Wednesday, March 15, 2006

It's Dinner Time! (Part 2)

As Christians, we tend to have our own language, like any other group of people or sub-culture. Ours is called by some “Christianese”. It’s our lingo, words that can be seen as mere clichés by those outside the faith. And it can be puzzling for not only unbelievers, but even for new believers just trying to understand the faith they have now come to have. Yesterday’s blog has the potential of sounding too much like a cliché, as well, so I thought it best to take today’s entry and expound on how we should go about studying the Bible. While I believe I conveyed our need for the Word of God, I really didn’t get into the nuts and bolts of actually studying the Bible. Today, I will attempt to do so.

First of all, why do we do Christian’s call the Bible the “Word of God”? Because the Bible itself tells us that the Holy Scriptures were inspired, or “God-breathed” by God. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). When Jesus referred to the Old Testament, he called it the Word of God (see Mark 7:5-13). The teachings of Jesus were called the Word of God (see Luke 5 and 8). The Apostle Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:21 about the scriptures as being inspired by God when he said, “for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God”. Finally, in the third chapter of the same book, Peter spoke of Paul’s writings, and put them on the same level as the scriptures that were known to be inspired, like the Old Testament.

So, how do we go about studying this most precious book? Not like your history or social studies textbooks, that’s for sure. Remember, the Bible is inspired by God. Our first step in the study of the Bible should be to ask the one spoke the words through the people he chose to help us understand what he was saying. When my Grandfather was younger, he made a makeshift wood mill. If I were to learn to use it, it would be best to go to him and ask him how to use it properly, as he created it. Who would know better than the one who made it? So it’s the same with the Bible. Go to the One who inspired it. We are also promised by Jesus that the Holy Spirit will teach us. So, right off the bat, a time of Bible study should begin with a time of prayer.

Next, I look for the context of what I am reading. Many people today can quote the Bible, and they’ll quote it to back up their theological viewpoints, but often quote it out of context. One famous verse that is taken out of context much of the time is Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, the you be not judged…” This is a verse that needs to be interpreted in light of its original context, which in this case is further explained by the passage as a whole. Jesus didn’t mean that we should never judge, rather we must not pass judgment on someone else while turning a blind eye to our own sin.

Also, sometimes cross-referencing scripture with other portions of scripture that are related helps us to understand it more clearly. For instance, to understand Matthew 7, one could read Romans 2 to get a good picture of what Jesus was talking about, where Paul talks about those who judge others, while they themselves are doing the same things.

Finally, it is always good to get Bible study tools, and even a good study Bible in a translation you can understand. There are commentaries, such as the Matthew Henry commentary, and Bible encyclopedias and dictionaries, to help us to understand the various times that the Bible was written in, and to get into the Hebrew and Greek languages that the Bible was written in. Oftentimes, a word we read in English has a much deeper meaning than the form we read in our Bibles, such as the word, “believe” from John 3:16. In that case, the word doesn’t merely mean a mental assent to a historical fact, like, “I believe George Washington was the first president of the United States”. It means to commit ourselves to something or someone. It means to entrust ourselves and our souls to someone, in this case, the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is more to it than what I have written, and to be sure, we can’t stick a formula on God. But I believe that these are essential to studying the Bible. God bless you as you set out to study the Word of God!

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