014at
Good theology does not leave room to "accept" sin in the sense that we become indifferent to it's presence. Our pursuit of holiness is indigenous to our new nature. The believers behavior bears witness to the fact that a new nature is present (1 John 2:3). Yes we are still sinners but that does not define who we are. Our "identity" is now found in Christ. This is evidenced by the daily mortification of sin produced by our orthodoxy being joined to orthopraxy. Theology must be studied in an orthopraxy manner.
That said, We must be careful not to live in one doctrine to the exclusion of the whole. Good theology is recognizing the need to live in the whole counsel of God not in the sum of it's parts.
#18 Posted by
Shane Haffey | Monday, February 03, 2014at
#19 Posted by
Steve Carlton | Monday, February 03, 2014at
Thank you for your responses. Here is my take.
I am not a sinner. I am a saint, a whole and completely new creation in Christ. My old man, who was most definitely a sinner, was too bad to be fixed. He could not be repaired, ever. So God killed the old man off. When Christ died, the me that was the old man died too. My old heart, that was desperately wicked, died and was buried with Christ. I have a completely new heart. Ez 36
Because I am not that old man, I am a saint, and I walk in newness of life. Sin is not normal for me any more. If and when I sin, it is because I have chosen to dig up the old man and I am choosing to live from his identity, while rejecting the new man that I am.
God is not working on my old man any more. He killed that old man off in Christ. He is not working on my sin. He is working on my righteousness.
My life in newness is an endless series of paradoxes. I am righteous, and at the same time I am learning how to live life from that righteousness. I am holy and sanctified, while at the same time God is teaching me how to think, speak and act from that holiness. And this process is not a discipline. It is a delight.
My new man does not have a sin nature. It is not at all natural for him to sin.
He can choose sin by digging up the old man, but this is abnormal.
For me, understanding Romans 6 may be the most important cornerstone of my walk in the Kingdom. I need always to live from my new identity in Christ. When I do that, good behavior happens naturally and without struggle. Sin seems to take care of itself.
Amazing, really amazing.
#20 Posted by
Jeremy Smith | Tuesday, February 04, 2014at
After Paul describes in Romans 6 the spiritual life and glorious freedom from the domination of sin that come from the believer’s union with Jesus Christ, he describes in chapter 7 the continuing battle he wages against sin. Paul describes in Romans 7 the struggle against sin that all believers experience. He describes that inner tendency to sin as “the flesh” (cf. vs. 14, 18, and 25), as being “sold into bondage to sin” (v. 14, cf. vs. 23–24), and as “sin which dwells in me” (v. 17 and 20, cf. v. 23).
These statements are clearly expressions of Paul’s life as a Christian because he repeatedly refers to his deep desire to obey the law of God (vs. 15, 18–22) and not to sin (vs. 15, 19, 20). An unbeliever would never honestly make those comments. Paul is describing his personal experience as a mature believer. From his example we learn about the fight of all believers for practical righteousness. So we must conclude that children of God are perfectly righteous positionally, i.e. by virtue of their position in Christ (Romans 6:3–7). But while their unredeemed humanness remains, the struggle against sin continues (Romans 7:18–20).
So although believers do have totally new natures, the flesh remains. But Christians can live righteously as they habitually submit to the Spirit’s work in their lives, convicting them of sin and reforming their minds through the Scripture (Romans 12:2; Galatians 5:16–17; Ephesians 6:17; 1 John 2:20, 27).
God has truly given His children the resources they need to live righteously for His glory.
#22 Posted by
Shane Haffey | Thursday, February 06, 2014at
Getting back to your original question.. We sin not because we hold to a bad theology. We sin because of the flesh.
Sound theology married to a penitent heart will produce a pattern of righteousness. Christ becomes first place in the believers heart.
IF I then sin it is a result not of improper knowledge or lack of understanding, it is the flesh which has yet to be redeemed. Old nature dead. New nature alive in Christ yet the flesh still under curse.
Therefore as Paul explains, I end of doing the very thing I hate. My members (sinful flesh) waging war against the law of my mind (regenerated heart) captive to the sin that dwells within the body. The key here, Paul cry's.. who will deliver me from this BODY of death.
While our earthly bodies are susceptible to decay (corruption), they will become incorruptible in glory when the curse of sin is lifted. So the battle is not with old man vs new man. The battle is between a spiritual re birth vs mortal corruptible flesh.