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Christian Basics- Chapter 12, Bible Study

Written by: Guenther, Herb and Debbie    Posted on: 05/05/2003

Category: Bible Studies

Source: CCN

                    Bible Study

    Psalm 119 verse 105 says "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." 4  As expressed in the song below, a Christian should desire to follow the leadership of Christ.  God has provided the Scriptures for us, in it's words we will find the wisdom of God made available to His people.  The Bible shows God working in the lives of man for centuries.  During these centuries people faced many of the same delemas that we do today.  The Bible will act as our lamp and map.  It gives us direction and allows us to learn from others.

    The following verse is from Matthew 4:4 "But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Authorised Version)  This is a quote by Jesus from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy where the Bible says in Chapter 8 verse 3 "He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD."  God's written Word is the daily bread for our Christian health, it packs the essential vitamins and minerals for a healthy Christian life.

    Bible Study is also interesting and challanging.  It is rare that we will approach the Bible with eagerness and not be rewarded.  Group Bible study with your spouse, room mate, or friends will also cement your relationship.  The Bible is a living Word from God because the Holy Spirit helps us to understand it in a fresh way each time that we see it.                               Thy Word 1

                    Chorus:                     Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet                     And a Light unto my path.                     Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet                     And a light unto my path.

                    When I feel afraid                     Think I've Lost my way                     Still You're right beside me.                     And nothing I will fear                     As long as you are near.                     Please be near me to the end.

                    Repeat Chorus

                    I will not forget                     Your love for me, and yet                     My heart forever is wandering.                     Jesus, be my guide                     And hold me to Your side,                     And I will love You to the end.

                    Repeat Chorus

    Reading the Bible is like no other experience in your life.  The Bible is a living book.  It will meet you fresh each time you pick it

                                (75) up.  God has designed it for us.  It has many aspects.  They range from commanding authority, to an expression of His love for us.

    Since this is chapter twelve of fourteen, if you are reading this you are interested in what God has to say about your life and hereafter.  I hope that you have enjoyed the time that we have spent together.  However, I must tell you that even on my very best day, my word for you falls very far short of God's word for you.

    In this chapter we will spend some time thinking about, and hopefully practicing, some of the techniques of Bible study.  But remember that the key is not to study about the Bible, but to study the Bible itself.

    Let's start with a few ground rules for effective Bible study.

1) Accept the Holy Bible as being God's Word, and having His authority.

2) Be willing to be changed by the Bible as you read it for understanding.

3) Interpret the experiences in your life according to the Scripture, rather than interpret the Scripture according to your life experiences.

4) Understand that your knowledge and understanding of the Bible are not complete and will grow as you apply yourself to it's study.  Be willing to admit that there are differences of opinion regarding some passages, and do not condemn other viewpoints unless clearly led to. But lovingly correct when a position or opinion is in clear opposition to the Bible's teachings.

5)  Look first to what God is saying to you, for your own application. Act on it.  Each Christian has the right and responsibility to know and interpret the Scripture for themselves.

    The Bible is its own best study guide.  As you study the Bible look for patterns and themes.  Start out by seeking a true understanding of the commitment that God has made to us through His Son.  This is illustrated throughout the Scripture.  Then look for His personal commitment to you, and then look for the opportunities for response, service, and maturing growth He has given us.

    How many of you remember receiving your first love letter?  You probably opened it immediately when you received it.  You then sought a quiet place allowing some privacy and carefully read it.  You looked for all of the meaning that you could find, you then re-read it and picked out those parts that were the most special to you.  In a few minutes you could probably quote the letter word for word!

    Just think how easy Bible study would be if we approached it in the same way.  Look for the immediate opportunity to read God's word. Seek a quiet private place to read, a place where you won't be disturbed.  Read the text more than one time.  Pick out the parts that speak personaly to your heart and memorize them.  See wasn't that simple?.  We're finished already.

                                (76)     Well not quite finished.  Let's look for a few minutes at how we learn from the Bible.  Most of us attend a church.  Many of us attend classes, or small group discussion type Bible studies.  These are all very good and important things to do.  However the point of our discussion today is personal Bible study.  Next we will look at some tools to use in Bible study.

    We will see that the basic learning tools that we use to understand anything are useful here as well.  How many of you remember the following poem from elementary school.

              I keep six honest serving men               (They taught me all I knew)               Their names are What and Why and When               And How and Where and Who 2

    When we study a Bible passage the six servants above will help us understand it.                     The Three Steps of Bible Study

                        Step One: Observation

1) Who - Who is the author of the book?  To whom is he writing?  Who are the major and minor characters?

2) Where - Where do the events occur? Are there any references to towns, cities, provinces?  If so look them up in a Bible atlas or on a map.  Many Bibles contain historical maps just for this purpose.  If you are reading a letter, where do the recipients if the letter live?

3) When - Are there any references to time, day, month, or year?  Are there references to the timing of other events happening in relation to this event?

4) What - What actions or events are taking place?  What words or ideas are repeated or are central to the passage.  What is the mood (joyous or somber, soft or stern, intense or peaceful, instructional or informational)?

5) Why - Does the passage offer any reasons, explanations, statements of purpose?  Why did the Holy Spirit move the author to write these words.

6) How - How is the passage written?  Is is a letter, speech, poem, parable?  Does it use figures of speech (similes, metaphors)?  How is it organized (around people, ideas, geography)? 3

    Use the questions above to probe the passage that you are studying.  Write down your answers.  You will remember the passage and its meaning better if your write down your observations as you study the passage.  Pretend that you are studying for your drivers licence exam, or for another test that is important to you.

    Use you powers of observation to pick up the details of place and person and you will have a good idea as to what the passage says.  Now you will want to know what the passage says to you.

                                (77)                       Step Two: Interpretation

    To understand what the Bible is saying to you today, you will often need to interpret the verses you are studying.  Here is another important place to remember that the Bible is its own best commentary. Remember that interpretation must be faithful to what the author, not the reader wants to say.  The principle is that Scripture interprets Scripture.

    Find out about the historical context of the book you are studying.  Because the Bible was written in a place and time unfamilier to us, we must work a little harder to understand it.  However as we learn about the people and places in the context of the passage it will become both more real and understandable to us.  Try to understand the problems of the people in the passage.  Look for clues in the passage itself as well as in a Bible dictionary and/or almanac.

    Read related passages of Scripture so that you know the people in the passages as persons rather than names (see also character studies later in this chapter).

    Second, identify the type of literature that you are reading. Biblical authors use a variety of literary forms, (see below).

          Discourse; an extended logical discussion of a subject.  Many           New Testament epistles and some of the longer sermons of           Jesus fall into this category.

          Prose narrative; the author describes and recreates sense of           biblical history which are theologically significant.           Genesis, Joshua, and the Gospels are examples.

          Poetry; uses figurative language and parallelism and is           emotional in nature. (Psalms)

          Proverbs; wise sayings which illustrate practical principles           for living.  Should not be confused with commands or           promises. (Proverbs and elsewhere)

          Parables; Jesus used them more than anyone else in Scripture.           A parable explains a spiritual truth using a story or           analogy.

          Prophetic literature; books by the four major (Isaiah,           Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel) and twelve minor (Hosea, Joel,           and Amos through Malachi) prophets.  These are spokesmen for           God who announce curses and blessings associated with God's           covenant with Israel and future events for all who believe in           God, (and for some who don't!)

          Apocalyptic literature; these passages use heavy amounts of           symbolism.  Daniel and Revelation are examples.

    Identify the type of literature that the Bible passage you are reading contains.  This will help in your understanding.

    Thirdly, get an overview of the book.  Parts of the book take on a fuller meaning in the light of the whole book.  Different books are

                                (78) arranged in different ways.  Try to understand the broad thrust that God is trying to make in the book.

          Begin by reading quickly through the book.           Next look for major sections.           Now look for subsections.           At each step look for connections between sections.

    Fourthly Study the book passage by passage.  Remember that the original Bible did not have chapters, paragraphs, or verses, or even punctuation!  The present organization of the Scripture is useful for finding specific text etc., but remember not to limit reading to a specific verse, paragraph, or chapter if further reading would help your understanding.

          Find the subject of each passage.           What does the passage say about the subject.           What is the context of the passage.           Notice the atmosphere or mood of the passage.

    Fifthly, Compare your interpretation with a good Bible commentary.  The commentary will give you additional insights into the passage and its meaning.  However try to understand the passage on your own before you consult a commentary.

                      Step Three: Application

    The ultimate aim of Bible study is not so much to educate but to transform.  As we renew our minds through Bible study, the Holy Spirit gradually transforms us into the image of Jesus Christ.  Almost every book of the Bible was written to address specific questions and problems, needs, and questions of the people living at that time.  Many of the same issues face us today, however some do not.  It is helpful, when seeking direction in the Bible to look for people with the same difficulty that we have.  Then we can find the best the Bible has to offer for us on that subject.  Get to know the people in the Bible and often we will see ourselves.

    What to keep in mind when studying the Bible.

1) Handle with care.  Study the Bible with the same care and diligence that you would study for an important test.

2) Assume that the writer is being straightforward.  Don't look for hidden meanings, but look for clear teaching.

3) Use a contemporary translation of the Bible.  Among those that are widely accepted are the New International Version (NIV), Revised Standard Version (RSV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), and the Good News Bible (GNB). Many of these versions are offered as Study Bibles.  Study Bibles contain additional outlines, maps, and historical and background information which many find exceedingly helpful.  This is especially true if do not yet have other resource materials available to you.

4) Let the material season.  Study the material a few days before you need to so that you may clear up any questions you may have by talking to a friend of consulting a commentary or reference work. 5

                                (79)     There are three ways (at least) of organizing a Bible study.  Each of the methods below has it's own place in your Bible study plans, each has it's special strengths.  The three ways are:

          1. Topical study           2. Book or passage study           3. Character study

    1. The topical Bible study is designed to help you learn all that the Bible has to say about a particular topic or subject.  The strengths of the topical Bible study are many.  One of the strengths of the topical Bible study is that it does not restrict you to learning about a particular time or person.

    A well done topical study will teach you about the relationship between God and man as you see generations of people deal with the subject you have chosen.  It also allows you to identify with a particular person or situation that speak most directly to you.

      The goal of your Bible study should be learning about key truths revealed in the Scripture about your topic.  This will point out what you should do regarding the subject, and help you to teach others about it.

    The first step is to choose and define the topic well.  It should be broad enough to meet your need but not so widely defined that you become discouraged from a lack of progress.  Carefully choose key words to describe your subject.  The goal is to choose ten or twelve key verses for study, ideally they will be the ten or twelve best that the Bible has to offer you.

    The best way to find these verses is by using a concordance.  Many Bibles have a limited concordence in the back, a study Bible may have a more complete one.  A concordance will tell you where a particular word appears in the Bible. It is helpful to look up closely related words as well.  Other helps to finding the best verses are the New Topical Text Book (Revell), Harpers Topical Concordance (Harper and Row), and Nave's Topical Bible (Moody).

    It is very helpful to choose ten or twelve verses for further study, otherwise you will get bogged down looking for just one more tidbit of truth.  Some Bibles also have subject indexes and cross references that are helpful to find the best selection of verses.

    Get a few sheets of paper or a legal pad and do the following.

          Topic           Write out the topic in a brief paragraph defining the topic,           it's much easier to find the answer if you know what the           question is!

          Scripture Passages Studied           Make a list of your source verses (or passages)

          Summarize or Outline           On a separate piece of paper briefly summarize each verse,           then go back to your first paper to summarize the summaries.

                                (80)           Find the Key Verse           Identify the one verse or passage that seems to summarise           what the Bible has to say about your topic.

          Collect Illustrations           Find illustrations in the passages, relate the subject to           particular people or events.  You may also think of other           illustrations relating to nature, your past experiences, or           even clippings from books or poetry.

          Record Problems           Read the Scripture passages again and write down things that           puzzle you.  Are there things which you think are hard for           you or other Christians to understand?  Choose the verse that           best addresses the problem and record it with the problem.

          Application           Review the other parts of your study and each of the verses.           Write a brief statement of the truth that you have found in           the passages that you have studied.  Write down a simple plan           of action that will enable you to bring areas of your life           into conformity with the truth you have discovered.  Spend           time praying about the problem and asking for God's help in           Jesus' name.

                      A Book or Passage Study

    When studying a passage or book from the Bible the following steps will help you.  They will help you to understand about the passage, and about what the passage says.

          Principle Personalities           Who is the author of the book?  To whom is the author           writing?  What are the major personalities mentioned?  How           well do they know and understand each other?

          Historical Setting           When was the book written?  What is the historical setting?           What is the historical setting of the recipients?  What was           happening in this part of the world at the time?

          Purpose           Why was the book written?  If there is a problem to correct           what was it?  What was the author trying to accomplish?

          Themes           What is the major emphasis of the book? What are some of the           recurring ideas?  What subjects does the book deal with?

          Overview           Summarize the book or passage in an outline form.

    First you will need to read the whole passage.  Start out by just reading the passage, you want to be able to see both the trees and the forest so look at the broad flow first.  It is more difficult to see the broad sweep of the passage if you read it too deeply at first. Try to get a feel of the tone of the passage and the mood of the author.                                 (81)     After you have read the passage a few times briefly describe the contents on paper.  You will find that you will learn and remember better if you write things down.

    Read the passage verse by verse.  Give each verse the time it needs to percolate in your mind.  Think.  Write down your observations under four headings (1) Observations, (2) Questions and Answers, (3) Cross References, and (4) Notes and Comments.

    You have by now done a considerable amount of study and should begin to draw things together.  Frame the passage that you have learned into a theme and conclusions.  At this point you will want to rely most heavily on the care and work you put into your study, but you may also want to refer to Bible Commentaries and other helps.

    As always the most important reason for Bible study is personal application.  Bible study without application leads to vanity.  Dwight L. Moody said "The Scriptures were not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives."

                          A Character Study

    The Bible is alive with personality.  It includes the lives of many people.  You may be surprised at how well you can identify with the lives of the people chronicled in the Bible.  Many times they faced similar struggles to those that we face today.

    Begin your character study by choosing a character to study. Choose one who may have an attribute that you can identify with or whom you would like to be like in some way.  Make a list of the passages that the character appears in.

    Read the passage where the character appears and try to do a biographical sketch.  Pay attention to there growth in there relationship to God.  What were the major events in their life?  Who were some of their contemporaries?  What was their major achievement, what influence did they have on people or events?

    Choose a summary verse and a key verse that you feel best describes the character.  Make a summary of the passage that you have read.

    Find out what the leading lesson is of there life.  Read through the Scripture passage again as well as the notes from above.

    Find an application for you.  One way to do this is to identify common problems or situations in your characters life.  Then look for what God told them, the same should hold for you.

Notes: For a more in depth look at how to study the Bible we recommend The Joy of Discovery in Bible Study by Oletta Wald c1975  Published by Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis MN

                                (82) 1 Thy Word  by Amy Grant and Michael W Smith  c 1983 Bug and Bear Music/Meadowgreen Music.  54 Music Square East, Suite 305, Nashville TN 37203

2 Rudyard Kipling 1865-1936 from The Elephant's Child

3 Questions are from Leading Bible Discussions pp26 by James F Nyquist and Jack Kuhatschek c1985 pub by Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove IL 60515

4 Verses unless otherwise noted are from The Holy Bible, New International Version c 1978 by New York International Bible Society pub by Zondervan Corperation  Grand Rapids MI 49506

5 Leading Bible Discussions pp24-35

6 The Navigator Bible Studies Handbook  c1974  published by Navpress, Colorado Springs CO.


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