Teaching People To Study The Bible
I have been serving the Lord as a pastor since 1988. Over the years my method of studying the Bible has grown and developed into a technique that I believe will be of extreme benefit to you.
Since I have decided to start to teach everyone how to do the things I do, I thought that sharing with you my method of studying the scripture would be a great topic to share with you.
One of the greatest things we can do as a believer is to study the Bible so that we can explain the truths that are in its pages. My method is designed to do just that. Its primary goal is to understand the truth that the author, both the human author and ultimately God Himself, wanted to convey to the readers.
Step One: Understand The Purpose Of Your Bible Study
According to the scriptures, the purpose of Bible study is to be led into the truth. This is very important to understand in our current post-modern culture. If we don’t then we run the risk of falling into the trap of post-modern thinking that truth is relative and not objective or absolute. The scriptures teach that the truth in the Bible is objective truth and absolute. It does not matter what the reader wants it to say, it only matters what the author intended to say.
When it comes to the Bible, what is important is what God intended to say. If we do not understand that, then we run the risk of twisting the original meaning like a pretzel to force upon God ideas that He never intended to portray. We become God, and He becomes our apologist.
The Bible is God’s revelation of HImself to us. To know God, we must understand what He was revealing to us and not vice a versa.
With that in mind, the first thing we need to do is ask ourselves some questions. Are we trying to prove our point? Are we operating with some preconceived ideas that may or not be correct according to the scriptures? Are we willing to be led to the truth that we are not aware of or possibly even open to?
The King James version of 2 Timothy 2:15 gives us a great insight into the purpose of Bible study.
2 TIMOTHY 2:15
STUDY TO SHEW THYSELF APPROVED UNTO GOD, A WORKMAN THAT NEEDETH NOT TO BE ASHAMED, RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORD OF TRUTH.
Here it states that the purpose of Bible study is to be able to “rightly divide” the word of truth. This means that you can understand the truths that the Bible teaches and then explain those truths to somebody else.
Let me give you another example of the purpose of Bible study.
Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane before being arrested and crucified. He prays these words.
MAKE THEM HOLY BY YOUR TRUTH; TEACH THEM YOUR WORD, WHICH IS TRUTH.
Part of the purpose of Bible study is to become “holy.” Now that word has a lot of preconceived ideas attached to it. It means to be separated from the world and separated unto God.
This verse means that the truth will cause you to live differently than those who do not have the truth. It means you will live, think, and act differently than the average person in the world who has not had the truth given to them.
So the purpose of Bible Study is to discover, learn, apply, and explain the truth in the Bible.
Step 2: Understand That Context Is King.
The most important step you can take in your Bible study is understanding the context in which something is written. Most of the errors we have seen over the 2,000 years of church history has been caused by taking something out of context.
Every verse of scripture has a context in which it was written. No verse is an island unto itself. Let me give you an example of this from a very famous passage about the Bible found in Hebrews 4:12
12 FOR THE WORD OF GOD IS ALIVE AND POWERFUL. IT IS SHARPER THAN THE SHARPEST TWO-EDGED SWORD, CUTTING BETWEEN SOUL AND SPIRIT, BETWEEN JOINT AND MARROW. IT EXPOSES OUR INNERMOST THOUGHTS AND DESIRES.
In this verse, the first reading would seem to indicate that it is talking about the Bible. Especially since our vernacular equates the term “word of God” with the Bible.
Go back to step one and think about the question of preconceived ideas.
So let’s study this verse and see if it is really talking about the Bible or is there another interpretation that is better?
Step 3: Understand The Definitions
The first thing we need to do is to understand the original definitions of this verse. There is an easy way you can do this online. You can go to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance online. At the bottom of that page is a search box where you can look up any passage in the Bible and find the Greek or Hebrew definitions to the English words. If you put into the search box Hebrews 4 it will take you to that chapter in the Bible. Make sure you have the options set up to have hyperlinks to the “Strong’s Numbers” under the gearbox for options at the top of the passage.
You can click on the word you want to study, in this case, “word,” and it will take you to the definition of the word. In this case, it is the Greek word Logos. On that page, you can find all the places where the word is used, all the different definitions of the word and how to write and say the Greek word.
Notice that this word is used to denote Jesus in John chapter 1.
Step 4: Understand The Thought Being Communicated
Each word is part of a sentence. Each sentence is part of a thought. Each thought is part of a book or letter. Each book or letter and exists in the context of the Old or New Testament, which exist in the entirety of the Bible. Let’s take this verse and look at the thought and the book that it exists in.
7 SO GOD SET ANOTHER TIME FOR ENTERING HIS REST, AND THAT TIME IS TODAY. GOD ANNOUNCED THIS THROUGH DAVID MUCH LATER IN THE WORDS ALREADY QUOTED:“TODAY WHEN YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DON’T HARDEN YOUR HEARTS.”
8 NOW IF JOSHUA HAD SUCCEEDED IN GIVING THEM THIS REST, GOD WOULD NOT HAVE SPOKEN ABOUT ANOTHER DAY OF REST STILL TO COME.
9 SO THERE IS A SPECIAL REST STILL WAITING FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD. 10 FOR ALL WHO HAVE ENTERED INTO GOD’S REST HAVE RESTED FROM THEIR LABORS, JUST AS GOD DID AFTER CREATING THE WORLD.
11 SO LET US DO OUR BEST TO ENTER THAT REST. BUT IF WE DISOBEY GOD, AS THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL DID, WE WILL FALL.
12 FOR THE WORD OF GOD IS ALIVE AND POWERFUL. IT IS SHARPER THAN THE SHARPEST TWO-EDGED SWORD, CUTTING BETWEEN SOUL AND SPIRIT, BETWEEN JOINT AND MARROW. IT EXPOSES OUR INNERMOST THOUGHTS AND DESIRES. 13 NOTHING IN ALL CREATION IS HIDDEN FROM GOD. EVERYTHING IS NAKED AND EXPOSED BEFORE HIS EYES, AND HE IS THE ONE TO WHOM WE ARE ACCOUNTABLE.
14 SO THEN, SINCE WE HAVE A GREAT HIGH PRIEST WHO HAS ENTERED HEAVEN, JESUS THE SON OF GOD, LET US HOLD FIRMLY TO WHAT WE BELIEVE. 15 THIS HIGH PRIEST OF OURS UNDERSTANDS OUR WEAKNESSES, FOR HE FACED ALL OF THE SAME TESTINGS WE DO, YET HE DID NOT SIN.
16 SO LET US COME BOLDLY TO THE THRONE OF OUR GRACIOUS GOD. THERE WE WILL RECEIVE HIS MERCY, AND WE WILL FIND GRACE TO HELP US WHEN WE NEED IT MOST.
Now when we read it in the context of the more substantial thought, we find out that the author is making a case that Jesus is the way that the people of God can enter into their rest. He is saying that the “word of God” can tell if we are disobedient to what it takes to enter into that rest.
We also learn that in the context of the passage God is the one who knows all things and that he knows if we are doing what we are supposed to be doing.
We also find out that it is Jesus who knows our weaknesses and will give us grace and mercy when we come to Him.
The whole thought is not about the Bible but instead is about Jesus. This fits with the theme of the book of Hebrews. Jesus is the high priest that fulfills the requirements of the law.
So the greater context of the passage gives us insight on what the verse is talking about.
Step 5: Consult The Rest Of The Bible For Unity Of Thought
The idea here is that the Bible interprets the Bible. Search the scriptures to see if the same thought is being communicated elsewhere.
In this passage, two unique word pictures are being used here. The term “word of God” and “two-edged sword.” I searched to see if these two thoughts are tied together in any other Bible verses. The results shed some fascinating light into this passage.
PUT ON SALVATION AS YOUR HELMET, AND TAKE THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT, WHICH IS THE WORD OF GOD.
15 HIS FEET WERE LIKE POLISHED BRONZE REFINED IN A FURNACE, AND HIS VOICE THUNDERED LIKE MIGHTY OCEAN WAVES. 16 HE HELD SEVEN STARS IN HIS RIGHT HAND, AND A SHARP TWO-EDGED SWORD CAME FROM HIS MOUTH. AND HIS FACE WAS LIKE THE SUN IN ALL ITS BRILLIANCE.17 WHEN I SAW HIM, I FELL AT HIS FEET AS IF I WERE DEAD. BUT HE LAID HIS RIGHT HAND ON ME AND SAID, “DON’T BE AFRAID! I AM THE FIRST AND THE LAST.REVELATION 2:12[ THE MESSAGE TO THE CHURCH IN PERGAMUM ] “WRITE THIS LETTER TO THE ANGEL OF THE CHURCH IN PERGAMUM. THIS IS THE MESSAGE FROM THE ONE WITH THE SHARP TWO-EDGED SWORD:
11 THEN I SAW HEAVEN OPENED, AND A WHITE HORSE WAS STANDING THERE. ITS RIDER WAS NAMED FAITHFUL AND TRUE, FOR HE JUDGES FAIRLY AND WAGES A RIGHTEOUS WAR. 12 HIS EYES WERE LIKE FLAMES OF FIRE, AND ON HIS HEAD WERE MANY CROWNS. A NAME WAS WRITTEN ON HIM THAT NO ONE UNDERSTOOD EXCEPT HIMSELF. 13 HE WORE A ROBE DIPPED IN BLOOD, AND HIS TITLE WAS THE WORD OF GOD. 14 THE ARMIES OF HEAVEN, DRESSED IN THE FINEST OF PURE WHITE LINEN, FOLLOWED HIM ON WHITE HORSES. 15 FROM HIS MOUTH CAME A SHARP SWORD TO STRIKE DOWN THE NATIONS. HE WILL RULE THEM WITH AN IRON ROD. HE WILL RELEASE THE FIERCE WRATH OF GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, LIKE JUICE FLOWING FROM A WINEPRESS. 16 ON HIS ROBE AT HIS THIGH WAS WRITTEN THIS TITLE: KING OF ALL KINGS AND LORD OF ALL LORDS.
These passages shed light on the fact that Jesus is the word of God with a two-edged sword. The scriptures seem to point to a unity of thought that Jesus is the word of God that is tied to the two-edged sword.
Step 6: Understand The Audience That Was Being Communicated To
We all know that the Bible is written for us. However, it was also written to a specific audience at the time. In the case of the book of Hebrews, most scholars believe that it was written to Hebrew Christians living in Jerusalem. However it was written in Greek and not Hebrew, so there are also influences of Greek thought in the book.
It is essential to know who the book is written to in order to know how to understand the thoughts being communicated. For instance in the book of Hebrews Jesus is presented as “pioneer” or “forerunner”, “Son” and “Son of God,” “priest” and “high priest. These terms have a different cultural meaning to a Jewish person than they would a Greek person.
Because of this, we must understand who is being addressed in our Bible studies.
Step 7: Understand The Historical Interpretations
After doing your own study, consult the history of the church for insights related to the passage. You are not the first person who has ever studied the Bible. There have been some really great theologians and students of the Bible in the past. For instance, here are some thoughts on this passage from a few people that I admire. There is a whole library of commentaries you can find at Bible Study Tools.
For instance, Matthew Henry believes this passage is talking about the Bible.
The Holy Scriptures are the word of God. When God sets it home by his Spirit, it convinces powerfully, converts powerfully, and comforts powerfully. It makes a soul that has long been proud, to be humble; and a perverse spirit, to be meek and obedient. Sinful habits, that are become as it were natural to the soul, and rooted deeply in it, are separated and cut off by this sword. It will discover to men their thoughts and purposes, the vileness of many, the bad principles they are moved by, the sinful ends they act to. The word will show the sinner all that is in his heart. Let us hold fast the doctrines of Christian faith in our heads, its enlivening principles in our hearts, the open profession of it in our lips, and be subject to it in our lives. (Source)
John Wesley believes that it is the word of God when spoken or preached.
For the word of God – Preached, Hebrews 4:2 , and armed with threatenings, Hebrews 4:3 . Is living and powerful – Attended with the power of the living God, and conveying either life or death to the hearers. Sharper than any two – edged sword – Penetrating the heart more than this does the body. Piercing – Quite through, and laying open. The soul and spirit, joints and marrow – The inmost recesses of the mind, which the apostle beautifully and strongly expresses by this heap of figurative words. And is a discerner – Not only of the thoughts, but also of the intentions. (Source)
However, John Gill who was the pastor of Charles Spurgeon’s church 100 years before Spurgeon says it is Jesus.
This is to be understood of Christ, the essential Word of God; for the Word of God was a known name of the Messiah among the Jews; (See Gill on John 1:1) and therefore the apostle makes use of it when writing to them: and the words are introduced as a reason why care should be taken, that men fall not off from the Gospel, because Christ, the author, sum, and substance of it, is the living God, omnipotent and omniscient; for not a thing, but a person is spoken of, who is a Judge, and a critical discerner of the secrets of men’s hearts: and certain it is, that this Word is spoken of as a person, and is said to be a priest in the following verses; to which may be added, that the several things said of the Word exactly agree with Christ: he is “the Word of God”; as the word is the birth of the mind, he is the only begotten of the Father; he is the Word that spoke for the elect in the council and covenant of grace, and that spoke all things out of nothing in creation; he is the Word that has been promised, and spoken of by the prophets from the beginning of the world; and is the interpreter of his Father’s mind, and our Advocate with the Father: he is (Source)
Step 8: Understand The God Who Wants To Communicate With You
Finally, after doing all my research and study I filter what I found through a simple concept. God wants to communicate with man. Because of this I do not believe He wants to make it hard. Instead He wants to make it simple. If what I am coming up with does not line up with the simplicity test, then more than likely my interpretation is not very good.
I do not know how many times I have listened to people that had to go through convoluted explanations to come up with their biblical interpretation. Just look at some of the so-called prophecy experts. Number, codes, this means this, and that means that. It just gets so confusing.
I don’t believe God intended for Bible study to be confusing. I think He intended it to be a wonderfully simple way of learning His truth for our lives. I believe He wanted His truth to be understood.