Today we began discussing what it means to engage in an authentic Bible study. We made a note at the outset of the lesson that being authentic is not a matter of taming one’s self into religious rituals, for indeed anyone of us can be authentic in that regard, but invariably it is just a fair show in the flesh. I may have a great desire to be authentic, but at my very best, my flesh can achieve nothing more than vanity.
True authenticity is a product or a fruit of the Authentic One, Jesus Christ. The only hope of being authentic is to let go of our best plans to become so, and simply let Him to harvest His fruit in us. Authenticity is then a masterful product of His handy work, and not a shoddy facsimile of our own.
When it comes to Bible study, it is no different, although, we often find ourselves trying to steer the ship of our understanding. We may not recognize it all the time, but we do allow our understanding to be influenced quite a bit. However, recognition of this is important because it gives one the awareness necessary to proceed with the scriptures with caution – not because the scriptures are dangerous, but because we are.
We started looking at the Motivations for study and the Framework of study.
We identified a few reasons why we want to study (there may be more, of course):
1. Desire to know Truth
We looked at Acts 17:10-11 where it is recorded that these folks received the word with all readiness of mind and then searched the scriptures daily to see if these things be so. They were willing to listen to what was being said – they were open minded. However, they didn’t just readily accept any old thing that they heard, for they searched the scriptures daily (which demonstrates a great diligence to finding truth). It was the searching of the scriptures that determined if what they heard was true.
We looked at 1Thess. 5:21, where Paul tells the Thessalonians to prove all things and to hold fast to that which is good. This tells me that truth is not just a surface level concept, nor is it something that should be treated with flippancy. In order to be able to prove all things (for what they really are), one must take the steps necessary to draw a proper conclusion. (We’ll talk more about this in the section on the Framework of our study).
2. Desire to Teach Others
We noted from Eccl. 12:9-11 how that true words/upright words act as a goad. A goad is a staff like object that is used to direct the course of oxen, but it also can be used as a defensive weapon if protection of the oxen is necessary. A wise man seeks truth and then uses that truth to help guide and protect others.
3. Desire to Exercise the Mind
According to Paul in Colossians 4 and Peter in 1Peter 2, we have the opportunity to always be ready to give an answer regarding the hope that lieth in us. Paul tells Timothy to likewise be “instant in season and out of season.” It is very difficult to be READY to give an answer and likewise difficult to be instant in season and out of season if our study physique is woefully out of shape. But, as the writer of Hebrews states (5:13), we need to have our senses exercised to discern good and evil and a book of truth, the Bible, is just the means to provide this exercise.
4. Desire to be Pointed to Christ
All of these are good reasons to want to study the scriptures, but ultimately, we study because it points us to Christ. John 5:38-39 records Christ claiming for folks to search the scriptures because they are they which testify of HIM. Hebrews states, while quoting Psalms, that in the volume of the book, it is written of Christ. In Luke 24, we find Christ opening the scriptures from Moses to the Prophets, expounding upon all of the things that concern Him. Understanding the scriptures is very important and should be approached with great care, but the real outcome of our study should be that it causes us to be in reflection of Him.
But, there is a caution – 1Corinthians 13:1-2 – if we have all knowledge and understand all mysteries but have not charity, WE ARE NOTHING. All of the knowledge in the world is for naught if we are not using that knowledge in a charitable way. If we are gaining knowledge only to use that as a means of superiority, then we’ve missed the entire point and regardless of any perceived clout we amass to ourselves, Paul says we are NOTHING. Just as the rich miser is of little value to a poor society, so too is the believer who is a rich miser in knowledge.
From here, we started looking at the Framework of study. We will pick this up next week. Here are the items we want to explore:
1. What is the Bible? (from a statistical standpoint)
2. Why Context is Important
4. Approach (what our mindset should be)
5. Beware of theologies/Interpretations
6. Purpose of Commentaries/Pastors/Teachers/Professors
7. Dangers of Mining for Application
Interestingly enough, the Bible was written by ~40 human authors, over a time period of 1,500 years, spanning three different continents and yet it tells the perfect and complete revelation of Jesus Christ. We noted that when thinking about probabilities, to roll dice and get snake eyes is a 1 and 36 chance. Then we looked at the probability of just 48 prophecies of Jesus Christ coming true in one man, and it was 1 and 10^157 chance. Just for reference, most statistical work would stop after the 50th zero because it has essentially breached the grounds of impossible.
But, thanks be to God that when with man it is impossible, for Him, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. As I said in class, if you don’t know this Author, He sounds like someone you ought to know!
There are skeptics and atheists, etc. who have determined that the mathematical probabilities of random chance, coupled with time, is the best explanation for what is in existence. However, these probabilities are again bordering on insanely impossible, yet the skeptic would find great comfort in our existence being an autonomous random chance process. But, for me, even though the probabilities are no different, it is more reasonable to conclude that someone who is greater than these probabilities would certainly have the means to disregard the probabilities and work all things according to the good pleasure of His will.
Next Sunday, we’ll continue to explore the various means of Framework that should help guide us into an authentic Bible study and keep us reasonably safe from scriptural self-destruction. 🙂
Grace and Peace.