Reading and Understanding the Scriptures

I am teaching two classes over the next two Wednesday nights where we will cover the topic of how to study a Biblical passage inductively and then how to make a lesson plan and teach accordingly. I am super excited to be able to lead this. For our text, I have chosen Jude’s epistle because it is short yet very powerful.

In order to understand the Scriptures, they must be interpreted in the light of the original intent of the author, God.

20 But know this first of all, that no * prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,
21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (II Peter 1)

According to this passage, God moved men to write down the Words that He wanted in the Holy Scriptures and the interpretation is His interpretation and not our own. We would all do well to learn this and live by it so that we do not end up contradicting the God whom we claim to serve and love. This is why I love the inductive Bible study method. We dig into the text and let the text speak for itself instead of having our own preconceived ideas and proof texting to prove our points. Here are some points that we need to consider when studying a text.
  1. Begin with Prayer – It all starts, continues, and ends with prayer. God knows the correct interpretation of a passage and He wants us to understand it too. That is why we must come before Him humbly seeking to know.
  2. Read and Re-read the Book – The best way to understand a passage is to get familiar with it. This is done by reading a text over and over again. The more familiar that you are with a text, the easier it is to get into the mindset of the author. Be objective when reading. Do not come to a text looking for something. Sit under the text and let it speak for itself. The more that you read and reread a text the more familiar you will be with the context.
  3. Type of Literature – You have to determine what type of literature you are studying because it will impact the way that it is interpreted.
    1. Historical (Genesis/Acts)
    2. Biographical (Luke)
    3. Poetic (Psalms)
    4. Proverbial
    5. Prophetic (Daniel/Revelation)
    6. Epistle
    7. Combination (Daniel)
  4. Let the text speak for itself – Again, be objective when you come to the text and sit under it. Allow the text to speak for itself instead of what you “think” or “believe” it is saying. If you come subjectively, then you can find any kind of proof text to back up what you claim. Unfortunately, ,many people approach the Bible this way. They already have their systematic theology and they look at passages through that lens instead of sitting under the authority of the text and letting the text speak for itself.
  5. Ask questions (5w’s & h) – As you read, constantly ask who, what, when, where, why, and how. These questions will help you get in the mindset of the author and discover what is going on instead of assuming or forcing the text to say what it does not. Practice makes better but perfect practice makes perfect. The more that you use and develop this skill, the easier it will become.
  6. People & Events – As you read, the first things that you will see are people, places, and events. They are always obvious. Always begin with the obvious and then work to the obscure. This comes from being familiar with the text by reading and rereading it.
  7. Key Words & Phrases – While becoming more and more familiar with the text, you will start to notice key, repeated words and phrases. They will become more and more obvious with each reading. Try to discover the key words instead of forcing the text.
  8. Book Theme – In the process, the book theme will become familiar to you. The theme comes from the key words and phrases. The theme is to be discovered and not invented. The book theme is a verse or phrase that summarizes the text.
  9. At a glance chart – This is a quick reference that shows the outline of the entire book being studied. It is really important if you are studying a long book such as Acts or the Gospel of John. It gets you and keeps you in the context of the book.
  10. Chapter Titles/Themes – Once you have discovered the theme of the book, next you want to determine the theme of each chapter within the book. Each chapter will work at explaining the main theme of a book. The title or theme of a chapter will also come from the chapter’s key words or phrases. It will summarize the chapter and help the chapter explain the book theme. Again, these are discovered and not imposed.
  11. Segment Divisions -All books within the Bible can be divided up into segments. For example, The first 11 chapters of Romans deals with theology and the last 5 deal with practical application of that theological theory. Paul’s epistle to the church in Ephesus is divided into 2 parts, theory and practice. The first 3 chapters deal with the theological aspects of who we are in Christ and then the final 3 chapters deal with how to live according to that theological theory. Another would be the Gospel of John. The first 12 chapters deal with Jesus’ public ministry. Chapters 13-17 deal with Jesus teaching His disciples privately. Chapters 18-20 deal with the trial, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ and then chapter 21 deals with the final teaching and commissioning of the disciples.

I hope that this exercise has been helpful and I pray that you will practice it on Jude so that you will be able to follow along in the next article, when we actually dig into Jude’s epistle.

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