The canon of Scripture was not an after the fact development, but something woven deep into the fabric of God’s redemptive plan. Since the close of the canon in the first century, the Word of God alone is the means by which God speaks to his church.
Previously, He spoke to His people in various ways – In Old Testament times, He spoke to people directly on occasion, revealed Himself through dreams or particular signs (as with Gideon), revealed Himself through the casting of lots and through theophanies. The primary way God communicated with the people of Israel was through the prophets, beginning with, “Thus says the Lord.” The words of the prophets were set down in writing and became the Word of God. Thus the Old Testament was produced.
“Whatever Scripture says God says.” – B.B. Warfield
In the New Testament, the counterpart to the prophet was the Apostle. Having received a direct call by Christ, the term “apostle” refers to one who is sent or commissioned with authority of the One doing the sending.
“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” – Matthew 10:40
The prophets and the apostles together form the very foundation of the church. Through both the prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New Testament, we were given a written record of special revelation. It has come to us by Christ’s authorized agents of revelation, His emissaries.
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” – Ephesians 2:19 – 21
Christianity is based ultimately on knowledge that comes to us from God himself. Holding to that conviction is vitally important for our determination of truth. When we open the pages of Scripture, may we humbly bow before the Lord. God has spoken. As His church, may we learn the Bible, live the Bible, and love the Bible.
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” – Hebrews 1:1-2
Praise God who humbled himself by using mere mortals to communicate his infallible word. We have the written Word, but we also have the Word incarnate, the One about whom the written Word speaks. The One who embodies the very word of God.
Along my journey of lifelong learning, I can say with confidence that I’m not merely storing up knowledge for myself. God has blessed with opportunities to build up the body of Christ; whether within the walls of my local church, ministry of the Word from my home, or on the mission field, I’m compelled to share ancient truths for our modern age.
Age old biblical wisdom is passed from one generation to the next in the form of systematic theology and it is with that legacy in mind that I lead a group of women on Sunday evenings at FBC Russellville. We will begin our third semester studying the core truths of the Christian faith this weekend.
In an attempt to meet women where they are, in the throes of work life and motherhood, each week picks up a brand new topic and carries over absolutely no homework to return the following week. To put it simply, we are a group of women studying theology for the glory of our God. Author and Pastor Kevin DeYoung penned six points of why we should study systematic theology. He writes:
Reason 1: The Bible’s interest in truth demands it. Systematic theology is nothing if it not the pursuit of truth, and truth is essential to biblical Christianity. Jesus said the truth will set you free (John 8:32). The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of truth (John 14:17). The work of the Holy Spirit was to guide the apostles into all truth (John 16:13). Eternal life is to know the only true God (John 17:3). Jesus prayed that we would be sanctified in the truth (John 17:17). Paul warned that for those who do not obey the truth there will be wrath and fury (Rom. 2:8). We are to be transformed by understanding the truth (Rom. 12:2). People can go to hell for preaching what is not true (Gal. 1:8). People within the church should be corrected when they believe the wrong things. “[An elder] must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:9). People are sometimes to be kept out of your house for believing what is not true (2 John 9-10). The wicked perish because they refused to love the truth (2 Thess. 2:10). The workman of God must rightly handle the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). In other words, no Christian worthy of the name should be indifferent to the pursuit of right doctrine. As Louis Berkhof put it, “They who minimize the significance of the truth, and therefore ignore and neglect it, will finally come to the discovery that they have very little Christianity left” (Systematic Theology, 29).
Reason 2: Our view of Scripture demands it. All of Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16). This means that everything in the Bible matters. It also means that everything in the Bible possesses a fundamental unity, coming as it does from the same author (Matt. 19:4-6; Hebrews 3:7; 2 Peter 1:21). Systematic theology seeks to make the comprehensive unity seen and savored.
Reason 3: Realism about the human intellect demands it. One way or another, we will come to conclusions about the most important religious questions. Who was Jesus? What is the human predicament? Is there a hell? How can we be saved? How should we treat each other? What does it mean to be a good person? Why is there something rather than nothing? As soon as we set out to answer these questions we are engaging in systematic theology. The human mind can’t help but synthesize and organize.
Reason 4: The history of the church demands it. Why can’t we just let the Bible speak for itself? Because that’s not what we see in the Bible or in the early church. In Nehemiah 8:8, the leaders “read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.” In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul refers to the tradition they had received from him. God has always given his people teachers to not only read Scripture but to communicate and guard the truth of Scripture (2 Tim. 1:13-14). This is why the early church naturally wrote creeds and confessions. They did not consider it sub-biblical to explain, defend, and protect the truths that were handed down to them in the Bible.
Reason 5: The unity of the church demands it. True ecumenicity is not possible apart from robust theological fidelity. Church unity requires doctrinal agreement: “There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:4-6). How can we contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3) if we do not have a deep understanding of that faith?
Reason 6: The duty of the church demands it. Why waste time on systematic theology when there are people who need to hear the gospel?! Because those people need to hear the true gospel. If we are to proclaim the message, we must know what that message is. We owe it each other, we owe it to other churches, and we owe it to the world to give a clear articulation of our faith. “An open statement of the truth” is what Paul called it (2 Cor. 4:2). “The Church of Jesus Christ,” Berkhof observed, should never seek refuge in camouflage, should not try to hide her identity” (31).Clarity requires carefulness, carefulness requires precision, and precision requires systematic theology. Get into it. Stick with it. Pass it on.
Amidst the books on my desk this week is my 2020 calendar. It’s the time of year that I begin transferring events and appointments. Seasons are an integral part of our lives and in comfort, we experience life in familiar places and familiar ways, with predictable people. The desire to be a good steward of time prompts me to pause, as I consider my days and weeks. Have these times displayed a life that is God honoring? Are there adjustments that need to be made for the upcoming year? We are challenged when seasons transition, yet with unmet expectations I embrace today. All things in all seasons come to us, not by chance but by God’s heavenly hand.
The red leaves on the maple out my back window are a reminder of God showing us new and different things about himself and his character when we slow down, take in the view, and rest in truth. God’s handiwork in seasons past provides hope and confidence for seasons yet to come. And as I study God’s providence this week, I am reminded once again of his ever-present power, sustaining and governing all things.
If God controls all things, how can our actions have real meaning? Even in recognizing God’s providence, we are responsible to do our part. Mistakes and shortcomings become opportunities to turn a corner as we move forward. As means for long-term growth, our past is used in shaping our present and developing our future. There are events fully caused by God and fully caused by the creature as well: The doctrine of concurrence affirms that God directs and works through the properties of each created thing.
Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology – AnIntroduction to Biblical Doctrine has words worth repeating: “We may sometimes forget that God works through human actions in his providential management of the world. If we do, then we begin to think that our actions and our choices do not make much difference or do not have much effect on the course of events.” To guard against any misunderstanding of God’s providence Grudem makes the following points of emphasis.
We are still responsible for our actions.
Our actions have real results and do change the course of events.
Prayer is one specific kind of action that has definite results and that does change the course of events.
In conclusion, we must act.
With this in mind, the thing on my desk I submit in prayer today is not the stack of systematic theologies or the textbooks for my current course work (though they do have importance), but the blocks on my calendar structuring my days. May God take pleasure in me as I fear and hope in his steadfast love, with the transition of each new season.
It’s been awhile since I’ve shared with readers what they might find on my desk. Alongside my coffee mug and laptop this morning are: Grudem’s Systematic Theology, Michael Horton’s Pilgrim Theology, and Millard Erickson’s Christian Theology. This week’s resources beyond the weighty systematic theologies are Knowing God by J.I. Packer, The Attributes of God by Arthur Pink, None Greater by Matthew Barrett, Life’s Biggest Questions by Erick Thoennes, and The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer. Close by are shelved Gregg Allison’s Theological Terms and Elwell’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. I’m in the thick of theology.
In Let’s Do Theology, a Sunday evening class, we discussed the study of God and how it has been widely recognized as the queen of the sciences. I emphasized that theology is not reserved for formal education but is actually something every single human being should desire to know. Yet, we should approach the study of God differently than other subjects. Theology is not a subject to place under a microscope or one we simply get to know. We want to be careful and cautious as we study God. We are studying the very One who spoke all things into existence. God has revealed himself to all of us and we should approach theology with prayer, excitement, humility, and expectation.
As I continue my personal study and preparation, I keep this in mind. And also, that the Scriptures from which my study flows will be working on me as God is revealed in a greater way. Unlike any other subject of study, I approach theology proper with reverence, awe, and respect. Below, I’m sharing a few of last week’s scripture passages and study notes on the incomprehensibility and knowability of God:
Hebrews 11:3 – “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Humans are always limited in their knowledge (finite), but God is not (infinite).
Psalm 145:1-3 – “I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.” Properly understanding how great and unsearchable God is humbles us, exalts Him, and should lead to greater worship.
Romans 11:33-36 – “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Acknowledging God’s infinite greatness and our inability to fully know Him should not lead to frustration, but to worship.
Isaiah 55:8-9 – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are our ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Acts 17:28-29 – “for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God’s offspring we out not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, and image formed by the art and imagination of man.” Not recognizing God’s limitlessness often leads to a weak view of God and the creation of idols (seen or unseen).
Exodus 20:3-5a – “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or the is in the earth beneath, or the is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God,” The worship of an idol brings God down to a god who is created by the creature.
Psalm 97:6-7 – “The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory. All worshippers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols; worship him, all you gods!” Isaiah 44:6 – “Thus says the Lord, the king of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.” God has made Himself known and we are to strive to know Him as He has revealed Himself. Although, we must be cautious and careful not to add to or subtract from who He says He is. Our God is so great (and our belief in Him so important) that even the smallest change in perspective on who He is can transform our lives. In reality, our whole moral compass and standards in life have to do with who we believe God is.
John 4:24 – “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 17:3 – “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Romans 1:18-21 – “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” There is really no such things as atheists, only suppressors of the truth.
Hebrews 1:1-3a – “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” John 1:1-5 & 14 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the father, full of grace and truth.” Job 42:1-6 – “Then Job answered the Lord and said: ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Hear, and I will speak; I will question you and you make it known to me. I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Even when we know God to some degree, our prayer should be to know him even more.
Erik Thoennes writes, “God’s incomprehensibility also means that beliefs can be held with firm conviction even though they may be filled with inexplicable mystery.” and “We should never grow apathetic in seeking to know God because we are in fact able and equipped to know him and to please him with our lives.”
Jeremiah 9:23-24 “Thus says the Lord: Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” Knowledge of the one true God should be our greatest delight.
Having concluded the series, Doctrine and Disciplines of the Bible, I’m wrapping up with a refresher. We must be reminded of my original objective in developing these lessons: In my observation and humble opinion, there is an unmet call for evangelical women to devote themselves to actual reading and study of God’s Word itself. We are so full of all kinds of stuff offered by this world, which stagnates our growth and maturity. Our thoughts, our desires, and our energies are so used up, there’s little space left for the Word of God. Sadly, in many cases, the extent that most people read the Bible is checking off their time in YouVersion for the day. I find sincere women, who take the easy route of doing a Bible study, with good intentions. Yet they rely on the popular author’s writing far more than the words printed in their own Bibles.
In my quest, I began to scrutinize popular materials marketed as “Christian” and “Bible Studies” in the women’s market. Instead of finding support and teaching in sound doctrine, I found an abundance of world-based material, but a gaping hole which can only be filled by key theology (which creates confusion). My analysis showed me that the majority of materials marketed today more accurately fall into the categories of “Self-Help” or “Self-Care,” which are psychology-based. These “Christian” materials do not further biblical knowledge. Many popular titles outright contradict the Scriptures, or suffer poor exegesis (interpretation and explanation of the Scriptures).
However, I’ve perceived that women often desire further instruction in disciplines and doctrines, so in turn they can implement them appropriately and soundly.
Therefore, it is evident that the essential doctrine and God-honoring technique in practicing our disciplines has begun to fall to the wayside. Reading “Christian” authors can help guide us into growth-producing habits, fostering wellbeing. Hence when lacking theological wisdom, they can distort the readers’ understanding of the gospel, and encourage practices that tend to foster spiritual illbeing. Recent decades, filled with this sort of teaching, have resulted in bad theology.
When we do not know and understand good theology, we risk living out bad theology.
As Christian women, we need theology; the study of God is not merely for our good but for the glory of God himself. Doctrine of the Word of God (only briefly covered in this series) is the very foundation of theology: Christian belief is based on Scripture. In its four applications, doctrine is believed, practiced, confessed, and taught.
1 Timothy 1:18-19; 4:7; 6:21
2 Timothy 2:16
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ. – Colossians 1:28
Take note that the study in its entirety can be easily accessed at any time through the categories menu at www.debbieswindell.com, but let’s recap what we’ve covered in this series:
In Part One, Won’t You Join Me at The Table?, we established the invitation to every Christian to delight in God and things of God. The invitation of the spiritual disciplines is extended to all in whom the Spirit of God dwells, in order to taste the joy and contentment found in a Christ-centered lifestyle. Rightly practicing the disciplines requires our consideration of the Doctrine of the Word of God, as to understanding properly our reading of the Scriptures and applying appropriately our hearing and studies.
In Part Two, Trustworthiness of the Scriptures, the reader was confronted by our tendency to be relativists and the societal pressures that would have us believe that the Bible is no more than an old book left behind. Yet for 2,000 years, the Bible has taken hold of people’s lives, revealing both humanity’s sin and God’s grace through faith. And in the views of science, archaeology, and a vast amount of textual criticism, Scripture has in reality withstood the test of trustworthiness. It is imperative that the Christian places her confidence in the Bible as the voice of God when approaching her Bible reading and study. An accurate understanding of doctrinal truths reflects what the church is bound to believe, and good theology flowing from this stands in direct contrast to false doctrine. Sound doctrine of the Word of God is the foundation of all good theology.
In Parts Three and Four, Inspiration of the Scriptures and Inerrancy & Infallibility of the Scriptures, we established the importance of a right theology that affirms the trustworthiness of the Bible by way of its divine inspiration, calling for affirmation of its inerrancy and infallibility. God’s Word is trustworthy, conveying what is true and demanding what is right. Affirmation of the inspiration of the Bible furthers Christians’ maturity in their attitudes toward the Scriptures, the truthful voice of God. If we claim our Lord and Savior to be Jesus Christ, and that Jesus himself affirmed the inerrancy of Scripture, we must accordingly embrace the Scriptures as true and right. As God’s voice, the Bible is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses.
In Part Five, Authority & Sufficiency of the Scriptures, we explored authority and sufficiency of Scripture. We discussed that God speaks sufficiently through the Bible with ultimate, comprehensive, final authority. He also has the right to command our thoughts, desires, beliefs, words, actions, and overall behavior. The supremacy of Scripture qualifies it as functional, instrumental, conferred, and the traditional guidebook in every aspect of life. Scripture contains all the words of God that He intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history. Now, it contains everything that we need God to tell us for salvation, trusting him perfectly, and obeying. God does not require us to believe anything about himself or his work that is not in the Scriptures.
In Part Six, Perfect Posture, we took a glance at the importance of the posture of the heart when coming to the Bible, whether for reading or for study. With perfect posture, we as His children are supernaturally renewed, moment by moment, day by day, as we read, hear, learn, and live out the Scriptures. God’s Word is precise, not ambiguous. We don’t need to merely admire the Bible; we need to understand it. By the renewal of our minds, rejecting conformity to the world’s rampant individualism, our Bible reading enables spiritual growth. We can know the truth, enabling us to think clearly about what God says is true and right.
In Parts Seven, Read the Bible Well, and Eight, The Hard Work of Bible Study, we acknowledged the cumulative benefits of the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading and study: God may impress a verse on our hearts and minds in order to help us, but he has given Scripture as a whole to us so that its entire message will become the framework of reference for the rest of our lives. We do not occupy ourselves in Bible disciplines in order to get a “quick fix” to last for today, but rather to learn how to think, feel, and act in a God-honoring way every single day. When we rightly handle the Word of God, we engage in Bible reading and study for innumerable long-term benefits.
In Part Nine, Handle With Care, we looked at the importance of handling the Scriptures with care. There is a direct correlation between salvation, growth and maturity, and one’s ability to handle the Scriptures correctly. It is not a simple matter to understand the Scriptures, but with right understanding, they must also be applied rightly: A Christian is often known by how she handles the Word of God. It is the woman who lives in the Word and whose life is shaped and governed by the Word who is the kind of “worker” God approves in 2 Timothy 2:15. As we encounter the Bible rightly, with humility and thankfulness, we should handle the Scriptures rightly. But instead, we are maxed out in terms of our time, our ability to focus, and tied to our desires. We need to examine our own hearts, carve out time, and discover that God’s Word alone can satisfy our deepest desires in life. Foundationally, we must deal with the appetites of our hearts and make room for God’s satisfying Word.
“If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible. Knowing that it is the Word of God, teaching people to know and love and serve the God of the Word, I should do all I could to surround it with the spiritual equivalent of pits, thorn hedges and traps, to frighten people off.” – J.I. Packer
Recreated from fall 2018 teaching notes, for the purpose of supplementing my teaching and discipleship, this online series is meant to be more than information transfer. With a correct posture, the reader has been invited to read the Bible well and do the hard work of Bible study while handling the Word of God with care. When Bible literacy is coupled with the ongoing practice of spiritual disciplines, the believer provides a pathway for maturity (by work of the Holy Spirit). And as the church matures, we become better equipped to further the kingdom’s work. Thus, it is to the glory of God.
Consider these questions as we close.
As a result of this study…
Have you put Scripture reading and study into practice, as biblical spiritual disciplines?
Have you been confronted with core doctrinal truths that resulted in heart change and application?
Do you believe you might now have a more discerning attitude?
Has it been necessary for you to make theological adjustments?
In what ways does your daily routine provide space for the Spirit to work?
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. – Matthew 28:19-20
In Parts 7-8 of Doctrine & Disciplines of the Bible, our focus was the disciplines of reading and studying the Scriptures. In Parts 2-5, we explored the Doctrine of the Word of God. We have now established a shallow foundation for Bible reading and study. Continuing along this route, we must look practically into furthering the disciplines, and furthering them in a God-honoring way. And while not all believers have the gift of teaching, we will address such: All are responsible to pass on the truths they have learned in God’s Word. Thus, this part of the study focuses on “rightly handling the Word of truth.”
Once salvation occurs, growth and maturity comes before correctly handling the Scriptures. The Scriptures can be complicated: It is not simple to understand them. With right understanding, they must also be applied rightly. It is the woman who lives in the Word and whose life is shaped and governed by the Word of Truth who is the kind of “worker” God approves, as described in 2 Timothy 2:15. Also: As with all things done in the name of Christ, prayer is a vital element.
John 5:39; 14:6, 9
1 Corinthians 12:29
1 Timothy 4:14
2 Timothy 1:6; 2:15
2 Peter 1:3
How does prayer before study and a determination to handle the Bible carefully reflect your theology? Support your answer.
Keep in mind that we will handle the word of truth better if we know the word of truth. Like Israel’s kings, we should develop a habit of reading God’s word daily (Deuteronomy 17:18-19). “I’m afraid that’s the condition of many people today. They assume that our faith means taking a deep breath, shutting our eyes, and believing what we know deep down inside is absolutely incredible. In fact, Christianity has often been caricatured as the nonthinking man’s religion. But nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. When you become a Christian, you don’t throw your brain into neutral…You don’t commit intellectual suicide.” states Howard Hendrix, author and seminary professor. The Christian is often known by how she handles the Word of God, and mishandling the truth leads to misconceptions by the world.
Have you developed an intentional pattern in your Bible reading and study? What efforts do you make to know and retain what you study?
Read John 5:39, then Hebrews 1:3. God wants us to know Him. The way to know Him is through the Son. Do you look for the revelation of Jesus Christ when reading the Scriptures?
Godly wisdom is the ability to see life from God’s perspective, and react or respond to it with His mind. Why might it be important that we anchor our lives in God’s character?
Joel Beeke, professor of systematic theology, writes, “Spiritual growth begins with knowledge. We must be increasingly filled with the knowledge of Christ as the Agent of the Father’s will. If our spiritual life is a fire burning in our hearts, then doctrinal truth received by grace is the well-seasoned wood that fuels the fire, so that it burns hotter and higher.” A slow, steady fire gives light, but if the fire roars, it also provides warmth. Likewise, Bible reading and study is the means to develop spiritual maturity and godly wisdom. Godly wisdom is the ability to see life from God’s perspective, and react or respond to it with His mind.
Referencing Hebrews 5:11-14, have you become “dull of hearing?” Would you say your diet consists of spiritual milk, or solid food? Are you mature enough to discern truth?
We do not grow as Christians merely by using a spiritual barometer. We grow from the life-transforming renewal of our minds. Matthew Henry said, “Spiritual growth consists most in the growth of the root, which is out of sight. The more we depend upon Christ and draw sap and virtue from him…the more we cast forth our roots.” This spiritual maturity, in turn, comes from actually understanding and learning to apply God’s word to our lives. In doing so, we walk in Him.
Read Ezra 7:6-10. Having been a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses, Ezra is presented as the ideal priest in Israel. His mission was to lead God’s people in worship and holiness. This stemmed from a life of faithfulness. In the living of Ezra’s daily life, what specific words or phrases do you find in verse 10 revealing to us that he earnestly learned and applied what he knew to be true?
Why was Ezra’s expert knowledge of the law badly needed to those who had been exiled for 70 years?
1 Corinthians 8:3
1 Peter 2:2
2 Peter 3:18
How do we benefit today from teachers who have studied the Word vs. those attempts without proper study? Would you consider study of the Bible vital to handling the Word rightly in the teaching or counsel of scriptures? Explain.
What benefits might we find in reading, studying, and teaching the Bible within the community of God’s people, His church?
When Romans 8:28-30 is read alongside 1 Corinthians 8:3 and Galatians 4:9, the people of God clearly responded to his call in faith, and the faith required for justification is illustrated. In the fulfillment of God’s purposes, the redemptive work of Christ (by way of the Spirit) enables the believer. Do you see how fitting it was that Paul wrote these words, himself being a great example of someone who endured a great deal of suffering, yet continued to grow in his faith and love for Christ?
In Colossians 2:3-10, we read a portion of Paul’s appeal for Christian maturity. Where does it indicate the treasures of wisdom and knowledge to be found? In verses 6-7, which phrases describe believers who are alive in Christ?
In verses 4 and 5 of Colossians 2, Paul does not say that the church at Colossae has already been deceived, but from long experience he is familiar with times of attack from the enemy following a work of grace. Can you see where and why such an act could have a devastating effect on both individuals and the church?
Peter and Paul both understood the significance in the fact that Scripture confirms Scripture. In their writings, they make several points about holiness. Peter even quoted God’s holiness commands from several places in Leviticus. As we noted in previous posts, Jesus himself quoted Scripture in support and confirmation. Exhibiting the same humility and integrity, we can confidently build all of our beliefs upon the sufficient Word of God, which proves itself true.
Matthew 11:10, 16-17; 13:14-15; 15:4-9
1 Thessalonians 2:4
1 Peter 1:15-16; 5:5
Although Christians are commanded to share God’s words with others, can you clearly see the importance of doing so graciously,with dignity, honor, and respectfor the God whose holy Word you are sharing? Support your answer.
With interpretation, 2 Timothy 2:15 lays out the need to rightly handle the scriptures. The Greek verb orthotomeo means “to cut straight,” which is used here to refer to the accurate handling of Scripture. The reference here is to plowing, cutting leather, or cutting bricks or stones. Since the word “workman” most often refers to an agricultural worker in the New Testament, the word likely refers to “plowing a straight furrow.” This word serves as a metaphor for doing something carefully, accurately, and precisely. When interpretation is done carefully in Bible reading, study, or teaching, we are rightly handling the Scriptures.
Ezra 1:1-11; 6:8-12; 7:1-28
2 Timothy 2:12-15
Refer back to Ezra 7. Note some important details mentioned in Ezra 7:1-11 regarding Ezra’s study, what he learned, and what he taught. It’s possible that the king, in making the provisions mentioned in Ezra 6:8-12 and 7:22, actually intended to ward off the wrath of God against His kingdom. Nonetheless, we can note some of the benefits from Ezra’s dedication to God and His Law seen in 7:11-25. Identify them.
Did God’s people ultimately gain from Ezra’s study, dedication, and faithful leadership, as “the Lord, the God of our fathers” extended his steadfast love? Support your answer.
In light of Isaiah 60:5-7 and Ezra 1:1, whose hand controlled the blessing of provisions mentioned in Ezra 7:27-28? List these blessings.
In Titus 2:1, we see Paul’s charge to Timothy. When coupled with 2 Timothy 2:12-15, how might this apply to all God’s children? How would you present yourself to God?
Hendrix writes, “You see, it’s one thing to struggle with difficulties in interpretation; it’s another thing to distort the meaning of God’s Word. That’s serious. That’s something He will bring to judgment. So we need to be careful to learn how to interpret Scripture accurately, practically, and profitably.” Hendrix then mentions six pitfalls of interpretation to watch out for:
Misreading the text
Distorting the text
Contradicting the text
It is significant that Paul proclaimed the whole counsel of God, recognizing that everything written in the past was written to still teach us today. This was so that through endurance and encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope. He also noted that Israel’s history contains examples that were written as warnings to us. The entirety of the Bible has value for all of us. With careful attention, we can glean important truths from every word it contains.
1 Corinthians 10:1-11
In 1 Corinthians 10:11, Paul sums up his teaching by saying that these things are examples and have been recorded as warnings. It is significant that in the same verse he refers to “the end” as the fulfilment of the ages. The culmination of all past ages having arrived in the coming of Christ has the implication that all previous ages come to their appointed end in him.
Past ages having been completed, their lessons are now teaching us. From this, we might reap the fruits of learning from those events. In verses 1-10, which experiences can you discern as being sins? List them. What lessons can be learned regarding these sins?
Elsewhere in Paul’s writings, the “word of truth” refers to the gospel message. On this basis, some infer that the Word refers specifically to the gospel, not the Scriptures as a whole. However, the connection between 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Timothy 4:2 suggests otherwise.
2 Timothy 3:16; 4:2
Reading 2 Timothy 3:16 and 4:2, are you able to identify the proper context of “word of truth” in this passage? Why might the context matter?
Whether reading, studying, or preparing to teach the Bible, the key is the context.
What was the context then?
What is the context now?
What is the truth that remains true, regardless of the cultural context?
Studying culture includes the areas of power, communication, money and economics, ethnicity, gender, generations, religion and worldview, the arts, history and time, place, and resources. If you can discern the accurate, author-intended principles from your reading and study of Scripture, you’ll have some powerful tools to help you apply this biblical truth. You’ll bridge the gap between the ancient world and your own situation with the timeless truth of God’s Word.
The principles of Scripture are universally relevant.
In the work of interpretation and application, we must be cautious of extrabiblical statements that might seem to reflect biblical truth. Persons may be using the same words, or presenting the same concepts that God mentions in His Word, but they may also be filling those words and concepts with completely different meanings. With the reader’s or teacher’s private interpretation comes the obligation to interpret Scripture correctly.
R.C. Sproul penned, “The doctrine of the sola Scriptura does not mean that the Christians are to pay attention only to their personal understanding of the Bible or that we can make the Scriptures mean whatever we want them to mean. After all, Martin Luther is often quoted as saying, ‘The Holy Spirit is no skeptic.’ The meaning of Scripture is not so uncertain that we can all come up with our own views and never know the truth. That would be a skeptical view of divine truth that says it is wholly subjective and objectively unknowable.”
Can you describe God-honoring interpretation and application, as contrasted to poor interpretation and application? Make a chart if needed.
Many times, scriptural teaching can even become distorted when a teacher or writer puts her own spin on it. It’s true that well-intentioned people may have been influenced by unbiblical teaching through various means, and not even be aware of it. But in reality, the Bible tells us that oftentimes men will suppress, deny, and distort the truth even if it is staring them in the face. If we are not rooted in the basics of the Bible, we are more likely to be swept away by half-truths and false doctrine. As a warning, God also tells us through His Word that Satan has been given limited power until Christ’s return. We should not be surprised by His attempt at sabotage.
Isaiah 5:20-21, 24
2 Corinthians 11:13-15
2 Thessalonians 2:3-12
Hebrews 2:7-8; 5:14
2 Peter 2:1-3
1 John 4:1-6
Along with outsiders, the apostle Paul mentions the possibility of people from within the church adopting false teachings and seducing the congregation (Acts 20:30, Romans 16:17, Colossians 2:8). How could this be applied to the church today?
Read Ephesians 4:11-16. How might the Christian woman avoid being “tossed to and fro” by crafty schemes and foolish teachings?
The Bible, being God’s own voice, means that when we dishonor doctrinal truth, we also dishonor God himself. Where in your life is there evidence of being “tossed to and fro” that has weakened your resolve to do what God says in his Word?
Evil often disguises itself as truth. How can we most quickly recognize error?
God does not want us to be spiritual babies: It is important to sit under solid, biblical teaching, and to fellowship with mature Christian women. In reading Hebrews 5:12-14, how might this make us able to discern what is best?
Stop. Pray that the Lord would expose your weakness and dependency on “popular” teaching, catchy phrases, and simple (sometimes comical) illustrations, rather than taking time and effort to seek doctrinal truth. Pray that He might show you where you are lacking discernment, in order to enable correct theological adjustment.
When Paul was meeting with the Ephesian elders, he said, “I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you.” He gave them everything profitable. Remember, they all had the life struggles we have. They had all the spiritual needs we have. Hence, be careful of what you accept as truth, influencing your own personal interpretation and application of a passage. If not, you risk passing on error. The Word, in and of itself, is the ultimate profitable source. The Word will strengthen the believer.
Identify warnings in the Acts passage. List them.
Sound application must begin with sound interpretation; it begins as soon as we sit down to read the biblical text; it includes our attitudes and our posture toward the Word.
As we reflect on a passage, we need to think about a specific application of the biblical truth to life and ask:
Am I open to hearing what the Spirit is saying to me through the Word about ways I need to adjust my life?
Am I characterized by making adjustments to my life based on God’s Word?
We need to be constantly aware that Scripture may have multiple applications, but we recognize only one best meaning and strict interpretation of Holy Scripture. Essentials for application would be:
a commitment to a high view of Scripture.
recognizing the Bible as our authority for daily living.
a conviction of the profitability of all of Scripture.
an understanding that only what the Bible says is truly important, as we accurately divide and plow into the Word of Truth.
a commitment to correct application of the instruction of the Scripture. This includes going beyond reading the Bible, and actually doing what it says.
In the “actually doing” what the Scriptures teach, how can our awareness of truth become a workroom for the Holy Spirit? Why is this encouraging?
In addition, we must have a willingness to be confined to the author’s intent. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul charges Timothy to be a diligent student of the scriptures, honoring the text in his teaching as he preaches the Word. All teachers of God’s Word automatically assume that same responsibility today.
2 Corinthians 4:1-6
1 Timothy 1:3-20; 6:12; 6:17-21
2 Timothy 1:13-14; 2:18; 4:1-22
Titus 1:1; 1:9-11; 2:1
Do you deny your difficulties with Bible interpretation and application? Do you allow pride to get in the way of consulting credible resources (print or persons)?
Read 2 Timothy Chapter 4. Paraphrase the sections indicated below. Make certain to note Paul’s words of encouragement, exhortation, and warning, and include these words in your paraphrase.
In verses 4:1-8, why was it important for Paul to urge Timothy to preach sound doctrine? What was happening at Ephesus? What event is mentioned in 4:1 to motivate Timothy? How might this motivate us today to handle the Word rightly?
What is the connection in correct interpretation and right application? How does slowly progressing, unchecked poor application take control of your Bible study?
In application of the Scriptures, it is important that we strive to know what is true. We must not contradict the Bible in any form or fashion, understanding that in most cases, the application can be easily seen from the text.
Application is the thoughtful appropriation of biblical truth to our lives – how we take it in, embrace it, and adjust our lives to bring them in line with the truth of God’s Word.
This application can be difficult to do consistently: our sinfulness tries to distort the text, and many of us have also been indirectly trained to think in vague terms rather than specific action. Application will likely take the form of a tangible action, worship, meditation, or adjusting our theology.
How does having an overall understanding of a passage and belief in God help you to think through the appropriation of biblical truth to your life?
In light of this study, identify some passages or biblical stories you now believe you have possibly misinterpreted or misapplied.
While determining your application of the Scriptures, discern what might be controlling your methods of meditation on them. Where is this happening in your life? Would you say your focus is more horizontal or vertical?
The Bible’s grand and glorious narrative helps frame our interpretation. It leads us to a balanced theology. The “big story” helps us to better understand the Bible’s “little stories”: In this sense, we can view the “big story” from above, before viewing the “little stories” from below. Even in our application, we should recognize that the Bible is one overarching saga.
1 Timothy 4:1-8
2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17
2 Peter 1:19-2:3
Which overarching theme of the Bible is seen in Matthew 5:17-18? Why would this be an important passage in interpretation and application?
List specific instructions in Paul’s charge to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:1-8. What is the warning found here, which applies to Bible teachers today?
Can you see the scope of application in 2 Timothy 3:16-17? Paraphrase this passage.
In James 1:22-25, do we learn that application should be taken from our hearing, reading, and study of the Bible? Do you find a warning in this passage? Explain.
Which warnings do you find in 2 Peter 1:19 – 2 Peter 2:3?
What might be the implications of the warnings found throughout this study? How does this encourage you to be diligent in proper technique of your personal Bible reading and study?
The Word of God is eternal and unchanging, but our world is not. Therefore, living out God’s truth demands that we plug it into our particular set of modern circumstances. However, we do not change the truth to fit our cultural agenda. We change our application of the truth in light of our needs, while remaining thoughtful and diligent about which aspects of a biblical passage are meant to be transferable to us.
Teachers of the Bible must handle God’s Word accurately as the “workmen.” We must emphasize what Scripture itself emphasizes, and focus on what Scripture itself focuses on. Although it is true that mishandling Scripture has eternal consequences, it is also true that handling the Scriptures rightly comes with reward.
2 Timothy 2:15
“Pooling of knowledge is edifying to the church; pooling of ignorance is destructive,” R.C. Sproul wisely penned.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you rank your Bible literacy? Do you believe it has improved since you first began this study? What difference might that make to both yourself and others? Pray for the Lord’s conviction of where and how you need to fight biblical illiteracy.
In this study, we have established that God expects the believer to seek and obtain biblical knowledge. Why would only seeking horizontal, worldly knowledge be insufficient?
What areas of your life show (or lack) evidence of biblical awareness? Where are you knowledgeable and biblically aware, but your heart isn’t fully engaged? How might you be encouraged by God’s intervening grace?
In this series, we’ve established our goal: in applying sound doctrine and using proper technique, in reading and studying the Bible, we must have an intimate acquaintance with the mind of God. He has revealed all we need to live a life of godliness in commands and promises (illustrated in and through the lives of biblical saints and in Jesus supremely). Together, let’s continually feast on His words! As we do so, we will begin to slowly discover the rich treasure of God’s will in every situation and every circumstance of life.
Is it possible that past or present biblical illiteracy has caused you to begin to believe things that are not true, and in turn say things that are not true? Are there lies that might have been rooted in your past theology that have affected your actions? What lies could you be currently repeating? Be specific.
How is your view of Scripture, and God’s involvement in your study, connected to your daily life? How is your view of Scripture connected to your obedience to the great commission?
Our lifelong journey into knowing and loving God fuels growth, as we allow ourselves to be conformed to the knowledge and love of the Scriptures. The earthly reward of handling the Bible carefully (that which is God’s voice) is to enjoy the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: And the heavenly reward will be so much more!
An inability to understand the Bible obviously hurts the church, but it also hinders our efforts in furthering the gospel. Our purpose in these disciplines is not justreading for the sake of enjoyment or to havea Bible study, but it is so that we might know God more deeply, and ultimately, that we might walk away better equipped to join Him in His work, telling the nations how great our God is. Therefore, the goal of Bible literacy, in both reading and study, is to give God glory in making Jesus Christ known in a greater way.
Reflect on what you’ve gained in this study.
My goals after completing this study are…
As a result of my studies, I hope…
My prayer following the completion of this study is…
In Part Seven, Read the Bible Well, we considered the spiritual discipline of reading the Bible, with primary focus on the importance of context. But in order to further deepen our relationship with God, we need to fall in love with Him as the author of the Scriptures, while in the midst of the hard work of Bible study. As Christians, we have the opportunity to experience joy of personal discovery first-hand as God’s Holy Spirit illumines truth. And just as the Word is used in conversion, so it is that the Bible is a critical instrument in our growth.
Charles Spurgeon penned, “Do you know what it is to have a text leap out of the Scriptures upon you, and carry you away? This special energy and flash of truth is always memorable. How often have the waves of this sea of truth been phosphorescent before my eyes—a sea of glass mingled with fire, of which the spray has dashed over me and set my soul on flame!”
Godly wisdom is the ability to see life from God’s perspective and react or respond to it with His mind. Because Scripture is the primary means of spiritual growth, immersing ourselves in the Word of God is the pathway to gaining the mind of Christ. After all, our aim as believers should be to be like Jesus. This is why God gave us the Bible. Charles Spurgeon penned, “Bible study is the metal that makes a Christian; this is the strong meat on which holy men are nourished; this is that which makes the bone and sinew of men who keep God’s way in defiance of every adversary.” The value of Bible study depends on this: Are we willing to work at it?
Read John 14:16-17 and John 16:12-15. What the disciples could not bear then, they would need to understand afterwards. How does this passage say the Holy Spirit would act (not as a force but as a person) to their benefit? How might this apply to the believer today in her Bible study?
Paraphrase what you learn in Romans 8:28-30 with 2 Corinthians 3:18 and Colossians 3:10.
In 1 Corinthians 2:9-16, Paul reasons that no one outside God can know what takes place within God, nobody but the Spirit of God. While ascribing full deity to the Spirit, He knows God from the inside. Because the Spirit who reveals is truly God, in your own words how would you describe (vs. 13-14) what He reveals to the believer in Bible study? How would this differ from what a nonbeliever might glean from study (vs. 16)?
Referring to the Hebrews 5:11-14 passage, it is noticeable here that a direct relationship is assumed between spiritual condition and understanding. How might this apply to Bible study?
The Christian woman should be aware that many things are published and marketed under the guise of a “Bible study.” She should be cautious enough to discern whether or not material is psychology based, designed to make women feel good about themselves, or actually God honoring. Might it be possible to “do” a Bible study with nothing more than your Bible, pen, and paper? Support your answer.
If we find Bible study to be hard work, as some Christians suggest, then we cannot be very spiritual. Many people are attracted to something more immediate, as if there would be direct, no need to study, revelation to claim. The Scriptures are not disclosed to lazy minds and hearts.
Yet, His riches are free….but not cheap.
Like any other discipline in life, Bible study’s profits are in proportion to how much effort is made. “I have little confidence in those persons who speak of having received direct revelations from the Lord, as though he appeared otherwise than by and through the gospel. His word is so full, so perfect, that for God to make any fresh revelation to you or me is quite needless. To do so would be to put a dishonour upon the perfection of that word.” writes Spurgeon. The Bible also gives the only guidelines to follow to present ourselves to God in a manner approved of by Him. He tells us that all Scripture is profitable. According to Paul, Bible study requires hard work and a correct approach, involving mental activity. Thus the term “digging in.”
2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17
Referencing Romans 12:1-2, if we are being changed to the likeness of Christ from one degree to another, who is doing the changing?
Might the transformation have effect on Bible study? If so, list specific ways.
What are ways the outcome of a Bible study might look different, whether the learner be a Christian with the help of the Spirit (regenerate) or non-Christian without the help of the Spirit (unregenerate)? See 1 Corinthians 2:10-14.
Have you ever wanted to take something away from Bible study that is a more personal, direct revelation, irrelevant to the intended meaning of the Scripture? Why might this be a dangerous practice?
God-honoring posture is open to study, open to God, and open to change. If we are willing, and have prepared our “perfect postures” (see Perfect Posture, part six of Doctrine & Disciplines of the Bible) for the hard work of Bible study, the next stage is to learn to grow: to grow in our ability to actually read the Bible well and follow with understanding. God has given the Bible as a whole to us for its message in its entirety. If handling a study rightly, its goal is never to achieve a quick fix. In a true Bible study, we do not cherry-pick the Scriptures, looking for a “promise box” in a single verse or catchy phrase.
“God wants us to grapple with the great truths of Scripture because they are life-long investments, not daily pick-me-ups.” Contends Sinclair Ferguson.
Much like Bible reading, our basic approach to Bible study should be to first approach passages in their own context; to understand them in the light of the rest of Scripture, remembering that all Scripture has the same ultimate source: the one true and living God.
Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:36-50
2 Timothy 3:16-17
In your Christ-centered reading of Genesis 1-3, make note of OT and NT connections you recognize. Can you see where a good commentary might prove helpful in your study of those chapters?
Regarding Psalm 119:160-162; do you delight in Scripture as a whole, just as the psalmist does? Or do you fall to the trap of selective study?
Because the woman in the above Gospel passages knew she was such a sinner, she had more gratitude. Would studying the law (thus knowing how far we have fallen) give us the same attitude?
Just as Paul saw value of the Old Testament in Romans 15:4, we should delight in knowing the law and be encouraged by the fact that Christ has given us a new covenant apart from the law today. Does knowing (and studying) the law and other books of the Old Testament shed new light on the importance of Jesus’ saving blood today?
We study the Bible with the mind and heart to know, love, and enjoy God. We study to know God more intimately, understand God’s word, learn direction in life, and to find comfort and hope. Through our Bible study, God exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.
His Word helps us see ourselves as we really are.
The working of the Word convicts us of sin so we might repent, experience its transformation, and be set apart for God’s holy purposes. In the end, we study God’s Word so we might know God, love him, and our neighbor more fully.
John 1:1-5; 10:30; 12:44; 13:34-35; 14:7-9; 15:3; 17:17-23
1 Timothy 6:17
Jesus’ prayer in John 17:17-23 is related to what he said to his disciples in 15:3. Having already accepted Jesus’ word, perhaps he was praying not so much for their purification, but that they be set apart for God’s own use. As you have read the scriptures above and have identified our sinful habits and behaviors, go back and examine your own heart to determine if you are truly “set apart” as a child of God. Understanding that justification is a unconditional, one-time positional leap (moment of salvation), and sanctification is progressive (a life-long process), which areas do you find in your life that need change?
The working of the Word in the life of the believer lays open her heart and life, honing in on specific shortcomings in faith and practice. Can you see where openness to this process would strengthen the relationship of the believer with her Savior?
Throughout history, God has revealed and fulfilled commands and promises, often illustrated through the lives of biblical characters. The ultimate example of this is Jesus himself. As we study this, we begin to discover what His will is in every situation and circumstance of life. Scripture itself teaches that maturity comes from the “living and active” Word transforming our minds (Hebrews 4:12). Stemming from this maturity comes both correct understanding and correct learning how to apply the Word to us personally.
In the words of R.C. Sproul, “This yields a practical help for bible study: read the Bible with a red pen in hand. I suggest that you put a question mark in the margin beside every passage that you find unclear or hard to understand. Likewise, put an X beside every passage that offends you or makes you uncomfortable. Afterward, you can focus on the areas you struggle with, especially the texts marked with an X. This can be a guide to holiness, as the X’s show us quickly where our thinking is out of line with the mind of Christ. If I don’t like something I read in Scripture, perhaps I simply don’t understand it. If so, studying it again may help. If, in fact, I do understand the passage and still don’t like it, this is not an indication there is something wrong with the Bible. It’s an indication that something is wrong with me, something that needs to change.” Bible study is the means to develop spiritual maturity and godly wisdom. Effective Bible study involves learning how to think, feel, and act every single day. And as with reading, its effect is cumulative.
“Godly wisdom” is the ability to see life from God’s perspective and react or respond to it with His mind.
Philippians 2:4-11; 3:12-15
1 Peter 2:21
Refer to the Philippians passages. Believers in Philippi were preoccupied with self-centeredness (which Paul gently reprimanded and corrected in his letter). How might this same ego-centric attitude be presented in Bible Study? What problems stem from this?
What would be the right example for us regarding attitude, time and attention dedicated to Bible study (alluding to John 13:15 and 1 Peter 2:21)?
Alongside the biblical posture toward the Scriptures a believer should have, a healthy Bible study involves observation, interpretation, application, and organization. The heart of Bible study is seeing truth for yourself and discerning what it means. Three basic skills we need to develop are to ask the questions, “What do I see?” “What does it mean?” and “How does it work?”
Following that discernment, the believer applies truth to her life. Discipline yourself to not become discouraged in the process. Remember, the Bible was written so that anyone who wants to know who God is and how they are instructed to live can read it and find out, no matter how rough the course. The fruit comes with patience and time.
Are you willing to do the hard work of Bible study? Are you thirsty for His Word and the
truths hidden within? Will you invest time that will, in the end, be redeemed (Revelation
The 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith states, “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them … The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.”
Psalm 19:7; 119:130
2 Peter 1:20-21; 3:16
Paraphrase Psalm 19:7 and 119:130.
In the Bible, we become increasingly aware of all that it means to be in Christ. It is vital that we understand the principles of the Bible are universally relevant. Living out God’s truth demands that we plug it into our particular set of modern circumstances, not the other way around.
We do NOT change the truth to fit our cultural agenda. The Bible is eternal and unchanging.
What does change is our application of that truth in light of our needs. However, we need to be thoughtful and careful about which aspects of a passage are transferable to us. We should cautiously bridge the gap between biblical times and our own situation with timeless truth.
1 Timothy 4:6
1 Peter 2:2
Peter implied in 1 Peter 2:2 that spiritual milk (in this context) should be eagerly desired for nourishment. Do you grasp the concept in James 1:19-27 that the Christian must first be nourished, and mature in faith before teaching the Word?
Paraphrase 1 Timothy 4:6.
God often uses life circumstances to draw us closerto His scriptures. Can you recall a time in your life when sought the Bible for comfort and/or guidance? Were you cautious and careful notto change the truth to fit your present circumstances?
With an understanding that Scripture interprets Scripture, can you see where a good, concordance might aid your Bible study? (I recommend Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.)
Accompanying the practice of reading the Bible well, sound and accurate application requires a Godward posture toward the Scriptures. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture. The locks of Scripture are only to be opened with the keys of Scripture; and there is no lock in the whole Bible, which God meant us to open, without a key to fit it somewhere in the Bible, and we are to search for it until we find it.” Accurate application is crucial for the believer to honor Scripture rightly.
Beware of the potential ego-centered problems with application.
In personal application, we have a tendency to apply lessons in areas we are already working on but neglect new areas of need. We should also beware of rationalizing our application to fit our present lifestyle. In addition, we need to be careful to never allow an emotional experience to be substituted for a volitional decision. We should also be aware of social pressures causing us to inadvertently compromise what we know to be true. Nevertheless, remember that we cannot apply what we do not know: This takes introspect and deliberate work. For accurate application, it is important to know your applicational context or situation andto know yourself.
In Bible study, we must look for application in the form of a universal principle – truth anywhere, anyplace, and under any circumstance. For relevance, consider the needs, interests, questions, and problems of today.
We need to think about specific application of biblical truth to life and ask specific questions: Am I open to hear what the Spirit is saying to me (through the Word) in ways I need to adjust my life? Am I willing to make adjustments to my life based on God’s Word?
Maturing in the Word requires that we deal with the appetites of our hearts, and make room for honoring God in sound doctrine and spiritual disciplines. Daily life becomes more than checking off a list of requirements for the day when our thoughts, desires, and energies are focused on the fullness of the Word (rather than all the things offered by this world).
Through diligent study of the Bible, we become anchored. Through application, we begin examining our own hearts. We discover that God’s Word is fully able to satisfy our deepest needs and desires as we stand firm. We can follow the Word to be our guide, trust the Word to give us life, and delight in the Word until the very end.
In Part Nine, Handle With Care, we will consider our aim in spiritual disciplines including further application of reading and study.