Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Growing in GOD'S WORD (Part 7)

Make Your Bible Study Count 
Let’s look briefly at the third way of feeding on the Word of God described above. Bible Study usually involves three basic steps: Observation, Interpretation and Application. 

1. Observation 
What Is In the Passage? At this first stage, you are not trying to understand what the passage means, but merely what it says. You need to ask yourself lots of questions as you carefully read through it. In observing the facts in a passage of Scripture, it will help if you realize that most of the books of the Bible fall into one of two major categories: narrative books and discourse books. 

Narrative Books are those which describe historical events. God communicated His messages through these events. Some good examples of such books are Genesis and Ruth in the Old Testament, and the four Gospels in the New Testament. In looking at the facts in narrative books, you might ask the following questions: 

Who are the main characters? What is their background? How do they relate to one another? What is their part in the story? What are their attitudes and reactions? What decisions do they make? 

What is the central action? Is it a story displaying love, conflict, or simply life in general? Is there a crisis or turning point involved? What results follow this central action? How do these results affect the people and story? 

Where does the action take place? Why are the people in the story there? How did they get there? What relation does the place have to the people and the action? 

When and Why does the action take place? Note the chronological time if it is specifically mentioned. Is time important to the story? What takes place immediately before or after the action you are considering? Is there either a stated or implied reason? 

Would you like to try a bit of this type of study right now? Turn to Matthew 9:1-8 as a sample passage. Read it carefully several times and write down your answers to the questions asked above. 

Discourse Books basically present doctrine rather than action. Instead of describing people’s actions and conversations, they present and explain subjects. Old Testament examples of discourse books include major parts of the prophets, such as Isaiah and Jeremiah. New Testament examples include the letters of Paul. Many books of the Bible include both narrative and discourse sections. In getting the facts in a discourse book you might ask the following questions: 

Who is the writer whom God used to write this book? To whom is he writing? What is his relationship to them? What is the writer’s situation? For instance, knowing that Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was written while he was in prison may shed some light on our understanding of the power of Christ in the life of the writer. 

Why did the writer write this book? Is he addressing some special doctrinal or moral problems faced by those to whom he is writing? For example, Paul wrote the book of First Corinthians to correct a number of problems that had developed in that church. 

How are the ideas in the particular passage related? How do they support one another? How do they move to a conclusion? For example, in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul develops the subject of resurrection—beginning with the facts of the resurrection, moving on to some evidences for it, pinpointing the issues involved and concluding with the results of resurrection for believers. 

What specific commands and admonitions are given? What warnings are given? What correction is offered? What action does the writer urge his readers to take? 

To do a sample of this type of study, read through the short book called Philemon, and write down your answers to each of the above questions. 

2. Interpretation 
What Does the Passage Mean? The most important thing to understand about any passage is the message which the Spirit of God is conveying in it. What is His meaning and intention? In dependence upon His guidance, take the following steps: 

Analyze the key words and phrases. Look up the words you don’t understand in the dictionary. If you have a concordance, find the same word in other passages of the Bible and consider how it is used in those places. For example, the word “walk” is a key word in the book of Ephesians (2:2,20; 4:1,17; and 5:2).5 

Evaluate what is being said. What is the main point of the passage under consideration, and what are some of the lesser points? If you were to give a title to this passage, what would it be? For example, a title for the book of First Timothy might be, “How To Behave in the House of God.” (See 1 Timothy 3:15 as a key verse to that book.) 

Relate what the passage says to the message of the entire section or book in which it is found. For example, note how Peter’s references to the sufferings of Christ in 1 Peter 2:21 give encouragement and example to the suffering saints to whom Peter is writing. 

3. Application 
How Can I Apply the Bible To My Daily Life? A willingness to obey the Word of God is vital. You must be willing to accept the truth of God as revealed to you by the Holy Spirit, and put it into practice in your life. Listen carefully to what the book of James says: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22-25). 

How do you apply the Bible to your life? By meditating on the passage you are studying until God impresses on your heart something that He wants you to put into practice. This may not happen every time you study the Word, but always be on the lookout for practical applications. Realize that applying the Bible to your life may cause you to do various things which will produce spiritual growth: 

You may be led to worship, because you have learned something of God’s greatness, His character or His attributes. 1 Chronicles 29:11-16 is an example of a passage that leads one to worship. 

You may be led to give thanks, because you have been reminded of some of the wonderful things God has done for you. Some of the prayers recorded in the Bible such as Colossians 1:9-13 end up in thanksgiving. 

You may be led to repent, because the passage you have been studying has uncovered some of your actions or attitudes that are not pleasing to the Lord. For example, if you are a person who is quick to get angry and to express that anger, James 1:19-20 will teach you a better way. 

You may be led to make restitution, because the Bible has shown you that you have wronged another person and need to make it right. A passage on maintaining good relationships with other Christians, such as Romans 14, might speak to you about this. 

In applying a passage of Scripture to your life, you might ask yourself the following questions: 

What have I learned about God, Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit in this passage? How should I respond to what I have learned? 

Whose example should I follow or avoid? 

What attitudes should I adopt or reject? Do I need to confess something to the Lord as I see my own failure mirrored in the life of one of the characters? 

What does this passage teach me about my responsibility to God or to other people? 

What encouragement for my Christian life does this passage offer me? 

What a wonder that God has revealed His thoughts to us in His precious Word the Bible! As you study the Word of God, He will transform your life for His own glory by the power of the Holy Spirit. He will bring you more and more into conformity with His beloved Son. Consider this as you ponder these words: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

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