[EDITOR'S NOTE: On March 21, 2010, I gave a talk at New Life Sunday Night (5:30pm in the Tent) on how the Holy Spirit speaks to us through the Scriptures and how we can responsibly make sense of it. It would be extremely difficult to read this post and "apply it" without listening to the 45-minute talk as well, so I've included a link to download it. Also, know that none of this is truly original. It has been culled from a number of sources, notably Gordon Fee's "How to Read the Bible for All It's Worth", Eugene Peterson's "Eat This Book", and N. T. Wright's "For Everyone" series.]
PHASE 1, OBSERVATION: What Is Going On?
Gordon Fee: “The Bible has eternal relevance and historical particularity.”
Enter the story
- Look around and explore this world
- Examine the characters, the people
- The Goal: to hear it as the original audience heard it
* Read epistles or narratives all the way through. (Debunk 3 John 2)
* Read before and after your favorite verses (Jeremiah 29:11)
* Use a simple study Bible (like Life Application Study Bible) for introductory notes, etc
1. What was the occasion or purpose?
2. What was the historical setting?
3. What was the cultural meaning?
PHASE 2, INTERPRETATION: What Did This Mean For Them?
God spoke through the Bible writers to specific people and has relevance for us.
Imagine how original listeners heard those words
* Give special attention to what God says about people and events in the story.
* Look for aberrations of a norm, or breaks from an established pattern
* Study how the author uses particular words
* Use Scripture to interpret Scripture
1. Why is the story included?
2. What’s the author’s point?
3. What are they saying next?
PHASE 3, APPLICATION: What Does This Mean For Me? (Not “to me” but “for me”)
Let the story enter you
- Don’t stand over the Word of God trying to pull stuff out of it;
- Stand under the Word of God and let it define and direct you. Let it show you what you look like
- When we are reading the Bible, the truth is, the Bible is reading us.
- Let it break down and be digested and assimilated in you. It might mean reading in smaller chunks (instead of trying to swallow a steak whole!)
- The point is not information or inspiration; the point is transformation!
We Read the Bible to Know God and Become His People.
* Distinguish between descriptive and prescriptive texts. (Example, “Judas hung himself” versus “Love your neighbor as yourself.”)
* Pray the application of Scripture (Grothe story and Hawthorne story)
1. How does this principle contradict my culture?
2. How does this reveal Jesus?
3. What areas in my heart need to be reshaped by this?
4. What can I do in response?