Thy Words were found and I did eat them; and Thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart. Jeremiah 15:16
Methods Of Bible Study
The doctrine of salvation:
The doctrine of revelation:
Second: We now select one doctrine from this prepared list, and with the help of a Concordance examine progressively every reference that can be found to this particular doctrine or phase of doctrine throughout the Word of God.
A doctrinal study may also be conducted in a more limited manner by confining our work to one book in the Bible. For example, the first doctrine we meet in the Epistle to the Ephesians is the doctrine of God. We immediately sense, of course, that there is a reference to both the Son and the Father in the opening verse. Now, suppose we decide to examine the references to God the Father in this Epistle. Through our investigation we would learn much that we possibly did not previously realize: God is sovereign; He imposes His will (v. 1). God is Father of our Lord Jesus (1:3, etc.); of glory (1:17); of all, the paternal source of everything (4:6); and of all believers (6:23).
Furthermore, we would learn that God is Father to bless (1:3-6), to choose, predestine, adopt, to illuminate. This He does through the Spirit of Revelation and of Wisdom.
Moreover, we would learn that He is Father to be the Head of a household of persons once alienated from Him (2:18-19).
Third: As we examine each reference and understand the reference in the light of the context, we prepare a systematized outline of every point we have found.
This is a very good way to learn sound doctrine. The study of doctrine in one book or epistle is not as tedious as is the more general scheme, but certainly not as comprehensive.
Dispensational studies: This type of study is being ignored by some and denounced by others, but Christians owe much to this system of Bible interpretation. It is very exacting and demands much time and patience.
Dispensational study engages us in an examination of different periods of time throughout human history, and the epochs which mark these off the one from the other.
The word dispensation means a stewardship, a method of management or administration. God has used different methods of administration in His dealings with man. He dealt with him first in innocence, then under conscience, then through self-government under Noah. Following these different administrations, He dealt with man under promises and covenants, then under law, and now He deals with man under grace. In the dispensation of the fulness of these times, the millennium, He will deal with man in righteousness.
The Old Testament in great measure treats of those dispensations from innocence to the law; whereas, the New Testament, generally speaking, treats of the dispensations of grace and righteousness. An understanding of these helps one better to rightly divide the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
Topical studies: Topical studies are conducted more or less in the same way as are doctrinal studies. We begin by making a list: prayer, faith, giving of our substance to the Lord, suffering, the believer’s walk, fruit-bearing, etc.
These studies may be undertaken in the broad extensive manner, a searching of the whole Bible for the references to the selected subject, or in the limited way, a study of the chosen topic in one book or epistle.
One cannot read the short Epistle of Third John carefully without being impressed by the major topic; it is repeated several times, “The Truth.” A consideration of the Epistle leads to the conclusion that the truth was practised by Gaius, profaned by Diotrephes, and propogated by Demetrius. In this particular case, a topical study results in the opening up of the entire Epistle.
Biographical studies: From our earliest days we have enjoyed Bible stories, biographical sketches of the heroes of the past whose lives have been an inspiration to others throughout the centuries. This type of Bible study is fascinating and very productive. We may discuss several steps in the process:
First: Select a Bible character.
Second: Gather all the possible details, examine each reference to the particular character. Trace the traits of character, acts of conduct, failures and successes, the reason for these, his service for the Lord or the lack of service for the Lord.
Trace the dealings of God with the individual: His blessings, His discipline, His guidance, or His disapproval.
Third: Correlate each event, each item, each period in the hero’s history to all other events, items and periods.
Fourth: Classification of the most prominent features in the subject’s life should be carried out, and the most important one discovered. For example, Job is the man of patience, Abraham of faith, Isaac of peace and Jacob of discipline. When this is executed properly, it will be seen that the entire biographic study is built around this prominent feature. Other details in life present different phases and aspects of this.
Word studies: There are two very fine works on the study of words in the New Testament, the one by Dr. Robertson and the other by Dr. Vincent. Both of these excellent works give word-pictures which are instructive.
The study of words in the Bible is most productive and helpful. There are several ways in which this type of study may be done.
An English-Greek Concordance should be used in this work. Some times an English word may appear several times in one epistle and yet not be the same word in the original Greek. The help of an English-Greek Concordance will give the assurance that the same word is being treated in the several different references.
First: The simplest form of word study is the tracing of the same word as it occurs, and the examining of the various contexts in which it is found.
For example: the word redemption is found four times in the Epistle to the Ephesians.
By the use of our English-Greek Concordance we discover that it appears in two different forms, and a little observation shows that it is used in two different ways; some are used to show that God redeems and one is used to suggest that man ought to redeem.
When we list all the references where the word is applied to God and examine these carefully, we note the following:
· The price of redemption (1:7).
· The possession of redemption (1:14).
· The purpose of redemption (4:30).
The one reference to our redeeming the time (5:16) may be considered with similar references in some other part of the New Testament.
Take the phrase, “The praise of His glory,” it appears three times in the first chapter. An examination of these three contexts shows that it appears in connection with the Father (v. 6), the Son (v. 12), and the Holy Spirit (v. 14).
Second: Another form of word study is that of investigating words in a series, words which seem to complement each other. Ephesians chapter one provides us with such a series. In verses 19-20 the words in the series are: working, power, and wrought. Using the thought of power we could list these references in this manner:
· The potential: “His mighty power.”
· The transmission: “The working of His mighty power.”
· The operation: “Which He wrought in Christ.”
These related words that complement each other could also be entitled: the source, the channel, and the accomplishment.
Third: A third form of word study in the English-Greek is the study of synonyms. Take the verb to know, one of its synonyms means to know through
acquired knowledge, the other means to know by intuition. We know chemistry or
biology by an acquired knowledge which is gained at school; we know the beautiful
from the ugly by an intuitive knowledge. For example, to know the love of Christ
(3:19) is to know by an acquired knowledge, to know through experience. To
know that a good deed has its own recompense (6:8) is to know by intuition.
There are other systems of Bible Study in which we may profitably engage
ourselves: typical studies, prophetical studies, serial studies, etc. but sufficient has been said to demonstrate that profitable Bible Study results from preparation for a methodical and adequate system.
This recommendation might be made. We should change our system of study from time to time in order to get a more complete understanding of the Word of God. Of course, if one has sufficient time, he may continue using two or even three different systems daily. One giving his whole time to the ministry of the Word ought so to do. By so doing he will have freshness of soul and plenty of sound material for his ministry.
Principles Of Biblical Interpretation
Principles of interpretation are the ways and means of explaining a written document or manuscript. An interpreter is one who attempts to expound the meaning of a writer to his readers by simplifying his language, by removing ambiguities, and, at times, by illustrating his concepts. Decoding a coded message is an extreme case of interpretation. This involves the. translation of the code symbols as well as the explanation of their meaning.
If it were possible for us to interpret the Bible in the original tongues to an English audience, it would be necessary that we know those original languages, translate from these and then give the meaning. Since the Bible has been translated for us, and that into excellent English, we need only to study the principles of interpretation which include such ideas as the simplification of language, the interpretation of all figurative expressions and the exposition of each separate concept.
Let us consider a step-by-step method of biblical interpretation.
Any attempt to understand and interpret the Word of God must begin with a prayerful dependence upon the Holy Spirit. He is the Anointing that we have received (1 John 2:27). In Old Testament times prophets, priests and kings were initiated into their respective offices by anointing. Here John informs us that the Christian is initiated by the Divine Anointing into knowledge, and such knowledge as needs no one to teach him. The Spirit of God directs him into the knowledge of God that saves him from the spirit of error abroad in the world.
Moreover, it is the Holy Spirit who searches the deep things of God, and reveals them unto us (1 Corinthians 2:10-13). The Spirit of God is the Author of the Holy Scriptures (2 Peter 1:21) and is their best interpreter.
Spiritual illumination is the influence of the Holy Spirit upon the mind of the student that enables him to see the meaning of the Word of God. We must not allow anything to interfere with the light of the Holy Spirit: no human opinion, no prejudice, no partiality.
When Alexander the Great visited the ancient philosopher Diogenes, he asked that wise man if there was anything he, the Emperor, could do to assist him. “Simply, get out of my light,” was the terse reply. We should allow nothing, not even royalty, to obscure the light of the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:27). In this connection the Apostle Paul wrote, “Quench not the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19).