Category Archives: Bible – Study

Blood on every page

Justin Childers recently posted a very helpful piece quoting Bryan Chapell. He listed four excellent statements to keep in mind when reading the Scriptures. I’ve written then on the inside cover of my regular reading Bible to remind me what I ought to be seeing on every page:

  • Is there something here that is predictive of the work of Christ?
  • Is there something here that is preparatory for the work of Christ?
  • Is there something here that is reflective of the work of Christ?
  • Is there something here that is resultant of the work of Christ?

This should help me keep the big picture in view as I read.

Looking like an angel

Last night at our church Bible Study several phrases struck me forcibly. One is where Peter tells us that angels long to look into the things of salvation (1 Peter 1:12).

This is obviously more than trivial knowledge. After all, God’s salvation is not for angels. But at the same time it is not of no concern to them. They minister to the heirs of salvation (Hebrews 1:14). So as God’s servants and agents they will have a desire to be fully informed about their charges and duties, and God’s purposes for them.

But, more than that, God’s purpose for the Church is to display his manifold wisdom to them (Ephesians 3:10). Little wonder that what happens to us is of intense interest to them. Daniel gives a tantalizing glimpse of those angelic discussions (Daniel 8:13; 12:5-7).

What struck me about this angelic longing was not that it happened, but that if they had no personal stake in salvation, as do we who are the heirs, how deep is our longing to look into the things of Christ?

How embarrassing could it be one day to bump into Gabriel and Michael discussing some aspect of salvation as they walk down the golden street. They turn to us and ask us to explain just what that passage in Jeremiah, or Ezekiel or wherever, means. And we have to admit that we haven’t studied that Bible passage ever! Perhaps we might have to admit that we never knew it was in Scripture.

If that isn’t an incentive to serious study of Scripture, I don’t know what is.

High tech or low tech?

Adrian Warnock wrote an article last year that I’ve only just discovered. It’s called The Risks and Rewards of Using Technology in Sermon Preparation, and succinctly and persuasively argues for using technology in sermon preparation, much of which also applies to personal Bible study. It is well worth reading.

I still like a low tech approach alongside a high tech one. Undoubtedly the computer does aid research, concordance and lexicon lookups, and the like. I use Logos and the Internet alonside my dead tree books. But I still find that gathering my thoughts together is better done in a low tech way first — pen(cil) and paper allow me to diagram and jot more efficiently. I suppose I’m basically a complementarian when it comes to technology, as well as theology.

Journaling for preaching

Matthew Perry has a good article entitled When Journaling Helps Your Preaching (4 July 2008). I don’t use a Moleskine myself, but I have found handwriting study notes and sermon drafts extremely helpful in my own preparation for preaching, and my own personal meditations. I find scraps of A5-sized paper useful as they are about Bible size, and easily accommodate my habit of writing in short bursts that need finishing later, sometimes with something different in between.

It is always an encouragement to see that you’re not alone in your preferences for writing over typing as the first draft. Not having Matthew’s good handwriting, I tend to type up my ramblings, and I find the second go over them helpful in retaining the material, though I find I always have much more material this way than is practical to incorporate into a sermon. Occasionally such ‘discarded’ material makes its way into the blog.

Reflections on Revelation – 2

I’ve been reading Revelation since our pastor started a series of Sunday morning sermons on the book last Sunday. As is my practice, I try to break up the book into sections to get a better understanding of its contents, and as usual I find myself torn between several schemes.

A passing comment last Sunday about the book being in two sections led me to think what they might be. Here’s my initial take on a bipartite Revelation.

The basis of such a division has to be Rev 1:19 which identifies the book with “the things that you [John] have seen”. The book is a record of the vision(s) John saw, and accords with his constant refrain of “I saw …” or “I was shown …”.

Part 1 would be “those that are”, presumably the present from John’s perspective. This must be chapters 1-3, dealing with the 7 churches, and preceded by the vision of the “one like a son of man” (1:13).

Part 2 would be “those that are to take place after this”, which would be future from John’s perspective, and at least partly future from ours (how much would depend on your millennial views). This would be the remainder of the book (chapters 4-22). Like the first part, it begins with a vision of God, this time the one who sits on the throne (ch 4) and the Lamb (ch 5). The remainder of this part is a more involved series of visions.

The 222 Principle

John Brand has started a new series of blog postings over at A Steward of the Secret Things called The 222 Principle. In his second posting he shares some advice from Geoffrey Grogan to new preachers. They are a helpful reminder to all who preach, but it struck me that in many ways his advice is no different from what all Christians should practice in their reading of the Bible.

Knowledge of the contents is a vital foundation step to understanding the Bible. Prayerful application to one’s own life is for all. And while analysis may seem more relevant to preachers, it is a useful way for every Christian to achieve a sound understanding of the Bible’s message.

The preacher will take what he has learned via these steps and communicate it to others. But these three steps are essentially what every Christian should undertake in their personal Bible study.

The value of an outline

Three influences have come together in my thinking at the moment, so let me confess them at the start:

  1. A recent preaching workshop at our church where David Jackman (on video, I hasten to add, lest you receive the wrong impression) was talking about identifying each Gospel’s theme(s) (see Meeting Jesus in the Gospels, from Proclamation Trust)
  2. Reading Dale Ralph Davis The Word Became Fresh (see my review for further details and links to other reviews)
  3. Current studies in Numbers conducted by David Gooding

In each case, much was made of outlines of passages and books, not as ends in themselves, but as tools in understanding the themes and messages of the books. A little reflection on this led me to the conclusion that there are two types of such outlines.

The first is simply a table of contents that may be grouped into sections, but often these sections bear no real relation to the themes of the book. They can be superficial groups that may derive simply from chronology, geography or literary features of the text. This kind of outline is easy to construct, but is not without value. It tends to be the type given in most commentaries under the heading “Outline”. It is the first kind of outline to construct when one is trying to get a handle on a book. It helps to provide basic orientation of the content, but usually no more.

But the second kind of outline is the more valuable. It cannot be done without the former, or certainly not easily. If identifies sections thematically. It requires a lot of thought about how each passage is related to others in the book, particularly adjacent ones, but sometimes more distant ones. It comes from querying the text (a la Piper), or catechising the text, as many oder preachers called it. It is not a microscopic study, but a macroscopic one (a la Davis). It aims to get to the real reasons for the selection and arrangement of the book.

From this thoughtful, and often length process, we begin to identify larger sections, or movements as David Gooding calls them. It is this thoughtful outline that is really beneficial, more so than the superficial outline that can be produced by arranging the table of contents. It should never be imposed on the text, but arise from it, reflectively and meditatively.

In my experience, my reactions to the two types are, “Oh, that’s interesting” (superficial/table of contents), but “Wow! I never saw that before” (thoughtful). There is an instinctive recognition of the value of the thoughtful outline that brings the book alive, and will prove invaluable in getting to grips with the message in detail, and helping me retain it.

The maximum value of such an outline can only be received when it is accompanied by careful study of the book in question. It must be tested against the text, and sometimes it may need modification. It is an invaluable aid in the study of a Bible book, whether for preaching, teaching a Sunday School class, or for in depth personal Bible study.