Simple Steps to Solid Scripture Study
- Wednesday, November 10, 2004
From the moment I sensed the call of God into full-time ministry, the driving passion of my life has been simply to understand God's Word and then make it understandable to others. I have never aspired to be known as either an academic theologian or a distinguished clergyman. I simply want to know what the Word of God means and to make it known to others. All my pastoral energies-my preaching, shepherding, teaching, writing, and even visitation-are focused on that one goal.
It is my conviction that the Bible is not difficult for the believing heart to understand. And the more I understand, the more unshakable is my conviction that the Bible is the living, authoritative, inerrant Word of God. It has this remarkable effect on me: the more I study it, the more I hunger to know. So God's Word not only satisfies my appetite, but also arouses an even deeper hunger for more.
I want you to experience that hunger too. I want you to live in the joy of a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ that comes only through knowing the meaning of Scripture. Here's a simple process to get you started.
Step 1 - Reading
Begin by developing a plan on how you will approach reading through the Bible. Just by reading the Bible you become familiar with its themes, history, and contexts. There is simply no replacement for Bible reading.
Unlike most books, you will probably not read it straight through from cover to cover. There are many good Bible reading plans available (like The MacArthur Daily Bible). Here is what I recommend:
Read through the Old Testament at least once a year. As you read, note in the margins any truths you particularly want to remember, and write down separately anything you do not immediately understand. Often as you read you will find that many questions are answered by the text itself. The questions to which you cannot find answers become the starting points for more in-depth study using commentaries or other reference tools.
Follow a different plan for reading the New Testament. Read one book at a time repetitiously for a month or more. That will help you retain the New Testament so you will not always have to depend on a concordance to find things.
If you want to try that, begin with a short book, such as 1 John, and read it through in one sitting every day for thirty days. At the end of that time, you will know the book. Write on index cards the major theme of each chapter. By referring to the cards as you do your daily reading, you will begin to remember the content of each chapter. In fact, you will develop a perception of the book with your mind's eye.
When you come to longer books, divide them into short sections and read each section daily for thirty days. For example, the gospel of John contains twenty-one chapters. Divide it into three sections of seven chapters. At the end of ninety days, you will finish John. For variety, alternate short and long books, and in less than three years you will have finished the entire New Testament-and you will really know it!
Step 2 - Interpreting
In Acts 8:30, Philip asked the Ethiopian eunuch, “Do you understand what you are reading?” Or put another way, “What does the Bible mean by what it says?” It is not enough to read the text and jump directly to the application-you must first determine what it means, otherwise the application may be incorrect.
As you read Scripture, always keep one simple question in mind: “What does this mean?” To answer that question requires the use of the most basic principle of interpretation called the analogy of faith-interpret the Bible with the Bible.
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