I have just spent three Thursdays working with Isaac Dagneau and indoubt ministries. If you don’t know, indoubt is a part of Back to the Bible, directed at young adults. The three Thursdays in question had a room filled with young adults, as well as a live simulcast. On each night, I took one text from the book of Romans and tried to help discover key issues to be observed in each text. The idea was to help young adults read their Bible with greater understanding.
As I now reflect on those three nights, several factors come to mind. The first was how bright and articulate I found that group of young adults. They had all been reading their Bible and were able to interact with it both intelligently and through the eyes of faith. That interaction reminded me again of the great hope of a new generation who passionately follow Jesus.
A second reflection brought some basic principles of Bible study. Let me suggest six key factors in learning to study your Bible well.
1. Commit to a lifetime discipline of actually reading the Bible. No method can substitute for the person who actually reads Scripture. I often recommend that one read through Scripture in chronological order every year. There are a number of guides that will assist in this endeavour. Back to the Bible Canada produces a calendar every year for this.
2. Read the Bible to discover it’s plain meaning. One of the great mistakes is that we spiritualize the text, or believe that the Bible has a meaning which ordinary Bible readers won’t be able to understand. While it is true that some Bible texts are poetic and others are highly symbolic, the vast majority of Bible texts can be understood by anyone with appropriate reading skills.
3. Ask the Holy Spirit to take your sinful ego out of your Bible reading. Let’s be honest. A great many Bible passages deeply impact our sinful pride. The Bible consistently speaks about our inability to please God. It confronts us in our sins and commands us to repent. It tells us that God’s ways are just and ours are not. Finally, it repeatedly reminds us that, without redemption, we are eternally lost. These thoughts are an affront to human pride; we will always find the Bible to be unwelcome unless the Holy Spirit changes our heart so that Its message is welcome in our lives.
4. Learn to read a Bible passage within Its context. One of the tools that helps in that process is learning to outline a Bible book, and then understanding the progression of ideas, as well as the theme of the entire book. Once we get a sense of what the message of the whole book is, we are far more likely to understand a given Bible verse.
5. Pay attention to the grammar of the text. As an easy example, know the difference between an imperative and an indicative. An imperative is a command; an indicative merely makes factual statements. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses will often say that the apostles went door to door, and they are following the Bible’s command. But this confuses an indicative for an imperative. Nowhere does the Bible command us to go door to door.
6. Study the Bible both alone and in Bible study groups. Also, please know the difference between a group that merely expresses personal opinions and actually studies the Bible.