We concluded our short series on having an authentic Bible study. This was meant to give a thorough overview, yet not too involved as we would have needed more than 4 weeks to do so. The purpose therefore was give enough information to help shape a safe approach to your study. I say “safe” because as we’ve discussed, it is very easy to engage in a Bible study, but have it fall off of the rails very quickly by not paying attention to context or being to quick to find the meaning or application you want to find. We are all in the same flesh and I’m not convinced we could ever rid ourselves of these habits, but I believe that we are in a much better position to see the scripture’s meaning if we are not trying to give the scriptures meaning.  Know what I mean? 🙂

We concluded our series with the final aspects of our frame-work. I’ll post them below with a quick summary of each:

1. Audience/History/Cultural Contexts

All of these play into the Context discussion as they can have an impact on what it is written. We may not fully grasp what is being written without understanding the environmental or societal influence that is being used. Here is another example, (one we didn’t use in class). Pay attention to verse 12:

Titus 1:10  For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision:
Titus 1:11  Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.
Titus 1:12  One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.
Titus 1:13  This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith

Verse 12 is actually a quote from heathen poetry, from the pen of Epimenides. Paul is using what is apparently a commonly known poem to demonstrate just how correct their appraisal of the Cretians were.

2. Approach

We discussed how our approach to the scriptures should be bathed in humility. Understanding the scriptures is not a trophy, but a tool, whereby we edify ourselves and others. Ultimately, if we approach the scriptures with a willingness to be wrong, then we will remain teachable.

Also, we should not be quick to come to a hasty conclusion. If we are shouting, “eureka!” after 5 minutes, we probably need to come back to earth and rethink our conclusions. Proverbs 18 records that if someone speaks before they hear a matter, it is folly unto them. How many times do folks either speak or become dogmatic about something without giving it a proper review and consideration?–Quite often, unfortunately. And from this, folks oscillate from dogmatic “sound” position to dogmatic “sound” position, each time believing they have arrived.

Ephesians 4:13  Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
Ephesians 4:14  That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

3. Theologies/Interpretations/Commentaries

A theology is a study of God (‘theos’ = “God” and ‘-ology’ = “study of”). However, an honest study of God is sometimes hard to find because much of our study of God is usually guided by our own biases. If you were to research the various theologies that exist with in the professing Christian world, you would find good, sincere people who claim to have “sound doctrine”, yet their theologies are diametrically opposed (Calvinism and Arminianism for example). At the end of the day, most theologies are not really a study of God at all, but rather a man-made system of thought guard-rails designed to EXPLAIN God through said theology’s lens. It is very rare that folks lay aside their biases and honestly study God rather than creating a structure to explain Him. The moral of the story is to not let a theology or a theologian determine the course of your study.

4. Pastors/Teachers/Professors

The Pastors and Teachers in our lives are given by God as one of many facets that promote the grand purpose of God and that is that believers all come to the unity of the faith and grow in Christ.

Ephesians 4:11  And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
Ephesians 4:12  For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Ephesians 4:13  Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

However, we made sure to note that the Pastor/Teacher does not usurp Christ. Again, they are simply a necessary part of the body with the same purpose – elevate Christ. Christ is to have the preeminence in all things (Colossians 1:18). Being a Pastor/Teacher is very important because of the part of the body (of Christ) it satisfies, but it is also a function that can be utilized in a faulty manner. There is nothing keeping a Pastor/Teacher from “going rogue”, as it were, and unfortunately we see the evidence of that in society (perhaps you have even been subject to this personally, at one time or another). Keeping a sober approach to this is healthy. Even the ‘best’ Pastors/Teachers will fail in their function if they elevate self rather than Christ. Their guidance in the study of the scriptures is a very good thing, but they, like the scriptures, will serve their purpose by pointing you to Christ.

5. Mining for Application

This is a tricky one. Many view the Bible as a book of “Christian Sayings” by which we are to attempt to find a modern-day application. Some may say that the goal of the believer is to ask the Spirit of God to give them the application necessary. We ran out of time in class to really get into this, but it seems that the scriptures do define application of and within the Christian life and it may be different than what is commonly taught. Let’s look at a couple of things:

First, the Bible is a book of history and expresses divine intention. This divine intention is Jesus Christ Himself. We read John’s record of Christ’s words in John 5:38-39, where Christ told folks to search the scriptures because the scriptures are what speak of HIM. This is the primary “application” of scripture – to adjust every reader’s focus to Christ.

Second, Paul writes to Timothy that all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for DOCTRINE, REPROOF, CORRECTION, and INSTRUCTION IN RIGHTEOUSNESS. (2Timothy 3:16). Doctrine means “learning” and is useful to develop knowledge; Reproof means “a testing” or “a validation” with the intention of revealing what it really is (i.e. good or bad); Correction means “restore to an upright state”; and Instruction defines the complete beginning to end guide (often, to the establishment of a child). All four of these purposes again circle back to Christ.

Third, if scripture is to point us to Christ, then any application would be in the hand of His leadership. Application is then not organic to the scriptures, but is the product of Christ’s work. The question is – are we yielding and submitting to His leadership? Christ is at work regardless, but our ability to enjoy His work rests upon our choice to yield to Him or not. In 2Corinthians, Paul writes that the purpose of ‘tables of stone’ and ‘ink’ is not what makes someone a living epistle of Christ – it is the work of Christ on/through the person. Application is not the written record (tables of stone and ink), but the Living Oracle, Jesus Christ, expressing Himself upon the hearts of believers.

2Corinthians 3:3  Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.

In summary then, as we yield to Christ and His Spirit, we will naturally allow His life to live through us, which naturally applies itself, in all manners, in a Godly fashion.