Bible Reading – Introduction
Essential Disciplines – Bible Reading – Introduction
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The Bible remains a mysterious book for many, but for disciples of Jesus, it remains a spiritual source of strength. In our Essential Truths course, we describe the Bible as God’s Story with power to change our story. This transformational power comes from the Holy Spirit who uses the inspired Word of God to encourage, correct and challenge us. To benefit from this power, however, we must engage with this divine story. As we read the Bible, the Spirit works in our hearts and our minds to produce the changes in us that God desires.
In these two sessions, therefore, we will explore this Essential Discipline of Bible Reading. In Session 2 of our series, we will examine some fundamental concepts about Bible Study, and then, in Session 3, we will get practical, and discuss how we can get started in Bible Study.
1 Fundamental Concepts
1.1 A Collection of Stories
The Bible is written as a collection of stories, told over a period of many centuries. These stories, however, share a common theme. They all point to the revelation of God in the person of Jesus, who is Himself both God and Man, Lord and Savior. This big, grand and glorious story permeates the scriptures. It is told through countless smaller stories, stories that overlap, intersect and color one another. Like multicolored threads woven through a beautiful, intricate tapestry, each episode in this broad, sweeping story has its own set of stories that shape and inform the larger picture. Here, in the weave and turn of all these stories, we discover the sheer joy of Bible study. We are invited to follow the rich textures of countless stories through centuries of change as the narrative builds to a glorious finale in the person of Jesus.
1.2 Two Basic Questions
So how do we jump into all these stories and begin to sort out what they mean for us today? We are ultimately looking for Timeless Truths, truths that can cross from these ancient stories into our own stories, truths that apply to all people, in all times, in all cultures. How do these truths emerge from the Biblical stories? What process can we use to discern these truths?
1.2.1 What Did God Say?
We begin with a simple question: What did God say? Or, to be more precise, what did God say to the original hearers and readers of His word? This means we will know something about:
- The original setting of the story, or its historical, geographical and cultural context.
- The flow of the story, or its literary context.
- The language of the story, where we learn something about the translation of the Bible from the ancient languages in which it is originally written.
1.2.2 What Does It Mean for Us Today?
After we have done our best to determine what God said to the original readers and hearers of His word, we then can ask the big ‘So What’ question: What does this ancient story mean for us today? How will God’s Story shape my story?
This is where we look for the “Timeless Truths” that apply to all people, in all times, in all cultures. As we examine what God originally says in scripture, we can begin to see common teachings that permeate the entire Bible. A bigger picture and a larger world-view begins to emerge. We will then learn to express this Timeless Truth in what we call the ‘Big Idea’ of the passage.
2 Practical Steps
After we cover these foundational principles of Bible study, we will look at some practical ways to get started. We suggest four basic elements:
- A Study Time
- A Study Method
- A Study Group
- Study Resources
2.1 A Study Time
First, then, we recommend a fixed, daily Study Time. Just as our bodies will not survive unless we take time to eat, sleep and exercise, our souls will quickly deteriorate unless we take time to feast on, rest in and meditate upon God’s word. Our relationship with God is like any other relationship. It needs time together to grow and develop. By establishing a fixed time and place for Bible Reading, we ensure our commitment to growing our relationship with our heavenly Father.
2.2 A Study Method
Once we designate a fixed Study Time, we must decide how to use that time. We must establish a regular Study Method. Our methods will evolve as we grow deeper in our relationship with God. To begin, however, we suggest a simple method that can be completed in about 30 minutes. This simple method consists of six steps that will allow us to process the two basic questions we described above. We hope that this method makes Bible Study enriching and enjoyable for everyone, even if we don’t have a seminary degree!
2.3 A Study Group
A large part of our delight in God’s Word will come when we reflect on the Bible together. We therefore recommend that you commit to a Study Group. God’s Story is such a rich treasure, so we will always benefit from other peoples’ thoughts and experiences surrounding it. God’s great story is a diamond with millions of facets, and none of us can see all these facets by ourselves. We need a community of faithful followers engaging with the Bible together to experience its beauty and power in greater depth.
2.4 Study Resources
Finally, we discuss several valuable Study Resources that will help to read the Bible more productively. We begin by recommending some good English translations of the Bible, and then discuss other resources, most of which are freely available on the internet.
Obviously, in these two sessions, we will just begin to scratch the surface of Bible study, but we hope we can provide a few helpful tools to get you started. So, what do you say? Are you ready to jump into this grand and glorious story of the Bible? We pray that you will, and that God will lead you even deeper in your relationship with Jesus.
Note: Unless otherwise indicated, all English translations of the Bible in this document are taken from The New International Version. (2011); Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.