Our elders are encouraging us to read the Bible this year and have suggested four reading plans. (See above for links to the plan options.) Reading the Bible is the best way to understand God’s will so you can become more like Christ.
Often, when people study the Bible, they do it to find out what it says about a certain topic. They then search the Bible for verses that seem to address the question they have and try to harmonize those verses into an answer.
That approach to Scripture does have its place in Bible study. But the problem with it is that we’re beginning with the assumption that the Bible actually addresses the question we’re asking. But often, the answer to the question, “What does the Bible say about _____” is “Nothing. The Bible doesn’t address that question.”
A much better type of Bible study is where you don’t begin with your own question. Instead, you begin with the text and let it tell you what your questions should be. This type of Bible study has three steps:
- Observation (What does it say?)
- Interpretation (What does it mean?)
- Application (What should I do based on what I’ve read?)
The best types of questions come directly from the text:
- Who is saying this?
- To whom is it being said?
- What does the writer mean by this?
- Why did he say that?
- Why does he keep using this word or phrase?
When we begin with the text, instead of our own questions, we reduce the chances of reading our own thoughts into Scripture and we let it inform us about what questions are relevant. Over time, we may find that many of our original questions were simply not relevant.
May God bless us all as he speaks to us through his Word this year.