Thursday, June 17, 2010

Primer: How to Study the Bible

Our church began a Wednesday night theology series last week we're calling PRIMER, and I've had a few people ask if I could share the outlines we're using. So below is the content of the handout from last week, plus a few added notes to explain points that were expanded on in class but may not be clear from the outline itself.

The first class was on How to Study the Bible.

I. Know What the Bible Is
(. . . and how it is it)

Your interest in Scripture will correlate to what you believe about it.

Genre: What kind of writing is this book?
Author: Who wrote this book? What kind of person was he?
Audience: Who was this book written for?

II. Get Help

Pray for illumination from the Spirit
Seek the gifted teaching of other believers and the communal clarity of church tradition in Bible study & worship

Study Bibles
Bible dictionaries

III. Adjust Your Expectations

Many times we burn out quick in Bible study because we take on a heavy load ourselves but are skeptical about the Word proving itself to be transforming.

Take the pressure off yourself and put it on God. He can handle it.

Engage according to your wiring: Maybe a few verses a day will be profitable to you than many chapters. Maybe studying in the evening is more fruitful for you than in the morning. Etc.

Grazing vs. Feasting: Take time in Bible study to both meditate (chew the cud) and inundate (drink deeply).

IV. Interpret Before Apply

Ask “What does this mean?” before you ask “What does this mean to me?”

Commonly misapplied verses:

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Revelation 3:20
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

e.g. Jesus turning water into wine (is not primarily about Jesus loving to party)

V. Context, Context, Context

The smaller your text, the bigger your potential for error.

Philippians 4:11-14
11Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 14Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.

e.g. Hebrews 6:4-6,9

VI. Make Connections

Making connections helps us see all of Scripture as a unified story, a fabric with connected strands.

Cross references
This reminds me of this . . .

e.g. Jesus walking on the water connects to . . .

VII. Find Jesus and His Gospel

“The New Testament is in the Old concealed, and the Old is in the New revealed.” – Augustine

Ask “What, if anything, does this text say about Jesus and his work?”

Ask “What does this text say that God has done or is doing?” before you ask “What does this text tell me to do?”

Philippians 3:12-16
12Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Always look for the gospel.


Clay said...

When ever I reference the importance of context I reference Philippians 4:13.

Most bumper stickers are talking about the Spirit's ability to empower us to endure poverty!

rdsmith3 said...

Thanks. Great outline. One minor correction -- you have two section III's

Jared said...

Thanks, man. Fixed.

BJ Stockman said...

Very helpful.

Anonymous said...

is it not:

“The Old Testament is in the New concealed, and the New is in the Old revealed.” – Augustine

Jared said...

Anonymous, I'm fairly certain it's the other way around. Augustine (allegedly) meant that the OT foreshadows the NT -- the NT is in the shadows of the OT -- and the NT shines a light on the meaning of the OT.

I find this at CCEL: