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How To Study the Bible.doc

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How to do Bible study personally
The Holy Spirit, our instructor
* The Holy Spirit is our teacher (1Jn 2:27) who reveals the riches of what God has done for us in Christ (Jn 16:14, 17:26; Eph 1:17-18) and, secondarily, of our subsequent duties. He is the revealer of the power of the cross and of Christ's resurrection (1Co 2:12).
o Depend on prayer. We cannot in our natural selves see great things in his word (Psa 119:18; Eph 1:17-18) and listen in such a way as to eat and find spiritual satisfaction and pleasure in his word (Isa 55:2). Therefore, prayer is needed. Pray for capacity to learn (Pro 2:3). Only he is the giver of understanding (Pro 2:6; Mat 11:25-27; 16:17; Luk 24:45; Jas 1:5).
o Because he is the teacher, he is the one in control of what we learn. There is a mysterious element to how we learn and grow (Jn 3:8; 1Cor 12:11).
o Faith that honors him, that believes that he can show us great things in his word, is a prerequisite here. * Bible study is not just a spiritual exercise in which we passively receive understanding from Scripture by the Holy Spirit. Rather, diligent effort is required to understand the Scriptures (Pro 2:1-5). The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, is pleased to guide and instruct and inspire those who earnestly seek understanding and who honor and treasure his Truth and obey it (Pro 8:17; Jn 14:21). o God wants exclusive possession of our heart and wants us to make us lovers of him who worship him, not having any hint of being self-absorbed like the Pharisees, thinking self-righteously and adoring ourselves because of our strenuous efforts to know him. He wants to teach us humility and know the truth concerning the magnitude of his glorious grace and mercy upon us by which he holds our attention on his Son. He wants us to know that all things are from him, including our motivation to work hard to learn from him (1Chr 29:14; Deu 8:17-18; Jdg 7:2). Pride concerning our efforts to know him is really offensive to him (Pro 8:13) and a great hindrance for us to be taught. The sustained hard work to adore him and study and hold Scripture is inspired by him and is by grace -- from beginning to end, real learning from Scripture is by grace (1Co 15:10; 2:12; Php 2:13; 1Th 5:23-24) and, hence, is to his glory alone.
Feed on the word
"Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me." (Psa 42:7)
* We are called to live/meditate/depend on EVERY word (Deu 8:3; Mat 4:4) -- to live on that which he supplies from his word.
o "He humbled you" (Deu 8:3a)
God is the one who, for his glory, helps us to get in touch with the reality of our lack of strength, wisdom, and ability (Mat 5:3; Mk 10:15; Ro 8:26; 1Jn 4:16; Php 3:3; Jer 17:5). He is the one who makes us cry out to him and depend on him. He humbles us to know our weakness, sinfulness, wickedness, need of forgiveness and need of purification, and our need of strength to overcome the spiritual counter forces within us and at work all around us.
o "causing you to hunger" (Deu 8:3a)
He is the one who gives us desire for what he presents in his word: Christ and fullness of life in fellowship with him under his dominion. He is the one who opens our eyes to see the beautiful truths in his word so that we want to have them as ours (Psa 119:18). He is the one who helps us to recognize our need for the things spoken of in his word: To receive comfort, to heed warnings, to hold our faith, to be ruled by him, etc.
o "feeding you with manna [mysterious food from above: Christ (Jn 6:55, 33)]"
He is the one who makes the things of which he speaks in Scripture realities and rich food for our soul -- who makes them substantial and real and beautiful and delicious to us and desirable to grab and hold forever. He is the one who makes the process of eating his words -- of making his words to be a part of us and make us holy and conform us to his Son -- to be a soul-satisfying and delightful process and thereby satisfies our soul with the richest food (Psa 65:4; Isa 55:2, Jn 6:55). * We cannot make God's truth rule and dominate our thinking (Jn 3:27; Jas 1:17; 1Chr 29:14; Psa 65:4; 1Co 4:7). We cannot make it reign over and above the visible realities of our sins, weaknesses, the day to day troubles and conflicts and struggles with people and circumstances. We cannot make his thoughts to be more substantial to us than that of the visible people around us. We cannot induce ourselves to a high view and awe of what God says. Rather this is something he must do (Jn 6:29, 3:6, 15:5b). He must feed our soul with the realities of Christ and his salvation. This cannot be sufficiently emphasized. It is our job to believe and accept what he says in his word, but it is his power that makes it a living reality. Our job is to trust him, the Almighty, and believe that he has power to furnish wonderful spiritual food from his word for those he loves and gave up his Son to purchase.
* Listen, listen, give ear, hear me (Isa 55:2-3) "and your soul will delight"
o Our job is to get serious and realize our soul's dependence on his nourishing, spiritual food -- that without it, we will starve spiritually and become weak against temptations (Jn 15:6). Our job is to fear him and heed his warnings in Scripture that our love for him can grow cold and that, in a weakened spiritual state, we can be swept away by the power of sin and by the deceptively attractive things of this world (Heb 3:12-13). Our job is to deny ourselves daily and fight to take hold of the life-sustaining words (Luk 9:23; 1Ti 6:12) -- the power by which we may have the kingdom of heaven in our heart to love him and others.
* Our job is to be devoted to imbibing Scripture (Jn 15:4, 7). Dedication to this is called for. o Our responsibility is to listen carefully and pay close attention to what he says (Luk 8:18).
o Our duty is to get away from distraction and concentrate and seriously think about what he says. * Our job is to be alone with God in front of his word -- to come to him and sit and listen and be tutored (Luk 10:39; Isa 55:3a).
o Our job is to come with the intention to store up and not forget what he teaches but retain it and obey it and persevere in carrying out whatever he reveals (Jas 1:25; Pro 2:1; Jn 14:21, 8:31-32; 1Sa 3:19).
* God's word has sanctifying, transformative power to make our thoughts conform to his thoughts (Isa 55:8-9, 53:11; Ro 12:2; Jn 17:17; Psa 19:7). It is something we cannot induce but something we must believe he desires for us and has power to do. Therefore, our job is to follow his line of thinking.
o Pay attention to the flow of thought running from verse to verse, following the pronouns and context, asking ourselves what is the author's point, his viewpoint, and his reason from transitioning from one idea to another.
* Correctly handling the word of Truth (2Ti 2:15) starts in private in the manner in which we honor his word above our own ideas and receive his counsel and understanding by grace to his glory. The allusion in 2Ti 2:15 is to that of a farmer, directing his plow to make a straight furrow through the soil. We must follow the line of thought of the author and his intent, rather than a crooked path of interpretation because of our allegiance to our own ideas or those of others.
o We should not strain out gnats but miss the big point of Bible study (Mat 23:24). The big point is Christ -- the justice, mercy and faithfulness and full life that is found in him (Mat 23:23; Jn 5:39; 10:10b; Luke 24:27; Luke 24:44). The Bible is Christ-centric. He is the life source. Scripture needs to be studied with that focus. It is not man-centric. As the church, the bride of Christ, those who are in love with him, who glory in him, we would have it no other way. The focus of Bible study is on Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! His holiness, glory, his power, his freedom, his sovereignty, his salvation, his grace, his love for us sinners. * Indicatives and imperatives.
There are imperatives in the bible, the dos and don'ts (e.g. Ro 12:1; Ro 6:11; 1Co 15:58). But these are rooted in the indicatives which speak of the great salvation he has accomplished and of who we are as a consequence. We need to feed on these indicatives. o "The great gospel imperatives to holiness are ever rooted in indicatives of grace that are able to sustain the weight of those imperatives. The Apostles do not make the mistake that's often made in Christian ministry. [For the Apostles] the indicatives are more powerful than the imperatives in gospel preaching. So often in our preaching our indicatives are not strong enough, great enough, holy enough, or gracious enough to sustain the power of the imperatives. And so our teaching on holiness becomes a whip or a rod to beat our people's backs because we've looked at the New Testament and that's all we ourselves have seen." -- Sinclair Ferguson, 2007.
o By such focus on the grace of our Lord (the indicatives) we can receive grace and be set free from the Martha-burnout mentality, being driven by dos and don'ts and then driving others with a demanding heart (Luk 10:41-42; Mat 20:12).
Memorization of Scripture
* Memorization was part of the Jewish culture of the first century. The Jews memorized large portions of the Torah; many memorized it completely even before their Bar Mitzvah at age 13. Additionally, students (talmudim) memorized the teachings of their rabbis with the aim to be like them. That this was also the culture established by Christ himself among his apostles is abundantly demonstrated by the frequent use in the NT of the noun paradosis (tradition) used as a verb paradidomi (traditionING or transmit). This word paradidomi is a technical term for the programmatic transmission of sacred teachings from rabbi to student (e.g. Mk 7:13) so that the student becomes exactly like his rabbi (Mat 10:25; 1Co 11:1). An example of this is found in Luk 1:1-2 which reads, "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down [paradidomi (traditioned)] to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word." Another example is 1Co 11:2 which reads, "I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings [paradosis (tradition)], just as I passed [paradidomi (traditioned)] them on to you." There are many more examples (1Co 11:23; 15:3; Rom 6:17; Jde 1:3; 2Pe 2:21) i.
* Memorization provides wonderful benefits: o Memorization is a wonderful tool for meditating on the word -- for letting our thoughts be shaped by his inscripturated thoughts (Isa 55:9-11) and being led and moved and sanctified and inspired to think his way (Ro 12:2, 8:14; Eze 36:27).
o Memorization of books is ideal rather than single verses in isolation from their context. * Following carefully the author's line of thinking from one topic to the next ensures that we get properly fed with all the nutrients of the Truth -- that we are reminded and rooted in all of that which we need to believe and obey for our perseverance and advancement in Christ -- rather than focusing on one point and ignoring other truths (2Pe 1:12-13; 2Ti 3:15).
* There is often a progression and development of ideas in the books of Scripture. So, memorization is an excellent way to retain prior teachings and thereby have the means by which to gain proper understanding of new teachings based on prior ones.
* Memorization of a book is the best way to become intimately familiar with a book's content and firmly grasp the big picture of its truths and intent.
* We can correctly handle the words of truth (interpret it straightly and use it straightly) when we deal with it within the larger context of the book.
* With such familiarity of an entire book comes the ability to easily detect any misinterpretation of the book and its content. The best way to detect counterfeit money is to familiarize oneself with the genuine currency (the real stuff), the way it feels to the touch and how it smells and the details of its appearance. * The discipline of meditatively reciting Scripture regularly and daily is one means by which we can be spiritually rooted and nourished and grow in the Truth.
o Regular meditative recitation is the effort to pay close attention and contemplate every detail of the Scripture we memorized, to soak in all its meanings, and be intimately acquainted and shaped by it -- to pattern our thinking and form our thoughts and have them be formed according to what Scripture says and especially to behold the beauty of the Lord through it (Psa 27:4; 2Co 3:18).
o Recitation ought to come forth from the desire to behold the precious words and truths we have learned -- to cherish them and hold them tightly and persevere in them and never lose them -- to not let his words fall to the ground (1Sa 3:19; 2:30). We know that his words are life itself (Jn 6:63) -- the means by which we can persevere in holding the Lord and in taking hold of the full life to which we were called and be anchored in Jesus and not be tossed by the waves and blown here and there (Eph 4:14; Deu 15:16-17; Pro 2:10-11).
* We do not live in a vacuum and there are many false teachers and deceptions that we are daily exposed to. Meditatively reciting Scripture regularly is an excellent means by which the Lord can give us a growing light of understanding by which to discern error and false teaching and our own wrongs and rightly interpret our experiences and how we conduct ourselves (Psa 119:105, 130).
* Memorization and recitation should not be verbal only but visual. Loving the Lord should be with our ALL (Deu 6:5). In the same way, memorization should be done using our whole mind and heart and especially our strength. o Picture the verse numbers and the first letter or word of the verse; picture them positionally on the landscape of the page of the same bible from which you memorized. The Lord is the giver of such a hunger for his word that it is actually possible to concentrate to such a degree as to accomplish this -- and with the Lord, this is certainly possible! This is very useful when it comes to serving others with the word of God. And this is not something that distracts from devotionally approaching the word either; it becomes natural over time and, with these pictures of the pages and verse numbers, comes the ability over time to retain even more: To picture cross references and Greek words and geographical details on the page that you visualize and to thereby enhance the depth of your understanding. Listening to a sermon or having Bible studies with other people or writing a Bible testimony or even talking with others about the word of God is so much richer when we know that if we learn one precious thing, the Lord can help us to retain it.
o Retaining and reciting Scripture is never an end in itself but rather is the means to a glorious end (Jn 5:39-40). (More on this is covered in the section on worship.)
Worship
We should approach the study of Scripture (as M. Mark declared) with the prayer, "show me your glory!" (Exo 33:18) The study and recital of the word of God is one means by which we can worship him. Bible study is not supposed to be a dry examination of the text -- a mere intellectual exercise.
* What is worship? It does not necessary involve outward acts. To worship him in spirit and truth is to behold him as he truly is as presented in Scripture and represented in Jesus Christ in his greatness and goodness, to stand in awe of him (Psa 27:4) and delight in him (Psa 37:4) and give him our praise and thanks (1Th 5:18). To thusly glorify and enjoy him is the supreme end of man and is God's will for us in Christ. * There are two major aspects of Christian life: Worship and service. Jesus quoted from Deu 6:13 in his rebuttal to Satan: "Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only." (Mat 4:10). Our first duty as a Christian is to adore Christ -- to worship him who loves us (Mat 25:1ff). Our second duty is to serve him (Mat 25:14ff). The second duty ought to come forth from the first.
o Jesus came into the world to bring us light (Jn 12:46) of the knowledge of the glory of the Father so that we would be made the lovers of him. It was his high priestly prayer that we would be beholding his glory and loving him (Jn 17:26). To be in the presence of Christ and behold what is revealed of him through the window of Scripture and receive the impression of him on our inner person and character (Nu 17:8, Ex 34:29, Acts 4:13, Luk 6:19) -- this is the goal of personally and devotionally and meditatively studying the bible. The goal is to come to him and drink (Eph 5:18, Jn 4:10, 7:37) and then to obey and serve him.
o What is faith? It is a perception of our Lord whom we trust for our salvation as the one raised and lifted up and highly exalted (Isa 52:13; Eph 1:17; Nu 20:12). It is a perception by which we are induced and moved to love and worship him, fellowship with him and enjoy him. The Lord is pleased to open the eyes of those who seek him and are devoted to him and show himself and his glory to them (Jn 14:21; 17:26; Psa 119:18; Pro 2:1-6,10).
o The power to reject the world's offers of pleasure comes from intimacy with Christ, beholding his glory (Pro 29:18; 3Jn 1:11b; 1Jn 3:6b; Isa 53:11b). From here comes the power to live in such a way to please him and the power to rightly use all the knowledge and understanding we glean from Scripture for his glory to love others and build them up and advance his kingdom.
* Christian life centers around knowing God through Christ as he truly is as presented in Scripture, not as we imagine him to be. Christ is the great treasure (Mat 13:44) and the great denarius (Mat 20:9) and our homework throughout our life is to discover more of the greatness of this one Christ and one salvation we have received -- to take hold of the eternal life (1Ti 6:12) and full life (Jn 10:10) that he purchased and unwrap the gift.
o The driving motivation for devotional study of Scripture is not just to better serve him or resemble him but to behold him (Psa 27:4; Psa 119:18; Php 3:3) and have intimate fellowship with him (Jn 17:3; Jer 31:34; Heb 10:19-20; Php 2:1). This is the intrinsically pleasurable (and mysteriously addicting in a way) benefit and reward in doing it. And, if we truly do this, good fruit will come forth (Jn 15:5).
o Christ was sent from heaven by a jealous God (Ex 34:14; 20:5; Deu 4:24) whose ambition is to have exclusive possession of our hearts and whose intention in sending his Son as an atoning sacrifice and raising him from the dead was to reveal of his glory and thereby capture our affection and not just our outward service -- to deliver our hearts from the love of self and of the boasting of ourselves and the cravings for the world and make us passionate followers (Isa 53:11b; 3Jn 1:11b; Mat 27:55; Luk 8:2-3).
Holiness
Holiness comes from the word (Jn 17:17). And to behold the Lord through his word requires holiness (Mat 5:8).
* The word of God is the medium through which the Lord reveals of himself (Jn 5:39; Luk 24:44-45, 32) and it ought to be that we approach Scripture in devotion time with this attitude, intent and faith -- with high esteem of the word as a holy and divine instrument.
* Supernatural Fellowship.
Holiness is brought about by fellowship with the Lord by faith through his words and prayer. We have been given the right to enter into intimacy with the Lord by faith in the blood of Jesus -- to enter the most holy place where he shows himself and fellowship with him as did Moses with whom the Lord would speak face to face as with a friend (Exo 33:11; Heb 10:19-20; Jn 10:14-15; Heb 8:11).
o From this fellowship before him, we receive the impression of his word on our heart forcefully, bringing sanctification to our person (2Co 3:18; Num 17:8; Luk 6:19) conforming us to the likeness of Christ and setting us ablaze with love for him (1Th 5:19; Luk 12:49; Mat 3:11; Luk 24:32).
o From the light of his truth we also become conscious of our sin in our daily life and genuinely sorry for it and call on him to purify us (1Jn 1:9; Jn 8:32; Mat 8:2; Eph 5:26; Jn 13:8). * Concentration and understanding from devotional study is not an activity that can be separated from our daily conduct in deeds, words, and thoughts.
o We are made to be the Lord's holy temple where worship takes place -- to be the receptacle or vessel to receive of his Spirit and hold his glorious revelation (Eph 3:19; 1Co 3:16; 2Co 4:7).
o Whatever black stuff that we say or do or think darkens our mind and diminishes our ability to grasp his word (Mat 22:29; 13:13-15). Pride is particularly offensive (Pro 8:13). Wrong (i.e. unbiblical) priorities and wrong methods and desires and attachments and practices and wrong direction and wrong biases also hinder us from learning. The word is choked (Mat 13:22) by worries and distress in our daily life because of our unbelief and cravings for other things and the fellowship with unclean, worldly things. The Spirit of God is only pleased under such circumstances, not to reveal new stuff when we approach his word, but to lead us by conviction of our sin to repentance (2Co 6:17) and a resolution of the problem by faith. o We who teach others ought to aim first to teach ourselves (Ro 2:21); we who write testimonies on paper need to ask for mercy that our confessions and pledges might be written on our hearts. For the great aim and cherished reward of holiness is the increased capacity to deeply know Christ and enjoy him speaking through Scripture and the power of contentment with him (Pro 2:10; Ro 12:2; Jer 15:16; Psa 119:103; 1Ti 6:6; Ecc 5:19-20). From this good fruit comes forth as we are fashioned into his sanctified and pleasing, christ-controlled and conformed instrument to dispense his gospel and feed others. * One aspect of holiness is being washed of ugly pride. The result is humility (more on this in the next section).
Humility
* Humility is essential for learning (Mat 11:25-26; Pro 26:12; 1Co 3:18; Isa 5:21; Jas 3:13; Mk 10:15) and the Lord is pleased to reveal his Truth to those who humbly seek to learn from him.
o Acceptable worship comes from holding his word in reverence and awe (Heb 12:28). We, therefore, esteem his teachings above what our reason and experience indicates. Do not put your experience over and above what the word says but rather humble yourself and let the word of God be the interpreter of your experience.
o Humility and honesty means being ready to do a 180 degree reversal on your avowed theological stance on a particular issue in the face of opposing biblical evidence. (And if you've gotten up in front of people and have declared what is incorrect, this task is going to be particularly challenging.) We do not possess infallibility; we are always students. Hence, it is entirely possible that an interpretation of Scripture which we have held for a significant period of time may be in need of correction or of further development. * Humility enables us to learn from anybody. (More on this is covered in the section to follow.)
Learn from others
"It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others." - C.H. Spurgeon, Commenting and Commentaries, 1890.
* The Holy Spirit is our teacher (1Jn 2:27; Jn 14:15-17) who teaches us primarily through his word and, secondarily, through his people around us, the church (1Ti 3:15; Mat 28:20; Eph 4:11-12) through their life and love and confession and proclamation of the truth.
o God who works in every detail of our life for our good (Ro 8:28; Pro 16:4, 33; Mat 10:29-30) has set each brother and sister around us for us to learn from them -- to receive of his love and of his ministering through them and to behold of his mercy and glorious work in them. Sober judgment (Ro 12:3-7) and humility should enable us to learn from one another. Even through their errors, we can learn.
* Young Christians ought to be humble enough to learn from their human shepherd in this church and from the mentors and leaders and study materials and programs here. But there are many other outside sources from which we can learn such as:
o Commentaries and expository sermons and Bible dictionaries and systematic theology books.
o Books on ancient Jewish culture and the history of the church.
o Historical creeds and confessions of the church.
o Sermons and writings from the great preachers and pastors of the past.
o With each of these learning tools, however, there is great danger because even the greatest scholar or preacher is a sinner who can come to grossly incorrect assessments of Scripture. (More on this in the upcoming section entitled, "Test EVERYTHING!"). Bible Software:
* theWord by Costas Stergiou (free software, http://www.theword.net/).
o The best feature is the clipboard monitor. The Clipboard Monitor is a tool in theWord that parses all text in the Windows clipboard in search of Scriptures references and displays them. You simply have to select and copy a portion of text, and theWord displays all the references and texts so you don't have to turn to each one.
o Use this tool for examining the original language
o Use this tool for reading commentaries and sermons and spiritual books.
o Use this tool for examining other Bible translations.
* Note: It is a good idea to pay attention to the NIV text notes in your Bible and read other Bible versions too. The NIV and NET use dynamic equivalence (thought-for-thought translation) but the NAS, KJV, ASV, ESV are more word for word and, hence, are better for in-depth study. Also be aware of the difference between MT (Majority Text) translations (KJV, NKJV) and the eclectic translations (NAS, NIV, ESV, NET). Beware of paraphrased Bible versions like the heretical Mirror Bible by Francois Du Toit.
* ISA (Interlinear Scripture Analyzer). (free software, http://www.scripture4all.org/)
o This tool is superior for examining verses word for word in the original language. The top line displays the original words (Hebrew or Greek) on the top line and puts the English equivalent of the word underneath along with parsing information. Here is a snapshot of 2Ti 2:15:
o Original language tools are really useful. As you may be aware, the interpretation of a passage can turn on a single Greek word. Example: The word "oun" in Jn 11:6 shows the logic of Christ's scandalous agapao love (scandalous from a man-centered perspective and that of the sisters, Martha and Mary). This word is translated "yet" in the NIV but can also be translated "therefore" (as it is in the KJV). Because he loved them, not in spite of his love for them, he did not immediately heal Lazarus but allowed him to die temporarily.
* E-Sword (free software, http://www.e-sword.net/)
o This tool is slightly inferior (IMHO) to theWord but has one great feature: The Microsoft Word macro. With this cool feature you can select a Scripture reference (like Joh 3:16) in Microsoft Word and then press a special key combination of your choosing to bring the text of that verse into your document (e.g. Joh 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.).
* Note: You might on some occasion want to get help to rightly pronounce a Greek or Hebrew word. StudyLight has a nice feature for this. Click on the original language word and a popup window will appear. You click the speaker icon for pronunciation.
Here is the link:
http://www.studylight.org/isb/bible.cgi?query=2Ti+2%3A15&section=0&it=kjv&oq=Joh%252010%3A11&ot=lxx&nt=na&new=1&nb=joh&ng=10&ncc=10
TEST EVERYTHING! (1Th 5:21a)
"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1Jn 4:1)
"A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps" (Pro 14:15)
"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." (Act 17:11)
* There are so many heresies out there and false teachers, whether it is on the campus, on the internet, on the radio or TV or in the Christian bookstore. Surely we need humility to learn from others and esteem what God has taught them, but we really, really need discernment to identify the errors. This comes from knowing the word of God.
o There are things that ought to raise a big red flag: for example, teachings that tickle ears (2Ti 4:3) rather than promoting holiness and self-denial and the devotion of one's entire life to Jesus (Php 3:18-19; Mat 7:22-23; 2Co 5:15; Luk 9:23). o Fruit is the trustworthy means by which we can determine if a person is spiritually good or bad (Mat 7:16-20). Nevertheless, God uses people in spite of their doctrinal misunderstandings to accomplish his redemptive work for his own glory. The fruit of a prominent Christian figure in terms of saving people certainly shows that he is an admirable, godly man and a great evangelist or preacher, but does NOT necessarily show that he has got his theology straight and that you would want to learn the bible from him! God can use the smallest servant for his great purpose and it is terrifically amazing when God does use confused people to do great things. * To correctly handle the word as an approved workman requires work (and research). o Set aside time for research and to study the bible for answers. There is a danger of being so busy that you cannot do proper research on what you hear from a sermon or from a radio broadcast or read online. Then there is the possibility of being deceived or at least confused about what the truth really is.
* Even the greatest theologians and ministers can make serious errors in their exposition of Scripture and come to incorrect conclusions. The rule is to use their sermons and writings as a guide, but never as an authority. The Bible itself is our only authority.
o Make it your personal policy (especially as a Bible teacher approved by God) not to repeat anything that you have not checked out and verified for yourself. When someone makes a claim regarding the original language behind a Bible verse for example, you have to check it out.
* People write books and make all kinds of wild claims and distort Christian history. Check their claims against the original sources -- Josephus and Patristic writings (CCEL, Early Church Fathers) and large portions of the Talmud are now available online. o When you pick up a book and read it, check out the author's background and beliefs and the church he belongs to. The fact that a book is popular in mainstream Christian circles or that the book is in a Christian bookstore means little. And a Ph.D. behind a person's name does NOT make that person trustworthy.
* Don't let anyone steal your food! We can find scholars who debate over the clearest passages -- who debate over that which is truly not debatable. A historical controversy over a passage of Scripture does not mean that it cannot be interpreted with certainty and is therefore uneatable spiritual food. We are to live on EVERY word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Mat 4:4). And the Lord is the giver of understanding by which we can know the meaning of Scripture.
Sound Doctrine
* What is doctrine? The word comes from didaskalia which means "teachings". It refers to what the bible says on a particular subject.
o Sound doctrine is important (1Ti 4:16). We need to hold fast to the word of God and get our doctrine straight so that we don't get swept away by those who teach false doctrine (2Ti 4:3; 1Ti 6:3; Eph 4:14; Acts 20:30). The qualification of an elder is that he must know sound doctrine. Titus 1:9 says, "He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it."
* How do we develop sound doctrine, especially on those topics where there are verses that are seemingly inconsistent and contradictory?
o Induction is the act of reasoning based on evidence in facts, to come to logical conclusions. Thus, exegetical induction involves the careful study of a passage and interpreting it and drawing out logical conclusions from it.
* Deduction is the process of reasoning from one or more general rules to a particular conclusion. Hence, deduction is reasoning from the general to the specific while induction is reasoning from the specific to the general.
o We derive doctrine by exegetical induction of clear didactic statements of Scripture rather than historical narrative (like the events recorded in the Book of Acts).
* James' hermeneutic rule: "An inductive inference cannot nullify a Scripture axiom. Therefore, we do inductive bible study deductively." All this says is that nobody can make an inference that contradicts what the Bible expressly states elsewhere. Therefore, we do inductive bible study deductively in the sense that we use deduction to rule out certain inferences (i.e., to identify them as faulty).
o A sound doctrinal model for what the Bible teaches on a particular topic must encompass all of what we derive by exegetical induction in various places on the topic harmoniously without having to twist any of it to make it fit. A doctrinal model is not sound if it has to stand above Scripture, dismissing and twisting whatever fails to conform to it. We should always make our doctrinal understanding be subordinate to Scripture and be shaped by Scripture.
i The word paralambano (received) often refers to the receiving of tradition. For example, 2Th 3:6 reads, "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching [paradosis (tradition)] you received [paralambano] from us." Some other examples: 1Co 7:17; 1Th 4:1; Php 4:9; Gal 1:9.
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