As a pastor, I often motivate people to get in and stay in the Word of God. This seemingly monstrous and perpetual task is further exacerbated by the increasing various social media appetite further limiting our time spent in the Word of God. While I spend a large amount of time on this front, it is also imperative that I speak to you not on just that you should study the Bible, but on how to study the Bible. So often you hear people identify how they live with an inaccurate belief that they got from the Bible, thus we have snake handling churches, polygamous churches, and other just plain goofy churches, which in turn produce goofy “believers.”
I am reading a book for my doctoral studies at Regent University titled Grasping God’s Word by J. Scott Duval and J. Daniel Hays, and in it they articulate a five-step process by which we accurately study the Bible and understand the true biblical meaning.
1)“What did it mean to them then?”
Most often believers forget to ask this question of the text. We cannot miss what the point was to them, as the biblical characters that were the actors and actresses on the stage of humanity during that time. Yes, it would be inconvenient for us to leave our father’s home and country as Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees in Genesis 12:1. However, this was not just inconvenient. For that time, it was dangerous, unwise, and completely unheard of, and exhibited ultimate trust for the God he worshiped.
2)“What are the differences between the biblical audience and us today?”
Abraham had nothing to fall back on. It’s not like he had a job waiting on him, it’s not like he had a distant relative or even a Facebook friend with whom he could have coffee, it was just him and the untested internal compass of the Holy Spirit within him.
3)“What is the theological principle in the text?”
In the case of Abraham, the theological principle was trust in the Lord even when it goes against generations of family tradition, financial security, and personal comfort.
4)“How does this fit with the rest of scripture?”
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” It is clear that if Abraham had followed his own understanding, he never would have been the father of many nations; his faith would not have been credited to him as righteousness, and he would not have been called a friend of God.
5)“How should we live it out today?”
While God may not call you to leave everything you know to start your own country, He may call you to leave everything you know and start your own company, or adopt a child, or go on a short or long-term mission. You can rest assured that if He does ask you to go, and you trust and follow Him, God will open doors that no one can shut. He will give you His power and favor to complete the job, and you will, in the end, maybe have a cool Sunday school song named after you.
As I study the Bible, I follow this process to make certain that I am not putting my own meaning on scripture. It is when we put our own meaning on the text that we grossly misinterpret the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. Instead of it being a mirror upon which we look and make improvements toward ourselves looking more like Jesus, we make it a self-portrait of man-centric religion and justification for our own behaviors.
As I study leadership, I see this discipline all the more critical to our efficacy. What informs our leadership style will transform our leadership capacity. Often it is tempting in leadership to search for something we can use to motivate or influence people towards a specific goal or end. However, if we take a little more deliberate time in searching and knowing the true meaning of scripture, then we can use the true intrinsic motivation that comes through the real meaning of scripture, and not just manipulation that comes from us trying to make scripture say something that God was never intending.
How do you think this Duval and Hays process would keep people from drawing the wrong conclusions in scripture?