How to Study the BibleI. Identify the time period from which the particular book comes.
A. There are three time periods of the Bible-Patriarchal, Mosaical, Christian
B. There is a great deal of difference about the applicability of what you are reading,depending upon which time period the individual (1 of 66) book comes from.
C. Romans 15: 4-"For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we though faith and comfort of the scriptures might have hope."
D. In the Patriarchal Age, God spoke directly to the heads of households, the Patriarchs (fathers), just as he spoke directly to Adam, Noah, Abraham, and to Moses (before the giving of the law at Sinai).
E. In the Mosaical Age, God spoke through the Law-not just 10 commandments, but the 613 commandments, 305 positive and 308 negative-as well as sometimes speaking directly to people.
F. But in the Christian Age, He speaks to us through the Word of His Bible. Conceptually, it looks like this:
|Patriarchal Age||Mosaical Age||Christian Age|
4000 B. C. to
Mt. Sinai, about 1400
Mt Sinai 1400 B. C.
to Death of Christ
in A. D. 33
Death of Christ in about
until the end of time
|Characters--Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph||Moses, Aaron, Pharoah, Joshua, the Judges, Esther, the Kings||Jesus Christ, the apostles|
We study the writings of the Old Testament but we are not bound by them. For extensive, repetitive, and emphatic teachings directly from the Bible about the relationship of the Old Testament to the New, and how the New applies to our salvation, see Galatians 2: 14 - 5: 12; Hebrews chapters 7, 8, 9, 10; Romans 7, entire chapter; Colossians 2: 11-23; James 2: 10. From those teaching we see that the rules received by the Patriarchs were meant for them in their time, and the commandments received by Moses and passed on to Israel were meant for them in their time, but the teachings of the New Testament are what is meant for us in our time.
II. Decide whether the language seems literal or figurative. The Bible uses both.
A. Look at at passage such as Revelation 4: 5-9. See the accounts of fantastic beings and the extensive use of the word "like." Don't those things tell you that this language is symbolic? So, react to it like it was symbolic. Don't treat it literally. Same could be said of Revelation 20: 1-10. When the scripture in symbolic language is talking about binding a spirit such as Satan with a chain, it must not be a literal chain, neither would the time period involved be a literal thousand years.
B. Now look at language such as Acts 2: 37-47. Are there any fantastic beings? Any feats of superhuman strength? Any extensive usage of words such as "like" or "as"? Must be literal. How about James 2: 14-26?
III. Check carefully to see if the conclusions being reached are directly counter to scripture. Don't go nose-to-nose with scripture. Scripture never contradicts itself. If it looks like scripture contradicts itself, man is reaching a wrong conclusion.
A. Like man calling himself "reverend." See Psalms 111:9. Only God is reverend. This is a Middle English word that is sometimes translated differently in more modern translations.
B. Like saying that salvation is by faith only. The words "faith" and "only" occur together only once in the English translations of the Bible--in the very passage (James 2: 24) that says that salvation is not by faith only.
C. Like men trying to exalt themselves over other men, using scripture for leverage. See Matthew 23: 8-12. Same goes for man-made titles.
IV. Decide: What is this passage saying to me?
A. Is it telling me what I need to hear in order to become a Christian?
B. If I am a Christian, is this showing me something that I need to be doing that I'm not doing (James 4: 17)?
C. If I am a Christian, is this passage showing me something that I need to refrain to be doing?
D. The scriptures are like a mirror that someone can look at and decide what manner of person he or she is. James 1: 21-25.
E. Decide: Is the passage in front of me a command, or an inspired example that I should follow? Or just part of the story that the Bible tells? For instance, the scripture does in fact say that Judas went and hanged himself (Matthew 27: 5). In another place, Jesus says "Go thou and do likewise" (Luke 3: 11). But is this a real conclusion, or a real commandment, for anyone to follow? Common sense has to prevail in studying the Bible, as it would in studying any other book.
God's purpose in having the Bible written (II Peter 1: 20, 21) was to reveal His will to people, not to confuse, confound, and cause consternation for them.
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