In the fall of 2017 I hosted a “Bible Study Training Night.” Those who came saw it as very profitable, and I thought I would share this with you. Helping people understand their Bible for themselves is of key importance. Since every Christian should be pursuing to understand God and to better minister to others, every Christian should continue to study Scripture. This is the second part of that series. The first one is found here at “Read Until You Bleed.”
While the pastor and elders are given more time to study God’s Word, this does not release other Christians of their responsibility. II Timothy 2:15 tells us that we need to work toward understanding God’s Word. I believe that “work” is the main reason that people don’t study the Word; but as we know, it’s through work that we reap a harvest. God promises blessings upon blessings as a reward for your diligence.
Once you understand the value of reading, the second thing you will be able to do, and at a faster pace because you did your reading, is understand the context of a passage. The context of a passage is often overlooked, and is also the area most people make mistakes in Bible study. If you understand the context of what you read, you will be able to receive the basic insight of the passage.
The problem is that many people want to study every Bible passage in the same manner. Let me ask you this though, would you interpret the phrase “I love you” the same way from a serial killer, your spouse, or a drunk stranger? Emphatically “No!” of course. If my wife said that, I would be flattered and enjoy the words which have depth of meaning after a decade together. From a drunk stranger, however, I’d ignore it and walk away. Those words from a known serial killer, I’d either run or take care of business. Context means everything.
The problem is we attempt to learn what God says in Scripture, taking each verse the same way. But Scripture is not flat, but beautifully multifaceted like a diamond. While it may seem that this is harder to understand, we can enjoy Scripture more for the many genres it is written in, instead of just having a list of do’s and don’ts. Again, for the purpose of example, we are studying Romans 8:28 as a case study.
- WHAT IS THE GENRE?
When we talk about genre, we are asking is this poetry, a letter, a lecture, prophecy, or apocalyptic literature. We will understand each passage differently, depending on the genre. For example, poetry often has emotion built into it, and is not straightforward as a simple letter or lecture. Or we may read a command in Exodus straight forward, but what we learn in Proverbs is different than a straight command. See The Bible Isn’t True 100% of the Time. For our case study Romans is a letter, or we could maybe think of it as a lecture.
- HOW DOES THE GENRE AFFECT MEANING?
Since Romans is a letter or lecture, it is pretty straight forward. We don’t have to do a lot of work to do in order to understand how the genre affects the meaning of the passage. In the future I will explain how to understand other genres such as poetry, prophecy and other works.
- WHAT IS THE LARGER CONTEXT?
As we are study the larger context, we want to understand at least the basics of the surrounding verses and passages. I will use the same format from the last post on reading. I’m sure we could have some debate on the specifics of Romans and the context, but here is how I have interpreted it. Before you look at how I interpreted it, try to give one sentence explaining each of the sections you read.
THE BOOK OF ROMANS: Our need of salvation and its provision.
ROMANS 8: If we are saved, we will live in the Spirit (living in the Spirit is living righteously).
ROMANS 8:18-30: God gives us a future glory of eternally abiding with Him.
Romans 8:27-30: Our walk in righteousness, celebration, or suffering is forming us to God’s image.
Romans 8:28: Everything God does with us is for His glory.
Maybe something else stuck out to you that did not to me. Hopefully even if you had different wording, at least some of our ideas are similar. As we study the larger context, we will understand the targeted context of the verse or verses we are studying. Keep pressing on as you continue to study God’s Word.
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.