What are some Principles to keep in mind while we study the Bible:
1. The centrality of preaching. How will they hear if no one preaches? (Rom 10) The Apostles did not go around establishing churches and then leave people only with a stack of letters to read as individuals, they established preachers and overseers to teach and protect sound doctrine that was often distorted.
After attending URC for a while, I noticed a change in my reading, I could hear Kevin ask, “Why is this here?” or “A basic hermeneutical principle when reading the Bible is that the writers were not stupid.” I also love to
listen to Doug Wilson, Sinclair Ferguson, John Piper, and as I read, I can hear their voices asking a question, drawing my attention to Christ. It’s slow and natural, but it shapes. Just like we know music shapes, and movies shape, preaching shapes us. Remember kids learn by copying, so putting ourselves under someone with a higher level of mastery over the Scriptures than ourselves will help us grow in mastery.
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. -Col 1:24-26
They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. – Neh.8:8
Of course personal study is valuable as well. We should listen to preaching with our Bibles open. We want to be Bereans, searching the scriptures to test what we hear.
2. Expository preaching = expository reading. Read what is there, in context. Observation is very important. Inductive methods are such a safeguard against eisegetic reading of the scriptures. Eisegesis is simply reading into a text based on experience, rather than exegesis, which is pulling meaning out of the text based on context and discoverable meaning. We want to be exegetes not eisegetes.
3. We need other people. We are one body. We need to study the Bible not just for ourselves but for others’ sake. If I’m a foot and wither up, I’m causing the body to be lame. Or if I’m a lame foot, then I might need a hand to straighten me out. I like to write, and sometimes I’ll write a blog post that I think is just brilliant, but I know enough to always let someone proof read, usually Chris. There has been more than one occasion while I wait for glowing approval that he says,” yeah you missed this big obvious thing,” or “that did not make any sense outside of your own head.” He’s right. I can be wise in my own eyes. We need the protection of others eyes to watch that we are faithful to what the text says, not just suiting it to our own fancies.
4. We need to love words. God chose to use words to reveal himself, written words. He spoke the universe into existence, he told Adam to name the animals, he halted man’s rebellion by confusing the language at Babel. Words are powerful. And in the Bible we have more than a list of facts or basic steps. He gave us imagery, stories, poetry, and allegory. The Bible is a carefully arranged and beautifully ornamented piece of literature. It is a good task to undertake a study of literary analysis in order to fully grasp the way the forms of the Bible speak the content to us too.
Anything worth doing takes effort and it is no different here. There is much to enjoy and learn from the literature, and word, and language choices of the Bible writers who were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
5. Testimony requires action. I heard once that “if we are finite then we must rely on testimony” Meaning, we can’t know by our own observation everything we need to know even to live. The Bible is a testimony to God’s mighty acts, work, and character. And, of course, testimony demands that we either believe or disbelieve and act accordingly. If we will believe, we must repent and submit to the whole of it. If we disbelieve then we are not free to take only the comforts out of context or like Thomas Jefferson cut the pages out that don’t suit us best. It claims itself to be the authoritative words of God. How will we respond?
6. Worship. Piper says, “Missions exist because worship doesn’t.” There was a time when God walked and talked with Adam in the cool of the day, but in sin we are separated from that fellowship. He has given us his word as “a lamp to our feet and a light to our path” Ps. The path that leads to him. His written word exists to bring us face to face with God, so that we can fall on our face and worship. That should be our end now.
Last: Part 6, Practical Means to Study