Every time I see or hear the phrase “Bible study” I get leery. A few reasons with one being it’s a money-making scheme by way too many people claiming to have special insight into scripture, but really it’s about getting their brand out there. The second is they are telling you what you are supposed to get out of each chapter and verse. What if that is not what the Holy Spirit wants you to get? The third is, what if they are wrong? What if they are so wrapped up in religion or prosperity that they are way off the mark? The fourth is all a bible study (some call it a devotional) does is put everyone using it on the same page. Small groups love using a book or study as a way to keep the group on the same page. This is nothing more than conformity and we are seeing the cultural ramifications of conformity being forced. It’s also easier than truly discipling.
Rest assured, this is not to get you to buy, let alone suggest you buy someone else’s devotional or Bible study. Doing your own studying with prayer is much better. There is nothing wrong with adding trusted commentary or such to your own study as an aid, but not to usurp prayer. What this is about is an easy and simple way to study on your own which is hermeneutics, the art and science of studying the Bible. Every time I hear that word I think of a class I took where we had to read and study a book titled ” Living by the book: The art and science of reading the Bible ” by Howard G Hendricks. It’s a good book if you want more or a more in-depth & complex options to study scripture. To be honest he had techniques that I still don’t understand.
A tip about studying the Bible, it should not replace your routine or semi-routine devotional time. It should be “in addition to” like the offering is “in addition to” the tithe. If you get to caught up in the study and neglect the devotion you can find yourself not seeing what the Lord wants to tell you personally. This is a trap that many pastors find themselves in and burn out spiritually as a result.
Now I want to direct you to an article that my cousin posted to Facebook by accident from the website The Sower. The article is titled ” The calling of the disciples ” by John W. Schoenheit. In it he explains why the disciples of Jesus were so willing to abandon what they were doing and follow Him when he called them. It also shows a flaw in how we read scripture.
We read the Bible in chapter and verse format. A format that it was not penned in. Originally the Bible was penned in a letter format with thoughts easily traced from one paragraph to another. The chapter and verse concept did not come around until the 1560 Geneva Bible. The Puritans did this to aid in reference and memorization. They did not intend for us to use the verse concept to break up thought and build false doctrine.
We go on to read it one book at a time with each book being its own account. We don’t read it as each book being a chapter in a larger story with the same theme throughout the whole book. So when we read the gospel account of Mathew, then we read Luke’s account we are reading it as two separate and fragmented stories. Instead we should be reading them as the same story from different perspectives so we can piece the pieces together.
The article I mentioned explains to us why the disciples were so willing to walk away from their jobs and businesses to follow Jesus. To get that understanding you have to pull key information about each person from the four gospels. So to know why Andrew was so willing you would find all the verses pertaining to Andrew and read them together and you will find that he was a disciple of John the Baptist and would have known who Jesus was. Do the same with John, Simon, Mathew and the rest. You will get a picture that makes sense.
This applies to any other topic you want to study from healing to prayer to faith, fasting, tithing, etc. List all the verses pertaining to the topic and read them as one thought. When doing this you can not only use the verse that has the word you are studying in it. The entire thought will be laid out in the surrounding verses.
Take the oft quoted James 4:7 “resist the devil and he will flee from you”. Every time that is quoted you are only getting the “B” clause. The “A” clause of the verse is “So humble yourselves before God”. The true meaning of James 4:7 becomes “So humble yourselves before God, resist the devil and he will flee from you”. Not surprisingly you don’t hear much about the “A” clause of that verse because it puts the burden of action on you. Now to get the true context you have to go back to verse 6 to see why you should humble yourself before God. There you will find “And He gives generously as the scripture says; God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble”. To close the context you need to go on to verse 8 which says “Come close to God and God will come close to you.” Now you have the entire thought which tells us that we must humble ourselves to God which will draw us near to Him and Him near to us as a response. This action will cause the devil to flee because he can not be in the same proximity as the holy God. Truth be told, to get the entire context you need to go back to chapter 3 to get the “rest of the story”, but for this exercise this will do.
Without the proper context we have people and pastors running around saying “resist the devil and he will flee from you” without telling you the rest. They, and you, in-turn wonder why the devil is still pummeling you. You think, “I’m resisting but he won’t leave me alone!” He won’t leave you alone until you draw near to God. Context is key!
The next time you are in church, or watching your favorite on T.V., use this technique to further your knowledge of what they were talking about and to see if they are using scripture correctly. If they are not you need to quickly get away from them.