How to Get the Most from God s Word 9 September 2009 Using Bible Study Resources

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1 How to Get the Most from God s Word 9 September 2009 Using Bible Study Resources Context: Tonight we conclude our series How to Get the Most from God s Word. 1 After considering why we should study the Bible, how we should study the Bible, how we can understand and apply the Old Testament, and a number of other related topics, our final lesson in this series will address the place and use of Bible study resources (e.g., concordances, commentaries, study Bibles, etc.). If Christians have the indwelling Holy Spirit, do we really need human teachers to help us understand the Bible? Can the use of extra-biblical resources for Bible study exalt human opinion to an idolatrous position? What are some Bible study tools that can be helpful for understanding what God word means? These are some of the questions we seek to address in tonight s lesson. Read: Ephesians 4:11-16 Discussion: I. In this series, we suggested a three-step Bible study process (as illustrated by a pyramid diagram). What were these three steps? What are we doing in each of these three steps? II. What are some basic principles of Bible interpretation we should employ as we seek to understand the meaning of God s word? What do we mean by the following principles of Bible interpretation: A. The Literal Principle B. The Historical Principle C. The Harmony Principle III. Since this is our final lesson in How to Get the Most from God s Word, share something you have learned from this series. What points most strongly informed, challenged, or impressed you? Anything you are still confused about? IV. If Christians have the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9), do we really need human teachers to help us understand the Bible (cf. 1 John 2:27)? Why or why not? V. Can the use of extra-biblical resources for Bible study exalt human opinion to an idolatrous position? If so, when and how? Study: I. The Place of Human Teachers in Understanding God s Word: A. Throughout biblical history, God gave His people, not only His word, but also God-gifted human teachers who were charged to explain His word to the people: 1. Leviticus 10:11 You [priests] are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the Lord has spoken to them by Moses Timothy 2:2 What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 3. Titus 1:9 He [elders] must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. B. Human teachers do not merely encourage God s people to read the Bible in private or read God s word aloud in corporate worship, but use extra-biblical language, illustrations, stories, etc. to assist the hearers in understanding and applying God s word: 1 All the notes from this series are now available on our website: 2 All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. 1

2 1. Ezra 7:10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. 2. Nehemiah 8:7-8 The Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading Timothy 4:13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. C. The Holy Spirit does not work independently of the Word but through an accurate understanding of the Word: 1. Psalm 119:18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law Thessalonians 1:5 Our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction Timothy 2:7 Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. D. Human teachers, since they are finite and fallen sinners, are capable of misinterpreting and misapplying God s word. This, however, does not make them obsolete but is a challenge to the church to evaluate the biblical content of their teaching: 1. Acts 17:11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 2. Galatians 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed Thessalonians 5:20-21 Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. E. Extra-biblical Bible study resources (commentaries, Bible dictionaries, etc.): 1. Bible study resources are simply the written-down conclusions, interpretations, and applications of human Bible teachers. Therefore, we should consider extra-biblical resources in the same category as pastors, preachers, or Sunday school teachers. 2. Like pastors, Bible study resources are teachers given by God to the church to help Christians understand the Bible (Ephesians 4:11ff.). As such they can be extremely helpful in understanding and applying God s word to our lives. 3. Yet always remember, the authors of Bible study resources are mere men and can make mistakes. Only God s word is inerrant. 4. If commentaries, study Bibles, etc. are essentially pastors on the printed page, how then should we evaluate and employ them? For example, what criteria would you use in selecting a pastor? Should you use the same in selecting a Bible study resource? Why or why not? II. Some Recommended Bible Study Resources: A. Introductory Remarks: 1. Please Note: We would not agree with every last detail in the following resources. Though they all come from a conservative, evangelical perspective, some of the authors might disagree with our understanding of baptism, the way we order the sequence of end-time events, our position on charismatic gifts, etc. As with everything, always read with discernment (Acts 17:11). Furthermore, these are not the only good resources in existence. They are, however, resources we consider helpful and reliable in understanding the meaning and significance of God s word. 2

3 2. In general, the resources are listed in order of recommendation and increasing technicality (e.g., the first one listed is the first resource we recommend and easiest to understand; the second is the second, and so forth). Maybe commit to purchasing one of these resources once a year to build a useful and dependable Bible study library. B. Some Recommended Resources: 1. Study Bibles: a. Study Bibles are similar to one-volume commentaries in that they generally have the English text of the Bible at the top of the page and include explanatory comments at the bottom of the page. Many Study Bibles are supplemented with helpful introductions, maps, charts, timelines, etc. b. Perhaps because Study Bibles include explanatory notes on the same page as Scripture, there is a very great temptation to consider the explanatory notes found in a Study Bible as equal in authority to Scripture. Realize this is not the case. Continually remind yourself that the opinions of the editors of Study Bibles are simply opinions and can be (and often are) wrong. c. Like other Bible study resources, Study Bibles come from all different theological persuasions. There are Lutheran Study Bibles, Roman Catholic Study Bibles, Baptist Study Bibles, etc. Be discerning in your selection. d. Some recommended Study Bibles: i. The ESV Study Bible published by Crossway ii. The MacArthur Study Bible published by Thomas Nelson iii. The Reformation Study Bible published by Ligonier Ministries 2. Devotionals: a. Devotionals are generally brief, thought-provoking, daily readings designed to assist you in meditating upon and applying God s word. They can be used alone or to prepare your heart and focus your mind for more serious Bible study and/or prayer. b. Devotionals differ dramatically in quality and content. Some employ careful Bible study methods and include convicting applications; others are simply sentimental stories with little or no biblical content. Like all Bible study resources, devotionals reflect the particular perspective of the author and need to be chosen with care. c. Try to select devotionals that either reflect upon a passage of Scripture or require you to read a passage of Scripture (as opposed to simply stories or poems unrelated to Scripture). The goal is to meditate on God s word, not the experiences of others. d. Some recommended devotionals [these are not listed in order of priority but in amount of time they employ]: i. Morning and Evening by Charles H. Spurgeon Includes a brief morning and evening devotional reflection on a verse of Scripture for 365 days of the year. Try to get the edition updated and edited by Alistair Begg published by Crossway. Sign-up to receive this daily devotional free by at: 3 Time employed: 10 minutes. ii. Matthias Media s Daily Reading Bible Daily readings in one handy volume that include the text of a passage of Scripture (approximately 8-12 verses), three or four 3 All web addresses in this document will by hyperlinked in the online copy available at 3

4 iii. questions to ponder for drawing out the meaning of the passage, a couple of applicatory thoughts, and a point from the passage to incorporate into your prayers. Wonderful resource for those struggling to develop a consistent devotional life. Can be purchased at: b4,drb5,drb6,drb7,drb8,drb9,drb10,drb11,drb12,drb13,drb14,drb15,drb16 Time employed: minutes. For the Love of God, Volumes 1 & 2 by Don Carson Two volumes which direct you to read a selected passage from your Bible (approximately one chapter) and then Dr. Carson s explanation and application of the passage. Uses the same type of principles taught in this series with great care and quality. Highly recommended. Time employed: minutes. iv. Matthias Media s Interactive Bible Studies Workbooks that teach how to study the Bible by studying the Bible. We have provided these to our congregation in the past with positive results. Workbooks exist for around 30 of the 66 books of the Bible (more coming out each year). They can be purchased at: fgos,ffa,wtw,pfl,cc,tth,rtr,ptg,fsg,iw,hb,ayn,vs Time employed: minutes, depending on how long you desire to study. 3. Bible Study Methods/Interpretation: 4 a. Because of sin s affect on our minds and hearts, it is surprisingly easy to misinterpret, and thus misapply, God s word. This is compounded by preachers and Bible teachers who (hopefully unwittingly) teach wrong interpretations and promote poor principles of Bible study in their sermons and lessons. Since God s power does not reside in wrong interpretations of the Bible, all Christians should be growing in their understanding, not only of the content of the Bible, but also of the principles whereby we correctly interpret and apply the Bible. b. Some recommended books on Bible study methods and Bible interpretation: i. How to Study the Bible by John MacArthur ii. iii. iv. Knowing Scripture by R. C. Sproul How to Read the Bible for All its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart Toward an Exegetical Theology by Walter Kaiser 4. Concordances: a. Concordances help you locate places in the Bible where certain words are used. For example, if you wanted to locate all the verses in the Bible that included the word love, you could look up the word love in a concordance and it would list every occasion in the Bible where the word occurred. Concordances are very helpful for studying specific themes and topics found throughout Scripture. b. With the proliferation of computer software and search-engines, paper concordances are becoming less and less common. They are, however, helpful, especially if you do not have access to a computer. c. Some recommended concordances: i. Strong s Exhaustive Concordance (unless updated, based on the KJV) 4 The technical term for the study of principles of Bible interpretation is hermeneutics. 4

5 ii. iii. ESV Exhaustive Concordance published by Crossway Many different concordances exist for the various Bible translations; e.g., the NIV Concordance, the NKJV Concordance, etc. 5. Commentaries: a. Commentaries are books that explain the meaning and significance of selected parts of the Bible. Commentaries can differ greatly in length and depth with some summarizing entire books of the Bible, others explaining paragraphs, individual verses, or single words. b. Like preachers, commentaries can come from a variety of different theological persuasions, including those we would disagree with (e.g., there are liberal commentaries, Roman Catholic commentaries, Pentecostal commentaries, Wesleyan commentaries, etc.). As you contemplate purchasing and/or using commentaries, consider the author s theological convictions and how those might influence his reading of the Bible. c. The temptation is great to rely excessively on human commentators to the neglect of God s word. Never allow commentaries to replace the Bible but strive to spend the first and majority of your time reflecting on the bare text of Scripture before turning to the explanations of commentaries. Also, do not hesitate to disagree with a commentator if you do not find his arguments biblical. d. In general, it is best to not purchase an entire commentary series. Rather, if you are going to purchase them, buy commentaries individually as you study a particular book. Furthermore, do not make it your goal to collect every volume in a series but rather the most useful commentaries on a particular book (which are usually not in the same series). e. Some recommended one-volume bible commentaries (these cover the entire Bible): i. The MacArthur Bible Commentary by John MacArthur published by Thomas Nelson ii. The Believer s Bible Commentary by William MacDonald iii. The New Bible Commentary edited by Gordon J. Wenham, J.A. Motyer, D.A. Carson, R.T. France published by InterVarsity Press f. Some recommended multi-volume non-technical commentary series: i. The Be Series by Warren Wiersbe (e.g., Be Joyful on Philippians, Be Mature on James, etc.), now combined into a 6-volume set covering the entire Bible entitled The Bible Exposition Commentary published by Cook. ii. The Let s Study series (e.g., Let s Study Ephesians, Let s Study Mark, etc.) published by Banner of Truth (does not cover every book of the Bible) iii. The Tyndale Old/New Testament Commentaries published by InterVarsity Press iv. The New American Commentary published by Broadman & Holman (a very useful Southern Baptist series) g. Some recommended multi-volume intermediate commentary series: i. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series by John MacArthur published by Moody Press (covers only New Testament; series not yet complete) ii. The Expositor s Bible Commentary published by Zondervan iii. The New Testament Commentary by William Hendriksen and Simon Kristemaker published by Baker (covers only New Testament) 5

6 iv. New International Commentary on the New/Old Testament published by Eerdmans Publishers 6. Bible Book Overviews/Introductions to books of the Bible: a. Bible Book Overviews/Introductions contain helpful summaries and background information on entire books of the Bible. For example, if you wanted to know a summary of the message of the book of Ezekiel, the historical background of the book of Acts, or when the book of Daniel was written, you could learn this information in a Bible Book Overview. b. Some recommended bible book overviews/introductions: i. How to Read the Bible Book for Book by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart ii. The MacArthur Bible Handbook by John MacArthur iii. The Message of the New Testament by Mark Dever published by Crossway Publishers (highly recommended) iv. The Message of the Old Testament by Mark Dever published by Crossway Publishers (highly recommended) 7. Bible Dictionaries: a. Bible Dictionaries are collections of articles on particular biblical topics and themes organized alphabetically. For example, if you wanted to learn more about King Nebuchadnezzar or Roman coins or Egyptian culture or fishing in the first century, a Bible Dictionary would provide you with this information. b. Some Recommended Bible Dictionaries: i. The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary published by Zondervan ii. Unger s Bible Dictionary published by Moody Press iii. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia published by Eerdmans 8. Systematic Theology Books: a. Systematic theology books summarize and present what the Bible teaches on selected doctrinal topics. For example, systematic theology books would contain chapters on the Trinity, Jesus death, the resurrection, heaven and many other important theological themes. b. Systematic theology books are most beneficially used in conjunction with the study of a particular portion of Scripture. For example, after studying 1 Corinthians 15 and considering what that passage has to teach about the resurrection, you could then turn to a systematic theology book and discover what other parts of the Bible teach about the resurrection. c. Some Recommended Systematic Theology Books: i. Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne Grudem ii. Know the Truth by Bruce Milne iii. Foundations of the Christian Faith by James Montgomery Boice iv. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem v. The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology published by Zondervan 6

7 9. Some helpful online bookstores for purchasing Christian books at inexpensive prices: a. Christian Book Distributors b. Cumberland Valley Bible Book Service c. Amazon.com d. Best Web Buys (ideal for purchasing used and out of print books) Application: I. If Christians have the indwelling Holy Spirit, do we really need human teachers to help us understand the Bible? Why or why not? II. What does 1 John 2:27 mean? But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. Does this really mean we have no need for human teachers? III. How can the use of extra-biblical resources for Bible study exalt human opinion to an idolatrous position? How can we avoid this temptation? IV. What are some additional Bible study tools that can be helpful for understanding what God word means? V. What one thing most stood out to you from tonight s lesson and why? 7

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