Last time, we learned several practices for giving Bible reading and studying our best shot. Here’s a quick review:
Grammar. Match personal pronouns to proper names carefully. If the text is “He …” then find out who “he” is. Does the text state “this?” What is “this?”
Literal Approach. Take Bible texts literally unless there’s a good reason to do otherwise.
Figures of Speech. Hebrew speech and writings were often very poetic and rhythmic. Sometimes, they contained figures of speech, as does English. Using a commentary can help identify these so that we don’t create prophecies or doctrines where they don’t exist.
Contexts. Keep biblical texts in its sentence, paragraph, chapter, and book. Always understand the writer, audience, purpose, and any problems addressed.
Consider the timeframe and culture. What was going on during the time of the writing? Was it meant to be a command – or just something from which you can learn?
Here are two examples of what happens when we don’t apply solid reading principles.
- “Where two or more are gathered, so is Jesus!” The misquote comes from taking Matthew 18:20 out of context. Matthew 18:1-9 and 15-20 deal with removing stumbling blocks to the Kingdom of Heaven and correcting Christians who insist on practicing sin. In 18:20, Jesus quotes the Old Testament requirement for multiple witnesses to a crime that requires a death sentence (Deuteronomy 17:6). Why? Any Christian practicing sin will not inherit the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21) and has earned a death sentence. Church discipline (not for punishment!) and discipleship can help keep this from happening. So, why does Jesus say “. . . I am there in their midst?” The Spirit of Christ is present whenever justice and obedience prevail.
- “God has a special plan for my life!” The misquote is a gross and dangerous abuse of Jeremiah 29:11, where God rebukes Israel through the prophet Jeremiah. Here, God reminds her (the nation as a whole, not specific individuals!) of her role in God’s plan to reconcile the world. Why is the misquote so dangerous? While God often includes and equips people to play a part in His plan, there isn’t necessarily a ‘special plan’ for each person. Automatically thinking that there is can cause someone to lose focus of God’s desires and forget that we’re meant to be servants of Christ, not spiritual rock stars! How wasteful it can be to sit around waiting for a ‘special plan’ to unfold! What is the proper focus? Vow to serve God and ask Him to lead you to help in His mission to win back what He created.
We now know why proper study is essential, and we’ve seen multiple examples of the damage flawed study can do. Next week, I’ll give you tools to aid your quest for biblical accuracy and spiritual growth!
Blessings and peace,