When anyone first begins to read the Bible it immediately becomes obvious that the Bible is different than any other book. The opening words are a claim that God Himself has given divine revelation about the origins of life (and everything). The Bible originates with God, and the Bible’s words are His words.
The Bible can be intimidating, and it can also be quite confusing.
While it is true that the Bible is different than any other book, it is also important to remember that the Bible is still a literary work. It follows the structures of literature, it has storylines and narrative episodes, and it travels along a coherent logical progression.
It is important to note that the simple truths of the Bible are quite accessible to any attentive reader.
In short, we should gladly affirm the words placed in the introduction to the English Standard Version of the Holy Bible, “This Book [is] the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is Wisdom; this is the royal Law; these are the lively Oracles of God.”
As we read the Bible, we may benefit from a structural guide that can help us along the path of understanding how to apply what we read to our life today.
The following is not the only way one may rightly understand what God’s revelation intends to communicate, but it is a helpful way to read, know, and apply God’s Word.
Here are six questions I ask myself in order to move from what is on the page to some real-life application.
1. Who are the author and the audience?
This will help you gain perspective about what is being said. Many study Bibles will provide a handy introduction and description to each book of the Bible that will help you answer these questions.
2. Why did the author write what he did?
Is the author writing a history so that future generations will know what God has done? Is the author writing a letter to encourage or rebuke his Christian brothers and sisters? The answer to this question will greatly improve your ability to know what is actually being communicated.
3. What is the author talking about before and after the passage I am trying to understand?
This is a question about context, and context will help you avoid wrongly interpreting one passage, sentence, or word. Often, people will ignore context and find themselves believing the Bible to teach something that is completely different than what is clearly the intent of the author. Knowing the context will keep us from this error.
4. What is the “big truth” the author is getting at here?
This is a question that may take a little thinking, but it is well worth it. While there are many things the Bible teaches us about what to believe and how to live, the most important matters are going to be the foundational truths. As the Christian grows in his/her understanding of the Bible, much finer subjects will certainly become interesting and beneficial areas of study. However, the place to begin is with those bedrock truths upon which everything else is built.
5. What does the rest of the Bible teach about the “big truth” of this passage?
This too is a question of context, but it is concerned with the broader context of the whole Bible. The Bible does not contradict itself, even in the instances where one author may seem to be saying something different than another. If we find that our understanding of the passage we are reading would put it in opposition to something that the Bible teaches clearly about elsewhere, then we have simply misunderstood our passage. We must allow the Bible to be its own interpreter when it speaks on the subject at hand.
6. How does this “big truth” of the Bible affect my own circumstances?
We must never try to skip to this question too quickly, but this is the question we must eventually ask. We are not merely trying to read the Bible for abstract knowledge or theoretical formulations. We are trying to be hearers and doers of God’s word. Therefore, we should (we must) arrive at the place where we ask ourselves what God would have us believe and/or do about what we have just read from His word.
By God’s grace, the use of these six questions will benefit you in your study. In another post, I practice this method with a Bible passage (Click Here to see it).
May God bless the reading of His word, and may He bless our efforts to apply it well.
*Please let me know if this has been a benefit to you in the comment section below.