It was fairly intense but I loved it. For the first time in my life, the Bible was starting to make sense to me. ♦
About 25 years ago I signed up for a weekly inductive Bible study class at my local church. The focus was on using Scripture to highlight Scripture itself before turning to Bible commentaries and other resources. The class involved 5 to 10 hours per week of homework reading and studying and looking up Bible references.
It was fairly intense but I loved it.
The mid-week evening class involved a one-hour lecture and homework review and discussion facilitated by the class Bible study teacher, followed by a one-hour video lecture presented by the course developer. As a married working father with 3 young children (I was in technology sales here in the Silicon Valley at the time), I welcomed this new adventure that opened up of a whole new world of individual and group Bible exploration and study facilitated by wise teachers providing fascinating historical background and context.
Looking back, these classes were my training ground and laid a foundation for understanding God, the life and purpose of Jesus, the Bible as the Word of God, and the practical and spiritual application of Christianity in my life. For 5 years I dutifully attended these weekly courses as a student delving deep into the Old and New Testament, studying Biblical historical and scriptural context.
For the first time, the Bible was starting to make some sense to me.
The Student Becomes Teacher
One day my Bible study teacher called and asked me to substitute for her that week as she was not felling well. The class was only a few weeks into a 6-month study on the Book of Hebrews. With some fear and trepidation I agreed to help out that week. It actually went very well. She was ill the following week and asked me to substitute for her again. I agreed again.
She never returned to class.
For the next 5 years I taught these courses at our church. She later told me that she had been praying for a male instructor to rise up and take over the class for her. She said that God told her that the new male teacher was me. At the time I actually barely believed her prayer story but took over the class nevertheless. Little did I know that I was moving into a new realm of learning to understand the uncanny and mysterious ways of God. All of it stemming from a deeper dive into the Scriptures, their historical setting, situational context, cross-relationships between the Old and New Testament, and the use of normal/average people responding to the call and commands of God.
Here’s what happened next.
The “I Believe” Series
After 5 years of teaching a structured curriculum of very good Bible study courses, I felt moved to develop my own curriculum that would be geared for the questioning Silicon Valley church-attendee. Many in our mega church were strong followers of Christ, but many were fellow explorers and seekers who had many questions about Christianity and how it stood up to modern intellectual scrutiny. As is the case in many regions around the world, though some would claim a belief in Jesus, they still had many questions about the historical evidences for Jesus’ life, as well as the authenticity of the Bible Scriptures itself. New and seasoned Christians alike were struggling with answering questions from family members and friends about even the existence of God, let alone the questions about a God who would allow bad things to happen in this world. Or even questions about God’s relevance in our modern culture.
Over the next 5 years I developed and taught a popular 5-part Bible study series I called the “I Believe Series – the Who, What, When, and Why of Christian Faith.” These 10-week classes focused on Bible Study and Christian apologetics as well as a deep dive into common issues and questions of faith. Here’s a listing of those original 5 courses:
- In Whom Do I Believe? – The Real and Historical Jesus
- What Do I Believe? – “Romans” for Christians, Jews, and Gentiles
- How Can I Believe? – When Bad Things Happen
- Why Do I Believe? – Evolution, Creation, Intelligent Design
- Now That I Believe – Personal Transformation
I taught these course to hundreds of people at our church. The research and study conducted had a great impact on my own spiritual growth and development. This eventually led to the framing and launching of these Biblical Viewpoints.
No Substitute for Bible Study
Over the course of that initial class, I learned the fundamentals and value of good and effective Bible Study. Just as painters and carpenters use a plumb line or weight on the end of a string to keep their work straight, so the Bible as the Word of God, is the plumb line for Truth.
So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic. I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line…” – Isaiah 23:16-17
God sets the standard, the plumb line. He sets down moral law. He does not change with the whims of culture. He is not subject to the opinions of man. We would do well to come under His authority and operate in line with His plumb line rather than one based on our own ways and thinking.
With that said, here are 4 key fundamentals for effective studying of the Bible. While a good pastor or teacher can lead or mentor you, anyone can learn to do it themselves:
- Background Check – First get a basic understand of who wrote the Bible passage, what type of literature (letter, historic narrative, poetic, prophetic, etc.), to whom was he writing, when and where and why was he writing. Simply reading Bible verses without understanding their context can lead to confusion and misinterpretation.
- Read the Text – Now read the passage through several times and take note of key words, phrases, references, commands. Considering the full context of the passage, essentially the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of the passage, understand what came just before and what comes after the passage. Read other related Scriptures. How do they relate to and highlight the text?
- Interpret the Text – What is the author’s intent? What is being said to the people of his day, his audience? How would they have understood? Now wisely review Bible study helps like commentaries and notes with an understanding that these are written by men with a perspective.
- Pray for Application Understanding – Pray for the Holy Spirit to specifically give you guidance and clarity in the application of this passage. What is God teaching you? What does the passage mean to you?
While challenging, Bible study is not rocket science. It’s something anyone can and should do. It does take time and a deliberate effort, but will reap rewards unmeasured. That first Bible Study course taught me how to go deep and not stay superficial. I wished I had learned sooner.
Are you really studying the Bible?
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 3:16-17