How to Study the Bible, by Watchman Nee


Hebrews 5:14 says, “But solid food is for the full-grown, who because of practice have their faculties exercised for discriminating between both good and evil.” The word practice can be translated as “habit.” There is one condition to receiving God’s word—a man must be full-grown. Only a full-grown man can eat solid food. Why must a man be full-grown before he can eat solid food? This has to do with his habit. A full-grown man can take solid food because he is used to it. His faculties are exercised, and he can discriminate between both good and evil. Verse 13 speaks of being experienced in the word of righteousness. To be experienced in the word of righteousness means to be experienced in the word of God. The word experienced in Greek has to do with industrial skill; it means to be dexterous. Some workers are unskillful, while others are dexterous. A dexterous worker is one who has passed through much training and who has become skillful in his trade. A person who is experienced in God’s word is one who is well trained and skillful in His word. If a man wants to study the Bible and understand God’s word, he must be experienced in his practice.

The Bible exposes our condition. The kind of person we are determines the kind of Bible we read. If we want to know what a person is like in character and habit, all we have to do is to show him a chapter of the Scriptures and see what he gets out of it. The kind of person he is will determine the kind of reading he will have. A curious man will find the Bible full of curious things. An intellectual person will find the Bible full of reasonings. A simple-minded person will find the Bible merely a collection of verses. It is a fact that a man’s character and habit are often revealed through his reading of the Bible. If a man is not disciplined by God in his character and habits, he will fall into total error, and his reading of the Bible will be spiritually fruitless.

What kind of character and habits must a person have in order for him to read the Bible?

A. Not Being Subjective

Every reader of the Bible should learn to be objective. No subjective person can understand the Bible. A subjective person is not suitable to be a learner. If we speak to an objective person, he will understand after we speak once. But a subjective person will not understand after we speak three times. Many people do not understand what others are saying, not because they are unintelligent, but because they are too subjective. They live entirely in their mind and cannot take in others’ words. They are full of thoughts, opinions, and proposals. Others’ words cannot find any ground in them. Their mind may be focused on water, while others may be speaking about mountains. They interpret what they hear and take the mountains to mean mountains with water. A subjective person cannot understand men’s word accurately, let alone hear God’s word! He cannot understand worldly things, let alone spiritual things.

One interesting thing about those who are good at studying the Bible is that they are all quick to listen. Once others say something, they understand exactly what has been spoken. An objective person can listen to others, and he can also understand the Bible. In contrast, some people do not have any idea what others are saying even after listening once or twice. They have too many things in their head. They are full of thoughts, opinions, and proposals. Others can repeat the same thing to them once or twice, but they will still not get it. In order to find out if we are subjective, we only need to ask ourselves if we understand what others are saying. Can we understand what others are saying even if they speak very briefly? Our days on this earth are limited. If we are subjective, the time that is available to us will be greatly reduced. An objective man can get more from reading the Bible one time than a subjective man can from reading it ten times. A subjective man will miss what he reads even after he reads it once, twice, or even nine or ten times. The Bible will slip by him and not leave any impression in him.

Recall the story of Samuel. When the Lord called him, he went to Eli again and again because he thought Eli was calling him (1 Sam. 3:4-10). God was calling him, but he thought that Eli was calling him. He had heard Eli’s voice many times, but this time it was surely not Eli’s voice. Could he not tell the difference? Samuel’s subjectivity made him think that Eli was calling him. This is the reason he could not differentiate between Eli’s voice and God’s voice.

The problem with many people is that they will not allow God to break down their subjectivity. No matter how much they study the Bible, they cannot form any impression of it. It seems as if they never hear God’s speaking. When we go to the Lord to read His word, our mind must be open to Him. Our opinions, feelings, heart, and everything we are must be open to Him as well. In other words, we cannot be subjective. We must realize the importance of this matter. If a man is not dealt with in this matter, he cannot read the Bible well. An objective person is full of waiting; he waits for God to speak. His inward being waits quietly for God’s word. If a man is in this state, he will easily understand what God is saying when he opens to His word. It is unnecessary to ask whether or not a man is spiritual. All we have to ask is what he has received when he reads a certain chapter of the Bible. Some cannot tell us what they have received. This proves that they are subjective. It is not easy for a subjective person to listen to others. He is like those in Hebrews 5:11, who are “dull of hearing.” Some people are full of many things, and others’ words cannot find any room in them. Subjectivity is a very serious problem. A subjective man cannot hear God’s word and cannot touch spiritual things.

(How to Study the Bible, Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)