Bible study extends far beyond surface reading of the Scriptures. You have to dig deeper or else vital truths and essential connections are missed, and strange beliefs take root.
The New Testament in particular is the constitution of Christ’s kingdom and we, the sons of God, are his ambassadors. We are privileged to know and obey his word; we are not, however, free to change its content, meaning or original intent.
Psalm 119:89 says, “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.” And in Revelation 22:18-19, there is a stern warning to neither add to nor remove from “the things which are written in this book.”
The serious Bible student must take great care to not superimpose one’s own belief system onto the scriptures (eisegesis); rather, one must draw truth from the scriptures (exegesis) and align one’s beliefs and deportment to the reveled word of God.
The following keys are offered to help better guide and undergird sound Bible interpretation and to promote informed obedience to God’s original intent of his word. This column is not exhaustive, but with genuine effort the student can dig into deeper, richer and more notable depths of biblical understanding.
Audience relevance is the targeted recipient(s) of the verbal or written message. Be careful to not claim a message for yourself when it belonged to Pharaoh, Jonah or Judas. This principle alone would clarify many theological errors.
Time statements such as “this generation” used in the Gospels by Christ literally refer to those people at that time, not now. Other examples include “at hand” and “end times.” Those refer to events occurring in that generation at the end of the Old Covenant age.
Covenantal expectations become the principles by which one’s life is governed. If a Bible student is unaware of Biblical covenantalism, then the student will not understand why people did what they did in the Bible. Worse yet, the student may fall prey to unbiblical Dispensationalism.
Watch word definitions. Clarify what a word truly means, not what one assumes it means, by using a Strong’s Concordance or other resources.
Word usage is especially key because language evolves. For instance, the KJV word “prevent” now means to stop someone or something, but in Old English it meant “to go before.” The word “confession” was used as a pledge of allegiance, but now it refers to admitting one’s wrongdoings.
Other helpful Bible study devices include knowing culture, context, idiomatic language such as Hebraisms, Hellenistic and Roman terms, etc. and Apocalyptic language of judgment and demise.
Understanding the differences between literary genres such as historical, poetic, prophetic, legal, epistolary help determine how to respond to Bible texts. Look for Old Testament quotes in the New Testament and Apostolic interpretations of Old Testament prophecies. Also, recapitulation is an often used literary tool offering a different angle of the same event.
Bible study, like mining for precious jewels, takes effort and the right tools. It extends beyond surface reading of the scriptures; dig a little deeper.
Michael Frausto is pastor of Greenfield Wesleyan Church. This column is written by local clergy members.