Christianity 201

June 6, 2013

Use Your Bible

The scriptures today appear as links, and I really hope you’ll take the time to read each one; especially since the theme today is about using your Bible to the fullest.  This is from the website Unlocking The Bible where it appeared under the title 14 Ways to Use the Bible.

The Bible is wonderful because it gives us a knowledge of God, of men, of the universe, and of redemption.

No other book can be compared to it in this respect, but it not only informs us about these important truths, it also tells us what we are to do with it.

We have within the Bible itself instruction as to our attitude toward it.

In it we are exhorted to:

1. Read it.Nehemiah 8:8. And may I suggest that it be read slowly, carefully, prayerfully, in large portions, repeatedly, reverently and with a willing spirit to follow its precepts.

2. Believe it.Romans 10:8. Because it is the Word of faith. It has been given to increase our faith in God and His working in the Universe.

3. Receive it.James 1:21. Here it is the engrafted word that is to be received as the soil received the seed, or the tree receives the graft. Taking the Word of God in our heart life, allowing it to grow and bear its own fruit in motives and actions.

4. Taste it.Proverbs 19:10. For it is the good Word of God. Some seem to be afraid of the Bible for fear it will require them to do something they do not wish to do. Be not afraid; it is good and right in all its requirements.

5. Eat it.Jeremiah 15:16. This process suggests that we not merely taste but actually live by it, as Jesus said, “Ye shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4.

6. Hold it fast.Titus 1:9. It is a faithful word. All its promises are true; all its history is true; and its statements are truth. Therefore we are to rest our faith upon it.

7. Hold it forth.Philippians 2:16. Because it is the Word of Life. All who come under its beneficent rays feel its life giving power.

8. Preach it.2 Timothy 4:2. Here it is called simply the Word. It suggests that we are not to preach any one part of it or any one phase of it, but preach it in its entirety and fullness.

9. Search it.John 5:29. This suggests work and patience. The Greek word carries the idea of “ransack” as the housewife goes through the home at housecleaning time; or “to track” as the hunter laboriously follows the game through the brush, so we are to search for truth and run down the lines of God’s revelations to man.

10. Study it.2 Timothy 2:15. Here is a word that means close application to the Word of God, as the builder minutely studies the plans of the architect before erecting the structure.

11. Meditate on it.Psalm 1:2. This word has much the same meaning as “eat” for it means literally “to chew the cud.” Turning the Word of God over and over in the mind till the sweetness of its truths feed our souls.

12. Compare it.2 Corinthians 2:13. This is not so much what we do with the Scriptures as what the Holy Spirit does with them in our hearts. This is a divine commentary always at hand. Or as John puts it in 1 John 2:27, “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.”

13. Rightly divide it.2 Timothy 2:15. This is not an arbitrary division of subjects but the following of a line of truth from the first place mentioned to the last place mentioned; noticing it in all its relation to other truths and as the word literally means “the cutting of a straight line” of truth in the Bible.

14. Delight in it. Psalm 119:92. Seven times in this Psalm the Psalmist speaks of delighting in God’s word. This should always be the heart ambition and attitude.

“Study it carefully; think of it prayerfully;
Deep in thy heart let its precepts dwell.
Slight not its history; ponder its mystery,
None can e’er prize it too fondly or well.
Accept the glad tidings, the warning, the chidings,
Found in this volume of heavenly lore,
With faith that’s unfailing, and love all prevailing,
Trust in its promise of life evermore.”

*Adapted from portion of W.H. Pike’s beginning remarks in Summarized Bible: Complete Summary of the Old Testament.

Bonus item:

I know that this type of article isn’t typical of what we do here at C201, but as long as we’re doing lists, here’s one that appeared a few days ago the blog Deep Thoughts by Gman under the title Old Versus New.

Old Covenant vs. New Covenant
Gifts and Sacrifices for guilt of sin vs. Self-sacrifice by guiltless Christ
Physical Building where One goes to worship vs. Reign of Christ in hearts of believers
Limited promises vs. Limitless promises
External standards vs. Internal Standards
Limited Access to God vs. Unlimited access to God
Legal Cleansing vs. Personal cleansing
Obey the rules vs. Serve the living God
Forgiveness earned vs. Forgiveness freely given
Repeated yearly vs. Completed by Christ’s death.
Human effort vs. God’s grace
Available to some vs. Available to all.

February 12, 2011

Devotional Interpretation

I often get asked about the two dominant study Bibles on the market, The NIV Study Bible (also reprinted in NASB, KJV and TNIV) and The NLT Life Application Bible (also reprinted in NIV, NKJV and NASB).  It’s an over-simplification on my part, but I usually fall back on this line:

“The NIV Study takes us in to Bible times and shows us some of the background of the text in its context; whereas the Life Application notes brings the Bible into our time and explains the revelance of the text to our lives today.”

Of course, the individual study notes in both number in the thousands, and shouldn’t be reduced to this generalization, but it works to some degree.  Another generation would be to say the Life Application notes are more devotional in nature.

Back in June 2010, Darrell Buchanan wrote a blog piece he called Devotional Interpretation; two words I had never mentally combined before…

I recently came across John Goldingay’s explanation of “Devotional Interpretation” in a section of his larger entry on “Hermeneutics” in the Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch (InterVarsity Press: 2003).

Specifically focusing on the Pentateuch, Goldingay says devotional interpretation is interested in the significance of a text “for people’s personal lives, especially their personal relationship with God” (390). This is a big reason why so many with good intentions to read through the Bible make it through Genesis and Exodus but usually give up when they reach the middle of Leviticus!

What a devotional reading forgets is that the focus of much (most?) of the Bible is on the community – Israel in the OT and the church in the NT.  Or, as Goldingay puts it: “[T]he Pentateuch instinctively thinks corporately, as modern readers do not. It thus has the potential to rescue devotional reading from some of its individualism” (391).

The Christian Faith Institute blog seems to take a very un-charitable view of devotional interpretation at first glance, though I suspect their concern is when it waters down preaching, which requires study at greater depth.

…A common practice is to interpret scripture “devotionally” or “privately”. By “devotional interpretation” we mean reading the scripture assuming what it means to us personally, without taking the trouble to see if that is the intended meaning of the passage. Devotional study is a positive practice, but the casual use of it is what we are referring to here. Devotion to God must be based on what God actually says…

…The first step in applying the scripture is to understand what it meant to the generation when it was written. Scripture does not mean what we think it means, because we feel that God has spoken to us from it in a particular way. The scripture means what it meant to the generation it was addressed to.

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke, as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (2 Pet 1:20-21).

“Private interpretation” means we interpret the Bible personally, without first finding out what it means contextually (in its own context). The meaning of prophetic scripture is not arbitrary, according to our view, but it is according to what the Holy Sprit originally said…

F. E. Stoffler (as cited by E. J. Swensson) provides some historical background:

Later [Pietism] was opposed to the Enlightenment attempt to reduce Christian commitment to the acceptance of a few propositions held to be rationally demonstrable…Pietists strove to restore to Protestantism a theology based on a commonsense, untortured, more-or-less literal, and basically devotional interpretation of the Bible.

I’ve stated here already that the Jewish mindset was that the scriptures were like a diamond; and just as a diamond refracts the light differently when held at different angles to both the light source and the human eye; so also are the various ways that the scripture can be interpreted.   Therefore, I believe that the ‘face value’ of a text may be valid for some, while the historical context interpretation may serve others better.  But I do not risk suggesting that the one is better than the other.