What does the text say? What does the text mean? What should the text stir? This is the Bible study process.
The first half of preparing a sermon is studying the biblical text.
More than that, a fundamental feature of the Christian life is feasting on God’s word. We all need to be able to study the Bible and enjoy the great gift of God’s word to us.
So, how should we do it?
Let’s think of Bible study process. in terms of three questions, or four stages:
We need to develop our observational skills to be able to see what is actually written in the text before us. Too many of us are too good at feeling familiar with the text and therefore skipping ahead.
A lot of Bible-handling errors and heresies would be avoided if we slowed down to see what is actually there. What does the text say?
Once we have looked carefully at the text, we will get to the point of determining what the text means. That is, not what does it mean to me – this is not an exercise in modern art appreciation.
What was the author intending to communicate? Learning what the text means requires me to travel back in my mind to the original author’s situation, and try to make sense of what he wrote, in context, for the sake of the original recipients.
I have to go back then before I can think about lasting implications for today.
Bible study should never end “back then.” God did not give us the Bible as a historical curiosity. It should ultimately have an impact on my life today.
So what should it stir?
Since it is primarily a revelation of God’s heart, character and plan, it should stir my heart to love Him. Bible study that does not lead to greater love for God has gone astray. My heart should be stirred by the God I am discovering in my Bible study.
But it is not enough to have a stirred heart. This is not about a mere emotional response. The Bible is intended to exact transformation in my life. And that transformation works from the inside to out.
So my heart is warmed to God, and then my life should bear fruit as I am not just a hearer, but a doer of God’s Word. Good Bible study will stir my heart to worship, and it will stir transformation in every area of my life.
What does the text say? What does the text mean? What should the text stir?
This is the Bible study process. It might seem cumbersome at first, but this can, and should, become second nature to us as Bible readers.
Make sure you see what is actually there. Look closely. Go back then before considering today. Expect God to change you from the core of your being out to the most specific activities of your day.
Peter Mead is mentor at Cor Deo and author of several books. He blogs at Biblical Preaching
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