Suggestions for Bible Study- Part 3
Co-pastor, 1st Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM 88424
Over the past few weeks, weíve been examining some suggestions for Bible study and so far weíve looked at the necessity of Bible study, as shown in 2 Tim 3:14-17 and 2 Tim 2:15. We also looked at the error of taking passages out of context, using Matt 4:6-7 as our example. This week, weíll examine some specific approaches to Bible, with the goal of "rightly dividing the word of truth" to the glory of God. You may find previous columns and other information on our website:www.fbcdesmoines.org.
First, your study should start with prayer and a humble and contrite heart (Isa 66:1-5, Luke 18:10-14). Now, take the passage you are studying and ask some questions about it- Who? What? Where? Why? To who is the passage and the book as a whole addressed? The book of Romans, for instance, starts off with: "To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints" (Romans 1:7) while 1 Timothy is addressed "To Timothy, a true son in the faith" (1 Tim 1:2). This salutation can help determine "when" as in "when was the book written" and it also tells something about the addressee; Timothy is a "true son in the faith". The salutation can help us see any particular problems or issues to which a letter or book is addressed (such as 1 and 2 Corinthians which address the trouble church in Corinth), and this information will be useful when studying the historical context of the book. Likewise, in Acts 17:18-22, we see Paul addressing the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers at the Aeropagus. Knowing this, we might use Paulís arguments when addressing descendants of these philosophers today. Asking questions about a particular passage or book will help us apply the information therein.
Next read your passage carefully and examine each word in detail. Letís use Ephesians 2:8-9 as an example: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, lest anyone should boast." Be sure you know what each word means. Use a dictionary (I recommend Websterís 1628 for its Biblical foundation) and also look up words using a concordance. In this passage, what is the "for" there for? Itís there because this sentence is continuing a previous thought. Back up a few verses and read some more to make sure you follow the authorís train of thought in arriving at this passage. The next word is "by". Again, allowing the Bible to interpret itself, we find out that "by" means "because of". In this example, "by grace" means that "because of grace, you have been saved by faith." Grace itself does not save, rather it is that faith given because of grace that saves. Work through the passage, making sure you understand the meaning of each word in order to as best as possible understand the thought being presented.
A critical point here is to let the Bible interpret itself. Donít come to the Bible with your doctrine in hand, looking for support, but instead study to see what the text has to tell you. The former notion is called "exegesis" which means "to lead out", while the latter is called "eisegesis", meaning "to lead in." Let the Bible shape your doctrine; donít let your doctrine shape the Bible.
It can be instructive to look at the Hebrew and Greek words underlying your translation. You donít have to be a linguist; all you need is access to the appropriate dictionary. While we should be very careful about redefining the Bible based on our personal study of the Hebrew and Greek (because this implies doubt about Godís ability to provide us with a suitable translation) we can use language study to help understand nuances that may not be clear in our language. For instance, Deut 6:4 says "Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one". This passage is often used by many to deny the concept of the Trinity. However, the Hebrew word used for "one" in this case is echad and it means "united, alike, one". If you search for other examples of echad, youíll find that itís used to describe a cluster of like things- a cluster of grapes, an assembly of people ("the people met as one") - and is never used to describe a singular object. Thus, rather than denying the Trinity, the passage actually supports it!
Next time, we will look at the usefulness of history, commentaries, preaching, and like-minded believers in your Bible study. Until then, may you love the Lord our God will all your heart, soul, and mind through our mediator and advocate, Christ Jesus.
Suggestions Part 2
Suggestions Part 4