Last time, we considered 5 motivations (compelling reasons) for the accurate study of Bible as follows:
1. Service – Equipping the Saints for the work of Ministry
2. True Worship – Our deep and lasting joy.
3. Leadership – Training Elders and Pastors
4. True Doctrine – Absolute Truth
5. Evangelism – The glory of God among the nations
In order for us as Christians to be able to do the right things, the right way, and for the right reasons, we have to have a clear understanding of God’s revealed truth. God’s word is not shrouded in mystery (at least not for the believer) it is clear, it can be understood by a new born Christian, it is authoritative, it is non-contradictory, it is unchanging and we are ALL responsible for understanding what it says.
When a person becomes a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, he often is discipled in the basics of how to pray, how to witness, how to walk with God, even how to read the Bible, and so on. But very often we neglect the very important and fundamental passion and skill for accurate and precise study of God’s Word.
How would a newborn infant grow without the consistent, ongoing nourishment from a mother’s breast? Soon thereafter we begin to teach a child how to feed himself; how to satisfy the hunger urge with good, nutritious food. Likewise the believer must be given first milk, then solid meat (1 Corinthians 3:1-3; Hebrews 5:11, 12) from the storehouse of God’s Word—lest he find himself spiritually malnourished and oppressed in spirit.
As a Christian, there are certain “non-negotiables” that must be settled once and for all in our hearts and some of them are:
1. The Authority of Scriptures
What do we mean when we speak of “biblical authority,” or the authority of God’s Word? Simply put, when we speak of biblical authority we are speaking of the fact that what the Bible teaches is indeed how we are to think or act. Furthermore, this Word is to be the rule and guide for all we do; we are to live in submission to it.
Moses, exhorting the people (concerning God’s Law) said “For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life” (Deuteronomy 32:47). In the New Testament, we are told that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Since the Bible is the Word of God, we would expect that it would have authority over our lives, that it would inform and guide ALL of our thinking and action. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. There will always be those for whom the words and commands of God are not the authoritative source of joy.
2. The Equipping of the Believer
There is NO other way by which the believer can be prepared for the work of ministry apart from a right understanding of God’s word. The Scriptures say, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
Because the Scriptures are THE ONLY Authoritative, Infallible and Inerrant Rule of Faith, its accurate understanding is absolutely necessary for the equipping of the believer for the work of ministry.
3. Requirements of a Bible Student/ Interpreter:
There are also basic requirements that are needed in order that we may accurately understand the word of God. So many people erroneously think it is enough to “just read the Bible”, but the Holy Spirit, in several places placed a very important emphasis on understanding. In John 5:39, the Pharisees were rebuked for searching the scriptures but refusing to come to the one to whom the scriptures pointed; in Matthew 13, Jesus in explaining the parable of the sower said, “Those who don’t understand the word are those from whom the devil snatches it; and those who produce good fruit, “Receive the word and understand it“. The Ethiopian Eunuch read the Prophet Isaiah’s prophesy about Christ but did not understand it and therefore it did not profit him, until the Holy Spirit sent Phillip to explain it to him.
Here are some basic requirements for understanding the Scriptures:
a. You must be Born-again (the role of the Holy Spirit)
Anyone can read and understand the structure, grammar and even the meaning of an author. However, it is only believers (the elect, those who have received the Spirit via the new birth) who will be able to comprehend and spiritually discern, appreciate, and apply the Word of God to their life situation. In 1Corinthians Paul writes
“For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.…Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,…but a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to Him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Corinthians. 2:10,12,14)
In order for a person to accept, spiritually discern, and apply the word of God, the Holy Spirit MUST be residing within the person.
b. Belief that the Bible is fully Sufficient and Authoritative
If this is true (as I stated earlier), it will influence greatly how we set out to study the Word. If we believe the Bible is the Word of God, fully inspired, inerrant, and trustworthy, we will be more inclined to study carefully and order our lives around it. We will approach our study and reflection upon the text with greater care and concern, because we know we are handling the very words of God! We will also be more inclined to apply in our own lives personally what we are studying, learning, and teaching.
c. Common Sense
While this may not sound very “spiritual,” it is amazing the amount of work we can save ourselves by simply using a little sanctified common sense. Probably 90% of what we read or study in Scripture means exactly what it says, just as it is written; the meaning can be gleaned from a basic reading and study of the text. Much of the time we do not have to do a lot of “leg work” in seeking to understand the author’s intent. The other 10% of the time, we may need to do further in-depth study in order to come to a clear and succinct understanding of the author’s meaning and its application to life.
d. Awareness of Presuppositions
Everyone brings a certain set of prior beliefs or convictions to their study of God’s Word. Let’s call these “Presuppositions” (or pre-understandings).
Some of these may be more or less in line with God’s Word, but others much less so. When we sit down to engage the text in study, it is important to at least have in mind the possibility that our presuppositions may negatively affect our ability to accurately handle the Word of God.
Presuppositions are those ideas, concepts, or biases that each of us carries into study of the text which will effect our ability to accurately interpret the text.
The core presuppositions are:
i. Who determines meaning; the author or the reader?
ii. Another core presupposition would involve one’s worldview, especially in relationship to the supernatural.
I will further explore this issue of presuppositions and its impact on proper bible study in part 2 of Lesson 2.