I can't say much else about my role in the ministry, but I can, with no apologies make the following statement; I labour in word and doctrine. That's not a boast of accomplishment, it's a statement of effort; I put in the hours. I do this because we're commanded to by scripture, but also because I am so dense it takes me a lot more effort to understand something than most of you.
We seem to be experiencing a dearth of actual Bible study in the day and hour we live in. There are plenty of books least claiming to tell you what the Bible says, but very little understanding and very little actual study by the readers. It's so much easier just to take somebody's word for it than to search the whole counsel of God on a matter. So as my tiny contribution to the body of Christ, I offer you the principles and practices that have helped me become slightly less of a Bible blockhead.
1. It's all one book- The Bible is clear that the actual author of the words you're reading isn't Moses or Daniel or Paul; its the Holy Spirit of God. The Bible says that "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man:
but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy
Ghost" (2 Peter 1:21)
Because you have different books of the Bible dictated by the Holy Ghost to different men, the 'cultural context' or 'understanding the times in which it was written' is remarkably unimportant. All you need to consider is the context where the words actually are, and how they relate to other scriptures. There is no need to consider any 'Pauline bias' since Paul didn't actually author those epistles. He wrote down what he was told (1 Thes 2:13), and there were some things he wrote down that God didn't see fit to put in the Bible (Col 4:16). Looking at the Bible as one book of unfolding revelation and unsearchable layers makes it a lot easier to let God show you what he said. That also means if the scripture repeats itself or uses the same word or phrase over and over again, even though separated by thousands of years, it's significant. That's how the Holy Spirit connects the dots; with words.
2. Read your Bible God didn't give you a Bible to sit on your coffee table; he gave you a book, and books are meant to be read. "Till I come , give attendance to reading, to
exhortation, to doctrine." (1 Tim 4:13) The average Christian in America never reads their Bible all the way through, and are horribly ignorant of what it says as a result. Sit down and read with absolutely no agenda in mind. Just read. Start at the beginning and read through to the end, then start over. Do this until you die. Throw out your charts and schedules; just read. As you go through, God will show you things.
3. Believe what you're reading It is my position that I have every word that God wants me to have in a language that I can understand. I believe God inspired it, and it retains that inspiration. I believe God preserved it in English, and that I have it. I can put my faith and trust in the individual words without worrying about what anybody else says, and without searching for the 'originals which nobody has. The body of Christ has been nearly crippled by educated men who sit in condemnation of the word of God and have told people that , without he help of scholarship, they can never be sure as to what God actually said. The Bibel says in John 3:34 "For he whom God hath sent
speaketh the words of
God: for God giveth
not the Spirit by measure unto him."
3. Take notes and ask questions I physically wear out a Bible in about 5 years, and in the current copy that I use in my reading, I have little scribbled pencil marks all in the margins. A lot of them are references to other verses. Some of them are dates when God spoke to me about a verse. Some of these pencil marks are questions like 'what in the world does that mean?' or "huh?". Sometimes I get the answer later on, and next time I pass that pencil mark I can erase it. Sometimes I go years without an answer and I have to eventually try to transfer these notes/questions to a new Bible. Notice that I said 'try', because my track record on transfers is pretty awful.
In addition to simply reading, I am an obsessive researcher. I read my Bible with a concordance and a pad of paper handy, and I will look at every single instance of the occurrence of a word. I'll write out all the verse longhand, and then , starting at the top, will read them all in context. Sometimes I'll make a chart. For example, I wondered once if the 'mind' and the 'heart' were the same thing, so I looked up all the occurrences of mind ( 92 times) and then heart (500). I wrote them out, made my chart, and about 200 times into 'heart' I had forgotten what I was looking for to start with. That happens.
The Bible says that we are to "Study to shew thyself
approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing
the word of truth" (2 Tim 2:15)
4. Pray You're best bet to get an answer from scripture is to consult the Author. "If any of you lack wisdom,
let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it
shall be given him." (James 1:5) As I've said in other places, my method of discerning the will of God is to read my Bible and ask God to show me his will through my daily Bible reading. Countless times I have asked "God, what does this verse mean?" By way of an answer, the Lord will highlight another verse which explains it.
5. Fast Don't look at me that way; fasting is a biblical concept when seeking wisdom and guidance from God. The method and duration of fasting is a whole separate topic, but let me just say this; a Biblical fast is no food only water. Anything less is an 'NIV fast'.
"Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may
give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come
together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency." 1 Cor 7:5
6. Last resort- Check a commentary I''m not scared of commentaries, though I usually don't deploy them, but the fact remains is that God gave insight to men who have lived and died down through the centuries and whatever question I have, the odds are that I'm not the first person to have that question."And the things that thou hast heard of me among many
witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to
teach others also." (2 Tim 2:2)
What possible reason could I have for ignoring this great gift God has given to the body of Christ down through the centuries of recorded insight? Having said that, I summarily dismiss any commentator that corrects the Bible or tries to tell me what it should have said. I also take everyone's commentary with a grain of salt because after all , all flesh is grass.