The “Us” Verses

The “US” Verses

Closely related to the discussion of the trinity in creation and the Hebrew word for God-Elohim, is the problem created by the mishandling of Genesis 1:26, and the related verses, Genesis 3:22, 11:7 and Isaiah 6:8.

Many see in these an implicit (some would say explicit) suggestion that God exists as more than one person. After all, what else could the plural verb “let us” and the plural noun “our” mean?

Is not the best explanation the fact that already in the very first chapter of the opening book of scripture, we have an indication of a plurality of persons in the Godhead? We are not told how many persons, and we have nothing approaching a complete or explicit doctrine of the trinity.

It does seem, however, to imply more than one person is involved. Or does it?

Anthony F. Buzzard and Charles F. Hunting in their work, “The Doctrine of the Trinity: Christianity’s Self-inflicted Wound,” point out that“An occasionalgrammatical anomaly cannot possibly offset the evidence of thousands of occurrences in which the Divine Name and titles take singular verbs.” (Buzzard and Hunting. 1998. 23).

The singular El and Eloah (God), both affirm the oneness of God. It is amazing the tenacity of those who continue to advance, against the evidence of thousands of texts in which God is described by singular pronouns and verbs, the four “US” verses, as proof positive that God is triune.

Genesis 1:26 is perhaps the most familiar of these:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness…”

To assert this as conclusive of God’s plurality is precarious at best.

As in the case with Elohim, most modern scholars no longer take the phrase “Let us” to mean a plurality of persons in the trinity.

The same can be said of Genesis 3:22,“Behold, the man has become as one of us…,”

 Genesis 11:7“…let us go down, and there confound their language.” and

Isaiah 6:8 “Whom shall I send and who will go for us”.Note carefully thecombination of singular and plural in the same sentence in the Isaiah passage.

This same combination also appears in the Genesis creation account. Genesis 1:26 says, “Let us make man in our image…,”

However, in Genesis 1:27 we find that “…God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him…”

The use of this so-called “Divine Plural” has puzzled scholars and students of scripture for thousands of years. It has been understood historically in several ways:

  1. God conversing with the angels (The historic Jewish viewpoint)
  2. God counseling with His own will (As also in Eph.

1:11)

  • A plural pronoun agreeing with and necessitated by the plural noun Elohim
  • A majestic or literary plural
  • A prophetic reference to the future manifestation of the Son of God

It is fanciful to imagine that this verse supports the idea that God was speaking to the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Where in scripture does the Lord ever speak to His own Spirit?

The text says nothing about an eternal son, the second member of a co-equal, co-eternal trinity.

The “Us” in the text gives no indication of two other equal partners in the Godhead. To claim otherwise is merely creative imagination or faulty exegesis.

If God is indeed a single “person” His use of the word “us” means that He is addressing someone other than Himself, someone other than God.

Even among Trinitarians, different authors take different sides on this issue. Some have suggested these are plurals of majesty, a form of speech a king would use in saying, for example, “We are not amused,” or “We are pleased to grant your request.”

In Old Testament Hebrew there are no other examples of a monarch using plural pronouns of himself in such a plural of majesty. This leads some to conclude that this suggestion has no evidence to support it.

It should be noted however, that both Alexander the Great (152 BC) and King Demetrius (145 BC) refer to themselves in this way in the Septuagint text of I Maccabees 10:19 and 11:31. Of course this is Greek, not Hebrew and written long after Genesis.

Gesenius’  Hebrew  Grammar  rejects  the  Plural  of Majesty as an incorrect explanation for these passages. It prefers, in the case of Genesis 1:26– “A plural of self-deliberation.” (Gesenius. 1910. 124.n2). (Compare this with Ephesians 1:11).

A search for a Jewish interpretation in the Babylonian Talmud, the Targumim and the Midrashim reveals only that the later rabbinic interpreters were unable to reach agreement on a satisfactory interpretation of the passage. The “Plural of Majesty” and “God speaking to angels” are the most commonly suggested interpretations.

Regarding the suggestion that God is here speaking to angels, Buzzard and Hunting agree saying, “It is most likely that the plural pronoun “we” contains a reference to God’s attendant council of angels, who themselves had been created in the image of God and had been witness to the creation of the universe.” (Buzzard and Hunting. 1998. 22).

Wayne Grudem disagrees claiming, “Angels did not participate in the creation of man, nor was man created in the image and likeness of angels, so this suggestion is not convincing.” (Grudem.1994.227).

 Before we reject this idea out of hand, we should carefully consider the passages in I Kings 22:19-22 and II Chronicles 18:18-22.

1 Kings 22:19-22 King James Version (KJV)

19 And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the Lord: I saw the Lordsitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.

20 And the Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner.

21 And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him.

22 And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so.

2 Chronicles 18:18-22 King James Version (KJV)

18 Again he said, Therefore hear the word of the Lord; I saw the Lordsitting upon his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left.

19 And the Lord said, Who shall entice Ahab king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one spake saying after this manner, and another saying after that manner.

20 Then there came out a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will entice him. And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith?

21 And he said, I will go out, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the Lord said, Thou shalt entice him, and thou shalt also prevail: go out, and do even so.

22 Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil against thee.

Regarding Genesis 1:26, Trinitarian commentator G. J. Wenham writes in The Word Biblical Commentary, “Christians have traditionally seen this verse as adumbrating the trinity. It is now universally admitted that this was not what the plural meant to the original author.” (Wordbook.1987.27).

The related entry in The NIV Study Bible reads: “God speaks as the creator-king announcing His crowning work to the members of His Heavenly court. (See Genesis 3:22, 11:7; Is 6:8; See also I Kings 22:19-23; Job 15:8; Jer 23:18),” (Grand Rapids: Zondervan; 1985).

A reasonable question to pose to Trinitarians who see God as a plurality: Why do they not put an “s” on the end of God?

In the English language, plurals are commonly noted by a final “s.” It is a standard and recognized format of the language, a universally accepted rule of grammar.

If the plural pronoun “us” in Genesis 1:26 refers to a plural Godhead, then the trinity ought regularly to be referred to as “they” and “them”.

Trinitarians are unhappy with this suggestion, showing that their notion of the Godhead in addition to being unbiblical, also defies the rules of language, as well as the laws of logic.

Prominent Trinitarian writers seem to have gone far beyond the evidence of scripture when asserting that the third person of the trinity was involved in conversation when God said, “Let us make man in our image.”

It seems imaginative at best, to say that God here spoke to the Holy Spirit. God never once speaks to His Spirit anywhere in scripture. To do so would make as much sense as you speaking to your own spirit–He would be talking to Himself.

I believe that it is quite reasonable therefore, to assume that this is yet another prophetic reference to the future manifestation of the Son of God. God made all things with Jesus in mind and thus for Him.

Significantly, in fulfilling this verse, God created Adam as one person, with one body, mind, personality, spirit and will. The Bible tells us in Romans 5:14 that Adam was made in the figure or likeness of Him that was to come, which is Jesus.

God in His omniscience and foreknowledge, foreseeing man’s sin and His own ultimate revelation in the flesh as man’s redeemer–looked at Christ as the blueprint for making Adam.

Therefore, Adam was made in the image and likeness of Christ–the Father God’s manifestation in the flesh. God knew when He created Adam that He would become flesh in order to redeem mankind.

We see in Revelation 13:8, Christ as the Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world. Although it was thousands of years until He actually hung on the cross at Calvary, in the mind of God He was already slain. In the very same way, when God made Adam, he was made in the image of Christ that existed in the mind of God; the image of God Himself.

–Larry L Yates, ThD, DMin

The Baptism of Jesus–A Fresh Look

    Most people believe that at the baptism of Jesus, the Holy Spirit descended from Heaven in the form of a dove and the voice of God spoke audibly from Heaven in a dramatic manifestation of the trinity. I suggest this may not in fact, be the best way to understand these passages. There is another viewpoint that many believe better represents the Biblical data; one that is consistent and more in harmony with the Biblical emphasis on the oneness of God.

    First, a careful examination of the relevant passages is in order. Beginning in Matthew’s Gospel we will consider them in order.

“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized of Thee, and Thou comest unto me?’ And Jesus answering said unto him, ‘Suffer it to be so now: For thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he suffered Him. And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water, and lo, the Heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting on Him: and lo, a voice from Heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’”

                                                                                                      ——–Matthew 3:13-17

    If this were the only thing scripture had to say on this issue, we would probably have to agree with the traditional interpretation of the events. From these verses alone things appear pretty straightforward—Jesus is in the water, the Holy Ghost descends from Heaven and the Father speaks.

    We must, however, always remember that we are never permitted to base our doctrine on a single passage of scripture taken in isolation. The principle laid down for us in both testaments and confirmed to us by both Jesus and Paul, is that two or three witnesses are required to establish truth. So, before we take verses like these in Matthew at face value and build our case from them alone–we should first examine any related passages for any data that might be relevant.

    Jesus’ baptism is one of the few incidents in His life to be recorded in all four Gospels. This is significant for a number of reasons. First of all, it indicates the importance of the event itself. It was considered significant enough to warrant coverage by each of the Gospel writers. Secondly, and more importantly for our purposes, it provides four independent sources and four different accounts from which we can draw the information on which to base our conclusions regarding what actually took place.

“And it came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; and there came a voice from Heaven, saying, ‘Thou art my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.’ And immediately the Spirit driveth Him into the wilderness.”

                                                                                                                  —–Mark 1:9-11

“Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also, being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, ‘Thou art my beloved son; in Thee I am well pleased.’”

—–Luke 3:21-22

Even when we investigate these additional sources we find little to argue with.

    Jesus was born a Jew under the dispensation of the law; therefore He was baptized under the Law. He was not baptized for sin, for He knew no sin in regard to Himself. John recognized this when he exclaimed that Jesus should be the one to baptize him. Jesus was baptized, according to scripture, to fulfill all righteousness, and as our example. He was both the sacrificial Lamb of God and our High Priest. As High Priest, Jesus fulfills the high priestly function under the law of going to the laver of water–in this case the Jordan River–prior to going to the Altar of Sacrifice.

The Laver of water in the Tabernacle was a type or symbol of water baptism. With all of this in mind, we will now consider our fourth and final witness and see what it adds to our discussion.

“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is He of Whom I said, after me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for He was before me. And I knew Him not; but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.’ And John bare record saying, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from Heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him. And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said to me, ‘upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.”

                                                                                                                —–John 1:29-34 

    This passage presents some interesting details not contained in the other accounts and it is on these we will focus our attention. The scriptures indicate that John did not know Jesus. This is especially intriguing in light of the fact that they were cousins and only six months apart in age. How is this possible? Palestine is not that large of an area. Surely they would have known each other as they grew up. Various theories exist to account for this confusing statement. Some authors believe that Jesus spent a majority of His early life away from the area of Palestine. Another view is that John himself had not been around much, having spent most of his life alone in the deserts, preparing for the work for which he was born. There is however, a third consideration and it is here I believe we should look for our answers.

    In comparing the Old Testament prophecies in Isaiah 40:3 as well as Malachi 3:1, we discover that John the Baptist had a very unique and quite specific call on his life.

“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the LORD, Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

                                                                                              —–Isaiah 40:3

“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the LORD, whom you seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: Behold, he shall come saith the LORD of Hosts.”

                                                                                            —–Malachi 3:1

    We understand from these passages that John the Baptist was to be the forerunner of Jehovah God, preparing the way for the one true God of Israel. John’s ministry could not be fulfilled or complete therefore, until Jehovah Himself appeared on the scene in flesh.

    It is, I believe, in this understanding that we find the explanation for John’s declaration, “I knew Him not.” Certainly he knew Jesus, the man from Galilee—but how was he to know and understand that Jesus was the manifestation in the flesh of Jehovah God?  The Lord had spoken directly to John and commissioned him into his calling and ministry as “The Baptizer” and forerunner. He let him know that one day while John was baptizing, there would come to him one desiring baptism who would be the Messiah, the savior and redeemer of Israel. God would identify Him to John in a very specific way. He would give to John a unique vision that would allow him to know that this was the one he had been waiting for (John 1:33, 34). John was to know and bare record that Jesus was the Christ by seeing the Spirit, in a vision, descending and remaining on Him. This then, would be the one who baptizes with the Holy Ghost.

    Who is this Jehovah that John was making way for? Does the Bible reveal this name as the name of the trinity as many claim or does it in fact limit the use of the name Jehovah only to the Father?

“Do you requite the LORD (Jehovah), O foolish people and unwise? Is not He thy father that hath bought thee? Hath He not made thee, and established thee?”

—–Deuteronomy 32:6

“…Thou, O LORD (Jehovah), art our father…”

—–Isaiah 63:16; 64:8

    In Jeremiah 31:9 Jehovah speaks declaring, “I am a father to Israel.”Taken together, these and many other scriptures reveal clearly that Jehovah is the covenant and redemptive name of the Father of the Old Testament. We will see later that, in the New Covenant, God accompanied the revelation of Himself in the flesh with a new name.

    By giving attention to John’s own words and the specific details in the various accounts, I believe we can arrive at a very clear and accurate understanding of the facts more in keeping with the overall testimony of scripture. Rather than finding support for the concept of a trinity, I believe we will have a very satisfactory explanation of the baptismal events more compatible with the oneness of God.

   Returning to the Gospel accounts, I want to focus specifically on the phrase “the heavens were opened” and “the voice from heaven.” Based on a careful study of scripture, I no longer believe either of these statements are to be taken literally. In fact, there is nothing in the text itself to suggest that anyone in the crowd understood what was happening. If either of these events occurred in a manner visible to those gathered at the river, surely there would have been some sort of reaction on their part. An event of this magnitude would have been a notable occurrence.

    Consider the phrase, “the heavens were opened.” In addition to the four accounts we have in the Gospels, the same phrase occurs in several other places throughout scripture. In Ezekiel 1:1 it is connected with Ezekiel’s vision of God beside the river Chebar. Malachi 3:10 speaks of God opening the “windows of Heaven,” and pouring out a blessing on His obedient children. In each of these cases this is obviously, a symbolic figure of speech, pointing to a spiritual reality.

    Turning our attention to the New Testament, Jesus tells the astonished Nathaniel. “…Hereafter ye shall see  heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (John 1:51). This is hardly a reference to a literal and visible occurrence. In the well-known account of the stoning of Stephen and his vision of Jesus “standing at the right hand of the Father,” we have no indication that anyone but Stephen saw this vision.

    When the “Heavens were opened” to Peter inaugurating his mission outreach to the gentiles at the house of Cornelius we are, again dealing with a spiritual vision and not a literal visible manifestation. Finally, when the heavens were opened to John in Revelation 4:1 and 19:11, we have, as with all seven previous accounts, not the slightest indication that this was anything other than a revelatory vision experienced by only one person.

    Each of these references is figurative and symbolic. In Revelation 6:14-17 however, we find a very different picture altogether. Here the “heavens depart as a scroll,” all men see it and are terrified and hide themselves in caves, rocks, and mountains.  Such would be the natural and expected reaction of all men if the heavens were literally and visibly opened to them.

    At the baptism of Jesus the scriptures do not say that the heavens were opened unto all of the people, but rather “to him,” meaning John the Baptist. It was John alone that saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove. This was the sign promised, by which he would recognize the Messiah.

    But what about this “voice from Heaven”? That this is the Father speaking is made clear from His statement “This is my beloved Son…” Was this then an audible voice heard by the multitude? Let’s examine some other scriptural accounts and see what we can learn.

    In Exodus 20:18-19 we have the story of the giving of the Law to the people of Israel at Sinai, the children of Israel who heard the literal and audible voice of God were terrified  (compare Heb. 12: 18-21). The physical manifestation of God, speaking to His people provoked an immediate reaction of tremendous fear.

    Compare the account of Jesus and the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration. Here we find the Father making virtually the same statement as recorded at the baptismal scene.  Upon hearing the audible voice of God, the disciples fell to the ground in terror. Finally, in Acts 9:3-7 we find the account of Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus. While on the surface, there seems to be no reaction on the part of those present with Saul, the Greek phrase translated as “speechless” is quite reveling. Occurring only here it literally means “breathless.” Do you find yourself a little breathless when you are frightened?

    Quite significantly and contrary to every other recorded instance in scripture in which a voice was heard from Heaven or the heavens literally opened, here at the baptism of Jesus we see not a single reaction from the crowd; not the slightest indication that anyone except John and Jesus were aware of what was taking place. Why? Because the things recorded here were part of John’s vision. The revelation was for him alone; no one else apparently saw or heard anything.

    It is important for us to understand that the phrase, “the Heavens were opened,” is a Hebrew idiom—a figure of speech, signifying that a vision was taking place or that a revelation was being given. John saw the Spirit of God, in what I believe to be a vision, descending like a dove. This served to identify Jesus to John as Jehovah-Elohim manifested in the flesh—the anointed Messiah of Israel. On Jesus’ part it signified His anointing and commissioning for ministry—He was now thirty years old, the age at which Jewish men became eligible to enter the priesthood.

   Additionally, the total lack of response on the part of the crowd gives us good reason to believe that only John and Jesus heard the voice from heaven. Taking all of this together, we can therefore conclude that, according to the scriptures rightly divided, John the Baptist, in a vision only, saw the heavens opened, the Spirit descend like a dove, and heard the voice of the Father from Heaven confirming to him that this was indeed the promised Messiah.

   There was no actual dove sitting on Christ’s shoulder. The Holy Ghost is not a bird—He doesn’t have wings or feathers. This is simply a description of the anointing presence and power of God descending and remaining on Jesus. All that the people saw there on that day was the person of Jesus, standing with John in the waters of the Jordan River. John the Baptist, however, saw by revelation, the carpenter from Nazareth, become the anointed Messiah, now commissioned as the one who baptizes with the Holy Ghost. It is this that John bore record and saw (Jn 1:32-34). It came to him by revelation knowledge to show him that Jesus was the Christ, the Jehovah God of Israel—manifested in the flesh.

   Consider this from another angle: suppose for a moment that indeed, as many believe, the heavens were literally opened, an actual dove floated down from Heaven, landing upon Christ, and the voice of God thundered from Heaven. Without question this would have been one of the greatest events ever to have happened in their day. Were this to have taken place in a manner visible to all, everyone there that day, including John the Baptist would immediately began to broadcast this event to any and all who would listen. News of this momentous occasion would have spread like wildfire, drawing crowds from all the surrounding towns and villages. This would have been a complete contradiction of Jesus’ desire in the early phase of His ministry, as recorded in scripture, of maintaining a low profile. He repeatedly warned people not to broadcast His miracles, so as to minister unhindered.

   Additionally, with the presence of so many eyewitnesses, no one would have been able to long doubt or be likely to forget something of this significance. It is therefore telling that just a short time later, while in prison John sent two of his disciples to Jesus with the question, “Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another?” (Mt 11:3). In other words “Are you really Him, or was it all just my imagination at the river?”

   Why not simply confer with the others who supposedly saw the same thing? If John experienced, along with everyone else, the heavens literally opened, a physical dove land on Jesus’ shoulder, and an audible voice from Heaven—can we honestly believe he would so soon forget? Would anyone for that manner be so quick to doubt or call into question such an experience?

   Jesus’ response to this inquiry is highly significant. As recorded in the Gospel of Luke, it seems that Jesus ignored their question. He continues on with His business of healing the sick and ministering to the afflicted. He casts out demons and restores sight to the blind (Lk 7:19-23). Only then does He turn to the disciples of John and with gentle love and patience He says, “Go and show John again those things which you do see and hear: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.” (Mt 11:4-5).

   The baptism of Jesus was not meant to introduce to the devout Jewish onlookers, a radical and innovative doctrine of plurality in the Godhead. Instead it signified the authoritative anointing of Jesus as the Messiah. A proper understanding of God’s omnipresence will dispel any notion that the heavenly voice and “dove” either indicate or require separate persons. But what about Jesus’ enigmatic response to John’s question?  In verses that John would have been intimately familiar with, the Prophet Isaiah prophesies in chapter 35:

   “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, be strong, fear not: Behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with recompense; He will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame man will leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.”

—–Isaiah 35:3-6,

(Compare also Isaiah 61:1-2)

   A careful examination of all these accounts in harmony leads one to believe with confidence that before his death, John had the assurance that indeed, the Messiah had come. Jesus Christ—Jehovah-Elohim—the Lord of Glory walked among men.

How to Read the Bible like a Seminary Professor

Part Four—Application

We have looked at the first two steps in how to study the Bible: observation, and interpretation.

Here we come to the third and final step in personal Bible study.

Application

This is where we ask that all-important question: “How does it work?”

Application involves four steps: know, relate, meditate, and practice.

You know, many of us Christians are like poor photographs:

–overexposed and underdeveloped—

This is why the step of application is so vital: God wants His truth to transform your life!

So, let’s look into four keys to application:

1.  The first step in application is to Know the truth

Never forget, the application is always built on the interpretation

Therefore, if the interpretation is wrong — the application is wrong!

Also, never forgive the principle—there is one interpretation with many applications.

So, if that’s true, I want to make sure that my interpretation is “dead on” accurate.

Otherwise, I’m going to make an incorrect and sometimes even heretical application.

Let me give you an example: snake handling Pentecostals misinterpret Mark Chapter 16 and end up in heresy.

2.  The second key is to relate the truth to life.

We all know the verse in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “therefore, if any man be in Christ he is a new creation, old things have passed away, behold, all things are become new.”

So, I want to ask—how do I relate this truth to my marriage, to my family?

I had one Minister tell me he had completely stopped sinning!!

I wanted to say, “I’d sure like 5 minutes with your wife and kids.”

My friend, if your Christianity doesn’t work in your home—it doesn’t work!

That’s the ultimate testing place- where I can tell whether or not I have the real deal.

What about my work?

We probably spend more time at work than we do with our families.

Many times here, Christians are totally silent.

What they fail to understand is that your work is part of your ministry!

God wants us to be salt and light—invading the marketplace and effectively representing Jesus Christ.

How does this relate to my life in the church?

How does this relate to my own personal life?

But then don’t forget,  there is a third key:

you not only need to know the truth;

you not only need to relate the truth to your personal life, but,

3.  You also need to meditate on the truth.

That’s why our foundation verse in Joshua 1:8 was given:

Let’s read it again:

Joshua 1:8 King James Version (KJV)

This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

Do you want prosperity? 

Do you want significance? 

Do you want meaning and purpose in your life?

Joshua said that the key is mastery of the Word of God, and it comes by meditating on the Word of God.

Psalm 1:1-3 King James Version (KJV)

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.

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

The Psalmist said:

Psalm 119:97 King James Version (KJV)

97 O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.

These passages are filled with the command to meditate on the word of God day and night.

( Oh, by the way, that’s one reason you want to memorize Scripture, so that you may have it readily available to you to think about and meditate on.)

When you need it in the time of crisis or in the time of temptation—it will be there for you–you’ve got it!

And let me remind you, that when massively tempted by the devil, Jesus said what?

“It is written.”

He went straight to the Word!

Where did every one of His statements come from?  From the Book of Deuteronomy.

Let me ask you something: if your spiritual life depended on your knowledge of the book of Deuteronomy—how well would you do?

Meditation—memory!

4.  The last key and the most transforming one is practice the truth

Ask God to help you apply these truths today!

But like the old warning—don’t ask God for patience, unless you are prepared for what’s coming!  Because He’ll take you very seriously.

I sometimes have people ask me, “Why did this happen to me?”

And I’ll simply ask one question: “How are you praying?”

“Well, I prayed, Lord, use my life and everything in it.”

Well, that’s exactly what He’s doing and when He begins to work—we wonder what in the world He’s doing!

God will give you opportunities.  That’s why it’s so exciting to live in this day and age—

For never before in history has this world, our country needed what we have more.

We have innumerable opportunity’s to put to use what we’re learning in the society in which we live.

So, we’ve learned the importance of application and we’ve learned four keys—

  • We want to know the truth,
  • We want to relate the truth,
  • We want to meditate the truth, until
  • We begin to practice the truth.

Now with that as a backdrop—let me give you some important questions to ask that will help you in the process of application.

1.  Is there an example to follow?

Jot down 1 Corinthians 11:1—where Paul tells us, “Follow me, as I follow Christ.”

The first time I saw that I thought “Yeah, right.”

“Nobody needs to follow my example.”

Folks, whether you know it or not, understand it or not, they are following you—your mate, your children, the people in your church, the people at your work, they are all watching your example.

So, when you come to a passage-ask yourself—is this an example for me—positive or negative?

There’s a second one:

2.  Is there a sin to avoid?

In Ephesians 5, Paul tells me to love my wife as Christ loved the church.  Every single day I have to ask, “am I doing that?”

See, this word, all of it, needs to be the primary motivation of my life.

3.  Is there a promise to claim?

See the thrill in following the lord is that what he promises—he provides!

  • “I will never leave you, nor forsake you”
  • “I can do all things through Christ”
  • “My God shall supply all my needs”

As we claim these promises—God proves himself faithful.

4.  Is there a prayer to repeat?

I’m not talking here about “vain repetition”—but taking the prayers of Scripture and making them yours.

Much as we did with the disciple’s prayer in Matthew 6.

The other I like is the true Lord’s Prayer which is found in John 17. 

Another prayer many have prayed—the Prayer of Jabez in I Chronicles 4:10.

In each of these cases, I am learning what he tells me to pray, but also, listening to Christ as he prays to the Father.

What an opportunity!

5.  Fifthly, Is there a command to obey?

The Bible is full of commands and when you come to the application sections in the word, such as Romans 12-16, and Galatians 5-6, Ephesians 4-6, or Colossians3-4?

Study those! Take your pen and underline each command given to you.

6. The sixth question is this—Is there a condition to meet?

For example, in John 15:7 it says:

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

That word “if” is so important.  God has a condition, doesn’t He?

Then you have to ask yourself, what does it mean to abide?—it simply means to obey!

7.  Number 7 – –Is there a condition to meet?

Is there a passage to memorize?  We all know Acts 2: 38, but what about Joshua 1: 8?  What about Psalm 1, or Isaiah 53, or John 14?

I have to tell you, having been in Church all my life and a Christian for 25 years now, one of my deepest regrets is that I haven’t memorized more Scripture.

Some of the greatest victories in your life will come from Scripture you have memorized.

When the crisis comes, it will be those passages that carry you through.

They become working capital exactly because you have them memorized.

But, we can’t use them if they aren’t there; if we haven’t memorized them.

I’ll also tell you, do it now!

Parents?

Drill this into your kids.

Not only will it carry them through life, but, as we get older, it becomes harder.

Things you learn leak out faster than before.

8. And the last question I want to give you, as regards Application is this: Is there a challenge to follow?

Let’s look at a challenge.

Ezra 7:10 King James Version (KJV)

10 For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.

Let’s begin by getting the big picture of Ezra.

It falls into two divisions: Ezra 1-6 and Ezra 7-11.

In between is a 58-year time gap. What happened?

Well, what was happening were some of the most important events in Greek history; the Battle of Salamis, the Battle of Thermopylae that determined the entire future of the Greek Empire.

All of this is passed over in silence in Ezra. Why?

Why is it missing?

Because the most important thing happening during those 58 years was that God was preparing a man—that man was Ezra!

Ezra became one of the most important men in the history of Israel!

In the first 6 chapters, we have the re-building of the Temple under Zerubbabel.

But, in Chapters 7-11 we have the re-building of the people, and it took a real man of God with clear-cut objectives to pull that off.

This is why Ezra 7:10 begins with the little connective “For.”

“For Ezra had prepared his heart”—this is the explanation. This is the secret of his success.

But, what does it mean to “prepare” one’s heart?

I’m sure many of you have been asked—particularly if you are in the ministry—“Are you prepared for this?”

And, many would say: “Well, I went to Bible college.”

“I read a book. I was mentored by someone.”

Whatever it may be.

But, let’s look at the preparation God gave to Ezra—which I believe He wants to give to us.

Ezra 7:10 King James Version (KJV)

10 For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments

If you look in the text, you’ll find that there are three main verbs: Seek, Do, and Teach.

Let’s put those together.

First, Ezra prepared his heart to Seek the Law, that is to study the Scriptures.  See, that was his preparation.

He’s doing what we are talking about in this series—he’s studying the Scriptures.

All he had was a portion of the Old Testament—but, what he had, he studied!

We must always keep in mind: You cannot impart what you do not possess. If you don’t have it, you can’t give it!

And it takes time—it takes work—it takes discipline!

And that’s what the Spirit of God is teaching us, is that Ezra was a man willing to pay the price.

See, it’s not available in a bargain basement sale.

It will cost you if you really want a ministry that has impact.

But, notice, he doesn’t stop with simply knowing something.

Because the second verse tells us he not only prepared his heart to see the Word of God—But also to DO the Word of God.

His PREPARATION is followed by his PRACTICE.

Many Christians, oftentimes, know a great deal about the Bible.

So what?

That’s all well and good.

But, the real question is: do you live it? Do you practice it?

Because you and I live in a day where people are not so much asking: “is this true?” but rather, “Does this work?”

“What difference does this make in your life?”

“I hear what you’re saying—it sounds good—but, does it work?”

And that’s why Scripture was given—not to satisfy our intellect—but, to transform our lives!

But, don’t miss the next verb—That’s why many of you are listening –you’ve got that passion.

Ezra prepared his heart—not only to SEEK the Law of God—not only to DO the Law of God—but, also to TEACH the Law of God.

His Preparation was clear!

His Practice was consistent!

But, his Passion was to communicate that truth to others!

After all, if you know the Word of God and it is transforming your life, it’s too good to keep; you want to share it with every person you know so that they too can enjoy these fabulous truths.

So! Put these three together and you get the whole picture.

You show me someone who knows the Word and who is doing the Word and I’ll show you a person imminently capable of communicating the Word of God to others.

The ultimate test of your communication is not simply the impartation of facts but, rather the transformation of lives.

So, we apply it to ourselves first and then to others!

Implementing Personal Bible Study

The final question we want to ask in this series on Personal Bible study is:

“Now what?” or “Where do we go from here?”

I’m sure at this stage you have a lot of good intentions, a lot of hopes; but, ultimately, it all boils down to this: “What are you going to do about it?”

So, I want to leave you with three practical steps to help you implement what we have learned together in these sessions.

#1—First of all, make a quality decision to establish a regular program of personal Bible study.

I made that decision in my second year of Bible College.

Dr. Donald Vestal, Founder of the Bible College of which I am part told me—“Don’t study for a course, a paper or a message—study for a lifetime of ministry.”

I have never recovered from that admonition.

You have to make a quality decision! It’s a choice! Because

Your objective always determines your outcomes.

You achieve that for which you aim.

What you have got to do is set aside some time specifically dedicated to study—and keep it!

Oh, and by the way—don’t bite off more than you can chew! Take a small bite until you are capable of handling more.

Start small—I ask new believers this:

“Will you give me just 15 minutes every morning to study the Word and to pray?”

See, they’ve never done this before. They need to start small.

I know a lot of people who get motivated to study the Bible—so they come up with this grand program: “I’m going to study the Bible an hour a day!” and after two days—it’s gone!

An hour a day of Bible study is easy, and hardly enough—but, you don’t start there—start small with what you can handle and build up over time.

#2—Another suggestion I would like to make to you is this: Make a personal plan.

If you have decided to spend, say, 30 minutes a day with the Lord—how are you going to spend it?

I would suggest that you spend the first 20 minutes in Bible reading and study and the final 10 minutes in prayer.

And, do it regularly!

It’s better to have a shorter program of Bible study and be consistent with it.

If you miss it, you don’t get all stressed out—you haven’t lost your salvation!

Did you miss a day? It’s simply, “Sorry Lord, I’ll be back tomorrow,” And, you do it! Stay consistent.

Eventually, you come to a point where to miss out on your time with God is its own penalty—too much a penalty to pay!

You’ll miss it too much!

Your salvation doesn’t depend on it, but, your anointing and sanctification sure do!

You absolutely must have regular, dedicated time in the Word and in Prayer.

It’s a choice you make!

If it’s a question of discipline? The answer is simple: if you do it once, you can do it twice.

If you can do it twice, you can do it three times.

If you can do it three times, you can do it all week, and if you can do it a week—you can make it a habit.

Once you form a habit, it becomes permanent –something that will stay with you the rest of your life—it becomes a lifestyle.

#3—Here’s a third suggestion I’d like to give you.,

Human beings are social creatures—we crave companionship.

We meet for coffee.

We talk on the phone, chat, text, you name it.

Why not form a Bible study group?

Why not gather with your husband or wife or fellow brothers or sisters, people who share a similar passion for God and begin to meet together—once a week, once a month, whatever, for Bible study.

See, when you meet together as a team of two or three or more—you motivate each other and keep each other accountable.

God will meet you there and show you wondrous things out of His Word.

One of the greatest weaknesses in many Christian lives is an absolute lack of accountability. No one they are submitted to; No one that loves them enough to ask them the hard questions.

I remember mentors in the past, who would corner me and say: “What are you studying? Are you in the Word?” and I would be forced to admit “No I am not.” or “Not nearly enough.”  And I was ashamed to admit that!

Some would often say, “Why don’t we meet together and we can help each other stay on track.” A group or a buddy system really helps make a difference.

Those who have college experience already know the power and benefits of a study group!

Finally, one of the things you need to do occasionally is evaluate the process.

Three things I like to ask in any evaluation is:

  • What are the strengths in what I am doing?
  • What are the weaknesses? And
  • What do I need to change?

Don’t forget Church! Be there every time the doors are open.

Maybe with your spouse.

A small group of friends.

A fellow minister.

Whatever the constituency of your group—you have a small group of people who share a passion for the things of God and who are seeking to be changed by the Word.

I cannot think of anything I would encourage you more than this: Don’t just get in the Word—Let the Word get into you!

And get ready to watch the transformation of your life through that Word by the power of the Spirit!

How to Read the Bible like a Seminary Professor Part 3–Interpretation

In our last session, we looked at the first step of Bible study: observation.  In this session, we will investigate the second step which is interpretation.

This is where we ask and answer the question:

What does it mean?

In Acts chapter eight Phillips is told to go to the chariot of the Ethiopian eunuch.

When he arrived, he found the man reading from the book of Isaiah.

Phillip asked a simple and reasonable question: “Do you understand what you are reading?”

The eunuch made a very significant statement as it regards Bible study: “How can I unless someone should guide me?”

So, I want to give you some guidance that you can use and pass on to others as to how to interpret Scripture.

As a basis for that, I want to give you five keys to help you understand Scripture.

There are five keys to interpretation.  They are:

  1. Content –observe the details of the passage (we noted that carefully in our last session)
  2. Context—know what comes before and after the passage
  3. Comparison—compare the passage to other related passages
  4. Culture—note the cultural context of the passage
  5. Consultation—consult what others have said about the passage only after forming your own conclusions.

 

Content

  1. The first key to a proper Biblical interpretation is Content

Content is always the fruit of your observation which we looked at previously.

The more time you devote to observation, the less you will have to spend on interpretation and more accurate than interpretation will be.

The less time you spend in observation—them more time you’ll have to spend on interpretation and the least accurate your interpretation will be.

So, this is not a secondary issue.  It is absolutely vital to a proper understanding in Bible study.

The first key to a proper interpretation is to examine the content through proper observation.

Constantly looking at and defining words, recognizing any repetition, cause/effect, contrast, questions and answers, people, places, things. The 6 W’s and the H.

In other words, you just drench your mind with that passage and mine it for every detail.

One of the greatest Bible teachers of the last century made a statement I will never forget.  He said, “When I read this passage for the one 100th time understanding came.”

Wow!  What a challenge and what an indictment.  I thought as a kid when I first read his book if I read it five times t would border on the miraculous.

It was then I learned the importance of continued reading and perceptive meditation.  I attribute my success in nursing school and seminary to that man’s insight.

These two put together, will determine the impact the content will have on your interpretation: continued reading and perceptive meditation.

Context

  1. But there’s a second key to interpretation—we call it the principle of context.

The easiest way to understand this is—What goes before and what follows it?

You know, I was privileged to spend a lot of time in Bible Conferences.  And we always had a question and answer session.

I cannot tell you how many questions I could have saved if only I had read what came before and what came after.

When I read the passage “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” I remember thinking, “wait a minute, I thought I was saved by grace—through faith.”

I really struggled with that passage and it was months before someone said to me, “why don’t you read the next verse.”

What it actually says it has, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  For it is God who works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”—Phil 2:12

See you can take any verse of Scripture—Old or New Testament—rip it out of its context and create great heresy.

Context is vital to the meaning of the passage.

Just as we saw in  the passage in Mark chapter 5, it was the teaching that came before, that gave the context to the testing the disciples were about to experience on the Sea of Galilee and the lesson of faith they would learn which would come in later verses.

In every section of the passage the subject is faith—different kinds of faith—different kinds of people under different circumstances.

So, I’ve got to look at the context, so I can make sure that I can tell the differences that the Holy Spirit means to communicate.

Early in the chapter, what do we see? There were men, there were women, there was a demon-possessed/mentally disturbed man, there is a woman who had a serious illness for 12 years, and yet, in every one of these cases faith becomes the focus of what the Holy Spirit is teaching.

Interpretation is a key to effective personal Bible study and context is a key to interpretation. 

We’ve looked at the first two steps to effective interpretation: Content and Context, now let’s go on to look at the final three: Comparison, Culture, and Consultation.

 

Comparison

III. The concept of comparison underscores the importance of having a good concordance.

I know it’s the 21st Century and no one uses a concordance anymore, but, there simply is no substitute.

I know most of us have a limited concordance in the back of our Bibles, but, I encourage you to invest in a good comprehensive Analytical Concordance—such as Young’s or Strong’s.

These will allow you to locate quickly every word in the Bible.

You need to spend a lot of time with a good concordance.

The great Bible teacher G.  Campbell Morgan, one of the finest examples of Biblical expositors of the previous generation, was well known for having only two books in his early library—a well-thumbed Bible and a well-used concordance.

It is that critical to the process and you’ll learn for yourself just how indispensable one can be.

As you study, you will find that there are other Scriptures and passages that will add to your understanding of the passage before you.

This will give real meaning and a deeper understanding of what you’re studying.

This is why when you study the dost you want to see what Matthew had to say and compare it to Mark, Luke, and John, even making note of what they did not say.

For example—if the miracle or parable is in Matthew, Mark, and Luke—I want to compare those so that, I not only study them separately but,  compositely—I want to put them together to get the big picture.

 

Culture

  1. The fourth step is also one of the most fascinating.

We’re in the 21st century and the Internet has exploded our understanding of different cultures.

American truly is a melting pot of different cultures.

The cultures are different—not right and wrong—just different.

We can learn from different cultures—I regularly minister to a lot of Christians in different countries–India, Africa, Pakistan, and the Philippines for example—places with vastly different cultures than ours.

What amazes me is they often have a better understanding of Scripture than we do!

Why is that?

One reason is that their culture is closer to that of the New Testament than ours and they can relate better to what is going on, on the page.

So, this is the understanding that life doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it exists in a culture, the understanding of which will teach us how they do, what they do and why they do it.

You also need a comprehensive Bible dictionary, where you can look up details about what you are reading.

What does the washing of feet mean? Why did they do that?

What is a covenant?

What was Passover?  When was it celebrated? Why was it celebrated?

 

 

Consultation

  1. The fifth step and one heavy with significance is consultation with other sources.

We have a wealth of information today! More so than at any other time in history! And what’s really great is:

All of this information is available readily at our fingertips.

Let me give you just a few examples:

First of all, you need a good Bible Atlas.  This is simply a book that contains maps.

So when you want to trace a journey like Paul’s or the Israelites in the wilderness you can do it using the maps.

You want to see what Nineveh looked like, Jericho, Jerusalem?  It’s all there.

Do you want to know what the tabernacle looked like?  Just turn to it and there it is!

All of this is found in a good Bible atlas.

Next, you need a good Bible Dictionary.  Here you can look up names, places, dates, obscure words.

A massive amount of learning can take place in a very short time

You want a good Commentary!

Why?  Because I don’t trust myself all that much.  My best ideas aren’t worth much.

The fact that God is teaching me about his Word—that does not exclude the fact that he has taught others; many of them far smarter than me.

When you come up with an interpretation of the passage and you want to know, “Is it reliable?” you can quickly see what others are saying.  Test some of the well-known dependable sources.

A few cautions here:

Get your own interpretation first!  This is vital to learning!

Next, if nobody else sees what you’re seeing, the probability is you need to go back to the study board to find out what you’re missing and where you’re off base.

Thirdly, most commentaries are written from a particular viewpoint.

What does that mean?

To be careful and always check with your pastor before you get too far out in left field.

Stick to the basics and you’ll be fine!

 

All right, let’s do a quick exercise and see this process in action.

Let’s look at  the book of Romans chapter 12 verses one and two.

Let’s examine these verses with our five-step process.

  1. First, we want to examine the content.

The first step is to relate a passage to the rest of the book.  The book of Romans has the theme of The Righteousness of God.

It breaks down into three logical divisions:

Chapters 1-8 are theological, they are doctrinal. It’s straight forward teaching

Chapters 9,10, and 11 are dispensational—that is, they ask the crucial question, “How does this relate to the Jewish people.”

And beginning at chapter 12 and going through 16 we have the practical application part.  How do I relate all of this truth to the life I now live.

But what has always intrigued me is how this practical section begin and it begins with these two verses:

Romans 12:1-2 King James Version (KJV)

12 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

It begins with the words, “I beseech thee…” why does he use that phrase?  What does it mean?

It means, “I urge you.” Why doesn’t he use the word, “command”?  After all, he is an Apostle.

But see he has a concern—compassion—you can feel his heart in what he says—the urgency of it—it’s not optional, it’s essential!

He then gives the interesting word “present.”

Well, if you look it up in a concordance, you will find that Mary and Joseph in Luke chapter two-“presented” the infant child Jesus in the temple-dedicating him.

In Romans 6:15 Paul says don’t “present” your bodies to sin but present them to God because you are alive in Christ Jesus

And what does he want you to present?  Your bodies!

That embraces your whole being.  It’s your instrument.

It’s the only thing you have that you can present to God.

So be careful what you do with it; how you treat your body.

Paul calls it a “living” sacrifice!

If it’s a sacrifice, how can it be living?

It’s a very simple distinction—and so glad you asked.

See you not presenting a dead animal—you’re presenting a living person—and we have a way of crawling off the altar.

 

  1. What about context?

Well, notice that it begins with “therefore”.

Many have heard me say this—but every time you see a “therefore” ask what it’s “there” for.

It is your connection—“by the mercies of God.”

That’s it—the whole first 11 chapters become the basis for what he says here.

  1. What about comparison?

Well, notice right in verse two there’s a negative and positive:

“Be not conformed” but “be ye transformed.”

Why does he say, “be not conformed to this world!  Because if you go back to Romans Chapter 8 we are told that we have been pre-destined to be “conformed” (same word) to the image of Christ.

You will either be conformed to Christ or else you’ll be conformed to the world—there are no other options—and they are diametrically opposed.

How does that play out?

The positive side!

Transformed is the same word from which we get “metamorphosis.”

By the renewing of your mind.  It’s the caterpillar to butterfly.

Total transformation!

 

  1. Culture?

Not as prominent here, but you’ll want to have a basic understanding of animal sacrifices.

Now, he’s using this as a metaphor—just as in the Old Testament they presented an animal—Paul says we are to present our bodies/ourselves.

And finally there is:

 

  1. Consultation

This is where you go to the library and check out a book on Romans, grab a commentary, or go online and check what others have said, only after, that is, you have formed your own conclusions.

All of this is why, if you’re going to be a Minister or Bible student, you want to build the very best library you possibly can—either physical or electronic.

Buy books.  Buy the software and whatever it takes to learn as best you can.

We are blessed people—we stand on the shoulders of the giants of the past and have access to all they have written.

There is simply no excuse for us as Bible students not to make every effort to learn.

The key is in the order—first the text—then the secondary material!

Always!

I have seen students work with a commentary without even having the text open in front of them!

Sad!  But true!

Don’t ever let it be said of us!

We need as apostolic disciples of Christ to do all we can to master the book and see to it that the book masters us.

How to Read the Bible like a Seminary Professor Part Two – Observation

People often ask me why I do what I do.

I am a Registered Nurse.

I’m a Bible College and Seminary Graduate

I have advanced graduate and post-graduate degrees in Bible and Theology.

There are many other things I could be doing.

Why then teach the Bible in an Apostolic Church in ????????.

Why spend so much time on Facebook and Skype debating with Trinitarians and other religious groups?

Why write books on the Bible?

It’s because ladies and gentlemen–the Bible has changed my life–and it can change yours too!

In fact, with the ever-increasing evil present in our world, this book holds mankind’s only hope.

But there’s a problem of grave concern in the body of Christ and that is severe Biblical illiteracy!

Christians simply don’t know what is in this book and they certainly don’t know how to use it.

My goal is to help change that, to the best of my ability.

“People learn how to use the Bible mostly from their pastors and teachers in church – so preachers and teachers have a better opportunity than anyone else to teach good Biblical theology and model a hermeneutically sound use of the Bible.”

What is “hermeneutics,” you ask?

Hermeneutics is a $30.00 word that simply means how we interpret the Bible.

In these sessions we are learning how to do proper Hermeneutics; that is how to properly understand Scripture.

 

In our first session, we gained a general overview of how to do effective personal Bible study.

But basically, all we did was show you the car.

Today, we’re going to kick the tires and take a peek under the hood.

We learned that there are only three major steps in personal Bible study – Observe – Interpret – Apply.

Observation – Interpretation, and Application.  Just three simple parts.

Today, and over the next three sessions, we’re going to get more intimately involved with each of these components, beginning with observation

Observation asks the question, “What do I see?”

We’re asking seven key questions:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?
  • How? And lastly, and most importantly:
  • Now what?
  1. Who?

Who are the people involved?

Who are they interacting with?

What else do you know about them from other stories?

If you are studying and you encounter the Apostle Peter? What can you recall about him from other parts of the Bible?

  1. What?

What do you know about these people?

What are they saying?

What are they doing?

What’s happening in the passage?

Remember Bible study is a process – it’s a building process.

Understanding grows as you put the pieces together.

 

Is it a miracle?

What kind of Miracle?

Is it a story?  Can you tell it?

If you can’t tell it, you don’t know it.

You need to go back and reread it – study it until it becomes a part of you.

I asked one of my seminary professors once, how many times they read a passage of Scripture before teaching or preaching it?

Their answer was – dozens!

What I took away from that is to read it as often as needed to make it second nature.

The bottom line is can you tell the story?! 

Is the passage a command?

I’ve been reading the book of James did you know there are 58 sharp commands in that book – not suggestions – commands!

So ask yourself “what does he want me to do?”

Is it an explanation?

Is it an example?

  1. When?

What time is it?  Early morning?  Night time?  What morning?  What night?

Mark 1:35 King James Version (KJV)

35 And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.

What day was it?  The day after the busiest day in our Lord’s recorded ministry.

(By the way – did you know that there are only 52 specific days in Jesus’ ministry recorded for us in Scripture).

But this particular day was so filled with miracles and ministry that it left our Lord completely drained to the point that his very first priority that morning was communion with his father.

Many of us would be tempted to sleep in.

Not only are we interested in the timing of a particular event but as well – what came before – and what after.

What produced it – what did it produce?

  1. Where?

What’s the location?  Where did the events take place?

This is where you’ll find a good map comes in handy.

You know– those maps in the back of your Bible?

Have you ever looked at them for more than a minute?

Most people never use them so they have no clue where particular events happened.

I have a funny but sad story – I was teaching a class one afternoon and a lady with a PhD stuck her hand up and asked me where in South America we can find the Dead Sea?

Where did Paul’s journeys take him?

There are three of them.

Where did he go and what did he do there.

Where all did Joseph travel in his journey?

Where did the Exodus take the Children of Israel?

What about the Promised Land? Where is it? How big is it? (About the size of the State of NJ)

  1. Why?

Why did God include this particular passage or event in the Bible?

John tells is there are many signs not included in that book so we must ask ourselves why did he include the particular seven he did mention?

He tells us!

It’s because each of the signs was meant to produce faith –belief in the Son of God!

Why in Romans 13 does Paul suddenly introduce the topic of the Christian responsibility to government?

Do I have a responsibility to my Government?

Paul seems to think so!

Why is that there; in the greatest theological treatise in the New Testament?

Actually, it’s because theology impacts every area of life.

  1. How?

How were things done?

How did they travel?

  1. Now what?

We now know the who, what, when, where, why and how.  So– now what?

What do we do with this information?

How does it affect my life?

How does it impact my behaviors,

My marriage,

My family,

My job,

My neighborhood,

My finances.

Not only do I seek answers to the first six questions but I must discover the seventh by asking how does it apply to me?

Only then am I ready to move on to the next step.

 

Example of observation

Mark 4:35-41 King James Version (KJV)

35 And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.

36 And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.

37 And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.

38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?

39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

40 And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

41 And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

OK, now,  what can we observe in this passage?  What do we see?

The first question involves context:

What precedes this passage and what follows?

Well if you go back in Mark Chapter 4, you’ll see the oft-repeated statement – “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

He’s giving them a lesson on listening.

We find here a series of parables – he even takes the time to explain one so that they don’t miss what he is saying.

Then beginning at Mark 4:35 and continuing through Mark 5:43 we find a series of four miracles.

This is often referred to as the miracle section of the Gospel of Mark.

The first of these is the calling of the storm.

So, let’s look again at our passage:

 

Who?

Who is involved?

Well, we have Jesus and the disciples.

Jesus the world’s greatest teacher has just spent the day instructing these disciples.

At the end of the day, Jesus says, “Let’s go to the other side.”

Then what happens?

If Jesus falls asleep and a great storm comes up?

Next,

What?

What does Jesus say?

Well, we’ve just seen that he said, “Let’s go over to the other side.”

Yet in the middle of the lake, the disciples are convinced they are drowning.

What do the disciples say?  They ask: “Jesus, don’t you care!?”

Translation – “Will you at least help us bail?”

Remember, these are professional fishermen they had seen this kind of storm before.

In the natural, they had every right to be afraid.

 

What does Jesus say next?

Peace!  Be still!

What happens?  Immediately there is calm.

This is clearly a miracle of the first order.

Then Jesus asks the pertinent questions:

“How is it that you have no faith?”

“Why are you of all people, so fearful?”

See faith and fear do not mix!  It’s like oil and water.

What did the disciples say next?

“Who is this that even the wind and the seas obey him?”

When?

When does this take place?

What time of day is it?  Well, the text tells us it’s at night.

Scary enough, a storm like that in the daytime– just imagine it happening at night it adds color and significance to the scene.

 

Where?

Where did this take place?

The Sea of Galilee –

It’s a large lake–8 miles wide, 13 miles long.

Its 690 feet below sea level.

If you don’t know where it is– look it up?  That’s how we learn.

Next, ask yourself the question;

 

Why?

Why was this written?

Well, it was written for a number of reasons: the first of which is that it is teaching us that when Jesus Christ is in our boat – it can’t sink.

The disciples are involved in a teaching moment and in order to be taught, you must be teachable.

Here Jesus uses the most desperate of situations — life-threatening even to professionals — to teach trust in him.

He had said, “Let’s go to the other side.”

He didn’t say Let’s go halfway across and sink.

When you and I are teachable in life’s moments then, and only then– we will be able to take the giant steps the disciples are making.

See the big lesson here is trust – Jesus is teaching his disciples– and us –to trust in him.

It’s easy to talk about.  But to do?  Wow!

Do we trust him in all things?

 

How?

How did Jesus do the things He did?

One view says that because He was God the Son, sometimes He acted like a man—other times He acted as God.

Does that work for you?

It doesn’t work for me. How come—because Philippians Chapter 4 tells us that He did not partake of His divine attributes.

In every way, He was 100% fully human.

When Jesus rebuked His disciples for their lack of faith—the implication is that they could have done exactly what He did with the storm.

Or else, His rebuke was uncalled for and out of place.

We must understand that– everything Jesus did—He did as a man anointed by the Holy Spirit.

This was a lesson in trust but it was also a lesson in acting on your faith.

 

And finally, the crucial question:

Now What?

We put this passage into application in our own lives!

How?

By trusting Jesus in the storms of life and stepping out and exercising our faith with the authority and power given us In Christ Jesus!

How to Read the Bible Like a Seminary Professor–Part 1

(or for the Less Adventurous)

How to Effectively Read the Bible

Introduction

When I was a young boy, I won a Bible in a Sunday School contest—Inside the Pastor had written: “This book will keep you from sin, OR sin will keep you from this book!”

Wise words that ring true today!  Dusty Bibles lead to dirty lives!

The Christian has only two options—you are either in the Word and the Word is conforming you to Christ—or you are in the world and the world is pressing you into its mold.

You’ll either be conformed to Christ or conformed to the world.

—————————-*****—————————-

There are more Bibles in Print today than at any other time in history.

Most households have at least one and often half a dozen—but, in most cases, they aren’t read—they aren’t studied—and more importantly they are not applied.

Why is that true?

I believe it is simply because the majority of people simply don’t know how.

That was my problem for a long time. I didn’t know how to read and understand Scripture, so I just didn’t bother.

I’d read for Sunday School and follow along with the Preacher, even memorize key Scriptures—but study? Hardly.

I didn’t know where to begin or how to go about the process.

So, in this first of four parts, I want to ask three pertinent questions:

  • Why Study the Bible?
  • What is Personal Bible Study?
  • What is the Process of Personal Bible Study?
  1. Why Study the Bible?

          There are three reasons that conspire to build a convincing case as to why effective Personal Bible Study is not optional—it’s essential.

First, it is important because:

Effective Personal Bible Study is essential for Spiritual Growth.

In I Peter 2:2 we read:

1 Peter 2:2 

As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

There are several things I want to call your attention to in this passage:

  1. First of all, it speaks to our attitude toward the Word of God.

It’s the attitude of a newborn baby. Just as a baby eagerly grabs for the bottle—you grab for this Book.

All of us who have had children know what it is like to hear a screaming baby in the middle of a night of sleep.

That child must be satisfied and just as soon as he gets the milk he needs—all is calm.

But secondly, he speaks to your appetite.

Just like a newborn baby—“desire,” “long for,” develop an appetite for the Word of God.

All of us have had the experience of developing strong dislikes for certain foods and then suddenly developing a strong appetite for those same foods.

When someone tells me they are not getting much out of the Word –that’s more of a commentary on them than it is the Word—it requires the development of a spiritual appetite.

But don’t miss it! This verse sets forth the aim of the Word—“that you may grow thereby.” Notice carefully—not “Know” but “Grow

You cannot grow without knowing but, it is possible to know and not grow.

  1. There’s a second reason personal Bible study is important:

Effective Personal Bible Study is essential for spiritual maturity.

Let’s look at Hebrews 5:11 – 14

Hebrews 5:11-14 King James Version (KJV)

11 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.

12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.

13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.

14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

The writer says I have a difficulty and that is there is a deficit in hearing.

When by virtue of time—pay attention to that—it’s time to go on to college but, instead, we have to go back to first grade and learn our ABC’s all over again.

But there’s only one way according to this and that is that we discipline ourselves to develop Godliness through exposure to the Word.

  1. There is a third reason for personal Bible study:

And that is:  effective personal Bible study is essential for spiritual effectiveness.

And the passage we want to look at is Second Timothy 3:16—17

2 Timothy 3:16-17 King James Version (KJV)

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God-that means all 66 books—nothing included which should have been excluded—nothing excluded which should have been included.

And He said it’s all profitable—and is profitable for four things:

  • First of all, it’s profitable for doctrine or teaching
  • Secondly, it’s profitable for reproof
  • Thirdly, it’s profitable for correction
  • Finally, it’s profitable for instruction in righteous living

It not only tells you what’s right—it tells you what’s wrong.

It not only tells you how to correct it—it tells you how to continue living it righteously.

My question to you is how can you afford not to study with such convincing reasons as this?

And always remember—there is no growth outside of Effective Personal Bible Study.

 

  1. What is Effective Personal Bible Study

The very first thing that you need before you perform any study is a good definition.

So let me define for us just what is effective personal Bible study.

I want to suggest first, that personal Bible study is Methodicalness.

That is, involves taking certain steps in a certain manner in order to guarantee a certain result.

Not any steps—not any order—not any result.

In this course, we’re going to concentrate on Three basic steps in personal Bible study.

#1-Observation—this is where I ask the question:

“What do I see?”

#2-Interpretation—the process of interpretation is where we ask:

          “What does it mean?”        and lastly, we have:

#3—Application—this is where we ask the all-important question:

          “How does it work?”

You simply cannot rearrange these steps—without finding yourself in error.

Good observation will lead to good, accurate and clear interpretation.

In fact, careless observation will lead to a faulty interpretation resulting in an illegitimate application.

See, it’s not simply methodicalness—is methodicalness with a purpose—with a view to becoming more receptive and reproductive.

So, I want you to bear the steps in mind as we continue over the next few weeks to examine in detail effective personal Bible study.

You show me a man or woman that is effective in public ministry and I’ll show you someone who is also effective in personal Bible study.

In fact, what happens in the pulpit is a direct result of what happens in the study.

Personal effectiveness comes from proper preparation.

What we have to understand—absolutely must understand—is that if we’re going to reach this generation with the Word of God-we’re going to have to spend more time alone in the study—in a logical-methodical-helpful process.

There is great Joy to be found in effectively conveying the truth of God’s word to another person and see that light go on.

There is simply no substitute for firsthand knowledge of an acquaintance with God’s Word.

Why?

Let’s talk about four reasons:

  1. It enables you to think for yourself

See most people don’t think—they simply rearrange and repeat the ideas of others.

It’s Secondhand knowledge.

They’re are an echo, not a voice.

I discovered as a freshman in college that this makes one a very mediocre student.

Real conviction comes from personal Bible study because God is revealed in his word.

2. Secondly, personal Bible study enables you to evaluate the opinions and thoughts of others.

I pick up a commentary– it says this or that—I decide maybe I’ll read a second commentary—bad decision—because the second commentary contradicts what the first one said– now what do I do?

Do I simply toss a coin in the air?

No, it’s my personal Bible study that enables me to evaluate what I’ve read in both of these commentaries and I see that in one there is some truth, but it misses some things.  The other also has some truth.

Together they give me the full picture.

3. The third reason for personal Bible study is that it will give you the personal joy of discovery.

Why is it that more people don’t get excited about sharing the truth with others?  It’s because, frankly, they get everything secondhand—they haven’t seen the truth for themselves.

4. And the fourth reason for personal Bible study is that it will enable you to fall in love with the author.

Do you have a favorite author? A favorite Bible Teacher or writer?

How do you demonstrate that love?

You read what they have written.

See, you can’t fall in love by proxy—it’s a deeply personal experience.

Think about it!  If someone you care about writes you a letter—do you read it?—or do you leave it sitting dusty on a shelf?

That’s why Paul said-“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into of the heart of man the things that God has prepared for them—that what?  Love him.  (I Cor 2:9)

Just think of it!

God wanted to speak to you in the 21st century and he wrote his message in a book.

Read the book!

In the coming weeks, we are going to look, more closely, at the four components of effective personal Bible reading and study. I hope you’ll join me!