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Sunday, October 25, 2015 am                                                Perfection 2015 Index

 

GOING ON TO PERFECTION (32)
The Christian and Bible Study (3)
How To Study the Bible

 

In our study of going on to perfection, these past two month we have been dealing with communicating with God.  That we understand communication is essential to building ourselves up spiritually.  Prayer is the way God has provided for us to talk to God.  His word, the Bible, is the way He talks to us.  It is crucial that we learn both how to pray and to study God’s word.

This month we have been addressing Bible study.  We have talked about what the Bible is, why Bible study is important and proper (and improper) attitudes as we study the Bible.  Today we want to make practical application by noting some things to consider in HOW we study the Bible.  Our goal in this lesson is give some suggestions to help optimize our time and understanding of His word as we study.  As with other lessons in this study, these thoughts are by no means comprehensive.

Note: This lesson will not be a comprehensive study of how to interpret what the scriptures actually teach (i.e.  Hermeneutics – the science of interpretation), but rather a basic introduction to Bible study.  If desired, we could address this at another time.  It is certainly an important topic. 

 I.                    Preparing to study the Bible

a.        Set aside time and establish a pattern to study the whole Bible
In our very busy lives, we have to schedule things. 
One reason there is such spiritual ignorance is because we fail to include personal time to develop as Christians – time to pray and to study God’s word, and engage in other spiritual endeavors – seeking the lost, encouraging brethren, etc.    We have to MAKE time for these things.
Is that not a part of the command to redeem the time? Ephesian 5:16, Colossians 4:5
Some suggest begin your day with study of God’s word – a good time for many reasons!
Add to this a place where you can remove as many distractions as possible and where you can store resources that will help you in your studies.

b.       Systematic study - the whole counsel of God.

                                                   i.      Plans are scriptural and essential to success in any endeavor.  The greatest example of a plan is God’s plan for man’s redemption – it is the theme of the Bible.  If God had a plan that He executed, we need plans as well.  This includes Bible study.

                                                  ii.      2 Timothy 2:15 – speaks of “rightly dividing the word of truth.”  To do this, we need to consider “the whole counsel of God”. 

                                                iii.      There are many who devise flawed plans of study – examples include:

1.       Hit and miss method - they will open the Bible to a random passage.  Such is inadequate for many reasons.

2.       Some emphasize a favorite section or book and study that over and over.  While not wrong within itself, it neglects whatever portion of scripture is not studied (in time).

3.       Irregular and infrequent studies – too much time elapses in-between times of study.  Such demonstrates a lack of priority for God’s word.

                                                iv.      Devise a plan with which you will in time read through and study the whole Bible.   This does NOT have to be done in one year, but you need a plan!

                                                  v.      This includes determining what you will study – whether a book or a subject.

c.        Begin with prayer – James 1:5-6.  Ask of God for wisdom.
Pray for wisdom as you study.  Pray for proper attitudes seeking to apply what you are learning.

d.       Seek purity in your life  
Matt. 5:8 – the pure in heart shall see God.  Those in darkness and worldly are blind to His truth (John 3:18-21)
Hosea 4:6, my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge – the context is a nation and leaders that were corrupt – idolaters, dishonest in dealings, worldly, etc. 
You will not glean from God’s word its message without seeking to live it.    
1) It won’t be important to you; 2) It will expose who you are

e.       Be diligent – 2 Tim. 2:15.  You have to work at it!  Just a reminder from last week! 
Studying the Bible takes work – hence the word STUDY.  Like anything worthwhile, hard work produces results; Lukewarm efforts will never produce a top quality result. 

 II.                  Mining the scriptures

a.        Read your Bible – While Bible study is not the same as simply reading the Bible, we need to take some time to just read.  As one reads, he gets the big picture of a text, which is needed to properly interpret a particular passage and to keep from misinterpreting that passage.
We ought to give attention to reading – 1 Timothy 4:13, Timothy was called upon to do this.
Ephesians 3:4 Paul writes so that the brethren can read.

b.       Consider Background & context – 2 Tim. 2:15, a part of rightly dividing the word of truth is putting it in its context.  While there are times we can quote a verse independent, often we need to context to make sure we are not misusing a passage.   There are several examples of why context is important:

                                                   i.      Satan misused scripture taking out of its context to Jesus (Luke 4:10-11).  He quoted Psalm 91:11-12 part of a psalm that is a general promise that God takes care of His people.  It was not a passage designed to challenge God to see what He will do.

                                                  ii.      Galatians 6:10 is sometimes used to justify churches engaging in general benevolence, but the context shows it is directed toward individuals.  And a closer look removes it from merely physical things, but directs it toward spiritual matters (see vs. 6).

                                                iii.      Matthew 18:20 – “where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”  This is not justification for creating your own worship when on vacation – the context Is dealing with discipline (Matt. 18:15-20)

                                                iv.      Consider also 1 John 2:15 – do not love the world, yet we read in John 3:16 (by the same author) – God so loved the world.  Is this a contradiction?  Absolutely not – the context of each passage establishes the meaning.

                                                  v.      Context –can include immediate context, the section of the letter, the message of the book, and even the Bible as a whole (understanding that it does not contradict itself), etc.

                                                vi.      Background – Putting things in context requires some preliminary research before you formulate a conclusion.
ALSO, background helps us address what a passage is dealing with – who is speaking, who is being addressed, etc.  That is why before I teach a book, I like to establish the background.  It helps us better understand the message.
For example: If you read Genesis 6-8 you find Noah was commanded to build an ark.  Do we need to build an ark today? 
Why can we not use the thief on the cross as an example of what we must do to be saved?  Because of when Jesus forgave his sins – before He died.  We are under a new law.

c.        Be objective – not subjective. 

                                                   i.      Accept the word of God for what it says, unless there is reason (i.e. context and background) to think differently.   Most of what scripture teaches is straight forward.  But there are times when we need to think and investigate further. 

                                                  ii.      Respect how we establish authority – CENI, not “silence gives consent” or “times have changed”, etc.

                                                iii.      Respect not only WHAT He says, but what He doesn’t say.  Silence is NOT consent and will usually get us into trouble!  (1 Cor. 4:6 – do not think beyond what is written)

                                                iv.      As difficult as it is, we should avoid letting emotions dictate our reception of His word. I am not saying we should not be “moved” as we consider the gospel, but don’t let emotions overshadow what His word actually says.  Many doctrines today are unpopular, but still commanded.

d.       Use common sense as you study!   

                                                   i.      Mental industry – the Bible is clear in showing that we need to use logic as we study.

                                                  ii.      For example: Hebrews 7:14, “For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah…” – conclusion, He could not be a Levitical priest.

                                                iii.      Jesus often used logic and common sense in dealing with His enemies as well – cf. John 10:37-38 where He appealed to them to consider the works He did as proof of His claims.
Matthew 22:40 – Jesus asked, “What do you think about the Christ?  Whose son is He?”  He uses the actual wording of the text to show that Jesus existed before David. 
Paul reasoned with people – in Corinth we are told that he “reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 18:4)

e.       Resources

There are numerous resources available that can help us in our studies. 

                                                   i.      Where do we find background about places and people?  Use a Bible dictionary.

                                                  ii.      Where do we find the proper definition of Bible words – turn to an expository dictionary or lexicon (a dictionary based upon foreign words).

                                                iii.      How can I find the usage of a particular word in the Bible – use a concordance.

                                                iv.      Commentaries can be useful – but you should consult those from reliable sources.  And ALWAYS remember that a commentary is a man’s interpretation of a passage. 

                                                  v.      Today, Bible software can provide all  of these and more for the computer literate.

f.         Translations

                                                   i.      Translations are crucial to our understanding of God’s word.  Unless you are a Greek AND Hebrew scholar, you rely on translations for your understanding of God’s word.  The New Testament writers and Jesus, both quoted from a translation of the original Hebrew Bible (aka the Old Testament).  Many Old Testament quotes in the New Testament are from the LXX (Septuagint) which was the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. 
So we have precedence for translations.  However, not all translations are equally reliable, but various translations CAN be useful. 

                                                  ii.      The English language has dozens of different translations.  Some are similar, while others are drastically different.   Some emphasize the various words in the original language (sometimes called a word for word translation) while others emphasize the meaning of a phrase or sentence of the text over the actual wording (thought for thought).  Some versions are in-between these two (known as a balanced translation – i.e NIV).  Still others are referred to as paraphrase Bibles which restate the idea of a thought into very modern English, often with expanded wording (amplified) to explain a text. (Good news Bible, The Message, etc.)

                                                iii.      While various versions serve different purposes, it is important that we find a version that respects the actual wording of the original text (even if it is grammatically incorrect in our language).   Most of the Bibles we use fit in this category – KJV, NKJV, NAS95, ASV, ESV, etc.  Among those, I recommend that as we examine a text, if we find it difficult to understand that we consult other (conservative) versions to see if they help you understand it.  

                                                iv.      NOTE: While there are variations in various translations, most Bibles today with center column references identify major differences – this can give us cause to further investigate.

g.        Record your studies – take notes.  It is suggested that as you study the Bible, you take notes.  Find a way to document your studies.  This will help you in later years as you need to revisit a subject or book of the Bible that you have previously studied.  ALSO, it is said that if you record something in multiple formats there’s a greater likelihood of remembering it – so seeing and writing it enhances your remembrance of what you have learned.

h.       Be Bible minded.  Philippians 4:8 calls for us to “Meditate on these things.”  
It is also suggested that you have good Bible based materials as part of your “casual” time.  That is why we publish a bulletin. 

 

Much more could be said about this topic.  We have not even addressed the rules associated with proper interpretation.  These are some things to consider to help us take the study of His word seriously and to help us gain a deeper understanding of what we are as Christians.   Do you study as you ought to?