Let us work through just one verse in the NT in the book of James by Jesus’ half-brother. We will not go into the great detail that could be possible but will offer enough so the reader can see how to study the Bible word-by-word and phrase-by-phrase. So that the reader can see the importance of deeper Bible study.
“Deeper study is no guarantee that mature faith will result, but shallow study guarantees that immaturity continues.“—Dr. Lee M. Fields.
James 1:22 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
be doers of the word
Clearly, the “word” here is the Word of God. However, what does James mean by “doers”? The Greek (poiētēs) behind our English word “doers” has the sense of one who is an obeyer of something or someone. The apostle Paul writes to the Christians in Rome, “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers (poiētēs) of the law who will be justified.” (Rom. 2:13) So, James expects all Christians to hear what the word says, to then study that word, meditating on it, pondering what the author meant, and then fully applying it in his or her lives.
It should be made plain that neither Paul nor James are against the hearing of the word or the law, for both know, and Paul said, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how will they hear without someone to preach?”–Romans 10:14.
As Christians, we need to be doers of the word (applying it) in our daily lives, which evidences that we, in fact, believe it to be the true word of God. We need to have a deeper knowledge of the word so that we have a biblical mindset, which will guide us in the way that we need to go. Jesus said, “happy are those hearing the word of God and keeping it!”–Luke 11:28.
not hearers only
By talking about “doers” we have had to discuss “hearers” as well. Nevertheless, let us look up the original language word (akroatēs), which has the sense of one who listens attentively, an active listener. For James, you have to hear the word, correctly understand the word before you can be a “doer” or an obeyer of the word. What James and Paul do not want is “hearers only.” One who hears the word but then never moves on to study, meditate, and ponder, to get a correct understanding, let alone obeying the word.
Let us keep in mind, one who listens to God’s Word with intent to follow through are righteous in God’s eyes, and most certainly the ones who follow through to become doers are righteous in the eyes of God. However, the “hears only” are not declared righteous by God. Many Jewish people had gone to the synagogue in the decades leading up to the Messiah and had heard the Scriptures read again and again but they still ended up rejecting the Messiah when he arrived.
If we are going to be genuine hearers, we need to have faith in what we hear, which means that we study the word, meditate and ponder its meaning, to the point where our faith moves us to act on it, becoming a doer of the word. The apostle Paul said, “So faith comes from hearing.” (Rom. 10:17) We must first hear what the word says. Then, we must study that word, meditate on it, ponder its meaning, if it is going to convict our hearts because we believe it to be reliable, moving us to become doers of the word.
Listen to the words of the apostle Paul about the Beroeans. “The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now, these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, who received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” (Ac 17:10-11) Note that the Beroeans “received the word with all eagerness.” In other words, with all readiness of mind. The Greek word prothumias means that one is eager, ready, mentally prepared to engage in the study or examination of God’s Word. What evidenced the Beroeans eagerness? They examined the Word of God daily. The Greek (anakrinō) means to examine closely. It has the sense of doing detailed research so as to get at what the author meant by the words that he used. It means that the Beroeans studied the Scriptures thoroughly each day, so as to learn the truth through a careful and detailed examination, which convinced them of the reliability of what Paul said. Yes, “many of them believed” the apostle Paul. (Ac 17;12) Why is being a hearer only deceiving yourselves?
The Greek (paralogizomai) behind the English rendering “deceiving” means literally to “deceive” or “delude” oneself in this case. It has the sense of deceiving oneself with subtle and often false, inaccurate, baseless or erroneous reasoning. In other words, the hearer deceives themselves into believing that God does not really want us to do deeper Bible study. They say things to themselves like, “you do not have to have a seminary degree to find favor in God’s eyes.” Or, “it isn’t about head knowledge, it is about heart knowledge, knowing in your heart that God loves you.” The first deceptive statement is a strawman argument, for no one said that one had to have a seminary degree to have a righteous standing before God. However, this ignores the dozens of Scriptures that encourage even commands us to carry out a regular deeper study of God’s Word. (Deut 11:18-23; Josh. 1:8; Pro. 2:1-6; 3:1-2; Matt. 4:4; John 8:32; Ac 17:11; 2 Tim. 2:2, 15; 3:14-17; 1 Pet 3:15, and dozens more could be listed) The second is the either or fallacy when it actually takes both. It is from both the head to the heart (seat of motivation) that we gain a righteous standing before God. It is going from head knowledge to heart application.
Remember, Jesus, said, “‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.’” (Matt. 7:21) You can hear that verse all you want to but if you do not have an accurate knowledge of what the will of the Father is, you will be saying things that were your will to Jesus on Judgment day. ‘On that day you will say to Jesus, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not attend Christian meetings, listening respectfully to what is said, and engage in a daily Bible reading?’ (Matt. 7:22) And then Jesus will declare to you, “‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matt. 7:23) You may have thought that meeting attendance, personal Bible reading, reading Christian books, saying emotional prayers, listening respectfully at the meetings, giving money to the church, even helping the poor were the will of the Father but you will have been sadly mistaken. These are all fine and good but they are not the primary thing that makes up the will of the Father.