First – What does God’s Word say about reading God’s Word?
Second – What are some proper steps to reading and understanding a Bible passage?
Four Principles for Reading God’s Word
- Since the Bible is God’s Word, it must be spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:12-14 – “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
- Pray for wisdom in understanding God’s Word before reading and while reading!
James 1:5 – “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
3. All Scripture testifies about Jesus, so seek Jesus in every text you read.
John 5:39-40 – “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
4. Scripture interprets Scripture.
1 Corinthians 14:32 – “The spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.”
Ten Steps to Reading and Understanding a Bible Passage
- Pray, asking for wisdom and to see Jesus in the passage.
- Biblical and Historical Setting
- Who wrote it?
- Who was it written to?
- When was it written?
- Why was it written?
- What historical people, dates, and places are named in the passage?
- Immediate Literary Context
- What precedes the passage?
- What comes after the passage?
- How does the passage fit into this immediate context?
- What purpose does the passage have within the immediate context?
- Historical and Cultural Context
- What historical events are explicitly or implicitly mentioned in the passage?
- What social and cultural norms are explicitly or implicitly mentioned in the passage?
- What doctrines are directly mentioned in the passage?
- What doctrines are indirectly mentioned in the passage?
- Parallel Passages
- What passages in the Bible contain the same or similar words or phrases?
- What passages in the Bible mention the same people, places, or events?
- What passages in the Bible reference the same doctrines?
- What passages in the Bible are being quoted, referenced, or alluded?
- Law Application
- What commands, demands, or expectations are directly stated in the passage?
- What commands, demands, or expectation are indirectly implied in the passage?
- How do those commands, demands, or expectations apply to myself and those in my life?
- What consequences for sin are named in this passage?
- What is stated in this passage about mankind’s sinful condition?
- Gospel Application
- What blessings and good promises of God are directly stated in the passage?
- What blessings and good promises of God are indirectly implied in the passage?
- How do these blessings and good promises of God apply to myself, those in my life, and to all people who have faith in Christ?
- Compare translations of the same passage.
- What is similar or the same within all of them?
- What is different and can different implications be drawn from these variant translations?
- Look at the Greek and Hebrew readings of the passage to see what is happening in the sections of the passage that have variant translations. Likely that section is difficult to translate into English, either due to words having multiple meanings in Greek and Hebrew or due to a part of speech or method of emphasis within the language that is not readily available in English.
- Word Studies
- Pick out a few words that seem important or central to the passage and see where else they appear in Scripture and how that word is used throughout the Bible.
- Use a Hebrew or Greek interlinear Bible to discover what the key or central words in Greek are and conduct a word study using a lexicon. See where else in Scripture that word appears and how it is translated differently or the same across the whole of God’s Word.
- Does one author use this word in one sense and another author use it in a different sense? Do these findings given guidance in understanding the meaning and use of the word in the passage at hand?
- How was this word used in secular Greek culture and writings?