Strategy 2 The Word of God Session 4 Applying the Study of the Bible

Understanding how it applies to us – Hermeneutics

God’s Word to us ‘here and now’ – we have the mind of Christ, our Commanding Officer!

Incorporates exegesis in the fullest sense, but we use it to distinguish that particular aspect of taking an ancient text and letting it speak to us today, particularly in Spiritual Warfare – avoid traps and deceptions, understand our orders correctly and apply the correct strategies and tactics.

The same Spirit that inspired the writing can inspire our reading (and is essential to our understanding!). But I would suggest that not every Christian is able to accurately know when thoughts come from the Holy Spirit or their own understanding and pre- dispositions (or from a more sinister source). So understanding the “then and there” meaning (exegesis) is a way of checking that how we apply Scripture in the “here and now” is not off the wall – allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture (spiritual things, spiritually discerned, e.g. the Bereans).

The point is to encounter the Author! There is a joy in reading the Bible devotionally and the sense of direct communication we get when we read that way. But it’s not the only kind of reading we should do. We have to learn to study the Bible, which will in turn, inform our devotional reading. There is a danger that, without studying the original meaning, we limit ourselves to only meeting ourselves in the text (as in any book) – our pre-understanding conditions our attempts to understand, and we go round in a vicious circle of only encountering oneself, rather than the author, the Living God in the case of the Bible.

Reading narcissistically? We often read the Bible as if it were fundamentally about us: our improvement, our life, our triumph, our victory, our faith, our holiness, our godliness. We treat it like a book of timeless principles that will give us our best life now if we simply apply those principles. We treat it, in other words, like it’s a heaven-sent self-help manual. But by looking at the Bible as if it were fundamentally about us, we totally miss the Point–like the two on the road to Emmaus. As Luke 24 shows, it’s possible to read the Bible, study the Bible, and memorize large portions of the Bible, while missing the whole point of the Bible. It’s entirely possible, in other words, to read the stories and miss the Story. In fact, unless we go to the Bible to see Jesus and his work for us, even our devout Bible reading can become fuel for our own narcissistic self-improvement plans, the place we go for the help we need to “conquer today’s challenges and take control of our lives.”

Contrary to popular assumptions, the Bible is not a record of the blessed good, but rather the blessed bad. That’s not a mistake. The Bible is a record of the blessed bad. The Bible is not a witness to the best people making it up to God; it’s a witness to God making it down to the worst people. Far from being a book full of moral heroes to emulate, what we discover is that the so-called heroes in the Bible are not really heroes at all. They fall and fail, they make huge mistakes, they get afraid, they’re selfish, deceptive, egotistical, and unreliable.

The Bible is one long story of God meeting our rebellion with his rescue; our sin with his salvation; our failure with his favour; our guilt with his grace; our badness with his goodness. So, if we read the Bible asking first, “What would Jesus do?” instead of asking “What has Jesus done” we’ll miss the good news that alone can set us free.

The overwhelming focus of the Bible is not the work of the redeemed but the work of the Redeemer. Which means that the Bible is not first a recipe book for Christian living, but a revelation book of Jesus who is the answer to our unchristian living.

Beware of “narcigesis” Interjecting yourself into every Bible passage or reading the Bible as if it’s all about you.

Ask questions!

We can say that if our circumstances are identical to those addressed in the Bible, God’s Word to them is still God’s Word to us. Idol worship was an issue in the first century and is still an issue for many Christians in the East; not just in the East, but the whole issue of Halal meat in UK supermarkets

Dangerous to just interpret the Bible ‘culturally’ and say “Oh that applied then, but is not relevant now” as you can place that line arbitrarily anywhere you like. But we do need to understand something of the first century culture, so we can see what the writer (and the Holy Spirit) is saying – “what’s the point?” Understand the issue then and the Biblical solutions can speak to us today.

Ask questions of the text – the who, what, where, when and why, and, most importantly, “What’s the point?”

Other questions we should ask as we read:

  • Milk/Solid food

1 Pet.2:2; Heb. 5:12 For the newborn child, his/her mother’s milk is the most important food – it provides a perfectly balanced diet for healthy growth. In the same way, the Bible is a perfectly balanced, healthy food for our spiritual diet.

However, we should not stay as babies in our faith and understanding (“in understanding be men!” says Paul), but we should have a baby’s appetite – coming back for more and more. Then we will be able to tackle the meatier aspects of Scripture, e.g. end of Heb. 5:11-6:3

Q. How will this help me grow?

  • Seed

1 Pet. 1:23 Seed contains great potential (great oaks from little acorns grow). As we allow the Word to penetrate our minds and hearts, it brings new life – new desires, new habits and new character

Q. What new thought, desire, habit is God communicating to me?

  • Sword

Firstly, Heb. 4:12 – the short 2-edged Roman sword – cutting into us like a surgeon’s scalpel. Helps us to distinguish right and wrong, bad habits, wrong attitudes and sinful thoughts, and then to cut them out.

Q. What does the Lord want to cut away from my life?

Secondly, it is the only offensive weapon in our armour (even the archangel Michael rebuking satan in Jude relied on God speaking). We need to ‘take it’ Eph. 6:17 and train with it (2 Tim. 2:15)

Q. Is what I have read something that I can use in a situation I am facing?

  • Lamp

Psa 119:105 It sheds light on our daily walk. Through it, God directs and guides – the lamp illuminates the near at hand, and the light shines on ahead. We need to understand the whole counsel of God for light on the path ahead, but hear His voice from it in the day-to-day decisions and circumstances that we face.

Q. What is the Holy Spirit shining His light on in my life or character that He wants to deal with?

  • Fire

Jer. 23:29 Burning up the dross, as in refining precious metal. If we allow it to do that now, we may have less unpleasant shocks on the day when our work will be tested by fire in the presence of the Lord (1 Cor. 3:10-15)

Q. Are there any impurities to be got rid of, any refinements that the Holy Spirit wants to apply to make me more like Jesus?

  • Hammer

Jer: 23:29 destructive, breaking up the hard places in out lives and characters. But also constructive as a goldsmith works gold into items of beauty and usefulness.

Q. Am I resisting what the Lord wants to do in me? How will this help to mould me?

  • Mirror

The Bible is a like a mirror (Jas. 1:23-25) and does reflect back to us what we are like, but not for the purpose on confirming us as we are, but for the purpose of conforming (transforming) us into Christ’s image, as we put it into practice. Jesus speaks of being set free as we encounter truth, and The Truth, in the Word of God (John 8:31-36) and as we “continue in [His] word” – that is in obedience to it.

Q. What is there that I need to obey in what I have read?

How to go about it

See David Pawson’s ‘Unlocking the Bible’ p.778-9 and ch. 41 first page (861). It’s not a text book on this subject, but the whole book is a practical lesson in it!

Most important question you can ever ask is “What’s the point?” What is the author saying and why is he saying it right here? Follow the train of thought – the Bible is not given to us as a set of quotations or proof texts!

A text out of context can be turned into a pretext; compare Scriptures – there will be a number of passages dealing with important themes. The more times a theme occurs, the more important it is!

2 Peter 1:20 not a matter of our personal opinion or interpretation; we need the Holy Spirit’s help.

Background to NT is OT not 21st century culture. E.g. Prodigal Son should have been stoned; Don’t let the sun go down while you are angry Eph. 4:26 quoting Psa 4:4

Purpose is the revelation of God, not helpful hints for harmful habits

  1. Not optional!

Applies to all Christians 2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16. We all do it anyway, subconsciously if not consciously.

  • Prayer and Humility

Most important point is to approach Bible study in a spirit ofprayer and humility. Allow the Word to judge you rather than you judging the Word.

  • The Holy Spirit

Was given guide us John 16:13 He will not contradict himself. Only He understands the things of God 1 Cor. 2:9-11

  • Maintain a clear conscience

It is the moral state of the reader, not the intellectual state, that enables or prevents clear understanding of Scripture (1 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4; Hebrews 5:14; James 1:5-6, etc.). Maintain a clear conscience and attitude of holiness. (1 Tim 1:19). This will be like a disinfectant against deception (self- or others).

  • Scripture is interpreted by Scripture.

Some things are difficult to understand at first reading, or could be taken in a number of different ways. If it’s an important point, it will be repeated elsewhere in the Bible.

No point of doctrine should be stated dogmatically based on a single verse of scripture. We need to know the ‘whole counsel of God’, or test our understanding with someone who does know the Bible better than us, like our Pastor or one of the leadership team.

The Bible is self-explanatory “We write to you nothing but what you can read and understand” (2 Corinthians 1:13) 2 Pet.1:20-21. Even Revelation!

  • Try to get the ‘big picture’.

We’ve thought of context in Exegesis, but that was the immediate context. For applying the text, we need to know something about what God is doing in human history and particularly in the time we are living in now, or in our Spiritual Warfare.

  • Interpret the obscure in the light of the obvious

Always interpret the ‘difficult’ bits in the light of the clearer bits. Watch out for the ‘difficult’ texts simply being those that you are not prepared to obey or which stand against some cherished belief!

  • One interpretation, but could have many applications

Not each person’s truth! Every verse in the Bible has only one interpretation, although that verse may have many applications. The one correct interpretation is that which mirrors the intent of the inspired author.

Putting it into action

What constitutes a good and faithful hermeneutical method—a good, explicitly Christian way of interpreting Scripture? Augustine says in his book “On Christian Teaching”: “So anyone who thinks that he has understood the divine scriptures or any part of them, but cannot by his understanding build up the double love of God and neighbour, has not yet succeeded in understanding them”. This quote challenges every interpreter of Scripture not only to know the text but also (and especially) to live out the text. Putting the text into practice is absolutely essential to knowing Scripture truly. A person successfully attains knowledge of God when he or she embodies the life of Christ to others.

Memorisation

I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You (Psa. 119:11) Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly (Col. 3:16) In a crisis, what is in you will come out, like a tube of toothpaste! How much better to have a reservoir of God’s Word to draw upon rather than running around, trying to get help from here, there and everywhere. Yes, we still need and value the help of others, but what’s our first response?

Bad memory? Lack of faith? John 14:26 Jesus promised the help of the Holy Spirit to being to our memory everything He has taught us. Start simple, use memory cards.

Meditation

Not transcendental, emptying the mind, to achieve some sort of karma! But ‘chewing the cud’, with others if necessary – I think it is necessary!

Too often we read Scripture like we fill up our cars. We pull up, put our card in, fill up our tanks with fuel, and drive away. There is neither a relationship with the owner of the petrol station nor with those around us filling up their individual tanks. Our interpretation of Scripture can’t be that way. Studying Scripture, as Prof. Kelly Kapic emphatically asserts, “is not the acquisition of information.” It’s not just about filling up our individual cars. It’s not just about gaining knowledge. It “is emphatically and deeply relational.”

We shouldn’t see the study of Scripture as an opportunity to acquire information in order to impress other believers! We should want to see the study of Scripture as the means of enjoying deeper communion with our triune Lord. And after having come under the cascade of God’s love in Christ, we then overflow with love, grace, and encouragement to those around us, and vice versa.

Don’t know what meditation is? I think every one of us here meditates on a regular basis. Worry is meditation! Negative meditation. Consider God’s Word as you go about your daily tasks, take every opportunity to discuss and share it with others. Let it regulate your thoughts and thought-life.

Application

To read, hear, learn and think about God’s Word, is not enough. To agree with the preacher and even to make some response in the meeting/service is not enough, if we go away and forget about it by the time we’ve had our lunch! We would be like the foolish builder in Jesus parable, or the man in James 1:22-25.

To reap the benefit of all this study, we need to apply the Word to our daily lives. Instead of making decisions based on our ‘best guess’ or ‘intuition’, let our intuition be guided by the principles of Scripture.

Your opinions and judgements will be shaped by the things that influence you most. If you spend an hour a day with a newspaper or magazine, and several hours a day in front of the telly or listening to the radio or on social media, but only 10 minutes with God’s Word, guess what will be having a major impact on your thinking?

In conclusion, Kapic insists that “faithful theology is relational.” We shouldn’t want merely to be good interpreters of a text. We should want to be faithful disciples who submissively come under the God of the text. As Luther argued, Scripture knows no “masters, judges, or arbiters.” It knows “only witnesses, disciples, and confessors” (Luther’s Works, 26:58).

We should not want only a good hermeneutic. We should want to be faithful disciples who know God and love God, who know our neighbours and love our neighbours.

Get God’s Word off the page and into your life and you’ll never be the same again! You will ‘know the truth’ (like Adam ‘knew’ Eve) and the truth will set you free! I can guarantee it as I have Jesus’ authority!

Worked examples – from Exegesis to Hermeneutic

  • The Underlying Text – using other Scriptures to clarify which reading is correct

Mark 1:41 Jesus was ‘indignant’ in a few translations, ‘full of compassion’ in the majority – why? We asked “have these few translations captured something that most, if not all other translations have missed? Or is there an agenda in operation?” We compared with the other Gospel records of this incident Matt. 8:1-4; Luke 5:12-16 – but they don’t help as they leave out the phrase entirely.

So we looked at the underlying text and found that, though it is possible Mark wrote οργισθεις (indignant), nearly all the documents line up against this. This is not to say that Jesus never got angry or exasperated with people; he did (see Mark 7:34; 9:19; John 11:33, 38). It simply seems unwise to take the testimony of Codex Bezae in this instance when good arguments can be made against it, according to both external and internal criteria.

What was the writer’s intention; remember the point is to know God, what does this verse tell us about Jesus? How do the different readings relate to other Scriptures? Did Jesus ever get indignant or angry (see Mark 7:34; 9:19; John 11:33, 38)? Did He get angry with anyone seeking help? (No! e.g. Woman with issue of blood) Compare Matt. 11:28-30; Isa. 42:3.

  • Hebrew Culture and Scripture

Matt. 6:19-24 What has “your eyes being good or bad” got to do with treasures in heaven, and God and Mammon? David Stern Complete Jewish New Testament: Prov. 22:9 – good eye = generous; Prov. 23:6 – evil eye – miser. So the passage encourages us to focus on eternity and to be generous in this life so that we don’t get caught up serving Mammon (money).

  • Exegete the grammar, then compare with other Scriptures

Matt. 7:7-8 Ask, Seek, Knock. Whole ministries based on misunderstanding these verses! We discovered that they don’t mean that we always get what we want if we pray for it persistently enough! The emphasis is not on receiving, finding and getting doors opened. What Jesus is saying is that if you want to receive, you must ask; if you want to find, you must seek; if you want the door opened, you must knock; and you may have to keep on doing those things until the answer comes.

We then compare this with other Scriptures on praying – James 4:2b-3; 1 John 5:14-15; John 14:13-14 (N.B. v.15!); Matt.6:10; Matt. 16:19; Mark 11:24; Mark 14:36 and can say that the Scriptures teach that:

  1. We must ask in accordance with God’s Will, not based on our wishes, hopes, desires
  2. We need revelation as to what has been willed in Heaven
  3. We believe that we have received it – not ‘name it and claim it’ but the assurance that, as we have asked according to our Father’s will, the answer already exists in heaven
  4. We must bring our wills into line with God’s will and that alignment is the means whereby the Will of God is done on Earth
  5. We ask as if it was Jesus Who was asking (In my Name)
  • Understanding Greek Culture opens up a glorious truth!

Col. 2:14 Handwriting (legal bond) of ordinances (dogma – decrees) – taken to mean the Law

ESV by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Bill of sale, or promissory note – an I.O.U. or bond or mortgage deed, recording the details of the debt and the terms of payment. On full payment, the word tetelestai was written across it and it was nailed in a prominent place to show the debt was paid!

See John Piper’s notes on ‘How did the Cross disarm the Devil?” – a glorious application of this to our security before God – no more condemnation, no more fear of death!