How Do We Understand the Bible?
How Do We Understand What the Bible Says?
What is the Bible?
Do you ever feel confused or intimidating when you read the Bible?
When I ask you: “So what do you think about this verse?” What’s your initial response?
/ T H E B I B L I C A L N A R R A T I V E /
The Bible is not simply as a 66 disconnected books but rather as a single story that involves four major chapters or movements.
That is, Scripture can be read as a single story of God's creating (making new) redeeming (renewing) and perfecting (making new once again) work in the world.
Creation - Genesis 1-2, John 1:1-3. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit create the world and humankind and give us the task to love, and steward His good creation.
Fall - Genesis 3, Genesis 6, Ephesians 2:1-3. Humanity falls into the temptation of the devil, and falls from the perfect beautiful state that they had in the Garden of Eden. This broken state influences not just humans, but all of Creation.
Redemption - Genesis 12, 2 Corinthians 5, Col. 1-2, Eph. 2-3. God sends His Son, Jesus Christ, to become a man and die on the cross for our sins. He dies in our place, for the sins that we committed at the Fall.
The Church - Acts and us today!
New Creation - 2 Cor. 5, Gal 2:20, Revelation
What is the Bible?
It is the story of God’s people breaking right relationship with Him, and God’s unrelenting love and grace-filled pursuit to bring all of creation back into right relationship with Himself.
The Bible is the inspired, infallible Word of God, given to His people.
The specially revealed narrative record of God’s grace-filled mission in and through His chosen people, for the sake of the world.
What is the Gospel?
Story: The grace filled story of an unrelenting covenantal God’s redemptive and reconciling action, through the gift of His son Jesus Christ and by His Holy Spirit, to continually restore all of the fallen creation back to Himself - Shalom.
Power: Meaning that the Gospel is the real and present and powerful activity of God through Christ, Word, Spirit and Church to redeem the fallen creation.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
What do you think this verse means for our conversation today?
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
How does Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, and this verse on the power of the Bible, speak to us today?
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
/ G O D S P E A K S T O U S /
If the Bible is the Word of God, assembled for His people for all time, then it is not just a book to be studied like any other textbook.
Now it isn’t only a story filled with words and stories, but it is a story filled with the very presence and power of God.
As we read texts we experience the Holy Spirit nudging us to read something again, highlight it, write it down. We experience God speaking to us. Because the Word of God is exactly that, words from God. Like any conversation, you talk and you listen. When we read, we are listening to what God has to say to us through His Word.
Instead, John 1, and Hebrews 4 tells us that it is the living, moving, Spirit-filled Word of God that speaks to us today as we read it, as we learn from it, as we grow deeper in our knowledge of the Word.
/ T R A N S F O R M A T I O N /
The work of scriptural reading is not about transforming an ancient message into a modern application but the transformation of our lives through Scripture.
The Bible does not present us with texts to be mastered, then, but with a word intent on shaping our lives!
The Bible is filled with God. Stories about God, about God’s chosen and broken people messing up and being forgiven by God. Stories about God sending His Son to die for those very same broken people to once and for all save them from themselves.
It is a story of God’s faithfulness to an undeserved humanity to offer love, forgiveness, and grace.
So then, as we read the Bible we are learning more about this new story. A story about God’s chosen people, about God’s power, forgiveness, and love. About God sending His own Son to die for you. And about how we are now a part of the story of Scripture that continues today. We join the narrative, we are part of the Bible!
We are in the 4th act.
/ H E A D & H E A R T /
Heart appropriation, not merely head apprehension, is the true goal of Bible study.
We move from knowledge to loving action. We are called to be messengers of the truth from Scripture, of the Gospel, of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28).
Only in this way can believers grow spiritually.
Spiritual maturity, in which we become more like Christ, comes not just from knowing more about the Bible. It comes from knowing more about the Bible and applying it to our spiritual needs.
Now there is a reality that when we open the Bible, there are gaps that we need to be aware of. As we begin to study the Word and seek to better understand what it says, it is important to know these gaps. We do not need to always write them down or be actively processing them, but having an idea that they around can help us from assuming things about the text that can lead to some bad misinterpretations.
/I N T E R P R E T A T I O N: T H E G A P S /
Historical Gap - 2,000 years ago.
Geographical Gap - Geographical setting differences. Ascent Psalms - Psalm 23
Cultural Gap - Different cultural norms, ideals. Presence of house-servants, place of women in culture.
Literary Gap - Understanding what comes before and after the texts. Verses do not exist on their own in a vacuum - Phil. 3:6
Genre Gap - Different books of the Bible have different Genres. Psalms as Poetry, Revelation as Apocalyptic, John as a Narrative Gospel.
Linguistic Gap - Hebrew and Greek can have different meanings than our English translations. We should not fear or doubt.
/ T H R E E S T E P /
There are three basic steps in interpretation - the Holy Spirit is present in all of them!
Observation - Discovery, exploring. Reading and exploring the basics of what is being said. What does it mean to you? What might it mean to the people who read and received it first?
Interpretation - Digesting, explaining. Bible studies, personal in depth exploration, conversations with trusted individuals on the texts and topics. What might God be saying to you in this text?
Application - Living! Understanding the scriptural intention, and living a life in response to the Biblical truths.
Lectio Divina: Practice Together
Holy Reading: 1 John 1
Read - Lectio
Reflect - Meditatio
Respond - Oratio
Rest or Receive - Contemplatio