Study Notes

How to Study the Bible Session 1 Notes

 

II Timothy 3:16-17

  • Why Study the Bible (and not just read it)?
    • I Peter 3:15
    • Luke 1:37
    • Psalm 119
      • Reading and Studying (Break it Down into three Goals)
        • Know It
          • Understand the structure, story, and the substance of Scripture. Identify how the Bible is packaged and presented.
        • Work It
          • Learn the rules for studying Scripture. See with your eyes and think with your head.
        • Live It
          • Use the instructions from Scripture for everyday life. Embrace what the Bible says and put it into practice.
          • Understanding how to interpret Scripture is critical. The process is foundational to the Christian faith; and it is the bedrock of all that we believe as Christ followers, and it upholds everything we do in response to those beliefs.
            • We have all heard it said, and maybe have all said it, “This is what that verse means to me.”
              • Keep in mind that every book, chapter and verse had a very distinct purpose for being written. Those who it was written to would have understood the passage because of the use of stories that related to their culture and their way of life.  God had a purpose for every word.
              • The purpose for us to studying the Bible is to gain more than academic skills. It is to become better informed about what to do with this ancient document written by God.  The Bible—unlike any other document—contains words of life.  God has spoken and He has not stuttered.
              • If we have ever needed to know the truth of what the Bible says, it is today in a culture that rejects truth, denies absolutes, and ignores God. We need to know what the Bible says and—more important—we need the personal change that it can produce.
            • The first rule of Biblical interpretation is to accept what the Bible testifies about itself.
              • I Peter 1:20-21
                • We should never interpret the text to justify our own personal opinions.
                • Interpretation is the process of understanding what the author intends for us to understand. There’s nothing mystical about interpretation.
              • The Book as a Whole
                • The Old Testament consists of 39 books. The New Testament contains 27 books.  Together there are 66 books.  While the Bible has 66 books in two sections, it tells one unified story.
                  • Old Testament
                    • The Old Testament’s 39 books are categorized into five groups.
Pentateuch History Poetry Major Prophets Minor Prophets
5 books 12 books 5 books 5 books 12 books
  • Pentateuch
    • The most sacred writing in Judaism, and these five distinct books flow together with great continuity, purpose and structure. While the books are connected through historical progression, they combine to teach a spiritual prospective that reveals the reality of sin, God’s requirements for fellowship, and His continual pursuit of unfaithful hearts.  These five books serve as the backbone of the entire Old Testament.  In fact, it’s the foundation for the entire story of the Bible
  • History
    • The next 12 books of the Old Testament are categorized as History. These books consist of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, I & II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther.  These books chronicle the experiences of God’s people in the land He gave them.  The books Joshua through Esther cover a significant time span in which Israel rises to great heights of faithfulness and falls to great depths of failure.  This portion of the Bible describes the establishment of a monarchy and how, after three generations, tragedy struck and the nation was split by civil war.  The History recalls how the nation was plundered and taken into captivity, a judgement that was promised in the Pentateuch as the consequence for Covenant unfaithfulness.  Israel’s destruction was severe, yet its demise was not final.  The nation eventually returned to the land, but in a very weakened condition.  In spite of failure, however, God remained faithful.
  • Poetry
    • The next five books are referenced as Poetry because of the poetic and musical nature of the material. This part of the Bible forms a consolidated expression of marvelous praise to God.  Some poems express lament over intense suffering and injustice.  The proverbs offer practical wisdom for living, and the Song of Solomon beautifully expresses the love language of marriage.  The books of poetry are Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.  Most of this material was written during the time in which the events of the 12 books of History took place.
  • Major Prophets
    • Some think that the prophets were entirely focused on predicting events that would come to pass in the New Testament and later. While many predicted the future with astonishing accuracy, the prophets were called by God to serve as His messengers to identify the sinful practices of God’s people in their day.  Sometimes their messages contained both: a short-range prediction and a long-range prediction, with an immediate fulfillment and a future fulfillment.  The Major Prophets are called major not because they have a more significant message, but because the books contain a large amount of written material.  The books include Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel.
  • Minor Prophets
    • Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi are the books of Minor Prophets.
  • New Testament
    • Gospels
      • Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the Gospel books. In the Gospels, we see many of the Old Testament promises fulfilled in the person and the work of the God-man Jesus Christ.  He is the promised Messiah, the Anointed One, who came to restore the peace that was lost to the chaos and condemnation of sin.  These four good-news stories present unique portraits of Jesus.  The first three are referenced as the synoptic gospels because of their similarity in content.
        • Matthew writes from a Jewish perspective to a Jewish audience who knew the Old Testament Scriptures. Using their knowledge of the Old Testament, he presented Jesus as their promised King.
        • Mark presents Jesus as the Suffering Servant who would give Himself as a ransom for all men. His relatively brief message shows Jesus purposefully heading towards the cross.
        • Luke’s Gospel displays Jesus in His human perfection—the sinless God-man who came to seek and save those who were lost.
        • John’s Gospel is unique in its presentation and style. He highlights the deity of Jesus—the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
          • John 20:31
        • History
          • The book of Acts is designated as History because it chronicles the rise of the church from its inception to its expression beyond the borders of Israel. Acts chronicles the key events in the spread of the Gospel from Jerusalem to the Roman Empire, with the main characters, Peter and Paul, leading the charge.
        • Letters
          • The 13 Pauline letters consist of Romans, I & II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus and Philemon. The eight general epistles consist of Hebrews, James, I & II Peter, I, II, & III John and Jude. These letters were written to individuals or churches, usually to address specific issues.  While each letter is unique, that collectively present a snapshot of issues that challenged the early church and the developing faith of Christian followers.  They provide instructions for the spiritual and ethical growth of the church.
        • Prophecy
          • The book of Revelation concludes the New Testament and the Bible as a whole. The book was written to seven first-century churches to warn against falling away, and to assure them of ultimate victory for those who follow Christ.  After conveying specific messages to the seven churches, Revelation presents graphic details of a tribulation period, concluding with the glorious return of Christ.  His return and reign are described in majestic fashion as He destroys Satan and passes final judgment on the dead.

A Snapshot of the Early Church

  • Our spiritual identity, or who we are in Christ is important in our daily walk. Sometimes in this crazy world full of competing voices, we forget who we are and what we believe.  I’m convinced that in our culture of entertainment, advertisements, texts, tweets, and pop psychology, the evil one wants to undermine our basic convictions and distract us from the realities of the Christian faith.  If we fail to grasp important facts that ground us firmly in what we believe, we are tossed easily when storms hit.
    • Titus 1:9
      • We don’t have many details from the first days after the establishment of the church. We do have a few though.  The general story line from Luke’s presentation leads us to a point.
        • Jesus is crucified (Luke 23:26-49)
        • Jesus is buried (Luke 23:50-56)
        • Jesus is raised from the dead (Luke 24:1-12)
        • Jesus appears to many people over a 40 day period (Luke 24:13-49)
        • Jesus ascends to heaven (Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:1-11)
        • The Holy Spirit comes on the day of Pentecost; the church is established (Acts 2:1-13)
        • Peter preaches and pleads with the crowd to accept Jesus (Acts 2:14-36)
        • 3,000 people respond in faith, are baptized, and are added to the church (Acts 2:37-41)
          • Following these events we get a glimpse of what the early believers did.
            • Acts 2:42
              • A casual reader will observe that the early believers devoted themselves to several things:
                • The apostles’ teachings—including everything that Jesus Himself had taught.
                • Fellowship—corporate fellowship in worship
                • Breaking of bread—eating together and sharing the Lord’s Supper
                • Prayer—public and private
              • Everything the apostles taught was grounded in what Jesus had already taught His followers. In commanding the apostles to go and make disciples of every nation, He told them to teach and to obey everything commanded by Him (Matthew 28:30).  In other words, Jesus taught the apostles, and the apostles passed this learning on to new believers.
              • While the early church did not yet have the writings of the apostles, the Christian community nevertheless thrived because they believed the truth concerning Jesus’ identity and work. Simply stated: There were certain core convictions of a Christ follower, and they were taught from one believer, to another, and from one generation to the next.
                • Luke 1:2
                • Romans 6:17
                • II Thessalonians 2:15
                • Colossians 3:16-17
                • Ephesians 5:19-20
              • Convictions of the Early Church—By All Believers At All Times
                • The Bible is the Word of God
                  • The Bible, made up of both Old and New Testaments, is the written word of God, recorded through human authors under the direction of the Holy Spirit. The books were composed without error in the original autographs, and the Bible as a whole is authoritative for Christian living.  It discloses God’s redeptive plan for humanity through Christ.
                    • II Peter 1:21
                    • II Peter 3:15
                    • I Corinthians 2:12-13
                  • God, as Creator, has revealed Himself as Trinity: Father, Son and the Holy Spirit
                    • There is only one God. He has revealed Himself as three eternal and coequal persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  While equal in nature, each person in the Godhead is distinct in role and relationship.
                      • Deuteronomy 6:4
                      • John 6:27
                      • Ephesians 4:6
                      • Matthew 28:19
                      • II Corinthians 13:14
                      • Isaiah 44:24
                      • Philippians 2:5-11
                    • Humanity, because of sin, is lost and depraved.
                      • When Adam sinned, all that came after him bore the guilt and transgression. From that time forward, all humanity was inclined to rebel against the Creator.  The penalty for sin is a loss of fellowship, physical death, and spiritual death.  All humanity stands condemned in the eyes of God.
                        • Genesis 3
                        • Romans 3:10-19, 23
                        • Romans 5:12-17
                        • Ephesians 2:1
                      • Jesus is full deity and perfect (without sin) humanity
                        • Jesus is fully and completely God; He is eternal and coequal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Being conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin, He became fully and completely human.  Jesus took on flesh, yet He did not sin.  He was and is a perfect human who is fully and completely God.  While on earth He became hungry and thirsty.  He grew tired and wept.  His physical body could die.  He was tempted and yet He did not sin.  He can relate to our struggles.  He is a perfect human being.  He is unlike us in that He is fully God, yet He is like us in that He is fully human.
                          • Colossians 2:9-10
                          • II Corinthians 5:21
                          • Philippians 2:5-11
                          • John 1:1-14
                        • Jesus died for the sins of humanity, was buried, and physically rose from the dead.
                          • Jesus died in the place of sinners. Under divine design, He purposefully and willfully went to the cross and gave His life as a ransom for many.  He physically died.  After His death, He was buried.  On the third day, He came back to life in a physically restored, glorious, and immortal body.
                            • I Corinthians 15:3-5
                            • Matthew 20:28
                            • Matthew 28:8-10
                            • I Peter 3:18
                            • Mark 15:33-37
                            • John 19:38-42
                            • Luke 24:36-43
                          • Salvation is by grace through faith in Christ alone.
                            • Salvation is a gift from God that is freely given by God to those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. Saving faith is trusting in Christ alone for forgiveness of sin and for eternal life.
                              • Ephesians 2:8-9
                              • Acts 16:31
                              • Romans 6:23
                              • Romans 10:9
                              • John 1:12
                              • Hebrews 1:11
                            • Christ will return to planet earth, restoring all things as a precursor to eternity.
                              • Jesus Christ will return visibly to planet earth in the same manner in which He left. While the first advent occurred in prophesied obscurity, the second advent will not.  Jesus will reclaim those who are His through a great resurrection reuniting soul and body.  His Kingdom will be established.  He will judge the dead.  Eternity will consist of a new heaven and new earth where there will be no more sin.  The curse will be removed.  All will be made right in God’s perfect Kingdom.
                                • Acts 1:6-11
                                • I Thessalonians 4:13-18
                                • Romans 8:19-23
                                • II Timothy 3:1-5
                                • I Corinthians 15:20-28
                                • I Corinthians 15:51-53
                                • Revelation 20
                                • Revelation 21:1-4
                                • Revelation 22:1-5

How do we work the text?

  • To be specific on this, we need to zero in on some important areas.
    • Observation
      • Bottom line, most of us have not developed our skills of observation. If we are going to work the text, we must learn how to examine the text, we must learn how to examine the words and phrases in front of our eyes.
    • Reading
      • The Bible has more than 1100 chapters. We must read to study…and it must be purposeful and strategic if we hope to improve.
    • Interpretation
      • Interpretation is, perhaps, the most misunderstood task of Bible study. We must learn the interpretative parameters for each type of literature in the Bible.
    • Language
      • I can say with confidence that we don’t think about the nature of language often. Language is both fascinating and strange.  Especially English grammar.
    • History and Culture
      • All accounts in the Bible were written about real people, real places, and real perspectives. But ancient Near Eastern ways are different from ours.  To understand the writings of these people, we must become familiar with their times.
    • Literature
      • Literature is written language, and the Bible is written as good literature. We utilize our best literary skills to appreciate the rich complexities of this marvelous text:
        • Narrative—This genre (or type of literature) is the most common of all literature in Scripture. Narrative is a historical story, written and recorded in strategic manner.
        • Poetry—Poetry is not narrative. It is language written in images for the purpose of helping the reader experience truth stirred through emotional sensitivity.  This genre is a challenge for most Western readers.
        • Prophecy—A huge chunk of Scripture is prophetic in nature. Most of this material is ethical as it relates to the Law of Moses.  But some is cosmic and cataclysmic
        • Letters—Each of the 21 letters in the New Testament follows a distinct format when presenting material. The information preserved in these letters was written to specific people to address specific issues.
      • Observation
        • The word observation has the following definitions:
          • To watch carefully especially with attention to details or behavior for the purpose of arriving at a judgement; to make a scientific observation on or of; to come to realize or know especially through consideration of noted facts.
          • To be or become aware of, especially through careful and directed attention; notice; to watch attentively.
          • To notice someone doing something, or to notice something happening; to watch or study someone or something with care and attention in order to discover something.
        • Observation is the art and science of seeing what is really there.
          • A Learned Skill
            • There’s more to observing than merely staring intently; we must engage the brain in very specific ways. Otherwise, we will look without seeing.
              • http://youtu.be/vJG698U2Mvo
                • According to the study’s authors, “This experiment reveals two things: that we are missing a lot of what goes on around us, and that we have no idea that we are missing so much…And it got us thinking that many other intuitive beliefs that we have about our own minds might be just as wrong.”
              • Looking intently at something isn’t enough. We must apply good skills or we risk missing the obvious.
                • Slow your speed
                  • If you want to be a good student of the Word, hit the brakes. That’s easier said than done.  If you want to study the Word of God effectively and thoroughly, you can’t do it in a hurry.  It is vitally important to allow sufficient time to notice small details and reflect on their significance.
                • Clean the cupboard
                  • If you desire to be a good observer of Scripture, you may have to clean the cupboard. Busy lives collect clutter.  We live in a busy world full of choices and activities, so some disorder is to be expected.  And if you have kids living at home, busyness and clutter are unavoidable.  Careful observation requires focused attention and clutter is the enemy of concentration.  Remove some items from your proverbial shelf of life so you can put other things there—like time in the Word.
                • Stop the Search
                  • Observation begins simply. Just you and the Word of God.  Nothing else.  No help.  No outside influences.  Begin your study with just your eyes and your mind.
                    • Commentaries, dictionaries, and other tools are useful, but when observing the Word start with just you and the Word.
                  • Practice writing down what you see with your own eyes. Record what you notice.  If you don’t know what something means that is okay.  Don’t spend time focusing on what you don’t understand; focus on what you do understand.
                • Study in Spirit
                  • Don’t allow observation to become an academic exercise. Too many people have turned Bible study into a search for knowledge instead of a quest for spiritual character.

Case Study

  • Romans 12:1-2
    • Take time to observe and put into practice good study habits.
      • Slow down
      • Clear mind of life clutter
      • Read the text yourself
      • Ask God for guidance
        • Take a sheet of paper and number the lines 1-20. Then write by each number I can observe that…
          • Observe basic words
          • Observe the relationship of words
          • Don’t state what you think it means. Merely describe what you see.
            • Sample Observations
              • I can observe that Therefore is the first word and connects to a previous context.
              • I can observe that the reader is urged to action based on God’s mercies.
              • I can observe that the readers are referenced as brothers and sisters.