Sometimes fan-hood puts me in awkward situations. On a Wednesday night, decked out in Cardinals gear, I hurriedly made the way up the stairs of Eskimo Joe’s. The Cardinals were in the playoffs for the fifth straight year and October is what baseball fans live for. I got a table and promptly ordered a drink, striving not to miss a ball or strike on the big screens around the restaurant. I was meeting Matt Perez, the pastor of Jesup Bible Fellowship in Jesup, Iowa the hometown of Jen’s mother. He was driving through Stillwater to attend a conference in Dallas, Texas. I got a call from Matt and he told me he was at the restaurant and trying to find me. As I headed to the lobby I was greeted with a warm “You’re not a Cardinals fan are you?” I immediately thought, “You have got to be kidding me. Sometimes I can’t catch a break!” Matt is a lifelong Cubs fan, who grew up in Chicago. Of course the night the Cubs and Cardinals played, I had to sit through it with a die hard Cubs fan.
What started out as an interesting night, turned into a great learning experience. Matt had a ton of wisdom to offer me. As we left the restaurant and sat in our living room talking, he was able to impart to me some great ideas about studying Gods word. Then two weeks later, I received a book in the mail from Matt. The book, “Grasping God’s Word” by J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, has helped me gain much-needed clarity on understanding the Bible. Here are four tips that I learned.
- See the Details
As you are reading a passage, it is important to comb over a passage to see the details of it. When I attended the Kanakuk Institute, I learned the value of observing the text. Seeing the details is key to understanding what the author of the book is saying to the audience. Duvall and Hays suggest looking for the following:
In a paragraph: Does the passage go general to specific, questions and answers, dialogue, purpose statements, the actions and roles of God, the actions and roles of people, emotional terms and the tone of the passage.
In a sentence: Repeated words, contrasts, comparisons, lists, causes and effects, figures of speech, verb usage and verb tense.
Seeing these details brings clarity to the text and helps you to determine what the author was communicating to the audience.
2. Form a Theological Principle
After you comb through a passage and have gathered the details on what the author is saying, form a theological principle. This principle will help see what the author communicated to his town, and we can take that principle and apply it to our town. Before we apply it to our town, we need to understand the principles context.
3. Know how a Passage Connects.
Understanding context is extremely important. One of the best ways to see the context of a passage is to see how it connects to the rest of the Bible. Here are some connections to look for:
A. How does the passage connect to the passages immediately before and after it?
B. The section of the book that the passage is in and how it connects to it.
C. How does the passage connect to the entire book of the Bible you are studying?
D. Lastly, compare how the passage connects to the to the entire Bible.
This process forms your Biblical Map and helps you to gain clarity on how the perceived meaning of the passage fits into the rest of the Scriptures.
4. Understand Your Preunderstanding
According to Duvall and Hays, preunderstaning refers to all of our preconceived nations and understanding that we bring to the text. It is formed by both positive and negative influences and cause assumptions to be made about a passage. Think through the following when determining your preunderstanding:
A. Assuming a theological agenda before reading the passage.
B. Having familiarity with a passage
C. Adding cultural values to the passage
These types of things can cause us to miss the main point of what the author is communicating to the audience. Before you accept your theological principle to be true, think through what preconceived ideas you have about it and make sure they are not influencing your conclusion.
I hope that these four principles can greatly enrich your ability to see what the Bible says. Personally these ideas give me the clarity needed to understand what can sometimes be an unclear process. Check out the book in the link above and study the other ideas it suggests. For more on the larger idea of how to study the Bible, look up this article by Dr. Bill Bright on crupressgreen.com.