Tuesday, Oct 30, 2018
How to Study the Bible (Part 3)
Speaker: Jerry Wragg
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We are continuing today in Grace & Granite on how to study the Bible. During the last two weeks, we introduced the topic and discussed the first four general principles for studying God’s word. They were:

  1. Scripture is clear; it has clarity.
  2. Revelation is accommodated to us.
  3. Scripture is harmonious.
  4. Scripture can be normally/literally interpreted.

We also touched on the fifth general principle:

  1. There is one meaning to a text.


We will cover this principle in much greater depth, but lets first examine a few of our presuppositions about God’s Word:

  • 2 Timothy 2:15 says that the study of Scripture requires diligence. That is, we develop skill as we work on texts in our mind and hearts.
  • The result… we become approved workmen. We learn to cut scripture rightly; dividing it for clarity.
  • Scripture gives us God’s mind and corrects our biases.
  • We learn the context of Scripture. Scripture does not conform to our contexts.
  • Ephesians 4:11ff – we grow in maturity by having unity of faith.
  • V.14, we are protected from error.

General Principle #5 – There is one meaning of a Biblical text.

  • Just like if we say, “The grass is green,” we that the color of the grass is green.
  • Scripture is the same way; the Divine Author communicates through a human author with one intended meaning.
  • To accept this in faith, we must assume some things about communication:
    • Assumption #1: An author of Scripture clearly communicates his intentions.

Understanding occurs when:

  1. The listener hears communication in its context.
  2. He processes the information and apprehends it.
  3. He understands the information communicated.

If Scripture is misinterpreted, we know that the author clearly communicated, but the listener was:

  1. Lazy in hearing.
  2. Unwilling to give up a bias.
  3. Ignorant of the material or unfamiliar with the concepts or words.
  4. Hearing, but not listening.
  5. Hearing and listening, but unbelieving.
  6. Or, interpreting only to satisfy their biased agenda.

Assumption #1 conclusion: Scripture is God’s Word communicated to all mankind for the purpose of saving, until Christ returns in glory (Romans 1:16). We must assume the author was clear in His communication. If something is unclear, we are the problem.

  • Assumption #2: Since the author is clear in communicating his intentions, understanding comes by normal apprehension of the language used in its original context.
    1. There is no other secret way to learn what God means.
    2. That’s not to say that you are going to understand every passage or every passage is as clear as another.
    3. It’s never true that the author communicated poorly.
    4. An infallible God can only produce and infallible revelation.

Assumption #2 conclusion: The principle of one meaning is basic to every form of literature and communication. And, that one meaning is always determined by the author. In Scripture, God determines what He meant.

  • Question: What about passages that expand on a previous meaning in Scripture?
    • God does often expand on themes with more elaboration in passages written later.
    • But still, the original meaning does not change from its original context. The original meaning is now expanded with the additional passage.

General Principle #6 – Interpretation as opposed to application.

  • If the meaning of a text gets confusing, you are likely thinking about its application.
    • We have heard people say, “What does that passage mean to you?”
    • They are truly asking, “How does that passage apply to you?”
    • Rushing toward a personal application can be a mistake.
  • Interpretation is explaining the passage’s significance to everyone, everywhere for all time, because it discovers the author’s intended meaning in the original context to the original audience.
  • Application is explaining the ways the original author’s statement, or meaning of his statement, affects my life today and in different contexts. An illustration of this:
    • A man digs and finds a treasure of gold coins (interpretation – he now possesses gold that he did not have before).
    • Application is the different ways he can spend the coins.
    • Exodus 20:15 – You shall not steal. The interpretation is: don’t take something that is not yours.
    • There are various applications:
      1. Don’t steal from the grocery store.
      2. Don’t steal time from your employer with laziness.
      3. Don’t steal her beauty with your eyes.
  • We use the singular meaning of a text to first confront the heart (the inner life).
    • As we study the Bible, don’t rush apply the text to your actions, before examining the implications for your own heart.
    • Key truth point: Behind every action/behavior there is a heart attitude.
  • Foundationally, Scripture’s purpose is to implicate your inner life!! – This purpose and methodology cannot be stressed enough.
    • At the heart level, you are implicating your motives.
    • At the heart level, you are challenging your desires.
    • At the heart level, you are examining your thought life.
    • At the heart level, you find where you are guilty of unbiblical thoughts
    • At the heart level, you repent and change your thoughts to align with the truth claims of God’s Word.
    • Illustration of this inner life work:
      1. Two men set out to rob a gas station. One drives the car and the other enters the business. Both are complicit and guilty.
      2. The one entering the business is like our outward actions in sin.
      3. The one driving the car is like the sinful thought life driving our actions.
      4. Each man’s guilt is dependent on the other, but the one in the business cannot act out his guilt without the driver.
      5. Our thought life is the driver of our actions.
      6. Our inner man follows a trajectory of unbiblical and/or sinful thoughts, motives, and desires that result in sinful actions.
      7. The purpose of Scripture is to implicate our guilt at the heart level.
      8. God knows our heart better than us. The medicine for heart change is God’s Word.
      9. We use God’s Word as the cure to change our hearts (repentance).
  • Our dangerous tendency:
    • We tend to find a meaning in scripture and then rush to apply it to our outward actions like a Band-Aid on a gushing wound.
    • We skip over the hard work of confronting our thought life, making only superficial and temporary progress against sin.
    • To make real and lasting change, we must let the Scriptures implicate your inner life: wrong thoughts, sinful motives, and unbiblical desires.
    • When we implicate the heart first, it becomes much clearer what actionable changes are necessary. For example, Ephesians 5:25 and following:
      1. The truth claim is to love your spouse in the same way that Christ loved His people.
      2. An immediate application could be, “I am going to cut the grass without her asking, because that’s how I should love her.”
      3. Cutting the grass is great and could be loving, kind, and sacrificial.
      4. But, jumping to this conclusion sidesteps the motives and thoughts:
        1. What does it mean to love like Christ loved?
        2. What does it mean to initiate love when she is unlovely?
        3. What did Christ really do for His people?
        4. Are my intentions the same as Christ’s?

In summary, there is a tremendous difference between application and implication. When studying God’s Word and explaining it to others, let’ help one another keep first things first. We must disciple others to do the hard work on the inner life as we practice Biblical truths.