Over the years I have come across Christians who believe that it doesn’t matter whether we know anything about the Bible and defending it. “Just have faith” some would say. But, faith in what? If we are claiming to be followers of Christ how are we going to follow someone we don’t know anything about? And if someone attacks the very thing we are following shouldn’t we be able to defend it?
In my early years, as a skeptic, I had a lot of questions about Christianity and the Bible: How do we know that the Bible is the Word of God? How do we know that the Bible wasn’t just made up by a bunch of men who wanted to start a new religion? How do we know that the Bible hasn’t been changed over time? These are legitimate questions that people have and it is our responsibility to have answers.
Jesus directs us as His followers to go out and share the Gospel with the world (The Great Commission, Matthew 28:18-20); and Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends, teaches that we should always be able to give an answer to those who ask about our faith (1 Peter 3:15). In order to do that we need to know what the Gospel is and we need to know that what we believe is true and worth defending.
Over the next several posts we will look at reasons why we can trust the Bible and give confident answers for its historicity, reliability and inerrancy.
Watch the One Minute Apologist explain the importance of studying the Bible:
Does God give us reasons to study the Bible?
Here are a few…
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. -Deuteronomy 6:5-7
Jesus makes this same statement in Matthew 22:36-40, it is known as the Great Commandment.
My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. -Proverbs 7:1-3
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. -2 Timothy 2:15
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. -2 Timothy 3:16
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. -2 Peter 1:20-21
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you. -1 Peter 1:22-25
We need to put on the Full Armor of God:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes form the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. -Ephesians 6:12-18
Michael Jr. Quizzes some young people on Biblical knowledge, would you know the answers?
Is there an epidemic of Biblical Illiteracy?
Watching an episode of “Cash Cab” on TV a few years ago I observed two young adults in their twenties answering difficult questions as they rode along in the Cab, attempting to win the grand-prize. They were well on their way when the host of the show asked this: “Name one of the Gospels in the New Testament?” The two contestants looked at each other in bewilderment, asking for a shout out (meaning they could pull over and ask someone on the street) a young man on the sidewalk stopped and thought for a few minutes and then said “you could try John?” His uncertainty along with theirs made my heart sink. They won the contest, but only on a guess.
Of Americans polled nationwide beliefs about the Bible seem to be as follows:
|Barna Research Group Poll Questions||Age response|
|1. Sacredness of the Bible: % of people who believe that the Bible is a holy book.||45+ = 90%
26–44 = 81%
18–25 = 67%
|2. Biblical accuracy: % of people who believe that the Bible is accurate on all accounts.||65+ = 58%
45-63 = 46%
26-44 = 39%
18-25 = 35%
|3. Universalism of the Bible: % of people who believe that the Bible teaches the same spiritual truths as other (so-called) holy books.||65+ = 33%
26-63 = 40%
18-25 = 56%
|4. Bible appetite: % of people who say they have the desire to gain Bible knowledge.
|65+ = 9%
45-63 = 12%
18-44 = 19%
Watch this one minute clip by Lee Strobel:
Bible Study: How do I begin?
Know the difference
Reading: Getting the big picture/the story
Studying: Using Bible study tools and the hermeneutical method
Meditating: Picking out Scripture (after doing the above) and praying over it, thinking on its application for your life
Food For Thought:
Food for our physical bodies vs. food for our spiritual bodies—are there similarities? We feed our bodies daily, in fact studies suggest that eating six small meals a day might be the healthiest way to maintain blood sugar levels and proper weight. If we compare that to the way we feed our spiritual bodies might we be in spiritual famine? How often do we feed our spiritual bodies?
How about our spiritual muscles? Are we developing them along with our physical ones so that we are healthy enough to do battle when the battles come?
Jesus used only the Word of God to respond to Satan. When he was tempted, after forty days of fasting in the wilderness, Jesus’ said, “Man shall not live on bread alone but by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
We should never talk to Satan or his demons unless we are using Scripture. How can we use it if we don’t know it? Spiritual warfare is real and if we do not train to fight we will lose the battles. One way we can train is by studying and using the Word of God in its right context.
Two important principals to follow when reading and studying Scripture:
Never read or study a Bible Verse by itself
Reading a Bible verse by itself and trying to interpret what it means based on “what you feel” can be dangerous, especially if you are leading a study. You will most likely get a wide range of opinions and trouble may arise. Many cults have begun this way because of twisting the Scriptures to fit a personal agenda. Watch this video clip to get the idea:
Watch Out for Twisted Scripture!
- Scripture twisting refers to what happens when people interpret the Bible out of context or change the words and original meaning to suit their own beliefs.
- Scripture twisting has happened in religions that have spun off of Christianity like Islam, and in ones that try to correct or add to Christianity like Mormonism and Jehovah Witnesses.
Twisting God’s Word has been the basis for cults
Cults: A group of people claiming to know or speak the truth of God but who reject the historic teachings of the Christian Church and, twist, add to, or try to correct the Bible.
- Cults are usually the result of a single individual who claims to have been given divine insight.
- The major teachings of a cult come from the use of another “book,” a vision from an “angel” or false interpretations of the Bible.
The Apostle Paul addressed this problem to the young Galatians:
I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ. –Galatians 1:6-7
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! -Galatians 1:8-9
Scripture twisting has been done since the beginning of time:
In Genesis 3:1-5, Satan tells Eve… Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden? And ‘You will not surely die, …for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God,”
In Romans 1:25 Paul tells us that they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the created things rather than the Creator…
The Apostle Peter warns about false teachers intentionally misusing Paul’s writings:
…which untaught and unstable ‘people’ twist to their own destruction, as ‘they do’ also the rest of Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. -2 Peter 3:16-18
The Apostle John, writes to early Christian believers:
Beloved, 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. -1 John 4:1
A good counterfeit looks like the real thing. To identify a counterfeit, you don’t study the counterfeit, you study the real thing!
We can imitate the Bereans who daily checked out Paul’s teachings with what was in the Scriptures:
Now these (the Bereans) were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scripture daily ‘to see’ whether these things were so. –Acts 17:11
Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians warns the Church of counterfeits:
These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve. -2 Corinthians 11:13-15
Herman Who? Not Herman who, HERMENEUTICS!
What is Hermeneutics?
Hermeneutics describes the task of explaining the meaning of the Scriptures. Using hermeneutics helps us to accurately understand what the message (verse, or passage) is trying to communicate and it is easy to do once you understand a few basic principles for reading literature in its historical context.
The word comes from the Greek verb hermeneuein meaning to explain, interpret or translate. Using the verb, the Gospel writer Luke informs us that Jesus, after His resurrection, explained to the two disciples on the Emmaus road what the Scriptures said about Him. (Luke 24:27). The noun hermeneia is Interpretation or translation. Paul uses the noun in 1 Corinthians 12:10 to refer to the gift of interpretation.
GET THE BIG PICTURE FIRST:
Old Testament “Big Picture”
- God creates for relationship.
- Humans lose that relationship at “the Fall” when they disobey God’s only command.
- God immediately promises a way of salvation and begins to work that plan out in “Covenants” throughout the Old Testament—giving encouragement, warning and hope through the prophets.
- Every book (39), every story and every event is a foreshadow, type or model of why we need Jesus, who He would be and what He would do (the Scarlet Thread of the Old Testament).
- The Nation of Israel was chosen to be God’s people and role-model to the other nations, but failed all the time further showing the need for a Savior, and it would be this Nation that Messiah would come through…
New Testament “Big Picture”
- Jesus is born, the promised Messiah from the tribe of Judah and line of David, as the New Covenant in fulfillment of God’s Old Covenant and the hundreds of prophecies about Him from the Old Testament.
- Jesus’ ministry proves that He is God incarnate evidenced by His sinless life and multitude of miracles attesting to His power over the natural order and His love for humanity.
- Jesus dies as a substitute for all humanity, then resurrects from the grave in defeat of death and Satan, restoring that lost relation by providing a path for eternal life.
- Jesus followers begin to spread this good news at Jesus’ command and the early Church begins as disciples gathering in various places worshipping and studying Scripture.
- Jesus promises to come back bringing the Kingdom of God creating a New Earth and New Heaven with no more pain, suffering or death.
- Our job, or purpose, until then is to share this good news with as many people as we can, living lives as God’s Ambassadors for the Kingdom.
Knowing the big picture and studying from there will help us not fall into the trap of twisting Scripture.
How do you use hermeneutics?
Here is a basic hermeneutic formula adapted and put into a question format:
Note: This format can be used for individual or small group studies and you can go as deep or as light as you want for each question. Using a good study Bible and some basic Bible study tools like an Old or New Testament Survey book, a Bible handbook, a Bible dictionary, and/or a concordance can help you dig deeper. Be careful to evaluate your references and their credentials. Using a variety of sources will help you see the big picture.
As you begin, the book or passage you are studying should be read through at least three times. Once for an overview to get the big picture and story in context, the second time for the hermeneutics, and the third for note-taking and in-depth study.
Hermeneutic study questions:
1. Who is the author?
Who wrote it? Research the background of the author to find out their credentials and how they fit in the overall Biblical story. Can you find this person in other books of the Bible?
2. Who is the audience?
To whom was the author originally writing and why? What was the date of the events and what was the date of the writing? What was going on in the culture at the time and in the lives of the author and audience?
3. What is the Genré (literary style)?
This is the author’s writing style. Understanding the genré helps us understand the purpose the author had and puts the writing in context. Most books of the Bible fall under one or more of these categories: Historical narrative, Wisdom literature, Law, Poetry, Prophecy, Gospel narrative, Eyewitness testimony, Church history, Parabolic literature, Instructional literature, Letters to groups or individuals (Epistles), or Apocalyptic (end times) literature.
4. What is the purpose?
Why did the author write the book? Understanding the author, audience and the events of the time will help give you a clue for the purpose. Often it is stated directly in the book itself.
***By just doing the first four steps you will be well on your way to correctly interpreting Scripture!
5. What is the context/flow of thought?
This is where you will spend most of your time. You can do an outline of the book using titles or sub-titles, or you can write your own notes, or you can create questions to answer. If you are studying a verse or passage it is important to look at the content before and after that section to see what was going on and to get the flow of thought.
Note: Don’t get hung up on difficult passages. Try to get the big picture and then focus down.The original documents (scrolls) and early books did not have chapters and verses, so the flow of thought often crosses over chapters.
Work like an upside down triangle: Big Picture – Story section – Chapter – Passage – verse
Make observations and try to answer the who-when-where-what-why-how questions as you study:
If you want to investigate difficult passages or do a more in-depth study you can do cross-referencing within the Bible, often there are other places in Scripture that speak to the same topic and will clear up any confusion. You can also do word studies and cross-version studies. Study tools that help you investigate the original languages will help you go even deeper.
6. What is the summary and interpretation?
You can now narrow down the overall interpretation of the book or passage you are studying into several sentences or paragraphs with themes. Compare the summary with the purpose you originally established.
7. What is the cultural and personal application?
This is last not first! Now you can make proper application to our culture today because you understand the original purpose and context. This is the point where you can apply the true meaning to your own life.
***A Few Extra Things For Fun and Future Reference!
8. What are some themes, passages and key verses that are special to you?
This is where you can have some fun. Write down or hi-light your favorite parts of the book. Commit a special verse or passage to memory, or put it in a journal or on a card.
9. What are some special finds and connections?
Were there any a’ha moments or things that took you by surprise? Did this book connect to a previous book(s) in the Bible? Does this study lead you into another book of the Bible you might want to read, and why?
10. What are some questions or concerns that you have about this book, passage or verse?
Hi-light any areas that you had difficulty with. What would like to explore further? Write these down and look back in the future to see if clarity comes from other studies you do.
***Completing this process is important because it will give you the best chance at correct interpretation so that you can make an accurate application for your life as well as help others.
Join us next week as we continue to build a case for the Bible!
You will not find this material in the public school curriculum even though it is based on solid evidence and grounded in research. It is ironic that following the evidence to where it leads stops at the door of our public schools as they will not let a “Divine footprint” in! Join us as we examine evidence for Christianity and learn how to become a thoughtful defender and ambassador of your faith.
Click into the resource page of this website to view many of the top Christian thinkers and apologists along with some of their work; connecting to these types of resources is essential in your Christian growth.
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