Pastor Ron Swanson
June 25, 2018
I want to ask you a question: How’s your relationship with your Bible? Through three decades of ministry, I’ve noticed that people’s relationship with their Bible tends to fall into one of seven categories.
1. Non-existent. They never open their Bible, and they don’t feel badly about it.
2. Sporadic. They start out with the best of intentions. They read consistently for awhile. But as time goes on, their commitment starts to fade. And they feel guilty about it.
3. Regular, but Unfulfilling. They read their Bible consistently out of duty, but they get very little out of it.
4. Antagonistic. They read it occasionally but see it as outdated. Much of what they read conflicts with their worldview, so they find themselves at odds with Scripture.
5. They view it as their “Life Boat”. They read it when they get into trouble.
6. They see it as their “Genie or Quiji Board”. They read it when they need something or when they’re seeking direction.
7. Life Transforming. It’s real and vital to them, and applicable to their everyday lives.
Most Christians would love to be in that last category, but sadly they don’t know how. I want to share a few tips on how to get the most out of your Bible.
A. Understand how the Bible is Written
“For precept (concept) must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.” (Isa. 28:10)
I’ve often said that if I had designed the Bible, I would have written it in topics. I’d have the “Book of Marriage” and the “Book of Church”, and so on. But, God didn’t write it that way. Instead, He took each subject and spread it over sixty-six books. He placed a statement here and a statement there. It’s our job to find all the pieces and put them together. The more pieces we find, the more complete our picture will be. And, when we have the right interpretation, all the pieces fit.
B. The Bible was meant to be studied.
Paul said, “STUDY to show yourself approved, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, RIGHTLY DIVIDING the Word of Truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15) If the Word can be “rightly” divided, it must also be possible to “wrongly” divide it. Understanding the Bible requires more than a casual reading. Like mining for gold, it takes more effort than just skimming along the surface. If you want the good “nuggets”, you need to dig.
Pastor Ron Swanson
July 2, 2018
We’ve been discussing how we can better understand our Bibles. As we seek to correctly interpret God’s Word, there are three very important “rules of interpretation” that we should keep in mind: Keep it in context, read the words, and let the Bible interpret itself.
1. First, keep it in context. The English word “context” comes from a Greek word which means “woven together”. In other words, every verse of Scripture is “woven together” with the thoughts of the verses that surround it. It's important that you understand that. You see, if you pull verses out of context, you can literally make the Bible say anything. For instance, there’s a verse in Zechariah that says, “Ho, Ho, come forth from the land of the north”. If you take that verse out of context, you could use it to prove the existence of Santa Claus. I mean, who else would say “Ho Ho” and come from the land of the North? (Obviously, that’s not what it means!) You have to keep verses in their context, in order to properly understand them.
2. Secondly, you need to read the words. I mean, carefully read every single word. If you skim over a passage too quickly, you can miss one little word - a word which would have “opened up” the passage, had you seen it. Small words like “if”, “when” and “all” can make a huge difference.
3. Finally, you need to let the Bible interpret itself. The way you do that is to compare Scripture with Scripture. When you compare verses of Scripture with other Scriptures on the same subject, the truth begins to be revealed. Like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, the picture becomes clear as you put the pieces together.
HOW DO YOU STUDY THE BIBLE?
I’ve already mentioned the necessity of studying (not just reading) the Bible. But, how is that done? Here are three principles that you might find helpful.
In this step, you’re asking yourself, “What do I see?” Read through the passage with a notebook and jot down any facts you find. At this point, you’re not concerning yourself with the meaning. You’re simply trying to notice what’s there. Who is speaking? Who are they speaking to? Are their any details that might help you understand the story? Write down everything you see.
We’ll look at the final two principles next week.
Pastor Ron Swanson
July 9, 2018
Last week, we started to look at three phases of Bible study. First, we approached the passage to “observe”. In this step we asked ourselves “What do I see?”, and we recorded our observations.
In this phase, you’re asking, “What does it mean?” For example, James 1:21 says, “Wherefore, lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness, the engrafted Word, which is able to save your souls.” There are so many questions to be answered in a verse like this. “What does ‘superfluity of naughtiness’ mean?” What’s “meekness”? What’s the “engrafted Word”, and how does it differ from the written or the spoken Word? And, notice that he says that the engrafted Word is able to save his readers’ souls. But, he’s writing to Christians. Aren’t their souls already saved? Do your best to find answers to your questions. (Commentaries may be helpful. Or ask your pastor.)
The final step asks, “How does this passage apply to me?” Every passage has a principle that directly applies to our lives. What do you believe the Lord is saying to you through the passage? (A lot of people try to put this step first. But, until you know what it means, you can't know how it applies to your life.)
A FINAL CONSIDERATION
Another thing we need to consider is the passage of time. The Bible was written by forty authors, over a period of 1600 years, on three continents, and in three languages. A lot has changed since the Bible was originally written. So, how can we make sure we’re applying it correctly?
First, understand the text in “their town”. Ask yourself: What would the passage have meant to its original audience? Then, measure the “bridge” that you have to cross in order to bring the principle over to “our town”. Have customs changed since it was originally written?
Consider, for example, the idea of women wearing hats in church. In Corinth, in the first Century, a woman’s hat meant much the same thing as a wedding ring does in our society. A woman appearing without a hat in Corinth would have been sending the message that she’s rebellious to her husband and open to other men’s advances.
Of course, hats mean nothing of the sort in our culture. So, Paul’s command for women to wear hats in church has to be applied to “our town” with that in mind. It’s not actually “hats” that Paul was espousing. It was marital fidelity. So, in applying that verse, we may not carry out the cultural specifics, but we do transfer the intended principle.