Studying the Word—A Road Map for Life
In a few days I will preside over the 23rd graduation ceremony for Ambassador Bible College, for the Class of 2022. (Sunday, May 8, beginning at 11 a.m. EDT, you can watch it live online at abc.ucg.org/webcast/graduation-2022)
In completing their one-year study here in Milford, ABC students have been challenged to dig deeply into the Word of God. Since the fall, they have pored over, discussed and researched the full collection of 66 books/letters that contain more than 770,000 words (in the New King James Version).
What are these words that they have spent so much time studying in a seven-hour-a-day educational curriculum, led by leading ministers and administrators of the United Church of God? Is this merely a compilation of ancient documents, ancestral charts, poems and sayings? Does ABC only focus on history, prophecy, geography and archaeology as they are linked to the biblical record?
What do ABC students—and those who take part in the ABC sampler and the ABC Continuing Education programs—systematically study?
When we think of “word,” it is more than a combination of letters or syllables to identify something.
What is the full English definition of “word?” At yourdictionary.com/word, there are 85 meanings listed for “word.” The important consideration is that a word “symbolizes and communicates a meaning.” It can range from “a promise, affirmation, or assurance” to “discourse or talk; speech” to rumor, proverbs, sayings, arguments and commands.
We, of course, regard the critical definition of “word” as the Scriptures, the Bible and, in full expression, Jesus Christ Himself as “The Word.”
The Bible itself defines what it is. Jesus declared: “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63 John 6:63It is the spirit that vivifies; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life.
American King James Version×).
He spoke of the power of the word thus: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17 John 17:17Sanctify them through your truth: your word is truth.
American King James Version×). Jesus’ prayer to God the Father was a petition to set apart and protect His disciples by the priceless knowledge contained and preserved for us in the recorded words from God.
As stated by the apostle Paul, the Bible describes its purpose: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 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, thoroughly furnished to all good works.
American King James Version×, English Standard Version).
What did our ABC students dig deep into?
While they come to Ambassador Bible College with a certain level of maturity and familiarity with God’s Word, ABC students spend considerable time reviewing and deeply studying the meaning of the words they read. As part of that review of the Bible and its history, they learn what those words meant to the people to whom they were originally written. Most importantly, ABC faculty carefully teach and confirm that what we read in the Bible is God talking powerfully to usas individuals. The ABC systematic review of the Bible offers our students lessons, admonitions and instructions from these ageless words that transform and renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2 Romans 12:1-2  I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
 And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×).
The Bible serves as a powerful tool to assess our thoughts and behaviors at all levels. Those living in the world may not know the Bible, but the Bible knows all about humanity!
Consider this: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12-13 Hebrews 4:12-13  For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened to the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
American King James Version×).
Just as the classes before them achieved, the current class has done well in taking advantage of this rigorous biblical curriculum. I led a forum with our then-new students last Sept. 9 (2021) where I asked them what they wanted to get from a year’s study of the Bible. They responded to a brief questionnaire, which results I kept. After nine months of the ABC experience, I asked them the same question last week and they again responded—with remarkable results! Here’s a sample:
BEFORE: I came to get an understanding of the Bible that I haven’t previously had . . . I want to grow deeper in my faith with God.
NOW: I got a lot from coming to ABC—knowledge, friendship, memories and growth. The biggest thing I would say is my motivation to build my relationship with God has grown.
BEFORE: To have a stronger foundation for my beliefs, closer relationship with God, and make prayer and Bible study a part of my everyday life.
NOW: The year has been very beneficial for me. I feel that my knowledge of the Bible has enhanced a lot and so has my relationship with God . . . The classes have helped give me a more in-depth understanding and a better foundation.
BEFORE: Deepen my understanding of the Bible. Be able to give a solid answer when asked and my goal is to develop better study habits.
NOW: I do feel that my Bible knowledge has grown. I also feel more confident in being able to research a subject for better understanding . . . I feel it is important to be of service to Church family as well as in the community when there is a need.
BEFORE: I came to ABC because . . . I realized [I’m] not nearly as close as I want to be [to God]. I am a sixth generation in the Church . . . [I want to] make it my religion and my beliefs.
NOW: I have never felt more connected to God than I have in this past year. I feel like I have grown so much in my relationship with Him, and that I have a good journey ahead of me as I continue becoming closer to Him and His ways.
BEFORE: The main purpose for me to come to ABC was further my relationship to God . . . and I want to strengthen my foundation . . . To build a stronger foundation, be a disciple and a light into the world.
NOW: [ABC] was motivational for me to continue to work towards a being like our Elder Brother and Savior, Christ, the only one we need to compare ourselves to. Ambassador Bible College was the fundamental change in my life that I needed . . . I hope to be a better disciple and a light in this world wherever I go.
BEFORE: I came because I needed to draw closer to God and in a more in-depth way. I . . . have that feeling of thirsting and hungering after the word.
NOW: The year was great, it definitely helped me to draw closer to God . . . I’ve learned so much . . . I’m going to miss everyone . . . you’re all a family to me.
ABC continues to bear spiritual fruit, helping to train potential leaders and servants for the Church! Even though this Sunday will be my last ABC function as President of the United Church of God, I look forward to the privilege of continuing to teach at the ABC Continuing Education program later this month and to return one day a week in the fall to teach the General Epistles class, one I greatly appreciate. While the Class of 2022 has been outstanding, we look forward to the new Class of 2023 which will be arriving in a few months.
Want to experience Ambassador Bible College for yourself? We encourage people to submit an application for admission (there are still openings), but if you just want to take in some of the spiritually rich presentations, go online to abc.ucg.org/courses. There you can sample many of the courses taught straight from the Word of God!