How to study the Bible and enjoy it-2

James K Sebastian

February 5, 2016

I believe some of you have already read the Bible more than once and have even studied certain subjects. However, there may be some who have not been taught the importance of reading the bible in its entirety. Therefore, some of the things I write may be exclusively for them, and I hope the matured believers will not be offended by the primary lessons and repetitions that you will encounter.

The word “Bible” literally means ‘the books,’ and none of the Old Testament or New Testament writers used this term. Lord Jesus himself called the Old Testament, “The Scriptures’; the Word, the Law etc are few of the most widely used terms in the Bible.

Today, Bible is the term understood by all, believers and non-believers alike, and so we will stick to that.

The Bible is not primarily a book of history, although it contains lot of accurate historical information. Critics and secular historians have often disputed the veracity of certain historical facts of the Old and New Testaments. Some of them have relented after undeniable archaeological evidences became available. The writers of the Bible were not historians. They did not write for a king of a nation. They simply wrote what the Holy Spirit told them to write. We can say they wrote His story! The historical information reveals several truths useful for all mankind.

The Bible provides advanced scientific, medical, and astronomical information, although it is not a book of science or astronomy. I used the term “advanced,” because what science discovered in the 19th and 20th century, was already in the Bible some 4000 years ago.

For example, the Bible says God separated the waters below from the waters that were in heaven.

Gen 1:6 Then God said, “Let there be a horizon in the middle of the water in order to separate the water.” 1:7 So God made the horizon and separated the water above and below the horizon. And so it was.GW

The existence of water in space seemed improbable to scientists until recently. Recent discoveries have proven conclusively that massive amount water do exist in space as the Bible states.  Because of the extreme temperatures, the waters in space are in frozen state[1].  Many scientists today believe the earth is “Anthropic,” meaning the earth bears evidence that it was designed by a superior intelligence for human habitation.

God promised the children Israel protection from sickness if they fully obeyed all his commandments.

Exodus 15:26  He said, “If you will listen carefully to the LORD your God and do what he considers right, if you pay attention to his commands and obey all his laws, I will never make you suffer any of the diseases I made the Egyptians suffer, because I am the LORD, who heals you.” GW

God’s laws included laws of sanitation, hygiene, isolation of infected people, incineration of animal waste etc. If you desire, you may read about the devastating Black Death of the 14th century in Europe, and how it was halted after adopting the principles revealed to Moses in the Old Testament.

What I am trying to say is that Bible not just the bestselling book in the world; it is the Word of life. We should handle it with some respect.

There are several ways you can study the Bible.

  1. SUBJECT STUDY: You may have few subjects you want to understand well. This could be for your own learning or to help someone who asked you a question. Sometimes, you may want to know what the Bible says about the current events–social, religious, political etc.
  1. TEXTUAL STUDY: That is to select passage or particular book of the Bible. For example, you want to understand the book of Romans or Ephesians or just a certain passage in those books.

The first thing you do when studying the bible is to pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes and heart. Remember, he is the author of this Book. I am not asking you to do a formal prayer, but a prayer that comes from the heart. I mean prayer borne out of a genuine desire to know and understand the Scriptures.

Psa 119:18 Open my eyes, so that I may see the wonderful truths in your law. GNB

I believe David was able understand God and His ways, because he studied the Scriptures with the right attitude.

When you study a subject, a concordance will be very helpful. A concordance lists all the occurrence of a particular English word in the Bible. Most of the concordances, “Strong’s or Young’s” are based on King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. Concordances for other versions are also available. Nowadays, Electronic study tools are available and they are easy and faster to use. “E-sword” is good and free.

If you are comfortable with PC or laptop, I would recommend “E-sword.” After you download the basic software, you can download several versions of the Bible, such as God’s Word, Good News Bible, etc., free of cost. The Amplified Bible, New King James Version etc., need to be purchased. In “E-sword,” you can look up a subject in any of the versions you have downloaded.

The other Bible study software I use is “Bible soft.” It is not free. Bible soft has multiple dictionaries, concordance, commentaries, Hebrew/Greek Lexicons, maps etc.

STUDY BIBLES: Study bibles are good for historical, geographical and cultural information. But, please do not accept the commentaries and study notes as the Word of God.

Online resources: several online resources are available these days. Bible hub is a good place where you lookup words, read passages in different versions.

Read every verse or  passage on the subject under consideration. If you want, you can look up the Greek and Hebrew meanings of the word under your study.

INTERPRETATION (UNDERSTANDING A VERSE OR PASSAGE)

We will start with simple studies and move on to more complex ones.

The basic principles

  1. DO NOT READ YOUR OWN DOCTRINE IN A VERSE, OR PASSAGE. Many times we approach a passage thinking we already understand it. In the process we read our own meaning into the passage. This is called eisegesis. (Eis is a Greek preposition meaning “into.”)

This is another reason why I recommend believers not to read any book until they have read The Book (the Holy Bible), in its entirety, at least once.

Examples:  Matthew 2:1, 11 (how many wise men came to see Jesus; where did they find the child)

How many wise men came to see Jesus? We have known the answer even before we knew how to spell “Bible.” So, we read “Three wise men.”

Where did these wise men meet Jesus? Haven’t we seen those Christmas cards with the Magi kneeling before baby Jesus in front of a manger?  Read the passage carefully, and you will find that what the bible says is different from what we have heard or known!

  1. ALWAYS KEEP IN MIND THESE TWO PASSAGES OF THE SCRIPTURE.

2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is God-breathed and profitable.

Peter 1:21: knowing this first, not last.  NO PRIVATE INTERPRETATION.

Ask yourself, “Do I understand what I read?” “What does this verse say?”  “What it doesn’t say. Read the passage several times, asking yourself these questions.

Do not ignore words like, “Therefore,”  “But,” “And,” “So” or, their equivalents in other languages.  These words are there for a purpose and they aid us in interpreting a verse.

The Bible or the Scripture is a divine book (we already discussed this).  We need the help of the author (God) to understand this book.  So prayer is an absolute necessity when you study God’s message to you. All these study methods are good only if you approach the Bible as the Book of Life, divinely authored, but written by different human agents.

Since the Bible is the manual for life, any believer should be able to understand when he read it with this attitude.

God has a purpose for everything He says—remember, all Scripture is for profit.

1 Cori 2:14 tells something important.

1Co 2:14 A person who isn’t spiritual doesn’t accept the teachings of God’s Spirit. He thinks they’re nonsense. He can’t understand them because a person must be spiritual to evaluate them.

It is natural for the natural man to think that he understands the nature of God. But spiritual things can be understood only as the Spirit of God reveals it to us. See John 14:26; 16:13 also

A good portion of the Bible is simple and plain. With the help of what we discussed so far, you must be able to interpret most of what you read. Proficiency in the language in which you read the bible helps, but that is not a prerequisite, always. We will discuss this in another session.

  1. EXAMINE THE CONTEXT: When a verse or verses are not very clear, always check the context—both the immediate and the remote. Interpreting the Bible correctly demands that we listen to what the text itself is saying, and then draw the meaning out of the passage. This is called exegesis.  (Ex is a Greek preposition meaning “out of.”)

Example: Read Luke 8: 4-8; 9-10; 11-15. Verses 4-8 do not explain the seed. So you keep reading. Verse 11 tells you what the seed is. The disciples were smart enough to ask the Lord. Again, I want to emphasize that we need the help of the author.

What is the meaning of “Thief in the night” in 1Thess 5:2?

  1. PREVIOUS USAGE OF AN EXPRESSION: Certain expressions used in the Bible are peculiar to the original language and you can understand them better if you look at it s first usage in the Bible.

Paul’s thorn in the flesh 2 Cori 12:7 compare this with Num 33:55, Joshua 23:13, Judges 2:3, (Gal 4:15)

A difficult verse is to be understood in the light of clear verses.

As you examine a verse dealing with your subject, write down the points you learn. Once you have finished going through all the verses, read through your notes. Do not come to a conclusion yet.  Pray and listen to the Holy Spirit as you go through your points. Holy Spirit may bring illumination while review your notes. Expect Him to work with you.

HISTORY OR COMMENTARY

You will come across lot of historical information both in the Old and New Testaments. Historical narratives are there in the Bible for a purpose. The fact that a certain incident is included in God’s Word does not mean God approved the actions of certain people. You will find some good things and some bad things in historical books. You will see both the strength and weakness of men or women of God. This again tells us that God is the author of the Bible, as men would have written only good things and concealed the bad things to protect the ‘reputation’ of the man of God.

[1] Grant R Jeffrey, “The signature of God”, page 109-111

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How to study the Bible and enjoy it-1

James K Sebastian

February 3, 2016

READ THE BIBLE IN ITS ENTIRETY

You begin your bible study by reading the bible.

Does that sound too simple? For many, it is very complicated.

One of the most difficult questions is, “Where do I begin?”

If you are a new believer, I would recommend you read the whole bible, at least once, before you attempt to study the Bible.

 

Begin with the New Testament first.  A good book to start with is the gospel of John. Once you finish your New Testament, read the Old Testament as well.

If you read six to seven chapters a day, you may be able to finish the Bible in six months.

If you have been a Christian for a few years, but never read the whole Bible, then I would recommend you follow a bible reading plan immediately.  Go to the internet, search for a bible reading plan and download it. You can choose one year plan or a six month plan.

When you begin to read the bible, you will come across several expressions, incidents, statements, that do not make much sense. In other words, you will have lot of questions as you read through. Do not stop and try to understand those things. Simply mark the sections or passages and write down your questions, and keep reading.

Reading the whole bible in this manner is like watching a long movie. You get a broad picture of the Bible—beginning with the creation and culminating in the new heaven and earth.

After you have completed your Bible reading plan, you can go back and read those unclear (these sections were not clear to you at your first reading) passages. Some of the unclear passages will become clear now.

NO OTHER BOOKS, PLEASE

I strongly recommend you DO NOT read any book, on any biblical subject, until you complete reading your Bible once. There is a reason behind this. You must have personally read the Bible, at least once, before you begin to read what another man or woman has to say about anything they read in the Bible.

WHAT IS THE BIBLE

It is God’s Word.

It reveals God’s will and purpose for mankind.

It was written by inspiration or by the move of the Holy Spirit.

It is universal, that is, it is meant for everyone all over the world.

It is God’s story about man.

It is the Word of life.

It is our manual for successful Christian living

Its’ truths are timeless.

It is a treasure house of wisdom

Its depth is infinite

It has 66 books, by 40 different writers, who lived at different time periods, ranging more than 1500 years. Some of them contemporaries, but never met or knew each other as they lived in different geographical regions. Yet, when you read the Bible, you will encounter only one author, who name is the Holy Spirit.

MORE ABOUT BOOKS

No author can truly claim that everything he wrote was completely by inspiration. Although many books reveal certain aspects of the Kingdom accurately, everything a book says is not “Thus says the Lord.”

Books usually cover one or few as aspects of a subject, revealed to and understood by a minister of the gospel.

No book can claim to be a final authority on any subject.

Author’s doctrinal and denominational views also, usually, find their way to his books.

Books, no matter who wrote it, are not infallible as the Bible is.  Don’t take me wrong, I read books. However, books are written to highlight a certain subject or subjects. The writer may have a mandate to bring insights on a particular aspect of the kingdom. The book may be meant for particular section of believers, or particular people group from particular nation.

During my infancy in Christ, I read several books of a particular author that my mind became conditioned by his doctrine. My view of the kingdom remained lopsided during those initial years.

However, the Lord has been very merciful to me. My eyes were opened, and I stopped reading books for a while. I decided to read The Book before reading books explaining The Book.

This change in approach has helped me tremendously in understanding God’s kingdom.

You, a follower of Jesus Christ, have a responsibility to grow in the knowledge and grace of Jesus Christ. Before you read what a teacher says about a particular subject, you must know what the Bible says about the same. This is the reason why I insist we read the bible in its entirety, at least once, before reading any book.

Our faith and walk should not be based on a certain book, but on the Bible. Books, sermons, and other resources are only tools.

READ STUDY THE BIBLE WITH A PURPOSE

Holy Spirit is the author of the Bible, although different books of the Bible were written by different people as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.

When you read the bible, please remember that it is God speaking to you through the pages of the Bible.

READ IT WITH HUMILITY

Read it with an open heart, as if you are reading it for the first time (in case you are reading a passage you have read before).

If you read it to prove something you already believe, you will not learn anything.

Be ready to change your previous thinking based on what you read in the Bible.

As you read or study, please remember that your goal or purpose is to know Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.

What is God speaking to you in this passage?

Is there a command, promise or warning in it?

A command need to be obeyed. Your desire to obey a command will be directly proportional the degree of your love for Jesus.

A promise brings joy to our hearts. Can we believe his promises? Is he worthy of our trust?

Do not ignore the warnings!

Is there anything that expresses the nature of God? Pause, think and worship.

Is there anything that tells you about the enemy? Beware of it.

Is there anything about human nature or our old nature? Beware of it. Pause, ask Jesus to give you grace in those areas!

Choices

 May 9, 2013

Every choice we make in our life has eternal consequences. Often, we don’t think about consequences while making choices, let alone eternal ones. Actually, life is full of tests. These tests are in addition to the numerous tests of varying names such as exam or tests prefixed or suffixed (blood tests, school or college exams etc).

But the tests in everyday life do not come with an announcement. The present generation does not like tests, it seems. I believe the Holy Spirit gave me a word that is in sync with this generation’s lingo and style. That is the word “Choice.” people like to have multiple choices or options. Out of the many options available, only one can be right. The challenge we have in front of us is to select the right one.

I began by saying every choice we make in our life has eternal consequences. One day you made a chose to accept the work of Jesus on the Cross at Calvary. What is the consequence of that choice? You have eternal life! You are going to be with Jesus in eternity. Oh, that was a spiritual decision, you may say. Well, let us talk about some of the “mundane”, the seemingly non-spiritual choices we make on a daily basis. For example, you chose not to jump a signal at a traffic intersection. You chose to stand in a line in bank or post office instead of doing some of the tricks people usually do to avoid standing in a line. You chose not to eat or drink something because you knew it was harmful. You chose not to gossip, back bite, or garner public support against an unjust superior. You chose to spend time with your spouse and children, instead of watching cricket on TV. You chose to draw the line while mingling with those of the opposite sex. You chose not to have sex before marriage. You chose to say “NO” to the “Planned Parenthood,” a convenient pseudonym for cold blooded murder of an unborn baby. We make many such choices every day. Nobody notices or compliments you for the correct choices you make. Actually you passed those tests, and no one including you realized it. But, nothing goes unnoticed in heaven or in hell (sorry, I have to include hell). Your destiny is being shaped by the choices you make. The choices you make today will soon become your habit, and gradually your character and finally your destiny. God wants us to be transformed and become like Jesus Christ.

So, when you make choices in your everyday life, remember what you chose will have eternal consequences. The only remedy for a wrong choice you made is to recognize it and admit you were wrong. Then make a firm decision to make right choices next time. When you have to make a choice next time, you are very likely to choose the right one.

Religious persecutions in India

The right to live is fundamental in all cultures. A civilized society should honor the right of every member. India has a written constitution which guarantees certain liberties to its citizens. The recent happenings in Orissa has once again proved that we no longer honor our own words (constitution). Why is the civilized society so silent about it? Should we not engage in healthy conversation on such matters. The situation in Kenya is not different. However, India is supposed to be more civilized.