Becoming Better Bible Readers

From a young adults retreat organised by my church in May 2017.

Why is there a need to read the Bible well?

#1 There is a right way to read the Bible.

2 Tim 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,3 a worker bwho has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

#2 When we read the Bible rightly, we gain life and immortality.

2 Tim 1:10 and which now has ybeen manifested through zthe appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus,awho abolished death and bbrought life and cimmortality to light through the gospel,

Else, the misunderstood word of God would spread like gangrene (a condition that occurs when body tissue dies, caused by a loss of blood supply), leading people into more ungodliness.

2 Tim 2:16-17 But cavoid dirreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene.

#3 When we aim to read the Bible well, we recognise that ultimate authority lies with the Bible

…and not with the preacher or the Bible study leader.

#4 If we can’t read the Bible well on our own, how would we be able to distinguish between true and false teaching?

Alright, folks, I guess…we should learn to read the Bible well.

Hah. Well, there’re definitely more questions to be worked through.

For example, is “reading the Bible well” even an attainable endeavour?

Further, whose definitions or objective criteria of “right-ness” are we keeping to? Are there, like in Islam, different schools of jurisprudence? [Five if you’re Shia and four if you’re not.] If so, what do they agree on, and how bad are their disagreements?

Is someone’s salvation at risk should s/he be illiterate? Are members of the “clergy” then…more assured?

No answers here, but I’d sure like to try reading it well (according to some method and criteria) and then, to try questioning the method and criteria involved, all the while recognising that, yes, I’ll have to struggle with the trappings (or safeguards) of the method and criteria that I was first exposed to.

It takes an awful lot to struggle so hard (almost existentially) with some of these underpinnings of one’s life. But the continuous reflection has its worth.

3-Step Process (in short)

Investigate: Noticing, seeing what’s there

  • “Plants and animals in a rainforest”
  • Sectioning the passage

Integrate: Putting the parts together

  • Explicating the relationships between the individual parts; seeing the ecosystem
  • Main Point + Purpose Statement = Big Idea

Apply: Transforming specific parts of our lives

  • Context is important: BC or AD
  • Specificity too: Identify relevant situations in our lives

Stubs:

Investigate: So. Many. Tools.

Just to see the plants and animals.

  1. Author’s Purpose
  2. Context
  3. Bible Timeline
  4. Structure
  5. Linking Words
  6. Repetition
  7. Pronouns and Pointing Words
  8. Translations

Integrate: What’s the BIG idea?

  1. Main Point = “Truth”
  2. Purpose Statement = “Effect the Main Point was meant to have on the original audience”
    1. VERB
    2. Shape thinking, shape living, evoke feelings
  3. Purpose Statement for Epistles
    1. Letters have audiences and contexts
    2. Look out for commands and imperatives
  4. Purpose Statement for Narratives, which often does not come with exhortations or imperatives
    1. “Is the character’s response to God one that the author wants his readers to emulate?”
    2. “How does this story develop the Bible’s overarching story of God redeeming through his Messiah?

Apply: Regularly.

  1. Purpose of application: “We want the passage to have the same kind of impact on us as it did on the original readers.”
  2. Two key questions to ask:
    1. Were the original readers living in BC or AD?
      1. If BC, there’s more of God’s revelation to come in Christ
      2. If AD, Christ was God’s final word
    2. Are there specific situations in my life where this application makes a difference?

Additional Resources

Commentary

  1. Layman: The Bible Speaks Today, PT Resources “Teaching ______”, How to Read the Bible for all its worth (Gordon D. Fee, Douglas Stuart)
  2. Technical: Pillar series

Sermons

  1. St. Helens Bishopgate
  2. All Souls Langham Place
  3. The Gospel Coalition >> Resources
  4. Christchurch Fulwood
  5. Jesmond Parish Church
  6. Desiring God
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