So many translations! So many books! So many scriptures! I know it can be overwhelming, but it can also be great fun. If the Bible were to be made into a movie, it would be rated MA. It is violent, sexual, and altogether not family friendly. So why read it? Why let our children read it? I think the answer is simple. Our kids are going to learn about these things from somewhere, why not let them learn about it from a source that is not condoning of these actions? In other words; Would you rather have your kids learn about sex via BET or MTV? Or the Holy Bible? I promise you that the light in which these actions are portrayed will be far nicer in the Word than in the booty shaking, gyrating, debauchery of modern television or movies.
How can we effectively study God’s Holy Word? I believe there are four key points to discuss when studying the Bible. As y0u are reading, you will no doubt have questions. Follow these steps to find the answers.
First, ask yourself, “What does the scripture actually say?”
It is so easy for us to misinterpret due to a lack of attention to detail. This is called “under-reading”. It means that we just flippantly skim through the wording and assume we know what it means. Often we miss key words that are clearly there, but easily overlooked. Make sure to read the scripture carefully if you have concerns about it’s meaning. The opposite problem is called “over-reading”. This is where we impose our own beliefs and pre-conceived ideas about the subject at hand. In other words, when the Bible tells us that Jesus turned water into wine, many people “over-read” and insert their own wording to somehow twist this idea that the wine was unfermented, thus not potent, or even worse, grape juice. Don’t misunderstand, I am not condoning drinking. I am however saying that the Bible clearly informs us that those who were drinking were drunk.
8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
Why would it be customary for one to serve the good wine first? Simply because once the crowd was drunk off of the good wine, they would be satisfied drinking the junk the rest of the night because they wouldn’t know the difference. To call this anything but alcoholic wine would be “over-reading”. (Bare in mind, I am still firmly against drinking of any kind. Also, remember that I am a sinner who needs forgiveness, – not a hypocrite (read yesterday’s blog if you are confused.) )
So the first way to study is to find out what the Scripture is ACTUALLY saying.
The second point is to ask what the scripture means. This is important to contextual studying. Before weighing your own questions against the scripture, discover what the author intended with the passage. Research the social background and the historical evidence surrounding the scripture. When Paul commands that no man should have long hair, was that because of a situation in the specific church he was writing to at the time? Or should that command be taken to heart today? If so, by that same token, should men and women sit on separate sides of the church?
The third question to ask is, what timeless lessons does the passage teach? For example; although Paul’s request for the church of Ephesus to pray for him was intended for a specific place in history – it teaches a valuable lesson to all of us to be praying for our Pastors and leaders.
The fourth is, how should I respond to what God has said? We believe that all scripture is God breathed. So whatever is being said in the scripture is from God. How should we respond to it? Each time the answer will vary. Sometimes the scripture tells us to repent of sin. Other’s the command is to obey God. There are many different things that scripture will reveal to us. When studying, we must determine the purpose of the scripture in questions and determine how we are to react.
In any case, before questioning the validity of the scripture, or claiming that it contradicts another scripture, take into consideration that you may be over or under-reading, misinterpreting, or missing a key to historical context. Never base any doctrine off of one religion, yet look for consistency within the texts to solidify your beliefs.