The Christian Student and Word Studies

John Slabaugh

Paul writes to Timothy, his son in the faith, in words of encouragement and instruction, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim 2:15). The Greek word for "study" in this text does not signify what "study" does in English. It means "be earnest" or "diligent." A free translation of this text could read, "Be diligent to present yourself unto God, an approved workman, not an unworthy one, correctly setting out the doctrines of the truth." This word is translated "diligent" in a similar context in 2 Peter 3:14, "Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless."

Timothy is the only individual in the New Testament called a "man of God." The interpretation of 2 Timothy 2:15 we have noted can certainly be applied as instruction to be a careful student of the Word of God in order to understand and set forth the truth of God to others. We can link with this, 2 Timothy 3:16-17: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." A good student will become a man of God whom God can and will use.

Every student has textbooks and God has provided Christian students with a volume containing 66 books. It is vital to read and become familiar with the entire library of truth. Each Bible student becomes responsible to translate the truth into practical everyday living. He must get that truth into his soul and then live it out and tell it out.

Consistent, diligent reading is vital to fill one’s mind and heart with divine truth but soon the student will become aware he needs to "understand" as well as "know" the words of truth. Then he will recognize the value of word studies to enhance his understanding of the truth. The intent of this article is to set before Christian students two books (actually three) that will enhance the study and understanding of Scriptural truth.

The first book referred to is the well known Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine. This may be the first and most important book every Christian student should purchase. Anyone who knows more than one language knows it is impossible to always express exactly the same thing in a second language stated in the first. (Case in point, the word "study" mentioned in the first paragraph above.) Sometimes it takes a phrase in the second language to express one word in the first language. When the Christian student recognizes this reality, he will immediately be looking for some means to gain a clear understanding of what the words of Scripture actually do mean.

Christian students soon recognize numerous translations are available. All essentially state the same truths since they translate the same Hebrew or Greek original texts. For a given text, one version may be clearer and more easily understood than another. It is helpful then to make comparisons between different versions, but the student will still wonder which translation is better or more accurate. It is at this point the student can turn to the Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. The student will look up the English word of interest in the text he is studying. Mr. Vine lists every Greek word translated by that English word, giving the references where the Greek words occur. He writes briefly about the meaning and the significance of the Greek words.

In his Greek word articles, Mr. Vine shows the different English words translated from the same Greek word. He puts the word article under the most important English word that translates it and then under the other English words, he refers to the English word where he has placed the article defining and explaining the Greek word. This valuable tool for the study of New Testament Greek words is easy to use and very helpful to the student.

In his youth the writer of this article often wished there was a comparable book to use to look up and study Hebrew words from the Old Testament. I purchased two different books but was disappointed because they were neither as simple to use nor as helpful with definitions and the usage of Hebrew words. In 1980 Moody Press published the two-volume Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT). This has proven to be a valuable complement to Vine’s dictionary for the New Testament.

TWOT was compiled by three editors using definition articles supplied by numerous other writers. The format for TWOT is different than for Vine’s dictionary. When looking up a word, it is necessary first to find the number for the word in a Strong’s concordance and then to use the index at the back of Volume Two to get the number where that word is found in TWOT. This makes TWOT a bit more complicated to use. TWOT is very helpful in recounting different verses where a given word occurs, comparing or contrasting how the Spirit of God uses that word. These word articles, like those in the Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, are very enlightening to the student seeking the understanding of truth.

It is a good practice to do word studies while preparing for the assembly Bible reading. It is also valuable and important to go into word studies to confirm things stated in Bible readings and what is read in commentaries. Doing word studies helps to fix truths taken up or read. Years ago Mr. Oswald MacLeod stated, "We are often blessed by what we hear in ministry. It can enlighten and encourage us, but what we search out for ourselves is what we will really remember!"

There are other valuable reference works to assist the Christian student with his word studies but the two reviewed above are the most helpful.

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