We discuss where to begin when studying The Bible. There are a lot of resources out there to help with this, but the key is to get started. The Bible is a love story and every page is an opportunity to see that story unfold. We are creatures created to reflect the essence of who God is. As we read and study Scripture, we are better equipped to do what we were created to do. The Bible invites us to live in harmony with the created order and to discover the most fulfilling path for our lives.
Where should you start when studying the Bible?
You can start anywhere. It doesn’t really matter where in The Bible you begin. You could take the Yellow Balloons daily devotionals and read the context passages of the verses given there. You could pick a book from TheBiblesays commentary. Pick one of those resources to find a book or passage to start with, go through it yourself using the four-step method outlined in the previous episode (observe, interpret, correlate, apply), and pull in commentary or outside resources when you get stuck. Go by yourself until you hit a dead end. You could do the same with our podcast episodes.
The Bible is really one story. A love story. The overarching paradigm is of acceptance versus approval. God created us for love. And granted us freedom because you cannot truly love without it. But freedom leaves room for evil. God is constantly calling us to choose to love Him and remind us of His enduring love for us. It is all a love story; an opportunity to love Him.
Within that love story, let the Bible speak for itself. Start anywhere.
What is the difference between studying and reading the Bible?
Not much of a difference anymore after 20 years of using this four-step approach. At first, however, a lot of effort is necessary to figure out what is really being said. For Tim, his Job experience drove him to Scripture. The darkest time in his life brought up questions and he went in search of answers. He found a treasure chest that broke through a lot of false paradigms and opened the door to truly and completely overhaul his life. He began unpacking The Love Story like crazy. The effort put in during that dark period became a foundation.
It is easy to incorporate word studies into your reading. You don’t need to know the Greek or be an expert. There are tools that make it easy – such as blueletterbible and apps that show you the original Greek word and meaning with one click. Great way to discover what a verse originally says. And it often transforms what you find.
An example: In John 15, Jesus talks about the vine and the branches. He calls himself the vine. Sometimes vines grow on the ground and sometimes are put on a trellis. The trellis helps the vine to grow better, bear fruit more efficiently, and be pruned effectively. So, Jesus says this is what he does for us. He is the vine and prunes us – sets us up so that we might bear fruit. So that “others will see and glorify my father” – when others see God in our actions, we benefit because we are living as intended and others benefit because they are seeing a reflection of God.
What does it mean to do things with Christ rather than on my own? Scripture talks about fire. Not every mention is about hell. It says God is a consuming fire. He prunes. He burns away what is not good/useful in us. How useful do you want to be? Living to perform, we’re still accepted, just not very useful. We are mostly producing kindling – a substance of very limited value. If we do abide in Christ, with him, we’re going to produce all kinds of fruit.
And what does it mean to “glorify God”? Asking questions is a big part of this – it helps you observe. You are treasure hunting at this point, looking for the value in what is said. The Greek word for “glory” is doxa. 1 Corinthians 15 says all animals have a different flesh and the glory of the celestial is one and the glory of the terrestrial is another. The sun is the source and the moon reflects that source. Different things have different essences. Glory, then, is something’s essence being truly observed. How is God glorified? Psalm 19 says God made the universe to reflect himself. When we see the universe, we are observing his essence – glorified.
Often people have the idea God needs us but we don’t need him. The opposite is true. We are dependent on God. Tim prefers to say, “to fulfill what God made us to be” rather than “to glorify God” because the Christian tradition has largely misinterpreted doxa.
The point of Scripture and the intention for all created things is to live in harmony with one another, nature, and Him. Choose to live in harmony, in truth, as far as you are capable. It is a great benefit to us when we do.
***All study resources mentioned within the series can be found here.