In the summer of 1988, I
was privileged to come under the ministry of Dr. David Gooding for the first
time. I enjoyed it thoroughly and decided to make it my business to avail myself
of the opportunity each summer to spend a week under the guidance of this able
and humble servant of the Lord in a Bible Study Seminar at Greenwood Hills,
PA. Not only has he enabled me to learn something of the passages of Scripture
we were studying, but has taught me some valuable lessons in approaching Scripture
that have enabled me to study more effectively on my own.
One of the great lessons
that has been demonstrated both in the oral and written ministry of Dr. Gooding
is the importance of adherence to context, not only the context of the immediate
passage, but its place in the whole of the book. For instance, the great passage
of Luke 15 has been used by many gospel preachers for great good. And the Spirit
of God has blessed the message to the salvation of many souls. As most of us
use it, there is no notice of the reason this particular story told by the Lord
Jesus is in Luke as opposed to Matthew or Mark or John. But this incident is
only recorded in Luke. Why? And, for that matter, why is it in Luke 15 as opposed
to Luke 7 or 9?
These are questions I never
really asked myself. Now I'm sure knowing the answers to such questions would
not affect whether I would be in heaven. But at the same time, if we are going
to be careful students of the Word of God, desiring to discover all the riches
of His revelation to us, we ought to stretch our minds a little and find out.
At the first session I spent with Dr. Gooding, he started by quoting the commandment
that we should "love the Lord our God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,
and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength" ( Mk 12:30
The technique he uses to
answer the above questions is an understanding of the literary structure of
ancient Greek literature. He has been a student and professor of this discipline
for many years and is highly respected by his peers in this field. He is the
first to point out that this is a technique that, while valuable, must not stand
preeminent in the understanding of the text. But by using this tool, we may
better understand each of the parts of the text.
Two expositions that illustrate
the use of this technique are his study called According to Luke and
True to the Faith, his exposition of Acts. Please don't get the idea
that these works will be hard to understand and unpleasant to read. They will
stretch your mind and encourage your heart at the same time. They are delightful
Another volume I must mention
by him is his study on Hebrews. Called The
a full third of the book is a careful look at the seven quotations in chapter
1 from the Old Testament. In this he demonstrates his careful attention to context.
He shows that the writer did not take the Old Testament passages out of their
Old Testament context to prove the deity of Christ and the prophetic implications
of the text. Since the first readers of this letter were Jewish believers, it
was necessary to prove to them that Jesus Christ was indeed the Son of God and
that a proper understanding of the Old Testament demanded that He become Man.
A proper understanding of the Old Testament is still necessary for us to grasp
this most significant book. This will open up the so-called warning passages
in a fresh way and ultimately open the whole epistle.
All of this is done with
the express purpose of drawing the reader to a fresh and exalted view of the
Lord Jesus Christ, not just to bring some intellectual exercise to the study
of Scripture. As you read these, you will worship the Lord with a fresh and
vibrant understanding of the character of the Lord Jesus and the great salvation
of our God. And this, in the final analysis, is what all good exposition should
do. May your mind be stretched, but more importantly may your heart be warmed
as you study these Scriptures.