If we were to ask in a church meeting, “How many of you believe the Bible from cover to cover?” probably everyone would raise a hand. However, if we were to ask, “How many of you read it regularly from cover to cover?” we might not get much of a response. It seems we are often guilty of being more interested in defending God’s Word than in studying it.
On a typical evening an average Christian may sit and watch TV for three hours but only read his Bible for three minutes before bedtime. Is it any wonder many believers lack spiritual maturity? Many Christians are more faithful to the Dear Abby column or the sports pages than they are to the Word of God. I have known non-Christians who would not leave their homes in the morning until they had read their horoscopes. What would happen if Christians committed themselves with equal vigor to reading their Bibles each morning before they left for work, school, or shopping? It would change their lives and the lives of those around them.
Apostle Paul gives us two reasons why we should know the Scriptures. The first purpose is that we might come to know Jesus Christ and receive his salvation (2 Tim. 3:15). We learn about him and redemption through the Word. The second purpose of Scripture is to help us grow spiritually that we might be equipped for whatever God wants us to do (2 Tim. 3:17). The means to that growth are teaching (doctrine), rebuking, correcting, and training (2 Tim. 3:16). Teaching shows us the path on which we are to walk; rebuking shows us where we got off the path; correcting tells us how to get back on the path; and training in righteousness teaches how to stay on that path. This means that the Bible is the comprehensive guidebook for living the Christian life.
The ultimate goal of dynamic Bible study is application, not just interpretation. We do not want to settle for understanding alone; we want to apply the biblical principles to our daily living. Dwight L. Moody, a great evangelist and Christian education of the late nineteenth century, used to say, “The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge, but to change our lives.” It was given to change our character and bring it more into conformity with Jesus Christ. All of our efforts in Bible study are valueless if in the final analysis we do not change and become more like Jesus. We must “not merely listen to the word,” but we are to “do what it says” (James 1:22).
One day a man asked me, “What is the best translation?” (He was referring, of course, to the best Bible version.) I answered, “The best translation is when you translate the Word of God into your daily life.” He said, “But I’ve got my Living Bible.” (He still didn’t get the picture.) I replied, “You ought to be a living Bible! The Word made flesh ought to be visible in your life.”
Some of the questions you ought to be asking yourself in your Bible study are: What attitude do I need to change as a result of this study? What do I need to start doing or stop doing? What things do I need to believe or stop believing? What relationships do I need to work on? What ministry should I be having with others? Our goal in all Bible studies is to know Jesus Christ and to become like him in our attitudes, our thoughts, our speech, our actions, and our values. (Above is an excerpt from the book Rick Warren’s Bible Study Methods by Rick Warren)
Your Initial Response
How often do you study your Bible? Have your lives been changed through studying the Bible? How?
31“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true.
32There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true.
33“You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth.
34Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved.
35John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.
36“I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me.
37And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form,
38nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent.
39You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,
40yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
41“I do not accept glory from human beings,
42but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.
43I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him.
44How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?
45“But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set.
46If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.
47But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” (John 5:31–47 NIV)
1) “Eye” (“i=Eye”)
iEXP Bible Study Method
1 Draw a question mark at the place where you have difficulty of understanding.
2 Underline all the words containing “testimony.”
3 Underline the name “John.”
4 Circle all the words that are related with God’s Word.
5 Fill in the blanks: You search the __________ because you think that in them you have ____________________; it is these that __________ about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.
2) “Expound” (E)
iEXP Bible Study Method
In the course of human history, John the Baptist acted as the pioneer of the Messiah. He not only proclaimed the imminent heavenly kingdom to humankind, but he also testified for Christ. Before Jesus Christ officially commenced His ministry, the Heavenly Father publicly testified for Him, stating that Christ was His beloved Son. Subsequently, Jesus Christ employed words and actions to prove His Saviour’s identity. God contained these events in the Bible as silent and unceasing testimonies to humankind.
1 Why Jesus Christ could not testify for Himself (John 5:31)?
2 Who was the other person testifying for the Lord Jesus (John 5:31)?
3 The Jews are not willing to accept Jesus Christ, but they will accept another person who comes in his own name. Who is this person (John 5:43)?
4 Did the Jews really believe the Bible contained eternal life (John 5:39)?
5 Why didn’t the Jews believe the testimony of Jesus Christ (John 5:40–47)?
In John 5, the author laid down all of the evidences to prove that Jesus Christ was God. First of all, John the Baptist testified for Him (John 5:32–35). Secondly, the works of Jesus Christ was also an important source of evidence (John 5:36). Thirdly, the Heavenly Father testified for Christ (John 5:37–38). Finally, the Old Testament testified for Christ, stating that He was God’s Son (John 5:39–47).
According to the Jewish Law, there must be two witnesses to testify in order to make their claims valid (Deut 17:6; 19:15). By following this usual practice, the Lord Jesus stated that with only the evidence that He testified for Himself, His testimony was invalid.
According to the customary rule of the Jewish teachers, they sometimes would not speak of God’s name directly, and “another” could be God’s designation. However, scholars hold various views about its interpretation. Some regard “another” as John the Baptist and some view it as the Holy Spirit. Since Jesus Christ wanted to prove that He was from the Heavenly Father, therefore it should indicate God here.
The Jews sent people to John the Baptist, inquiring about his identity, and he clearly stated that he was not the Messiah, but only His pioneer. In simple terms, John the Baptist was the first one who testified for Christ (John 1:19–27).
A “testimony” is a declaration by a witness who speaks with the authority of one who knows. Jesus Christ clearly pointed out that His testimony was not from humankind, and it was supernatural in nature. The evidence that Lord Jesus offered was for the spiritual well-being of Humankind, so that they could attain the salvation of God.
Concerning the crowd’s response toward John the Baptist, Jesus Christ stated that it was momentarily. The German theologian Bengel says, “They were attracted by his brightness, not by his warmth.” By comparing with the Lord Jesus, the ministry of John the Baptist was only transient in nature.
The evidence of Jesus Christ played a more decisive role than the information that John the Baptist offered, because His testimony was testifying that He came from the Heavenly Father and He was a copartner with God (5:36; 5:20; 9:4; 10:25, 32, 37–8; 14:10–11; 15:24).
When the Lord Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist, the Heavenly Father took the initiative to testify that He was His beloved Son (Matthew 3:17), and it served as an official way of commencing Christ’s earthly ministry. Furthermore, Christ pointed out that the Jews had not hear of the voice and see the demeanor of the Heavenly Father; and it is a way to say, the Jews have not known the Heavenly Father.
The Lord Jesus did not evade of mentioning the reasons about the Jews’ inability of hearing God’s voice and seeing His form (John 5:37): first, they did not accept God’s words. Second, they vehemently objected Jesus Christ.
“You search the Scriptures” could be interpreted as a command, or could be an indicative. Most of the English translations regard it as an indicative. As to the Jews, they wrongly thought that the study of the Old Testament was a means of obtaining eternal life. The Lord Jesus not only pointed out that the Old Testament was a means of testifying for Him (cf. Luke 24:27, 44), and He also stated that owing to the rejection of accepting His testimony, they could not attain the new life of the Lord.
Generally speaking, human beings love others praising them; but evidently, Jesus Christ was different to secular and religious leaders, for He did not seek human praise (John 5:44; 7:18). The simple reason is that, Jesus Christ was glorious in the very beginning, for before the creation, the Heavenly Father and God’s Son have already shared their glory together.
“do not have the love of God” can be interpreted as people’s love for God or God’s love for people. By referring to the context of this passage, other scripture and the essential teaching of the Law (John 5:41; Luke 11:42; Mark 12:30), it should imply that the Jews are lacking in love for God, and they love human praises as a result. Strangely, the Jews will accept those who come in their name, and they are the leaders of some false religions (John 5:43). The more tragic thing is that, the Jews will receive the Antichrist as their lord in the end times (2 Thess. 2:8–10).
“How could you possibly believe? You like to have your friends praise you, and you don’t care about praise that the only God can give!” (CEV) Jesus Christ went straight to the heart of the matter. Owing to a wrong pursuit, they are deeply engrossed in seeking human praise, thus they cannot believe the message of Christ as a result.
God granted the Old Testament to the Israelites, so that they could come to know Him. Furthermore, Moses was the national hero of the Israelites, for he was the Saviour who led his people out of Egypt and the one who granted the Law to His people. In the Pentateuch (the Five Books of Moses), many passages talked about the prophecies of Jesus Christ (Deu. 18:15, 18). In other words, it serves as a witness of Christ. Therefore, the Jews who decided not to accept Jesus Christ as God’s Son, would be condemned by the Pentateuch.
The Bible not only is a historical document that records the epoch-making events of humankind, but most important of all, the Bible systematically and precisely testifies to all humankind the history and salvation of Jesus Christ. Thus, people can know God, attain God’s salvation and experience the joy of new life that God grants.
3) “Exercise” (X)
iEXP Bible Study Method
1 People who study the Bible diligently might not have known God and might not have attained eternal life. Let’s be warned (John 5:37-40).
2 Do we seek human or divine praises in our ministry (John 5:41)?
3 Do we have a heart to love God (John 5:42)?
4 Memorise John 5:39.
39You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, （John 5:39）
5 In the Old Testament, God devoted a great deal of space to witness for Jesus Christ; therefore, we must resolve to study more of the Old Testament.
4) “Proclaim” (P)
By applying the biblical truths to their lives, believers would experience God. When the Bible students experience God and His truths, they should follow the example of the early Christians of testifying to non-believers and believers boldly. By means of speech, we witness to non-believing friends and to edify believers alike. The fourth step of the iEXP Bible study is “Proclaim”.
iEXP Bible Study Method
After finished studying the text, try to apply the truths to your daily living, family life and church life, and pray that you will experience the truthfulness and power of God’s Word. Grab the opportunity to share your experience with non-believers and believers, in family altar, small groups and social gatherings, as a way of witnessing the power of the gospel to non-believers and edification of believers.