Grace & Truth Chapel
131 Fardale Avenue ~ Mahwah, New Jersey
Phone 201-327-6226 ~ E-mail

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"Understanding the Bible" (Part 3 of 3; posted May 1, 2002)

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God ... rightly dividing the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15

Let the Bible Guide Your Life
Always read the Bible as a guide to your daily life. Read it with a humble attitude of self-judgment, being prepared to make changes in your life as it pinpoints areas of failure.

The Bible generally presents broad principles to be applied to our lives in the power of the Holy Spirit, rather than specific rules for us to impose on ourselves and others. Recognize the place of individual conscience and judgment in applying the Scriptures. God treats us as His children, giving all we need to live as obedient, fruitful, and happy children.

The more we study, the more will be revealed to us. In accordance with 2 Timothy 1:13, "Hold fast the pattern of sound words," seek to develop a systematic understanding and knowledge of the various doctrines of the Bible. Collect and classify its various teachings, seeing God's truth as one grand connected whole a totally consistent system. Never stop seeking to learn more of God's precious truth.

Make Your Bible Study Count
Bible study usually involves three steps: Observation, Interpretation, and Application.

Step 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. In observing the facts in a passage, it will help to realize that most books of the Bible fall into one of two major categories: narrative books and discourse books.

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

  • Who are the main characters? How do they relate to one another? What decisions do they make?
  • What is the central action? Is there a crisis or turning point involved? What results follow this central action?
  • Where does the action take place? What relation does the place have to the people and the action?
  • When and why does the action take place? Is the time important to the story? What takes place immediately before or after the action you are considering?

As a sample passage, turn to Matthew 9:1-8. Read it carefully several times and write your answers to the questions asked above.

Discourse books basically present doctrine rather than actions. Old Testament examples include major parts of the prophets, such as Isaiah and Jeremiah. New Testament examples include the letters of Paul. When getting the facts in a discourse book, you might ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is the writer whom God used? To whom is that person writing? What is his relationship to them?
  • Why did the writer write this book? Is he addressing doctrinal or moral problems?
  • How are the ideas in a passage related? How do they move to a conclusion?
  • What specific commands and admonitions are given? What action does the writer urge his readers to take?

To do a sample of this study, read through the short book of Philemon, and write your answers to these questions.

Step 2 - Interpretation: What does the passage mean?
The most important thing to understand about any passage is the message God is conveying in it. In dependence upon His guidance, take the following steps:

Analyze the key words and phrases. Look up words you don't understand. If you have a Bible concordance, find the same word in other parts of the Bible and consider how it is used there. Find thoughts which may be repeated in a passage or book, such as the word "walk" in the book of Ephesians.

Evaluate what is being said. What is the main point of the passage? If you were to give it a title, what would it be?

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 (1 Peter 2:21) encourage the suffering saints to whom he is writing.

Step 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 and practice the truth of God as revealed to you by the Holy Spirit. How do you apply the Bible? By meditating on the passage you are studying until God impresses on your heart something 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.

You may be led to worship, because you have learned something of God's greatness.

You may be led to give thanks, because you have been reminded of the wonderful things God has done for you.

You may be led to repent, because the passage has uncovered actions or attitudes not pleasing to the Lord.

You may be led to make restitution, because the Bible has shown you that you have wronged another and need to make it right.

In applying a passage of Scripture, you might ask yourself:

  • What have I learned about God, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit? How should I respond to what I have learned?
  • Whose example should I follow or avoid?
  • What have I learned about my responsibility to God or to other people?
  • What encouragement for my Christian life have I gained?

A Final Comment
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.

G. Steidl
Excerpted from the booklet "Growing in God's Word"
Published by Grace and Truth, Inc. -

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