Since it is the revelation of the unique God and contains the express will of God, with instructions for all those desiring to develop a relationship with Him, it is necessary that we truly understand its purpose.
Through the centuries, the faithful have recognized that spiritual growth requires disciplined and steadfast attention to Scripture. In Jesus’ day Jewish religious leaders searched the Scriptures because they believed “that in them you have eternal life” (John 5:39).
The first Christians recognized how essential it was to apply their minds to Scripture. For one thing, convincing those who lived in a Jewish context of the truth of their message required it. In Acts, Luke provides us with a graphic picture of the application of their mind to Scripture (8:26-40). However, none surpassed that of the Apostle Paul, a converted Rabbi, in establishing an argument by searching the Scriptures “to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Paul’s arguments were carefully worked, based on Scripture, into every letter. In fact, as the primitive church increased in converts from among non-Jewish community members, they held steadfastly to the importance of studying Scriptures. Notice Paul’s statement, “All Scripture is inspired by God, and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work” (2Tim.3: 16-17).
“Wars have raged over the Bible, revolutions have been nurtured in its pages, and kingdoms crumbled through its ideas. People of all viewpoints—from liberation theologians to capitalists, from fascists to Marxists, from dictators to liberators, from pacifists to militarists—search its pages for words with which to justify their deeds.” (Seventh-day Adventists Believe…, p. 11)
Indeed history has shown that many people have used the Bible to ‘justify their deeds’, but is this really the purpose of the Bible?
And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more. - Micah 4.3
Their sword will become our plow, and from the tears of war the daily bread of future generations will grow. - Adolf Hitler
Are individuals like Hitler who have used the Bible to justify their actions, interpreting the Bible correctly? Was God’s purpose in giving us the Bible to provide us with a means of exonerating inhumane actions?
In short, the answer to the questions above is a resounding no!
According to Timothy, the purpose of Scripture is ‘so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work’ (2 Timothy 3:17 NIV). If our use of the Bible does not line up with this principle, then unfortunately we will be mistaken in our understanding. We are to allow the Bible to equip us, rather than having us equip the Bible. In other words, we must allow the Bible to speak for itself and not attempt to make the Bible say what we would want it to say. The process of attempting to understand the Bible on its own terms is called “Exegesis.” The process of reading into the Bible what we might want it to say is called “Isogesis.” The Bible student who attempts to understand the Bible from a perspective of “Openness and Honesty, Faith, Humility, Obedience, Love and Prayer” will carry out “Exegesis” and not “Isogesis.”
Share: Think about the world in which we live; do people today still use the Bible to justify their actions be they good or bad?
In this section we will be conducting an “Exegesis” exercise in order to uncover further what the Bible says about its purpose. The process outlined below can also be used to gain further insight and meaning from any Bible text:
Read the Text - Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17. If possible it is best to read the text in more than one Bible version.
Write down an outline - Write down an outline of the text, highlighting what you believe are the most important words or statements. In this case your outline should include a list of what the text says are the four purposes of the Scripture.
Find out what the main words mean - Using both an English dictionary and a Bible Dictionary (electronic version available at http://www.Biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary), write down the meaning of each of the four reasons/purposes of the Scripture.
Look up the words in a concordance and examine how they are used - Using a Bible concordance, or if you have a Study Bible you will find one at the rear, look up how each of the words you have listed are used. What meanings have you discovered?
Reread the same passage and replace each word with the meanings you discovered.
How does this passage apply to us today? As well as gaining an understanding of a Bible passage, it is also important to consider what Bible principles a passage gives us and how they might apply to our lives today.
After completing Steps 1-6, depending on time, encourage some of your students to share what they have learned with the rest of the class. Take note of your class’s reactions as they share. Finally, read Luke 24:25-27; 44-45. Ask the class the following questions:
How does Jesus use the Scripture?
What was He actually saying about its overall theme and contents?
Divide your students into groups of two or more.
If possible, try to make English Dictionary's, Bible Dictionaries, and Concordances available for your students to use. If this is not possible, another option is to photocopy the appropriate excerpts and make these resources available to students as handouts.
Encourage your students to copy and use this Structure in their everyday Bible study.
DISCIPLE IN ACTION
Write out again the four areas that Scripture can be used for. Draw a star beside the areas with which you feel you have the least experience and share them with your accountability partner.
According to Ellen G. White, “many are the ways in which God is seeking to make himself known to us and to bring us into communion with him.” Commenting on the purpose of the Scripture, she wrote:
“God speaks to us in his word. Here we have in clearer lines the revelation of his character, of his dealings with men, and the great work of redemption. Here is open before us the history of the patriarchs and prophets and other holy men of old. They were men “subject to like passions as we are.” We see how they struggled through discouragements like our own, how they fell under temptations as we have done, and yet took heart again and conquered through the grace of God; and beholding, we are encouraged in our striving after righteousness. As we read of the precious experiences granted them, of the light and love and blessing it was theirs to enjoy, and of the work they wrought through the grace given them, the spirit that inspired them kindles a flame of holy emulation in our hearts, and a desire to be like them in character, like them to walk with God.” (Steps to Christ)
For Ellen White, Scripture is the expressed will of God. It reveals all that is necessary for our daily walk with God and sufficient information for our salvation. In order to better understand God’s purpose, please read Steps to Christ, chapter six, “A Knowledge of God,” and chapter eight, “Growing Up into Christ.”
How does Ellen White incorporate the Scripture in her writing?
In what four ways does God speaks to us in the twenty-first century?
What special lessons are to be learned from a study of the Bible characters?
What will be the positive result of study and meditation on Scripture?
What should precede Bible study?
What should be the basis of your standard for truth?
Why do these verses say that you can rely on Scripture for teaching as well as correcting and training?
Describe a time when you relied on sources other than God’s Word to receive guidance for your life?
Pray for God’s help to understand and obey His word.
How to use study tools to more effectively interpret biblical meanings
Like other complex and profound writings, Scriptures will scarcely reveal their insights to us unless we learn all we can about the author, purpose, date, place, circumstances of writing, and many other things. Different kinds of literature will pose different challenges. To discover the deep truths that we all desire from the writings of the Bible requires disciplined study using the best methods and information available.
Tools for the study of the Bible
To properly interpret passages from the Bible and avoid reading our ideas and impressions into the area we are studying, we have an abundance of excellent English translations as well as some acceptable paraphrases for serious students of the Scripture. However, we need to be careful in the selection of the various translations. This is because older translations can be misleading as languages become dated—words change. [1 Thessalonians 4:15, King James Version: “That we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (that is, precede or go before) them which are asleep.” While this was understandable, in the seventeenth century, this translation will be misleading to the twenty first century reader because of the development of the English. “Prevent” in modern, English today, means to stop.]
Most study Bibles include a concordance. Each concordance is keyed to a particular translation of the Bible. You wouldn't use Strong's Concordance, for example, for the Revised Standard Version (RSV) translation. Strong's is keyed to the King James Version (KJV) translation.
For a particular translation, a concordance lists major names, places, terms, and words and tells you where they appear in the texts. The concordance entry for people's names also briefly describes that person, as a dictionary would.
Use a concordance to:
Find all the places the Bible mentions an important person, place, or idea.
Read brief information about people in the Bible.
Locate quotations using key words.
If you use a study Bible, you'll always have a concordance available.
A faster way to locate biblical words and phrases is to search a Bible translation online:
Search the Revised Standard Version (RSV) translation (with Apocrypha) online at the University of Michigan Digital Library. (http://quod.lib.umich.edu/r/rsv/)
Search the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) online at Bible Study Tools (http://www.biblestudytools.com/nrs/)
A good Bible dictionary may be the most useful tool a student committed to Bible study could own. In many ways, it's more like a one-volume encyclopaedia focused on the Bible. You can:
Quickly find information about the Bible's people and places, whether you're reading new texts or need to refresh your memory. What's the difference between the Pharisees and the Sadducees? What do we know about ancient Antioch?
Learn about the objects of the Bible's world. You'll understand the beginning of Exodus much better if you read the Bible dictionary's entry on "brick." You'll understand many texts of the Bible better if you read the entry on "water."
Learn about the Bible's social, cultural, economic, and religious worlds. What was a "family" in biblical times? What was "marriage?" How did most people make their livings? How did Jews worship in the time of Jesus?
Get overviews of each biblical book and of important theological ideas in the Bible. How do the meanings of holiness, faith, love, and grace develop across the Bible? What did sacrifice mean to people in the time of Jesus?
A good Bible dictionary's entries are based both on citations from the biblical texts themselves and on modern biblical scholarship. The editors of the dictionary may have a particular theological orientation, which means not all Bible dictionaries are helpful.
Parallel Bibles are special Bible study tools that some advanced beginner and intermediate students may find helpful:
Parallel Bibles let you compare several different translations of a single biblical text.
Read John 1:1-18. Read all the cross-references that connect with texts of the Old Testament.
What do you learn that helps you better understand the beginning of John?
How to Use Bible Study Tools
Invest in a good parallel Bible or read one on-line. Parallel Bibles contain several different versions side by side, designed to help you better interpret the text. Some popular versions are the King James Version, New International Version, New American Standard, Amplified, and the Message, but there are many other versions as well. Most parallel Bibles have between two and four of these different versions side by side.
Refer to a concordance to help study topics or find specific passages. A concordance is an alphabetical index of words used in the Bible. You can search a certain topic or word used in the Bible, and be referenced to every verse in the Bible that the word is used. There are on-line concordances, which make it easy to look up virtually anything. This can be helpful if, for example, you can remember only a portion of a Scripture and want to find it in the bible. The concordance is also a good reference if you are studying a particular topic.
Use a Bible lexicon, or word study dictionary, such as “The New Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words or an Expository Dictionary of Bible Words.” (Word Study Dictionaries: Every word in the Greek New Testament is explained in great detail, covering all context usages for these words. Numbered to Strong's numbering system, each word has a basic definition and further commentary is provided.) Every word in the Greek New Testament is explained in great detail, covering all context usages for these words. Numbered to Strong's numbering system, each word has a basic definition and further commentary is provided. This is helpful for words that are translated in different ways, and also allows you to find Greek and Hebrew definitions of words in the Bible
Read commentaries in addition to reading the Bible. Commentaries are interpretations of the Bible written by people, designed to help you understand what the Bible means. Ministers or biblical scholars write many. Keep in mind, however, that this is a person’s interpretation of what the Bible means, and it may differ from the beliefs that you have.
Acquire a devotional to be used during your daily Bible study, or subscribe to one that can be sent to your email, such as “The Word For Today” (http://www.ucb.co.uk/w4u) or Ellen White Estate Daily Devotional. (http://www.whiteestate.org/devotional/subscribe.asp) Here, you would spend a portion of each day devoting time to God to pray and study His Word, and devotionals are designed to help guide you in that process. Each daily devotional usually focuses on a certain topic and specific Scriptures. They are written from another person’s point of view and usually contain personal stories that relate to that day’s verses. Some also allow you to journal how that passage relates to your life.
Commit to a plan to help you read the Bible during the course of a year. There are books and on-line guides that are designed to help you accomplish this. Some are offered in a chronological plan, while others give a daily reading plan that may contain readings from both the Old and New Testament. This is helpful because it gives you a structured plan to read a specific amount of text each day.
DEBRIEFING LESSONS 11-14
Time: 90 minutes.Try to spend approximately 15-20 minutes discussing each section below, leaving time for small group prayer and commitment at the end.
Discipleship begins and ends with Jesus—the focal point!
During sessions 11 through 14, we have literally studied from our hearts and homes to the world and back to our own hearts again. First, we explored what it means to have healthy Christian families and what to do when they falter. Next, we took a look back through the ages to the origins of the great controversy between Christ and Satan, which is clearly the origin of all our difficulties with sin and sorrow, beginning in our first family and moving onward from there. After that, we looked out toward a suffering world and reminded ourselves that the family of God extends to His children on every continent—both those who know they are His and those who do not. We realized that the controversy and Fall have affected every human being and every family. Throughout this series, of course we have depended on what the Bible has to say and how it guides us in these difficulties, but in the final session we spent time exploring just that—how can we understand and apply the Bible to our own lives, and how can we help others to see that need and do the same?
As always, it begins and ends with God and His words, works, and plans. We are blessed beyond measure to be privileged to join in His efforts to bring the controversy to a final close, forever and ever. Amen!
Here is a review of the Big Ideas we have covered:
a. God made us social beings and placed us in families. He has provided through Christ the divine resources to help us live in unity and harmony.
b. Though in our time sexuality has become uncoupled from marriage, these two are closely intertwined in the biblical value system. As God’s gift of sexuality is more fully understood against the backdrop of His plan for marriage, both singles and marrieds will be able to experience greater personal and relational fulfillment.
The consequences of the human fall and the great controversy at large help you to understand God’s love for you.
As children of God we are called to reach out to our brothers and sisters, especially those who are not yet part of the household of faith, and minister to their needs in the spirit of Jesus Christ.
God gave the Bible to show His children what He is like, how He works, and how to work with Him. The simplest person, by the help of God’s Holy Spirit, can learn to understand the Bible and its purposes in human life.
During session 11a we discovered that God has provided divine resources to enable us to have close relationships in our families, and we learned to respond in practical and specific ways to strengthen those relationships.
Designed for Relationships
Are there new insights and understandings about families and relationships that you have learned as a result of this session? Share with the group.
What is the difference, if any, between liking and loving? Is one more important than the other? Do they always go together?
Is your family/church a place that's warm, where people are drawn to gather? Are there changes you would like to see happen to make that more true? What can you personally do about it?
What is submission? What is it not? What do you like/dislike about it?
Think of daily realities in your life when you are the one doing the submitting, such as student or worker. When do you submit willingly and when not? Now think of realities in which you are the one being submitted to. From your side, is this an act of love, or domination?
What about equal relationships, such as marriage or friendship, which move back and forth at different times, one submitting in one matter, the other submitting in a different matter. How can these pairs make decisions that will help these moments of submission be loving and joyful rather than painful and resentful?
Have you seen Christ heal breaches? Are there breaches you wish He would heal?
Whom do you need to forgive? Who needs you to ask forgiveness?
What is the difference between forgiveness and full reconciliation?
In session 11b we learned to bring a more Christ-centered mindset about sexuality to a personal understanding of ourselves and our relationships, and that God created humankind as sexual beings and gave the institution of marriage as the setting for the fullest expression of sexual intimacy.
This subject can be difficult to discuss, but in a prayerful and trusting setting, it can only help. Try to be as open and honest as you can about issues and questions, without telling personal secrets and especially without so much as a hint of the private issues of others you may know about. God created sex and sexuality and intended it to be a huge blessing to us. That’s the very reason Satan has perverted it so successfully, and you need to know as much as you can about God’s values in order to avoid being taken in by his lies.
Do your thoughts about sex and sexuality and your feelings about them match? Why or why not? Explore this, both personally in the privacy of your prayers and journal, and, if possible, within the group.
How has divorce affected your life? Name some ways you have seen the grace of God operate even in that brokenness.
Is chastity as important for men as for women? Why?
What does it mean to you to submit your sexuality to God? Have you clearly and intentionally done this? What feelings does it bring up?
Session 12 helped us understand the consequences of the human fall from God’s original plan. Discuss.
Does God destroy sinners, or does sin destroy sinners? Would it be possible for God to destroy sin without destroying any sinners in the process? Why or why not? What insight does this give you into why He is waiting so long and so patiently before making a final end?
What one word would you give to describe the very beginning and heart of sin? You may want to write the different answers on a white board and compare them. Can the group distill all their answers into one word?
Have you been able to find practical ways to share your views of the great controversy with someone? Share the results.