Saturday, November 5, 2011

How to Study God's Word

Greetings again my friends and any interested who come across my blog:

Since I hope I’ve laid a sufficient basis for the bible being God’s word to mankind, enough that we can move on to other things, like teachings.  As they come up along the way other things I know which reaffirm to me that we can have confidence in the Bible will be examined as we get there.  Now we start to put the rubber to the road.

How does one study the Bible to get at truth?  I know it is a good habit to either read or listen to the bible daily, I post a reading assignment and small devotion on my Facebook page daily.   However, that isn’t study.  Early on in tis blog I posted Psalm 1:1,2”

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.  But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.”

Notice the way the Psalmist stresses the idea of meditation?  He doesn’t mean meditation in the sense we often hear it expressed in connection with transcendental meditation.  No, he is peaking about pondering over the things read and learned in order to gain insight and clarity of vision into what God’s word really teaches.  That takes real work.  That is because God didn’t always just lay it out so the truth becomes obvious to anyone.  He does that with some teachings, but he who created us knows we remember better and appreciate that which we work for.  He also invites those who are best for the great prize because they are willing to put the effort into making his word and his truth their own.

There are several methods of Bible Study.  Most rely on books written by trained expositors to help them in their quest for insight into the word.  However, that only works if the expositor in question has a truly accurate insight into the word; most don’t for all their expensive training.  That is because most universities and seminaries are run by organizations with their own creeds and their study is oriented around reinforcing said creed in the minds and hearts of their students.  Inquiry which leads another way, even if the evidence is legit, is discouraged.

So what is the independent student to do?  How can he or she study God’s word and arrive at an objective understanding of it and truth?

I use several closely related methodologies of study myself because of my skills, all of them focused on the Bible text for that is where the real Gold is to be found.  The most basic and important of these is the Topical method of biblical study.  I will put up a link to a booklet which discusses the method in depth, along with some important points for the study of Bible prophecy, it is downloadable for free from the page I’ll link to and is in PDF format.  It can also be purchased from the folks who own the site, but rest assured there is no financial incentive in it for me in its recommendation.

Basically, what the topical methodology amounts to is that one looks up every verse in the bible which bears on a subject, including those which appear to be contradictory to the general flow of the majority, then one seeks to understand how the verses harmonize and what they are saying to us on the topic.  “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” Paul wrote to his younger fellow worker in the Lord’s field (1 Tim. 3:16) and he meant it.  What many don’t realize was that he was writing about what we popularly call the Old Testament, the new one not having been written yet.

In time his words, as well as those of others of his contemporaries, came to be recognized for the scriptures they are.  And Christians extend Paul’s words to include them as well.  So where am I going with this?  While we aren’t under the old covenant with its law, we cannot ignore what the Old Testament witnesses as to truth, as some do.  The Old Testament lays a foundation for us with respect to doctrines, a foundation both Jesus and later early writers built on.  They gave greater clarity to some things, expanded others, and, yes, introduced some new concepts along the way.  But they appealed to the old for authority for much of what they said and made it clear we weren’t to ignore it, as Paul’s words above make crystal clear.

So the principle involved is to search the scriptures, much like the Bereans of old (Acts 17:10-12) with the same diligent determination to arrive at the truth.  One good way to do that is with the aid of a good concordance of God’s word.  An excellent one is Strong’s exhaustive concordance of The Bible.  Strong’s lists every word in the King James Bible and identifies every Greek and Hebrew word from which the English comes.  It also Contains a lexicon with brief definitions of all those words as well.  Since most publishers of lexicons have adopted the Strong’s numbering system as well, it makes it easier to utilize more comprehensive lexicons, such as Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, a very excellent lexicon at an economical price.

Strong’s allows easy access to a wide array of scriptural passages which bear on a given subject.  All one needs to figure out what words to look for.  The lexicon gives alternative meanings so that one may fill out the scriptural picture by looking up a word, such as the Hebrew nephesh, or “soul” (H5315) and seeing how it’s used throughout the Old Testament and how that may help us gain insight into the soul and its nature.  Try it if you already have Strong’s good friend and see if you don’t find yourself in for quite a surprise.

Now you know the foundational methodology which will guide this blog.  I won’t go through every occurrence of words for obvious reasons, and I will bring in other information and sources as I judge them appropriate.  However, that is my primary methodology of biblical study with my focus being on the text of God’s word instead of mens reasoning and interpretations.

The Booklet mentioned earlier is here:

And it will be linked in my link section as well.

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