Suggestions for Bible Study- Part 2
Originally published in Union County Leader
Co-pastor, 1st Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM 88424
Last time we were here, I brought up the necessity of studying Scripture and presented several Bible passages which demonstrated this point (2 Tim 2:15, 2 Tim 3:16, Mat 4:6, Heb 4:12). Today, let’s look at some specific suggestions for Bible study, based on my personal experience as well as the advice of older, wiser, and more experienced Christians.
First, we must re-examine the point that simply quoting Scripture does not guarantee an accurate interpretation. After all, the devil tried to use Scripture, accurately quoted but out of context, in his temptation of Christ in the wilderness (Matt 4:6). Christ rebuked this temptation with Scripture used in context (Matt 4:10), thereby showing us the value of “rightly dividing the word of truth” as described in 2 Tim 2:15. This is a key point. We should not merely memorize and quote Scripture, but we should understand it and apply it correctly. The only way we will correctly interpret Scripture is with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who leads us to all truth (John 16:13). Therefore, the single most important thing you can do before studying your Bible is to pray! You should pray for a clean heart (Psalm 51:10) and for the ability to rightly divide the word of truth to the glory of God (Rom 16:27, Eph 1:15-23). You must approach God and His word with a humble and contrite heart (Isa 66:1-5, Luke 18:10-14). If you approach the Bible with an arrogant heart, you will fail. The first and most important thing, then, in your Bible study is to ask God for the ability to handle His word carefully and accurately.
After lack of prayer, a common mistake in Bible study is taking passages out of context, that is, lifting a few choice words out of their surrounding text to use them in a sense not intended in the original text. One of my favorite examples of an out-of-context quote is this one, from Isaiah 5:11- “Woe to them who rise early in the morning…” Hey! According to the Bible, it’s a sin to get up early! We should sleep in! Unfortunately for this flawed doctrine, the rest of the verse says “…that they may follow intoxicating drink; Who continue until night, till wine inflames them!” So, in context, we see that the woe is on them who arise early in order to purse strong drink, not those who merely awaken early. Here I’ve given an example of taking a snippet out of context of the surrounding text, but another way is to take passages out of context of the Bible as a whole. These can be harder to catch because we must study the entire Bible, but remember Paul’s exhortation to Timothy “ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God…” (2 Tim 3:16)
Taking a passage out of context of Scripture as a whole is exactly what the devil tried in Matt 4:6 when he quoted Psalm 91:11.
Matthew 4:5-6 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, (6) and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: 'HE SHALL GIVE HIS ANGELS CHARGE OVER YOU,' and, IN THEIR HANDS THEY SHALL BEAR YOU UP, LEST YOU DASH YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.' "
His actual words were correct, but the application was not. Christ corrects the devil by showing him an additional verse: “Jesus said to him, "It is written again, 'YOU SHALL NOT TEMPT THE LORD YOUR GOD.'” (Matthew 4:7 ) Here, Christ is showing the devil (and us) that Scripture cannot contradict Scripture. Yes, “in their hand they shall bear you up”, but not if you deliberately cast yourself down and thus tempt the Lord. This should illustrate the point of using a passage in context with the whole Bible. When studying a topic or doctrine, we should be careful to get all relevant passages together. If we’re studying the topic of rising early vs. sleeping in, don’t rest on just 1 or 2 isolated passages but make an effort to find everything the Bible says and look at each passage in context of the whole. This is what Christ did when rebuking the devil and it’s what we should do.
Well, we’re out of space already and I’m just getting warmed up! However, I hope you can see from these short examples the necessity of knowing the context and intent of verses. In the next few weeks, I will post all of these lessons, as well as the ones I’ve given on KLMX radio, and sermons from our pulpit on First Baptist Church of Des Moines’ new website: www.fbcdesmoines.org. Let’s end by giving glory to God the Father, through our savior Jesus Christ who took our sins in his own body on the cross. Amen!
Back to Part 1
Forward to Part 3
Expanded version of this subject