Today I had the amazing opportunity to attend a 2-hour lesson on how to study the Bible, sponsored by Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA. The class is titled “Cutting It Straight.” At first, this curious title did not seem to mean much, but they actually took it from a verse in the New Testament:
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene.” -2 Timothy 2:15-17 (NASB)
To “accurately handle” something was a verb used in the carpentry business back in Biblical days, and described the action of working with precision and straight measurements – hence, cutting it straight. If we are believers of God’s Word, we are commanded here in this passage to work hard to study God’s work accurately, so as “not to be ashamed.”
So, the entire class gave step-by-step instructions on what we can do to study His Word with precision! I wanted give a summary list of it here, for anyone out there interested in diving deep into the truth of God’s Word. The basic methodology is literal interpretation – we won’t get all obscure and fancy with the symbols, metaphors, and crazy 4th-dimension stuff here. Just the Bible, what it’s saying, and how to apply it, pure and simple.
- Prepare your heart to study the Word through prayer, confession, and a reminder to self that we study the Bible to be sanctified and transformed in Christ – not necessarily to become Bible nerds. (1 Corinthians 2:11-14)
- Pick a passage.
- Read the passage.
- Study the passage carefully: read it repeatedly, observe what is being said at face value, and check the context of the passage. Based on all of these, make some comprehensive conclusions within the passage about what the main point might be.
- Research historical context. You may need outside sources for this.
- Analyze! Find key words, synonyms, antonyms, repetition of words or phrases, etc. Try to narrow down these discoveries to words that you previously deemed important to the overall message of the passage (back in #2)
- What’s the structure? Where are the verbs, the subjects and predicates, the objects of the verbs? What conjunctions tie each verb unit together, and do you find subordinate or coordinate clauses? (examples of conjuctions: and, or, but, because, so that, which,…)
- Look up cross-references (usually available in the margins or footnotes of your Bible) to other passages in the Bible, to gain access to the bigger picture of how this particular passage is working in the larger context of the entire Bible.
- Look up commentaries. Some smart people out there wrote down what they found after studying the Bible. After doing your own part in working to unpack the passage, go refer to some of these commentaries to find insights or different viewpoints that you might have missed. Bestcommentary.com may be a good online resource to start with.
- Apply what you’ve gleaned to your life. You came, you saw, you conquered. Done, right? NO. It’s not done until your life looks different for it. An encounter with God through the Word should leave us speechless, full of praise, and absolutely enthusiastic to live it out in our lives.
That…was a very general overview.
But it’s still a long list. I definitely set a goal to try to follow this method. It’s a lot of work, but come on. I spend hours upon hours studying for one final exam. How much more time and effort should I be spending to study the eternal, unchanging, all-important truth of God’s Word?