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 strong 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) Jesus’ spiritual body was strong because He knew the Scriptures well.
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 (Ephesians 6:10-18).
One way we can train is by studying and using the Word of God in its right context.
How do I begin?
The Bible has 66 books by 40 authors written over a period of 1500 years, yet it has a seamless story that flows through both its Old and New Testament. If you are new to the Bible I might recommend getting to know Jesus first with the four eyewitness accounts in the New Testament Gospels (Matthew-Mark-Luke-John) and the book of Acts with the first followers of Jesus. Then go back to the beginning and read the Old Testament with a look out for Jesus’ coming as the reason for every story, event and personal account in the historical narratives that run Genesis through Esther leading up to the Advent of Messiah. The rest is up to you but it is not a one time read, it is a lifetime commitment of study that every Christian should invest in.
Know the difference
Reading: Get the big picture (the story) by reading the Bible in large chunks (a whole individual book or a complete storyline within a book, like any good novel).
Studying: Use a study Bible and tools such as a Bible dictionary or concordance (and the hermeneutic method below).
Meditating: Pick out Scripture (after doing the above) and pray over it, thinking on its application for your life.
There are 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:
From this video clip we see people interpret the Bible based on ‘feelings’ or what they ‘think’ but not on the actual context of the passage. Ask yourself if Diane’s interpretation is true? Does God really promise that nothing bad will ever happen to us? This is not what that particular verse is teaching.
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 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:
- 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…
- 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 purpose of the book?
Why did the author originally 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.
This will also help in deciding the genré (or literary 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.
***By just doing the first three steps you will be well on your way to correctly interpreting Scripture!
4. What is the context/flow of thought?
This is where you will spend most of your time. 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. For example, you can do an outline using section titles or sub-titles that sometimes flow across chapters; or you can write your own notes and create questions to answer.
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 allow you to go even deeper.
5. 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 a paragraph with main themes. Compare the summary with the purpose you originally established.
6. 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!
7. 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.
8. What are some special finds or concerns that you still want to pursue?
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?
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.
Watch Christian Apologist Greg Koukl’s presentation: “Never Read A Bible Verse,” it will give you excellent insight on the importance of studying the Bible in context:
Join us next week as we continue our case for Christianity!
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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