Sunday, March 1, 2009

Strategies 1: Reading the Scriptures

Here are some strategies for reading the Scriptures.

1. Ask God to teach you.

Psalm 119 [ESV]
12 Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes!
26 When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes!
29 Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law!
33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.
64 The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes!
66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.
68 You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.
108 Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O Lord, and teach me your rules.
124 Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your statutes.
135 Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes.
171 My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes.

2. Read what is written.

Read a chapter or book 20-30 times, in more than one version (for example, NASB and ESV, for there is great synergy in reading those two together). Then consider word studies or translating, after that.

Allow the Scriptures to say what they say. Refrain from mixing in your own ideas.

3. Keep reading.

Context gives meaning.

Look for major themes in a book; relate what you are reading to those major themes.

4. Let clear passages speak.

Unclear passages may be clearer when seen in the light of clear passages.

Check other versions, side-by-side. Another translation team might have done a more effective job in conveying the sense of a given passage.

Don't be in a rush. It's okay to set an unclear passages aside and come back to it later. Patience.

5. Consider the three Ws: writer, whom, and when.

Consider who is the writer; who the book (or section) is about; and when did the subject matter occur (before or after Christ's resurrection).

God is the author of His Word. There were many writers. Some books and their manner of saying things fit together because they were written by the same writer, in his vocabulary and ways of expression. Reading such books together and actively looking for inter-relationships is a rewarding experience.

For example:
- Books of Moses: Genesis through Deuteronomy
- Luke's books: Luke and Acts
- Paul's epistles: Romans through Philemon
- John's books: John and 123 John

(Even though there can be quite a bit of discussion regarding Moses' writings as having been written by others, and regarding whether 123John was written by John or members of his school, the groupings are helpful in building a better understanding of how books interrelate with one another.)

It is important to consider this question: which group or individual is this book (or this section within a book) about?

A book (or section within a book) may be about:
- Those before Israel
- Israel
- The church (the entire church; or some part of the church; or an individual in the church)
- The unsaved
- All mankind

The church epistles, Romans through Thessalonians, are primarily about the entire church. Some parts of the church epistles are about the church at that time in a specific community; some parts are limited to those who were formerly Gentiles; some parts are limited to those formerly of Israel; and some parts are limited to one or more named individuals.

By reading and considering context, discover whom a section of Scripture is about (without making the "whom" broader or narrower than what the Scriptures themselves are saying).

When: before or after Christ's resurrection?
Books with subject matter that occurred before Christ's resurrection speak of a time before one could benefit from the salvation he authored, now available to all who believe. So it's very significant to understand a book in light of where its subject matter occurred: before or after Christ's resurrection.

Genesis through John primarily focus on matters before Christ's resurrection.

Acts through Revelation primarily focus on matters after Christ's resurrection.

- Who is the writer? Moses
- Who is it about? Those who lived before the time of Israel
- When did the subject matter occur? Before Christ's resurrection

Book: Luke
- Who is the writer? Luke
- Who is it about: Israel
- When did the subject matter primarily occur? Before Christ's resurrection

Book: Acts
- Who is the writer? Luke
- Who is it about? Church
- When did the subject matter primarily occur? After Christ's resurrection

1 Thessalonians
- Writer? Paul
- Who is it about? Church
- When did the subject matter occur? After Christ's resurrection


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