Here’s a four-part tidbit about Bible study. How do you know when you’ve successfully explored a passage of scripture?
Any Bible study that is to be personally effective has four elements. Take a look and ask yourself if these four elements are part of your regular approach to God’s word.Effective Bible study requires examination. This includes reading the text, but also searching the text a bit deeper for something that may escape your notice at first and lead to erroneous interpretation. For instance, have you read John 10:10 where Jesus says, “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy?” Most people read that passage and immediately think of Satan as the thief. However, a closer examination reveals that Satan is not the subject of the text. Someone else is (I’ll let you do the examining to find out who).
A careful examination of the scripture makes a world of difference when it comes to interpretation.Effective Bible study requires interpretation. What did the writer intend to say to us? What did he intend to say to his original audience? What would the original readers have understood? Let’s again use John 10:10 for our example. If we read John 10:10 and think Satan is the thief, then we are bound to interpret the passage to us. If we read it and think Jesus is talking about what Satan wants to do to us, then we have misinterpreted the passage from its historical context. However, when we read John 10:10 in its full context we will see that Jesus is referring to someone else, and thus our interpretation of the passage will change. When our interpretation changes, it will effect our application of the word.
Effective Bible study requires application. This is a no brainer. Up until now everything we do in Bible study is primarily oriented toward the head, with perhaps a small touch on the heart. But when we apply the scripture to our lives, looking for how its principles are to guide us, that is application.
If we interpret John 10:10 to say Satan is the thief, it naturally applies that Satan wants to steal, kill, and destroy us. So then we think about how to apply this passage to avoid such terrible consequences. However, if we interpret John 10:10 to recognize the thief is actually someone else, it will tell us more about Jesus’, and John’s intentions for writing the book. Then we will apply its truth differently.
Finally, effective Bible study requires transformation. Most Bible study methods or teachers stop at application as if that is the end of the road. But the purpose of application is to transform our character and will in keeping with God’s character and will. Unless we are engaged in a continual process of transformation our Christianity will fall short.
Some people read John 10:10 and think the passage is about what Satan wants to do to us. Then they interpret the second part of the verse as if the “abundant life” is all about health, wealth, or prosperity. In fact, John 10:10 has nothing to do with that. But because we sometimes look at scripture through the filter of me, me, me we become inclined to interpret and apply the passage through that filter, and thus the transformation part becomes lost from what the Lord may have originally intended for the reader.
Examination, interpretation, application and transformation are the four parts of Bible study necessary for every believer who wants to live a transformed life in Christ.
Now, you probably want to know to whom John 10:10 is referring. Go study it for yourself and let me know what you find. Maybe I’ll write about it in the future.