If you read ahead, the title is not as scary as it sounds. In the fall of 2017 I hosted a “Bible Study Training Night.” We spent over an hour studying one verse, Romans 8:28. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Those who came saw it as very profitable, and I believe you will find it the same.
Helping people understand the Bible for themselves is of key importance. Since every Christian should be pursuing to understand God so that they may minister to others every Christian should be learning how to study Scripture. This is the first part of this series, which addresses reading Scripture.
Throughout this series I’m going to give a plethora of tips on how to understand Scripture. Some who have been Christians for awhile may not be able to articulate or order all of the steps of Bible study, but they know parts of how the process works. I’m hoping to expand on the process, break it down for you, and then set it in one short one-page document that you can use as a quick Bible Study Guide.
When it comes to studying Scripture, the first thing that people want to do is go find a Bible study book on a subject or a commentary on a book of the Bible. I believe there are at least seven or eight steps until we get there. The reason is that while often times people who write about Scripture are more intelligent than us and more studied on a specific subject, they are sometimes wrong or miss things. Also, they cannot write exhaustively on every aspect of the subject. So we might pick up on something that they missed, or do not have the space to explain fully.
Simply reading familiarizes us with the subject in general. How much should you read? This is determined on how hard the passage is to understand and the time that you have to invest into that subject. While “thou shalt not murder” seems pretty straightforward, a study on a verse like Romans 8:28, which is often misconstrued, may take more time to study.
I want you to read like you were studying one part of a painting. Recently my church gifted me with a beautiful 5’x2’ painting. The painting is miniscule section of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. The painting I received was just of God and Adam’s wrists and hands. I noticed something about the full sized painting that I would never have noticed, had I not specifically studied their hands. In the painting God’s arm is straight out, and Adam’s wrist seems to be a little limp. In other words, Michelangelo is stating through this specific window who has the power, and who is subservient and in need of that power.
Now, if you were unfamiliar with The Creation of Adam and I just explained the picture of their hands, you would not have any idea of what these hands represent, other than that they are painted with great detail. By seeing the entire picture and understanding to whom these hands belong, you understand something about the hands. Also, by studying the Sistine Chapel you would better understand The Creation of Adam painting itself, and therefore, better understand the representation of the hands.
This is what we do when we read the surrounding context. If we want to understand a verse, paragraph or a passage, we need to read the surrounding context. To understand Romans 8:28 you may read the entire letter to the Romans, but this may discourage you for the sake of time. Here are some tips on reading for understanding.
- Repetitive Targeted Reading
I would simply suggest to read Romans 8:18-30 once, Romans 8:26-30 twice, Romans 8:27-28 three times, and then Romans 8:28 four times. If you will commit to this practice, you will have a much better grasp of the passage. By reading less verses, but reading them more times, you will increase your understanding and familiarity of the verse and the context
2. Read Out Loud
The second thing I want you to do is read out loud. This may not always be permissible for you, but if it is, I would suggest it, especially as you get closer to your targeted verse of study. The reason for this is that you will use much more inflection in reading the verse, and therefore, you will learn things you did not learn before from those inflections.
3. Don’t Read to Learn
This may sound counter-intuitive, but I don’t want you to read to learn anything at first. In other words, read through the passage, don’t stop to think about things more than a few seconds or write anything down. We will have a lot of time to read in order to learn in the future. All you are doing is reading to familiarize yourself with the passage. At this point, don’t stop to meditate on what you are reading; just read in order to study the passages at hand. When you are done reading, you can write one or two things down that you learned from the passage.
If you practice reading as a first step to studying God’s Word, you will find that your understanding of Scripture will be more enlightening and educational. As you attempt to answer some of the questions and work through the process of future Bible study, you will familiarize yourself with it This approach should offer answers to what you need to understand the passage as a whole.
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.