A long time ago, a pastor friend of mine invited another minister to preach at his church. This minister came in and preached a message my friend disagreed with. When he told me this story, another friend asked him, “Did you stand up and correct him right there? That’s what you should’ve done!” My friend was wise and had been pastoring that church for a long time. I’ll never forget how he answered that question. “I’ve spent 20 years teaching these people,” he said. “I didn’t have to correct him. They knew it.” I thought to myself, That’s a strong church. That’s our goal for the people of Gateway. We want to cultivate a church that is passionate about studying God’s Word.
The most important thing in studying Scripture is that we uncover the meaning and intention of each passage, and the first step in doing so is learning how to understand it.
God gave us Scripture in three languages—Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. Thankfully, scholars have translated the Bible into English for us. Here is where it gets tricky: How do we arrive at our interpretation, since we all interpret Scripture incorrectly at times—even though we never mean to?
In order to uncover the meaning of Scripture, I’m going to introduce you to two words: eisegesis and exegesis. A lot of people take an eisegesis approach to studying Scripture, which is very dangerous. This method looks at Scripture with a predetermined agenda. Readers approach it with the intention of supporting their own views. My dad calls this “using the Bible like a drunk uses a light pole—for support, rather than for light.”
Now, on the other hand we have exegesis, which is a discipline that seeks the author’s meaning and intention for each passage. This is the method we want to use to find out what God is really saying through His Word. In order to apply the discipline of exegesis to your Bible study, you need some tools and you need to ask the right questions. It sounds like a lot of work, but trust me, in the end it is well worth it.
As you begin to practice this new way of studying, my hope is the Word of God becomes alive and active your life.
Helpful Tools to Study God’s Word
- Study Bible: A study Bible does most of the legwork for you. Each book has an introduction that tells you who wrote it, when they wrote it and its major themes. It also has a concordance in the back.
- Parallel Bible: A parallel Bible has multiple translations of each passage for you to compare.
- Concordance: A Strong’s or Young’s Concordance compares every word of the King James Version with the Greek or Hebrew lexicon. It’s a must-have!
- Bible Dictionary: A Bible dictionary gives historical settings and cultural insights for Scripture.
- Notebook: Take detailed notes and write down your thoughts on scriptures you study. Ten years from now, you’ll be able to go back and tap right into your studies.
11 Basic Questions to Ask When Studying the Bible
- What are the primary emphases of the book?
- What is the central theme of the book?
- How does the passage function in relation to the central ideas of the book?
- Summarize the passage immediately before and after your text. How does your passage relate?
- Analyze the words and phrases that are crucial to your text.
- What is the historical context of the book?
- How does this passage contribute to major theological themes of the Bible (creation, faith, church, Christ, salvation, atonement, end times, etc.)?
- Who wrote the book? To whom? And, for what purpose?
- In your own words, paraphrase your passage.
- What is the focus of the passage?
- What is the function of the passage?