Wrapping It Up!
We conclude our steps to develop study skills with the last three steps. They are at the end for good reason. If you begin here you miss all the joy of discovery and the shear wonderment of studying God’s word. These steps are important because first you get to make conclusions about what you have studied. Second, you have the opportunity to check your discoveries with commentaries. Third, you can begin the process of applying what you have studied to your life. Finally, you can proclaim to others what you have learned and encourage them to begin the process developing Bible study skills themselves.
Step Seven: Making An Interpretative Conclusion
Biblical theology is that discipline which sets forth the message of each biblical book within its own historical setting. It has the task of expounding theology found in Scripture within its own categories and thought forms. Theology is the primary story about God and his concern for men.
Therefore, one who is studying Scripture should consider its basic theology. The student should constantly be asking:
- What does this teach about God?
- What does this teach about man?
- What does this teach about God’s action toward man?
- What does this teach about man’s action toward God?
These theological conclusions should now be changed into statements of the timeless truths that they teach. Use the information that you have gained to this point in your study to fill in the historical meaning of the text as you have come to understand it. Change each statement into a timeless truth. Make the statements short and simple.
Step Eight: Read the Commentaries
Reading the works of others who have devoted time and energy to the discovery of meaning is placed at the end of the cycle so that you as an interpreter will not be persuaded before you have an opportunity to struggle and discover what the text is saying.
The commentary you use will carry the bias of the author. You can usually discover that in the Introduction of the commentary. This is the last tool to examine.
There are several kinds of commentaries:
Devotional. This kind of commentary is interested in giving the reader some direct application of biblical material in order to meet one’s spiritual need.
Homiletical. This kind of commentary is usually the sermon notes of one minister. Sometimes it will be a collective activity. It is devotional with illustrative material.
Expositional. This type of commentary seeks to explain the meaning of the whole text with attention given to the flow of thought of the author.
Critical. This style of commentary will give you historical information, literary information, textual criticism, and will suggest the controversial problems of a given text. It usually has a lengthy introduction.
You may find a variety of kinds of material in these commentaries: grammar, history, geography, cultural information, the author’s translation; cross references to other commentaries, applications, interpretations, summary statements, illustrations, a history of interpretation and referral to other sources.
Step Nine: Living into the Story
Here are four points that can help you apply Scripture to your life and the life of your listeners.
First, you must understand the text. You can accomplish this by using the tools that we have suggested in the previous lessons. Remember, there is only one meaning to the text, and that is the meaning that the original hearer understood. While there is only one meaning, the Holy Spirit has the creativity to apply this in your life in many different ways.
Second, understand who you are. If you know your strengths and weaknesses, you will be better equipped to hear the Spirit’s application in your life. In your strength you may develop confidence, while in your weakness you may develop a deeper faith in God.
The psalmist tells us that he meditated on the law of the Lord. This is a good practice. Think about what the text means and how it applies to your own situation. Allow time for God to speak to you.
You must learn to look for parallel situations in your life and associate them with the meaning of the text. The text may cause you to relate to life differently. We must look for these in our application. The text may tell you to relate to God differently than you previously have. The text may suggest that you relate to yourself in a more positive manner. It may call on you to relate to others around you in a more favorable way. The text may suggest that you relate to those you have counted as enemies in a different way. You may have sin in your life exposed by the text. You may be given a promise. The text may command you to go or do something specific.
One may ask the following questions to help begin the process of application.
- Does this passage give me any direction which would call for a change in my attitudes, thought life, behavior, relationships, and use of time?
- Does this passage ask me to respond in any way like:
Praying for someone
Writing a note of encouragement to someone
Confessing my sin to God
Making restitution to those I have wronged
Improving my relationship with friends, parents, family, i.e., husband, wife, son, daughter?
Scripture’s main purpose is to bring about a transformation in our lives. In the final analysis Scripture reads us. We are transformed as we are informed.
Do It Now
Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can apply today. The freshness of application soon disappears with time.
Step Ten: Proclamation
When we have heard what the first hearer heard and have taken that meaning to heart and applied it to our lives, then we should take the risk to tell others what we have discovered. A word of caution! By telling others, I do not mean to tell them of your personalized discovery, nor the application that is apparent for your life. You can, however, share the meaning of the text you discovered. In fact, you might use the old teaching adage: See one, do one, teach one. When you read and study, looking for the meaning which the first hearer could have had, you are in the process of seeing Scripture from a different perspective than you may have ever looked at it before. When you apply the tools we are suggesting, you are in the process of doing. Once you have succeeded in this area, you can easily teach someone else the process.
This whole endeavor must be bathed with constant prayer for God to help us in our weakness, to be attentive to his guidance, and with all respect and gratitude, sound the clarion call that God’s word proclaimed with a passion will change lives for now and for all eternity.
Use these steps as often as you study. Make the skills second nature to you. Enjoy the unlimitless bounty of his Word.
|Living into the Text!|
It is always important to live into what you have learned. Pause at this point and ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to meditate on and put into practice some or all of the following.
- Why are the four questions stated at the beginning of this study important?
- What are your thoughts about commentaries? Where did you develop them from?
- Does the information under application change your way of thinking about how to apply Scripture’s teaching to your life? If it does, in what way?
- Why is knowing something, important before sharing something? How many places have you been where the goal of the meeting was the “sharing of ignorance?”
- How would the whole process which has been shared in these studies keep folks from falling into the trap of sharing their ignorance?
The articles below come from various Bible Dictionaries and other sources. The posting of these brief articles are to introduce some readers to the vast amount of information that is provided to enhance your reading of the text of the Bible with a hope that it will lead to a better understanding of the text and will lead the reader to an improved praxis in his or her community of faith and personal life. You might read the articles offline in a number of different Bible Dictionaries. If you do not own a Bible Dictionary, I would recommend New Bible Dictionary 3rd Edition. If you like lots of color pictures, try Revell Bible Dictionary. Revell Bible Dictionary is no longer in print but is available from Amazon. One of these should suit your personal needs.
Biblical Theology: The discipline which sets forth the message of the books of the Bible in their historical setting. Biblical Theology has the task of expounding the theology found in the Bible in its own historical setting, and its own terms, categories, and thought forms.