DIVING FOR PEARLS IN GOD’S TREASURE CHEST An Easy Way To Study The Bible By Rev. Robert A. French © All rights reserved May 20, 1999 Table of Contents Introduction Four Steps For Studying The Bible 1. Pray: Pray before and throughout your study of the Bible.  2. Say: What does the text say?  3. Mean: What does the text mean in its context?  4. Apply: How will I apply this text to my life today?  Conclusion  Practice Exercise Using The Four Steps 1. Pray: Pray before and throughout your study of the Bible.  2. Say: What does the text say?  3. Mean: What does the text mean in its context?  4. Apply: How will I apply this text to my life today?  Using The Four Steps To Study Bible Texts 1. Pray: Pray before and throughout your study of the Bible.  2. Say: What does the text say?  3. Mean: What does the text mean in its context?  4. Apply: How will I apply this text to my life today?  Bibliography Introduction Do you or your friends have thoughts like these? • “I do not know how to study the Bible.” • “No one ever showed me how to study the Bible.” • “I do not know how to teach someone to study the Bible.” If so, this workbook is written for you. There is a simple way to discover the meaning of Bible texts. This method is easy to learn, easy to use, and easy to teach. The Bible study method taught here was the most helpful to me when I first started studying the Bible. I hope you find it helpful. This workbook is organized as follows: • Four steps for studying the Bible are described. The description of each step begins with its number and name. The names of the steps are highlighted to make them easy to recognize and memorize. Three of the steps are in the form of questions. • Each step includes an example that shows how to use that step to study the same Bible text. • The four steps are listed again to help you memorize, use, and teach them. • Two exercises are provided to help you use the four steps on some Bible texts. You may make copies of the second exercise for your own personal use as often as you wish. • The four steps taught here are based on the principles of classical biblical hermeneutics. Biblical hermeneutics is the study about how to study and interpret the Bible. Other study methods may be used in each step. If you know how to use other study methods, select the most appropriate one(s) for each step. Consider the time available. You can gain a more accurate understanding of Bible texts if you briefly complete all four steps instead of thoroughly doing only one or two. The first several times you use the four steps, I recommend you divide the available time equally among the four steps. After that you can daily adjust your use of time according to what you need for each step. Initially, it may take about 30 minutes to complete all four steps. But after you gain some experience, the entire process can be done in 15–20 minutes. Most people have discovered that it works best to study the Bible in a quiet place where they can be alone. Then they can pray and study without being interrupted. They can also sing, shout, or talk out loud to God without disturbing others. Many people find it works best to study the Bible at the same time and place every day. You may need to try different times and places until you find what works best for you. You may wonder, “What Bible should I use?” Choose a Bible translation in your language that is easy for you to understand. There are many easy to read translations in English. The Good News Bible is one of the easiest Bibles to understand and was written for people who speak English as a second language. The New International Version is popular among native English speakers, even though it is a little more difficult to understand. Both have been translated into many languages in the world. It is important to use a Bible translation in your language that is easy for you to understand. That way you will want to continue to read and study the Bible. People rarely continue to read a book they do not understand. Church leaders, Bible study leaders, Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, and mature believers may benefit from using the more complete approach to studying the Bible described in Keys To The Bible’s Treasures. Keys To The Bible’s Treasures also contains a brief summary of the principles of classical biblical hermeneutics and a list of other study methods that may be used in each step. Four Steps For Studying The Bible 1. Pray: Pray before and throughout your study of the Bible. The Bible contains spiritual truth. According to 1 Corinthians 1:18–2:16, people need the help of the Holy Spirit to correctly understand spiritual truth. “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God…. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (NIV 1 Corinthians 2:11, 13–14). Consequently, we should prepare our hearts and ask God for the Holy Spirit’s help so we can correctly understand God’s Word. Start by praising and worshiping God, confessing sin, asking for forgiveness, and getting your heart right before God. It will be easier to understand and accept what God says in Scripture when your heart is right before Him. Begin in prayer. Then continue in an attitude of prayer as you do the remaining three steps. Ask God for the Holy Spirit’s help so you can correctly understand the meaning of the text. Ask Him what He is saying to you about your life and how He wants you to apply the text to your life today. 2. Say: What does the text say? Start by selecting a Bible text to study. Then read the text carefully. Focus on what the text actually says and write your observations. A famous author once wrote, “The pen is the crowbar of the mind.” 1 Writing your thoughts will stimulate more ideas. How does one select a text to study? There are many ways. If you need a place to start, pick a book of the Bible and start reading, beginning with the first verse of the first chapter. As you read, you may find you respond emotionally to something you read. You may be surprised, curious, confused, convicted, encouraged, disturbed, angry, or moved emotionally. Select that sentence, verse, or paragraph to study. For the purpose of an example, I began reading Philippians Chapter 1. As I read this chapter, I was amazed by Paul’s response to those who preach the Gospel with bad motives in Philippians 1:18–19. So I decided to study Philippians 1:18–19, which reads: “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance” (NIV). There are many different ways to study what the text says. One of the simplest is to read the text carefully and make a list of observations about what the text says. I have already read the text and written it above. So now I will list my observations as follows: • Paul said that what mattered to him was that people preached the about Christ. He rejoiced because people preached about Christ, regardless of their motives for telling others about Jesus and the Gospel. • Taking Philippians 17 and 18 together, Paul rejoiced that people preached about Christ even though some of them preached about Christ in order to cause even more trouble for Paul. Paul was in plenty of trouble. He was in prison waiting for a trial to determine if he would be put to death for preaching about Christ (Philippians 1:7, 12–13, 16, 19–20). If that were not bad enough, Paul learned that some fellow believers were among those trying to make his troubles even worse. But Paul had an amazingly good attitude in such bad circumstances! • How did Paul develop such a good attitude? According to Philippians 1:12–18, what mattered most to Paul was that people preached about Christ, and that spread the Gospel. People preached about Christ much more because Paul was in prison for his faith. That caused him to rejoice regardless of their motives for telling others about Christ. Not only that, Paul continued to rejoice because he expected God to answer the believers’ prayers so that everything, including the actions of his enemies, would result in his release from prison (Philippians 1:18–19). He also expected the Holy Spirit to help him (Philippians 1:19). 3. Mean: What does the text mean in its context? The author of every Bible text intended to communicate a specific message to a particular group of first readers. But the author’s language, culture, historical setting, and experiences are very different from ours. Because of these differences, we may misunderstand many Bible texts. Consequently, we should always try to determine what the author intended each text to mean according to its context before applying it to our lives and culture. What is the context? The context is the larger body of material surrounding the text. You may use the following as a guide to determine where the written context begins and ends. Length Of Text The Immediate Context The Next Larger Context Shorter than a paragraph The paragraph The topic (identified by subtitles) or the chapter 1 or 2 paragraphs The topic (identified by subtitles) or the chapter The section or the chapter 1 chapter or longer The book division or the book The entire book As you gain experience studying the Bible, it will become easier to accurately identify the immediate context and the next larger context. The following is a simple but powerful question that everyone can use to help them discover the author’s intended message: According to the context, what did the author intend the text to communicate to the first readers? No matter what text you study, try to answer this question as well as you can before proceeding to the next step. The easiest way to do this is to read the written context, review what you discovered from step 2, and answer the above question. Some texts may not be clear or may be interpreted in several ways. However, one meaning will usually be most in agreement with the way the text was written, the immediate context, and the larger context. That meaning is probably what the author intended to communicate. For many texts, you may only need to study the immediate context to determine what the author intended to communicate. For some texts you may need to study a larger context to decide what the author meant the text to say. It always helps to study a larger context than is necessary, but studying too small a context can lead to error. That is why it is a good idea to learn how to identify both the immediate context and the next larger context. I will now return to our example. The context for Philippians 1:18–19 is not immediately obvious. The context for a sentence is the paragraph, but in this case the New International Version has a paragraph break in the middle of Philippians 1:18. Also my text is three sentences long in the New International Version. I decided to use my Bible’s subtitles and paragraph breaks to identify the immediate context and larger context. So I quickly scanned Philippians Chapter 1 and observed the following: • According to the New International Version, the paragraphs in Philippians Chapter 1 are Philippians 1:1, 2, 3–6, 7–8, 9–11, 12–14, 15–18, 18–26, and 27–30. The subtitles are located just before Philippians 1:3, 12, and 2:1. • Since my text is 3 sentences long, the two paragraphs found in Philippians 1:15–26 are the immediate context for my text. • The next larger context is the topic. According to the subtitles in the New International Version, the topic begins in Philippians 1:12. Philippians 2:1 begins another new topic. So the subtitles identify the next larger context as Philippians 1:12–30. If your Bible does not have subtitles, it will be easier to consider the entire chapter as the next larger context. It might be adequate to read just the immediate context (Philippians 1:15–26). But in this case it would only take a minute or two longer to read the next larger context (Philippians 1:12–30). I decided that reading the larger context might help me gain a more accurate understanding of the text. So I decided to read both the immediate and the next larger context. I also decided to summarize them so you can know what I thought the context said. I summarized the context as follows: Paul wanted the Philippians to know that the Gospel was spreading, because he was in prison (Philippians 1:12–14). Many believers preached about Christ with more courage and good motives, because Paul was in prison. But some people also preached about Christ with bad motives (Philippians 1:15–17). In both cases, Paul rejoiced because people preached about Christ (Philippians 1:18). Paul also rejoiced because he expected to be released from prison (Philippians 1:19–20). He was waiting for a trial and was not sure whether he would be killed or released from prison. But he viewed both positively (Philippians 1:21–24). He expected to be released from prison and to visit the Philippians again, because that would be better for the Philippian believers (Philippians 1:24–26). Paul instructed the Philippians to live worthy of Christ, no matter what happened to him (Paul). Paul also urged the Philippians to remain united and to remain faithful to Christ and the Gospel in spite of their sufferings (Philippians 1:27–30). Then I answered the question, “What did Paul intend Philippians 1:18–19 to communicate to the Philippians?” • According to the larger context (Philippians 1:12–30), Paul intended Philippians 1:18–19 to say that he rejoiced regardless of whether people preached about Christ for good or bad motives. He rejoiced because people preached about Christ and the Gospel advanced. That is what Paul cared about most. He also rejoiced because he expected everything to work out for his release from prison by means of the believers’ prayers and the Holy Spirit’s help. • I also noticed that Paul had this great attitude because he did not focus on people’s motives, for or against him. Instead, he focused on the fact that believers preached Christ, which resulted in the spread of the Gospel. He also rejoiced because he believed God would answer the believers’ prayers, have the Holy Spirit help him, and work everything out so that he would be released from prison. Before moving on to the last step, briefly write any questions you have about what the text means. These questions can be helpful for future study. It is normal to have questions about what the text means. God can use your questions to help you understand the Bible better. 4. Apply: How will I apply this text to my life today? James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (NIV). James 2:26 says, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (NIV). In these texts, James says that we should not allow our study of the Bible be merely an intellectual exercise. Whenever we study the Scriptures we should also determine what God is saying to us personally and put that into practice. To do that, you might ask God, “What do You want me to do today as a result of my study of Your Word?” While praying, make a practical plan to apply what you have learned from God’s Word to your life. The following questions can help you do that: • What will I do? • When will I do it? • Where will I do it? • How will I do it? Finally, review your plan. Is it something you can do today? Does it include a way for you to know when you have completed it? If not, revise your plan. Back to our example. I asked God, “How should I apply this text to my life?” Several good possibilities came to mind. I wrote them down as follows. • I could work on my attitude and rejoice in spite of my difficulties, because there are believers who are sharing the Gospel and causing Christ’s kingdom to grow. • I could rejoice because I can expect God to answer the prayers of my friends. • I could rejoice because I can expect the Holy Spirit to help me. • Just as Paul was encouraged because other believers shared the Gospel, it might increase my pastor’s joy if I share Christ with others. Someone may accept Christ and join our church as a result. • I could ask God to have the Holy Spirit strengthen and help some believers with special needs. Then I asked, “Lord, which of the above do You want me to do today?” At that time, it was too late at night to share the Gospel with someone. I did not have significant difficulties. So I decided to pray for some believers who had special needs. Next I made a simple plan by answering the above questions. The following are the actual answers I wrote. • What will I do? I will pray for 5 people who especially need God’s help. • When will I do this? I will pray for them right now. • Where will I do this? I will pray for them here at my desk. • How will I do this? I will ask God to give them special strength, encouragement, and help in the midst of their difficulties. If God directs me to do something to help them in addition to praying, I will also make a plan to do that. Conclusion The Bible says we should study God’s Word correctly and avoid wrong teachings (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:1–17; 4:1–4). So we need to teach people an easy way to study the Bible that will lead to a correct understanding of Bible texts. I encourage you to memorize the four words, “pray,” “say,” “mean,” and “apply.” Then use these four steps to study the Bible. 1. Pray: Pray before and throughout your study of the Bible. 2. Say: What does the text say? 3. Mean: What does the text mean in its context? 4. Apply: How will I apply this text to my life today? Practice Exercise Using The Four Steps Try using the four steps on a sentence or verse from Philippians 1:3–11. All you need is a Bible, a pen, some paper, and about 30 minutes. 1. Pray: Pray before and throughout your study of the Bible. Start by praising and worshiping God. Confess your sins. Ask God for the Holy Spirit’s help so you can correctly understand and apply God’s Word to your life today. Do not proceed to the next step until you have done this. 2. Say: What does the text say? First read Philippians 1:3–11, which is the written context for every English sentence in that part of the New International Version. For this practice session, choose only one sentence or verse from Philippians 1:3–11 to study. Write the reference here: Philippians 1: Now read the text carefully and study the sentence or verse you chose. All observations should be based on what the text actually says. Write your observations here. 3. Mean: What does the text mean in its context? Determine what the author intended to communicate to the first readers according to the context. The following questions will help you do this for your text. What is the immediate context for the verse or sentence you chose? (Hint: The context for a sentence is the paragraph.) Philippians 1:_______. What is the larger context? (Hint: use subtitles and chapter breaks to help you.) Philippians 1:________. Remember that it always helps to study a larger context than is necessary, but studying too small a context can lead to error. Now read at least the immediate context and answer the following question to the best of your ability. For some texts, you may need to read a larger context. According to the context, what did the author (Paul) intend your text (the verse or sentence you chose) to communicate to the first readers (the Philippian believers)? Briefly write down any questions you have about what the text means. These questions can be helpful for future study. God can use them to help you understand the Bible better. 4. Apply: How will I apply this text to my life today? Whenever we study the Scriptures we should also determine what God is saying to us personally and make a plan to apply put that into practice. To do that, you can ask God, “What do You want me to do as a result of my study of Your Word?” While praying, make a practical plan to apply what you have learned from God’s Word to your life. To make a plan, answer the following questions: • What will I do? • When will I do it? • Where will I do it? • How will I do it? Review your plan. Is it something you can do today? Does it include a way for you to know when you have completed it? If not, revise your plan. Using The Four Steps To Study Bible Texts Try using the four steps on a text of your choice from any Bible book. All you need is a Bible, a pen, some paper, and about 30 minutes. 1. Pray: Pray before and throughout your study of the Bible. Start by praising and worshiping God. Confess your sins. Ask God for the Holy Spirit’s help so you can correctly understand and apply God’s Word to your life today. Do not proceed to the next step until you have done this. 2. Say: What does the text say? Select a text to study from any Bible Book (Hint: one way to do this is mentioned in the instructions for step 2). Write the reference (book, chapter, and verse) here: ________________________________________ Now read the text carefully and study the text you chose. All observations should be based on what the text actually says. Write your observations here. 3. Mean: What does the text mean in its context? Determine what the author intended to communicate to the first readers according to the context. The following questions will help you do this for your text. What is the immediate context for the text you chose? (Hint: use paragraph breaks, subtitles, and chapter breaks to help you.) ___________________. What is the larger context? ___________________. Remember that it always helps to study a larger context than is necessary, but studying too small a context can lead to error. Now read at least the immediate context and answer the following question to the best of your ability. For some texts, you may need to read a larger context. According to the context, what did the author intend your text to communicate to the first readers? Briefly write down any questions you have about what the text means. These questions can be helpful for future study. God can use them to help you understand the Bible better. 4. Apply: How will I apply this text to my life today? Whenever we study the Scriptures we should also determine what God is saying to us personally and make a plan to put that into practice. To do that, you can ask God, “What do You want me to do as a result of my study of Your Word?” While praying, make a practical plan to apply what you have learned from God’s Word to your life. To make a plan, answer the following questions: • What will I do? • When will I do it? • Where will I do it? • How will I do it? Review your plan. Is it something you can do today? Does it include a way for you to know when you have completed it? If not, revise your plan. Bibliography Berkof, Louis. Systematic Theology. The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1958. Fee, Gordon D. and Stuart, Douglas. How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth. Scripture Union, London, 1982. Good News Bible. American Bible Society, New York, 1992. Holy Bible, New International Version. Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1978. New American Standard Bible, Reference Edition. Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 1960. Packer, J.I. “Fundamentalism” And The Word Of God. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1958. Ramm, Bernard. Protestant Biblical Interpretation. Third edition. Baker, Grand Rapids, 1970. The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, New International Version. B. B. Kirkbride Bible Company and Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1983. Viertel, Weldon E. The Bible And Its Interpretation. PhilBest Publications, Makati, 1973. Virkler, Henry A. Hermeneutics: Principles And Processes Of Biblical Interpretation. Baker, Grand Rapids, 1981. French, Robert A.: Diving for Pearls in God’s Treasure Chest : An Easy Way to Study the Bible. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1999- via ArchBishop Uwe AE.Rosenkranz

DIVING FOR PEARLS IN GOD’S TREASURE CHEST

LOGO

An Easy Way To Study The Bible

By Rev. Robert A. French –

via ArchBishop Uwe AE.Rosenkranz

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© All rights reserved
May 20, 1999
 
Table of Contents
Introduction
Four Steps For Studying The Bible
1. Pray: Pray before and throughout your study of the Bible.
2. Say: What does the text say?
3. Mean: What does the text mean in its context?
4. Apply: How will I apply this text to my life today?
Conclusion
Practice Exercise Using The Four Steps
1. Pray: Pray before and throughout your study of the Bible.
2. Say: What does the text say?
3. Mean: What does the text mean in its context?
4. Apply: How will I apply this text to my life today?
Using The Four Steps To Study Bible Texts
1. Pray: Pray before and throughout your study of the Bible.
2. Say: What does the text say?
3. Mean: What does the text mean in its context?
4. Apply: How will I apply this text to my life today?
Bibliography
Introduction
Do you or your friends have thoughts like these?
     “I do not know how to study the Bible.”
     “No one ever showed me how to study the Bible.”
     “I do not know how to teach someone to study the Bible.”
If so, this workbook is written for you. There is a simple way to discover the meaning of Bible texts. This method is easy to learn, easy to use, and easy to teach. The Bible study method taught here was the most helpful to me when I first started studying the Bible. I hope you find it helpful.
This workbook is organized as follows:
     Four steps for studying the Bible are described. The description of each step begins with its number and name. The names of the steps are highlighted to make them easy to recognize and memorize. Three of the steps are in the form of questions.
     Each step includes an example that shows how to use that step to study the same Bible text.
     The four steps are listed again to help you memorize, use, and teach them.
     Two exercises are provided to help you use the four steps on some Bible texts. You may make copies of the second exercise for your own personal use as often as you wish.
     The four steps taught here are based on the principles of classical biblical hermeneutics. Biblical hermeneutics is the study about how to study and interpret the Bible. Other study methods may be used in each step. If you know how to use other study methods, select the most appropriate one(s) for each step. Consider the time available. You can gain a more accurate understanding of Bible texts if you briefly complete all four steps instead of thoroughly doing only one or two.
The first several times you use the four steps, I recommend you divide the available time equally among the four steps. After that you can daily adjust your use of time according to what you need for each step. Initially, it may take about 30 minutes to complete all four steps. But after you gain some experience, the entire process can be done in 15–20 minutes.
Most people have discovered that it works best to study the Bible in a quiet place where they can be alone. Then they can pray and study without being interrupted. They can also sing, shout, or talk out loud to God without disturbing others. Many people find it works best to study the Bible at the same time and place every day. You may need to try different times and places until you find what works best for you.
You may wonder, “What Bible should I use?” Choose a Bible translation in your language that is easy for you to understand. There are many easy to read translations in English. The Good News Bible is one of the easiest Bibles to understand and was written for people who speak English as a second language. The New International Version is popular among native English speakers, even though it is a little more difficult to understand. Both have been translated into many languages in the world. It is important to use a Bible translation in your language that is easy for you to understand. That way you will want to continue to read and study the Bible. People rarely continue to read a book they do not understand.
Church leaders, Bible study leaders, Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, and mature believers may benefit from using the more complete approach to studying the Bible described in Keys To The Bible’s Treasures. Keys To The Bible’s Treasures also contains a brief summary of the principles of classical biblical hermeneutics and a list of other study methods that may be used in each step.
Four Steps For Studying The Bible
1. Pray: Pray before and throughout your study of the Bible.
The Bible contains spiritual truth. According to 1 Corinthians 1:18–2:16, people need the help of the Holy Spirit to correctly understand spiritual truth. “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God…. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (NIV1 Corinthians 2:11, 13–14). Consequently, we should prepare our hearts and ask God for the Holy Spirit’s help so we can correctly understand God’s Word.
Start by praising and worshiping God, confessing sin, asking for forgiveness, and getting your heart right before God. It will be easier to understand and accept what God says in Scripture when your heart is right before Him.
Begin in prayer. Then continue in an attitude of prayer as you do the remaining three steps. Ask God for the Holy Spirit’s help so you can correctly understand the meaning of the text. Ask Him what He is saying to you about your life and how He wants you to apply the text to your life today.
2. Say: What does the text say?
Start by selecting a Bible text to study. Then read the text carefully. Focus on what the text actually says and write your observations. A famous author once wrote, “The pen is the crowbar of the mind.”1 Writing your thoughts will stimulate more ideas.
How does one select a text to study? There are many ways. If you need a place to start, pick a book of the Bible and start reading, beginning with the first verse of the first chapter. As you read, you may find you respond emotionally to something you read. You may be surprised, curious, confused, convicted, encouraged, disturbed, angry, or moved emotionally. Select that sentence, verse, or paragraph to study.
For the purpose of an example, I began reading Philippians Chapter 1. As I read this chapter, I was amazed by Paul’s response to those who preach the Gospel with bad motives in Philippians 1:18–19. So I decided to study Philippians 1:18–19, which reads: “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance” (NIV).
There are many different ways to study what the text says. One of the simplest is to read the text carefully and make a list of observations about what the text says.
I have already read the text and written it above. So now I will list my observations as follows:
     Paul said that what mattered to him was that people preached the about Christ. He rejoiced because people preached about Christ, regardless of their motives for telling others about Jesus and the Gospel.
     Taking Philippians 17 and 18 together, Paul rejoiced that people preached about Christ even though some of them preached about Christ in order to cause even more trouble for Paul. Paul was in plenty of trouble. He was in prison waiting for a trial to determine if he would be put to death for preaching about Christ (Philippians 1:7, 12–13, 16, 19–20). If that were not bad enough, Paul learned that some fellow believers were among those trying to make his troubles even worse. But Paul had an amazingly good attitude in such bad circumstances!
     How did Paul develop such a good attitude? According to Philippians 1:12–18, what mattered most to Paul was that people preached about Christ, and that spread the Gospel. People preached about Christ much more because Paul was in prison for his faith. That caused him to rejoice regardless of their motives for telling others about Christ. Not only that, Paul continued to rejoice because he expected God to answer the believers’ prayers so that everything, including the actions of his enemies, would result in his release from prison (Philippians 1:18–19). He also expected the Holy Spirit to help him (Philippians 1:19).
3. Mean: What does the text mean in its context?
The author of every Bible text intended to communicate a specific message to a particular group of first readers. But the author’s language, culture, historical setting, and experiences are very different from ours. Because of these differences, we may misunderstand many Bible texts. Consequently, we should always try to determine what the author intended each text to mean according to its context before applying it to our lives and culture.
What is the context? The context is the larger body of material surrounding the text. You may use the following as a guide to determine where the written context begins and ends.
Length Of Text
The Immediate Context
The Next Larger Context
Shorter than a paragraph
The paragraph
The topic (identified by subtitles) or the chapter
1 or 2 paragraphs
The topic (identified by subtitles) or the chapter
The section or the chapter
1 chapter or longer
The book division or the book
The entire book
 
As you gain experience studying the Bible, it will become easier to accurately identify the immediate context and the next larger context.
The following is a simple but powerful question that everyone can use to help them discover the author’s intended message:
According to the context, what did the author intend the text to communicate to the first readers?
No matter what text you study, try to answer this question as well as you can before proceeding to the next step. The easiest way to do this is to read the written context, review what you discovered from step 2, and answer the above question.
Some texts may not be clear or may be interpreted in several ways. However, one meaning will usually be most in agreement with the way the text was written, the immediate context, and the larger context. That meaning is probably what the author intended to communicate.
For many texts, you may only need to study the immediate context to determine what the author intended to communicate. For some texts you may need to study a larger context to decide what the author meant the text to say. It always helps to study a larger context than is necessary, but studying too small a context can lead to error. That is why it is a good idea to learn how to identify both the immediate context and the next larger context.
I will now return to our example. The context for Philippians 1:18–19 is not immediately obvious. The context for a sentence is the paragraph, but in this case the New International Version has a paragraph break in the middle of Philippians 1:18. Also my text is three sentences long in the New International Version. I decided to use my Bible’s subtitles and paragraph breaks to identify the immediate context and larger context. So I quickly scanned Philippians Chapter 1 and observed the following:
     According to the New International Version, the paragraphs in Philippians Chapter 1 are Philippians 1:1, 2, 3–6, 7–8, 9–11, 12–14, 15–18, 18–26, and 27–30. The subtitles are located just before Philippians 1:3, 12, and 2:1.
     Since my text is 3 sentences long, the two paragraphs found in Philippians 1:15–26 are the immediate context for my text.
     The next larger context is the topic. According to the subtitles in the New International Version, the topic begins in Philippians 1:12. Philippians 2:1 begins another new topic. So the subtitles identify the next larger context as Philippians 1:12–30. If your Bible does not have subtitles, it will be easier to consider the entire chapter as the next larger context.
It might be adequate to read just the immediate context (Philippians 1:15–26). But in this case it would only take a minute or two longer to read the next larger context (Philippians 1:12–30). I decided that reading the larger context might help me gain a more accurate understanding of the text. So I decided to read both the immediate and the next larger context. I also decided to summarize them so you can know what I thought the context said. I summarized the context as follows:
Paul wanted the Philippians to know that the Gospel was spreading, because he was in prison (Philippians 1:12–14). Many believers preached about Christ with more courage and good motives, because Paul was in prison. But some people also preached about Christ with bad motives (Philippians 1:15–17). In both cases, Paul rejoiced because people preached about Christ (Philippians 1:18). Paul also rejoiced because he expected to be released from prison (Philippians 1:19–20). He was waiting for a trial and was not sure whether he would be killed or released from prison. But he viewed both positively (Philippians 1:21–24). He expected to be released from prison and to visit the Philippians again, because that would be better for the Philippian believers (Philippians 1:24–26). Paul instructed the Philippians to live worthy of Christ, no matter what happened to him (Paul). Paul also urged the Philippians to remain united and to remain faithful to Christ and the Gospel in spite of their sufferings (Philippians 1:27–30).
Then I answered the question, “What did Paul intend Philippians 1:18–19 to communicate to the Philippians?”
     According to the larger context (Philippians 1:12–30), Paul intended Philippians 1:18–19 to say that he rejoiced regardless of whether people preached about Christ for good or bad motives. He rejoiced because people preached about Christ and the Gospel advanced. That is what Paul cared about most. He also rejoiced because he expected everything to work out for his release from prison by means of the believers’ prayers and the Holy Spirit’s help.
     I also noticed that Paul had this great attitude because he did not focus on people’s motives, for or against him. Instead, he focused on the fact that believers preached Christ, which resulted in the spread of the Gospel. He also rejoiced because he believed God would answer the believers’ prayers, have the Holy Spirit help him, and work everything out so that he would be released from prison.
Before moving on to the last step, briefly write any questions you have about what the text means. These questions can be helpful for future study. It is normal to have questions about what the text means. God can use your questions to help you understand the Bible better.
4. Apply: How will I apply this text to my life today?
James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (NIV).James 2:26 says, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (NIV). In these texts, James says that we should not allow our study of the Bible be merely an intellectual exercise. Whenever we study the Scriptures we should also determine what God is saying to us personally and put that into practice. To do that, you might ask God, “What do You want me to do today as a result of my study of Your Word?”
While praying, make a practical plan to apply what you have learned from God’s Word to your life. The following questions can help you do that:
     What will I do?
     When will I do it?
     Where will I do it?
     How will I do it?
Finally, review your plan. Is it something you can do today? Does it include a way for you to know when you have completed it? If not, revise your plan.
Back to our example. I asked God, “How should I apply this text to my life?” Several good possibilities came to mind. I wrote them down as follows.
     I could work on my attitude and rejoice in spite of my difficulties, because there are believers who are sharing the Gospel and causing Christ’s kingdom to grow.
     I could rejoice because I can expect God to answer the prayers of my friends.
     I could rejoice because I can expect the Holy Spirit to help me.
     Just as Paul was encouraged because other believers shared the Gospel, it might increase my pastor’s joy if I share Christ with others. Someone may accept Christ and join our church as a result.
     I could ask God to have the Holy Spirit strengthen and help some believers with special needs.
Then I asked, “Lord, which of the above do You want me to do today?” At that time, it was too late at night to share the Gospel with someone. I did not have significant difficulties. So I decided to pray for some believers who had special needs.
Next I made a simple plan by answering the above questions. The following are the actual answers I wrote.
• What will I do?
I will pray for 5 people who especially need God’s help.
• When will I do this?
I will pray for them right now.
• Where will I do this?
I will pray for them here at my desk.
• How will I do this?
I will ask God to give them special strength, encouragement, and help in the midst of their difficulties. If God directs me to do something to help them in addition to praying, I will also make a plan to do that.
 
Conclusion
The Bible says we should study God’s Word correctly and avoid wrong teachings (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:1–17; 4:1–4). So we need to teach people an easy way to study the Bible that will lead to a correct understanding of Bible texts. I encourage you to memorize the four words, “pray,” “say,” “mean,” and “apply.” Then use these four steps to study the Bible.
1.     Pray: Pray before and throughout your study of the Bible.
2.     Say: What does the text say?
3.     Mean: What does the text mean in its context?
4.     Apply: How will I apply this text to my life today?
Practice Exercise Using The Four Steps
Try using the four steps on a sentence or verse from Philippians 1:3–11. All you need is a Bible, a pen, some paper, and about 30 minutes.
1. Pray: Pray before and throughout your study of the Bible.
Start by praising and worshiping God. Confess your sins. Ask God for the Holy Spirit’s help so you can correctly understand and apply God’s Word to your life today. Do not proceed to the next step until you have done this.
2. Say: What does the text say?
First read Philippians 1:3–11, which is the written context for every English sentence in that part of the New International Version. For this practice session, choose only one sentence or verse from Philippians 1:3–11 to study. Write the reference here: Philippians 1:
 
Now read the text carefully and study the sentence or verse you chose. All observations should be based on what the text actually says. Write your observations here.
 
 
3. Mean: What does the text mean in its context?
Determine what the author intended to communicate to the first readers according to the context. The following questions will help you do this for your text.
What is the immediate context for the verse or sentence you chose? (Hint: The context for a sentence is the paragraph.) Philippians 1:_______. What is the larger context? (Hint: use subtitles and chapter breaks to help you.) Philippians 1:________. Remember that it always helps to study a larger context than is necessary, but studying too small a context can lead to error.
Now read at least the immediate context and answer the following question to the best of your ability. For some texts, you may need to read a larger context. According to the context, what did the author (Paul) intend your text (the verse or sentence you chose) to communicate to the first readers (the Philippian believers)?
 
 
Briefly write down any questions you have about what the text means. These questions can be helpful for future study. God can use them to help you understand the Bible better.
 
4. Apply: How will I apply this text to my life today?
Whenever we study the Scriptures we should also determine what God is saying to us personally and make a plan to apply put that into practice. To do that, you can ask God, “What do You want me to do as a result of my study of Your Word?”
While praying, make a practical plan to apply what you have learned from God’s Word to your life. To make a plan, answer the following questions:
     What will I do?
 
     When will I do it?
 
     Where will I do it?
 
     How will I do it?
 
Review your plan. Is it something you can do today? Does it include a way for you to know when you have completed it? If not, revise your plan.
Using The Four Steps To Study Bible Texts
Try using the four steps on a text of your choice from any Bible book. All you need is a Bible, a pen, some paper, and about 30 minutes.
1. Pray: Pray before and throughout your study of the Bible.
Start by praising and worshiping God. Confess your sins. Ask God for the Holy Spirit’s help so you can correctly understand and apply God’s Word to your life today. Do not proceed to the next step until you have done this.
2. Say: What does the text say?
Select a text to study from any Bible Book (Hint: one way to do this is mentioned in the instructions for step 2). Write the reference (book, chapter, and verse) here: ________________________________________
Now read the text carefully and study the text you chose. All observations should be based on what the text actually says. Write your observations here.
 
 
3. Mean: What does the text mean in its context?
Determine what the author intended to communicate to the first readers according to the context. The following questions will help you do this for your text.
What is the immediate context for the text you chose? (Hint: use paragraph breaks, subtitles, and chapter breaks to help you.) ___________________. What is the larger context? ___________________. Remember that it always helps to study a larger context than is necessary, but studying too small a context can lead to error.
Now read at least the immediate context and answer the following question to the best of your ability. For some texts, you may need to read a larger context. According to the context, what did the author intend your text to communicate to the first readers?
 
 
Briefly write down any questions you have about what the text means. These questions can be helpful for future study. God can use them to help you understand the Bible better.
 
4. Apply: How will I apply this text to my life today?
Whenever we study the Scriptures we should also determine what God is saying to us personally and make a plan to put that into practice. To do that, you can ask God, “What do You want me to do as a result of my study of Your Word?”
While praying, make a practical plan to apply what you have learned from God’s Word to your life. To make a plan, answer the following questions:
     What will I do?
 
     When will I do it?
 
     Where will I do it?
 
     How will I do it?
 
Review your plan. Is it something you can do today? Does it include a way for you to know when you have completed it? If not, revise your plan.
Bibliography
Berkof, Louis. Systematic Theology. The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1958.
Fee, Gordon D. and Stuart, Douglas. How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth. Scripture Union, London, 1982.
Good News Bible. American Bible Society, New York, 1992.
Holy Bible, New International Version. Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1978.
New American Standard Bible, Reference Edition. Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 1960.
Packer, J.I. “Fundamentalism” And The Word Of God. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1958.
Ramm, Bernard. Protestant Biblical Interpretation. Third edition. Baker, Grand Rapids, 1970.
The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, New International Version. B. B. Kirkbride Bible Company and Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1983.
Viertel, Weldon E. The Bible And Its Interpretation. PhilBest Publications, Makati, 1973.
Virkler, Henry A. Hermeneutics: Principles And Processes Of Biblical Interpretation. Baker, Grand Rapids, 1981.

1 I believe the author of this quote was Samuel Clemens, who often wrote using the name Mark Twain. But I have not been able to locate the reference for this quote.
French, Robert A.: Diving for Pearls in God’s Treasure Chest : An Easy Way to Study the Bible. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1999

Published: May 26, 2015, 09:18 | Comments Off on DIVING FOR PEARLS IN GOD’S TREASURE CHEST An Easy Way To Study The Bible By Rev. Robert A. French © All rights reserved May 20, 1999 Table of Contents Introduction Four Steps For Studying The Bible 1. Pray: Pray before and throughout your study of the Bible.  2. Say: What does the text say?  3. Mean: What does the text mean in its context?  4. Apply: How will I apply this text to my life today?  Conclusion  Practice Exercise Using The Four Steps 1. Pray: Pray before and throughout your study of the Bible.  2. Say: What does the text say?  3. Mean: What does the text mean in its context?  4. Apply: How will I apply this text to my life today?  Using The Four Steps To Study Bible Texts 1. Pray: Pray before and throughout your study of the Bible.  2. Say: What does the text say?  3. Mean: What does the text mean in its context?  4. Apply: How will I apply this text to my life today?  Bibliography Introduction Do you or your friends have thoughts like these? • “I do not know how to study the Bible.” • “No one ever showed me how to study the Bible.” • “I do not know how to teach someone to study the Bible.” If so, this workbook is written for you. There is a simple way to discover the meaning of Bible texts. This method is easy to learn, easy to use, and easy to teach. The Bible study method taught here was the most helpful to me when I first started studying the Bible. I hope you find it helpful. This workbook is organized as follows: • Four steps for studying the Bible are described. The description of each step begins with its number and name. The names of the steps are highlighted to make them easy to recognize and memorize. Three of the steps are in the form of questions. • Each step includes an example that shows how to use that step to study the same Bible text. • The four steps are listed again to help you memorize, use, and teach them. • Two exercises are provided to help you use the four steps on some Bible texts. You may make copies of the second exercise for your own personal use as often as you wish. • The four steps taught here are based on the principles of classical biblical hermeneutics. Biblical hermeneutics is the study about how to study and interpret the Bible. Other study methods may be used in each step. If you know how to use other study methods, select the most appropriate one(s) for each step. Consider the time available. You can gain a more accurate understanding of Bible texts if you briefly complete all four steps instead of thoroughly doing only one or two. The first several times you use the four steps, I recommend you divide the available time equally among the four steps. After that you can daily adjust your use of time according to what you need for each step. Initially, it may take about 30 minutes to complete all four steps. But after you gain some experience, the entire process can be done in 15–20 minutes. Most people have discovered that it works best to study the Bible in a quiet place where they can be alone. Then they can pray and study without being interrupted. They can also sing, shout, or talk out loud to God without disturbing others. Many people find it works best to study the Bible at the same time and place every day. You may need to try different times and places until you find what works best for you. You may wonder, “What Bible should I use?” Choose a Bible translation in your language that is easy for you to understand. There are many easy to read translations in English. The Good News Bible is one of the easiest Bibles to understand and was written for people who speak English as a second language. The New International Version is popular among native English speakers, even though it is a little more difficult to understand. Both have been translated into many languages in the world. It is important to use a Bible translation in your language that is easy for you to understand. That way you will want to continue to read and study the Bible. People rarely continue to read a book they do not understand. Church leaders, Bible study leaders, Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, and mature believers may benefit from using the more complete approach to studying the Bible described in Keys To The Bible’s Treasures. Keys To The Bible’s Treasures also contains a brief summary of the principles of classical biblical hermeneutics and a list of other study methods that may be used in each step. Four Steps For Studying The Bible 1. Pray: Pray before and throughout your study of the Bible. The Bible contains spiritual truth. According to 1 Corinthians 1:18–2:16, people need the help of the Holy Spirit to correctly understand spiritual truth. “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God…. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (NIV 1 Corinthians 2:11, 13–14). Consequently, we should prepare our hearts and ask God for the Holy Spirit’s help so we can correctly understand God’s Word. Start by praising and worshiping God, confessing sin, asking for forgiveness, and getting your heart right before God. It will be easier to understand and accept what God says in Scripture when your heart is right before Him. Begin in prayer. Then continue in an attitude of prayer as you do the remaining three steps. Ask God for the Holy Spirit’s help so you can correctly understand the meaning of the text. Ask Him what He is saying to you about your life and how He wants you to apply the text to your life today. 2. Say: What does the text say? Start by selecting a Bible text to study. Then read the text carefully. Focus on what the text actually says and write your observations. A famous author once wrote, “The pen is the crowbar of the mind.” 1 Writing your thoughts will stimulate more ideas. How does one select a text to study? There are many ways. If you need a place to start, pick a book of the Bible and start reading, beginning with the first verse of the first chapter. As you read, you may find you respond emotionally to something you read. You may be surprised, curious, confused, convicted, encouraged, disturbed, angry, or moved emotionally. Select that sentence, verse, or paragraph to study. For the purpose of an example, I began reading Philippians Chapter 1. As I read this chapter, I was amazed by Paul’s response to those who preach the Gospel with bad motives in Philippians 1:18–19. So I decided to study Philippians 1:18–19, which reads: “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance” (NIV). There are many different ways to study what the text says. One of the simplest is to read the text carefully and make a list of observations about what the text says. I have already read the text and written it above. So now I will list my observations as follows: • Paul said that what mattered to him was that people preached the about Christ. He rejoiced because people preached about Christ, regardless of their motives for telling others about Jesus and the Gospel. • Taking Philippians 17 and 18 together, Paul rejoiced that people preached about Christ even though some of them preached about Christ in order to cause even more trouble for Paul. Paul was in plenty of trouble. He was in prison waiting for a trial to determine if he would be put to death for preaching about Christ (Philippians 1:7, 12–13, 16, 19–20). If that were not bad enough, Paul learned that some fellow believers were among those trying to make his troubles even worse. But Paul had an amazingly good attitude in such bad circumstances! • How did Paul develop such a good attitude? According to Philippians 1:12–18, what mattered most to Paul was that people preached about Christ, and that spread the Gospel. People preached about Christ much more because Paul was in prison for his faith. That caused him to rejoice regardless of their motives for telling others about Christ. Not only that, Paul continued to rejoice because he expected God to answer the believers’ prayers so that everything, including the actions of his enemies, would result in his release from prison (Philippians 1:18–19). He also expected the Holy Spirit to help him (Philippians 1:19). 3. Mean: What does the text mean in its context? The author of every Bible text intended to communicate a specific message to a particular group of first readers. But the author’s language, culture, historical setting, and experiences are very different from ours. Because of these differences, we may misunderstand many Bible texts. Consequently, we should always try to determine what the author intended each text to mean according to its context before applying it to our lives and culture. What is the context? The context is the larger body of material surrounding the text. You may use the following as a guide to determine where the written context begins and ends. Length Of Text The Immediate Context The Next Larger Context Shorter than a paragraph The paragraph The topic (identified by subtitles) or the chapter 1 or 2 paragraphs The topic (identified by subtitles) or the chapter The section or the chapter 1 chapter or longer The book division or the book The entire book As you gain experience studying the Bible, it will become easier to accurately identify the immediate context and the next larger context. The following is a simple but powerful question that everyone can use to help them discover the author’s intended message: According to the context, what did the author intend the text to communicate to the first readers? No matter what text you study, try to answer this question as well as you can before proceeding to the next step. The easiest way to do this is to read the written context, review what you discovered from step 2, and answer the above question. Some texts may not be clear or may be interpreted in several ways. However, one meaning will usually be most in agreement with the way the text was written, the immediate context, and the larger context. That meaning is probably what the author intended to communicate. For many texts, you may only need to study the immediate context to determine what the author intended to communicate. For some texts you may need to study a larger context to decide what the author meant the text to say. It always helps to study a larger context than is necessary, but studying too small a context can lead to error. That is why it is a good idea to learn how to identify both the immediate context and the next larger context. I will now return to our example. The context for Philippians 1:18–19 is not immediately obvious. The context for a sentence is the paragraph, but in this case the New International Version has a paragraph break in the middle of Philippians 1:18. Also my text is three sentences long in the New International Version. I decided to use my Bible’s subtitles and paragraph breaks to identify the immediate context and larger context. So I quickly scanned Philippians Chapter 1 and observed the following: • According to the New International Version, the paragraphs in Philippians Chapter 1 are Philippians 1:1, 2, 3–6, 7–8, 9–11, 12–14, 15–18, 18–26, and 27–30. The subtitles are located just before Philippians 1:3, 12, and 2:1. • Since my text is 3 sentences long, the two paragraphs found in Philippians 1:15–26 are the immediate context for my text. • The next larger context is the topic. According to the subtitles in the New International Version, the topic begins in Philippians 1:12. Philippians 2:1 begins another new topic. So the subtitles identify the next larger context as Philippians 1:12–30. If your Bible does not have subtitles, it will be easier to consider the entire chapter as the next larger context. It might be adequate to read just the immediate context (Philippians 1:15–26). But in this case it would only take a minute or two longer to read the next larger context (Philippians 1:12–30). I decided that reading the larger context might help me gain a more accurate understanding of the text. So I decided to read both the immediate and the next larger context. I also decided to summarize them so you can know what I thought the context said. I summarized the context as follows: Paul wanted the Philippians to know that the Gospel was spreading, because he was in prison (Philippians 1:12–14). Many believers preached about Christ with more courage and good motives, because Paul was in prison. But some people also preached about Christ with bad motives (Philippians 1:15–17). In both cases, Paul rejoiced because people preached about Christ (Philippians 1:18). Paul also rejoiced because he expected to be released from prison (Philippians 1:19–20). He was waiting for a trial and was not sure whether he would be killed or released from prison. But he viewed both positively (Philippians 1:21–24). He expected to be released from prison and to visit the Philippians again, because that would be better for the Philippian believers (Philippians 1:24–26). Paul instructed the Philippians to live worthy of Christ, no matter what happened to him (Paul). Paul also urged the Philippians to remain united and to remain faithful to Christ and the Gospel in spite of their sufferings (Philippians 1:27–30). Then I answered the question, “What did Paul intend Philippians 1:18–19 to communicate to the Philippians?” • According to the larger context (Philippians 1:12–30), Paul intended Philippians 1:18–19 to say that he rejoiced regardless of whether people preached about Christ for good or bad motives. He rejoiced because people preached about Christ and the Gospel advanced. That is what Paul cared about most. He also rejoiced because he expected everything to work out for his release from prison by means of the believers’ prayers and the Holy Spirit’s help. • I also noticed that Paul had this great attitude because he did not focus on people’s motives, for or against him. Instead, he focused on the fact that believers preached Christ, which resulted in the spread of the Gospel. He also rejoiced because he believed God would answer the believers’ prayers, have the Holy Spirit help him, and work everything out so that he would be released from prison. Before moving on to the last step, briefly write any questions you have about what the text means. These questions can be helpful for future study. It is normal to have questions about what the text means. God can use your questions to help you understand the Bible better. 4. Apply: How will I apply this text to my life today? James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (NIV). James 2:26 says, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (NIV). In these texts, James says that we should not allow our study of the Bible be merely an intellectual exercise. Whenever we study the Scriptures we should also determine what God is saying to us personally and put that into practice. To do that, you might ask God, “What do You want me to do today as a result of my study of Your Word?” While praying, make a practical plan to apply what you have learned from God’s Word to your life. The following questions can help you do that: • What will I do? • When will I do it? • Where will I do it? • How will I do it? Finally, review your plan. Is it something you can do today? Does it include a way for you to know when you have completed it? If not, revise your plan. Back to our example. I asked God, “How should I apply this text to my life?” Several good possibilities came to mind. I wrote them down as follows. • I could work on my attitude and rejoice in spite of my difficulties, because there are believers who are sharing the Gospel and causing Christ’s kingdom to grow. • I could rejoice because I can expect God to answer the prayers of my friends. • I could rejoice because I can expect the Holy Spirit to help me. • Just as Paul was encouraged because other believers shared the Gospel, it might increase my pastor’s joy if I share Christ with others. Someone may accept Christ and join our church as a result. • I could ask God to have the Holy Spirit strengthen and help some believers with special needs. Then I asked, “Lord, which of the above do You want me to do today?” At that time, it was too late at night to share the Gospel with someone. I did not have significant difficulties. So I decided to pray for some believers who had special needs. Next I made a simple plan by answering the above questions. The following are the actual answers I wrote. • What will I do? I will pray for 5 people who especially need God’s help. • When will I do this? I will pray for them right now. • Where will I do this? I will pray for them here at my desk. • How will I do this? I will ask God to give them special strength, encouragement, and help in the midst of their difficulties. If God directs me to do something to help them in addition to praying, I will also make a plan to do that. Conclusion The Bible says we should study God’s Word correctly and avoid wrong teachings (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:1–17; 4:1–4). So we need to teach people an easy way to study the Bible that will lead to a correct understanding of Bible texts. I encourage you to memorize the four words, “pray,” “say,” “mean,” and “apply.” Then use these four steps to study the Bible. 1. Pray: Pray before and throughout your study of the Bible. 2. Say: What does the text say? 3. Mean: What does the text mean in its context? 4. Apply: How will I apply this text to my life today? Practice Exercise Using The Four Steps Try using the four steps on a sentence or verse from Philippians 1:3–11. All you need is a Bible, a pen, some paper, and about 30 minutes. 1. Pray: Pray before and throughout your study of the Bible. Start by praising and worshiping God. Confess your sins. Ask God for the Holy Spirit’s help so you can correctly understand and apply God’s Word to your life today. Do not proceed to the next step until you have done this. 2. Say: What does the text say? First read Philippians 1:3–11, which is the written context for every English sentence in that part of the New International Version. For this practice session, choose only one sentence or verse from Philippians 1:3–11 to study. Write the reference here: Philippians 1: Now read the text carefully and study the sentence or verse you chose. All observations should be based on what the text actually says. Write your observations here. 3. Mean: What does the text mean in its context? Determine what the author intended to communicate to the first readers according to the context. The following questions will help you do this for your text. What is the immediate context for the verse or sentence you chose? (Hint: The context for a sentence is the paragraph.) Philippians 1:_______. What is the larger context? (Hint: use subtitles and chapter breaks to help you.) Philippians 1:________. Remember that it always helps to study a larger context than is necessary, but studying too small a context can lead to error. Now read at least the immediate context and answer the following question to the best of your ability. For some texts, you may need to read a larger context. According to the context, what did the author (Paul) intend your text (the verse or sentence you chose) to communicate to the first readers (the Philippian believers)? Briefly write down any questions you have about what the text means. These questions can be helpful for future study. God can use them to help you understand the Bible better. 4. Apply: How will I apply this text to my life today? Whenever we study the Scriptures we should also determine what God is saying to us personally and make a plan to apply put that into practice. To do that, you can ask God, “What do You want me to do as a result of my study of Your Word?” While praying, make a practical plan to apply what you have learned from God’s Word to your life. To make a plan, answer the following questions: • What will I do? • When will I do it? • Where will I do it? • How will I do it? Review your plan. Is it something you can do today? Does it include a way for you to know when you have completed it? If not, revise your plan. Using The Four Steps To Study Bible Texts Try using the four steps on a text of your choice from any Bible book. All you need is a Bible, a pen, some paper, and about 30 minutes. 1. Pray: Pray before and throughout your study of the Bible. Start by praising and worshiping God. Confess your sins. Ask God for the Holy Spirit’s help so you can correctly understand and apply God’s Word to your life today. Do not proceed to the next step until you have done this. 2. Say: What does the text say? Select a text to study from any Bible Book (Hint: one way to do this is mentioned in the instructions for step 2). Write the reference (book, chapter, and verse) here: ________________________________________ Now read the text carefully and study the text you chose. All observations should be based on what the text actually says. Write your observations here. 3. Mean: What does the text mean in its context? Determine what the author intended to communicate to the first readers according to the context. The following questions will help you do this for your text. What is the immediate context for the text you chose? (Hint: use paragraph breaks, subtitles, and chapter breaks to help you.) ___________________. What is the larger context? ___________________. Remember that it always helps to study a larger context than is necessary, but studying too small a context can lead to error. Now read at least the immediate context and answer the following question to the best of your ability. For some texts, you may need to read a larger context. According to the context, what did the author intend your text to communicate to the first readers? Briefly write down any questions you have about what the text means. These questions can be helpful for future study. God can use them to help you understand the Bible better. 4. Apply: How will I apply this text to my life today? Whenever we study the Scriptures we should also determine what God is saying to us personally and make a plan to put that into practice. To do that, you can ask God, “What do You want me to do as a result of my study of Your Word?” While praying, make a practical plan to apply what you have learned from God’s Word to your life. To make a plan, answer the following questions: • What will I do? • When will I do it? • Where will I do it? • How will I do it? Review your plan. Is it something you can do today? Does it include a way for you to know when you have completed it? If not, revise your plan. Bibliography Berkof, Louis. Systematic Theology. The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1958. Fee, Gordon D. and Stuart, Douglas. How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth. Scripture Union, London, 1982. Good News Bible. American Bible Society, New York, 1992. Holy Bible, New International Version. Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1978. New American Standard Bible, Reference Edition. Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 1960. Packer, J.I. “Fundamentalism” And The Word Of God. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1958. Ramm, Bernard. Protestant Biblical Interpretation. Third edition. Baker, Grand Rapids, 1970. The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, New International Version. B. B. Kirkbride Bible Company and Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1983. Viertel, Weldon E. The Bible And Its Interpretation. PhilBest Publications, Makati, 1973. Virkler, Henry A. Hermeneutics: Principles And Processes Of Biblical Interpretation. Baker, Grand Rapids, 1981. French, Robert A.: Diving for Pearls in God’s Treasure Chest : An Easy Way to Study the Bible. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1999- via ArchBishop Uwe AE.Rosenkranz
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