Tuesday, April 24, 2012

5 laws for Studying the Bible

1 Peter 2:1 like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation

The Importance of the Bible in the Christian life
The reading and study of the scriptures is central to growth in the Christian's faith-life.  The Jews believed that when a baby was nursing, the love and content of God's law was transferred in some fashion through the mother's milk.  When Peter wrote what he wrote above, he wrote, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, about the nourishing, life-giving power of the scriptures. 

A tool you can use to study and trace the Bible's major themes
We know that the Bible is crucial to Christian life.  By it God the Holy Spirit works forth the convicting power of saving faith. (Romans 10:17; James 1:18)  By the scriptures you and I come to know not only truth about God through Jesus Christ, we also come to know God through Jesus Christ. (2 Timothy 3:15-17; 1 Peter 1:23)  With that said, how can we go about studying it?  How can we learn to actually take a theme or a topic mentioned in the Bible and trace it through the scriptures?  Today I want to introduce you to a tool that has been around for years and that I have used in my own study of God's Word. A tool that we can call: The 5 laws or principles of studying the Bible.

1. The law of first mention.  This is where God first mentions a word or an idea.  So for instance, lets consider the emphasis the scripture places upon "God's name".  Genesis 4:26 first mentions people calling upon "the name of the Lord".  

2. The law of illustrative mention.  Whenever you are trying to understand a concept or idea in God's word, it is helpful to find a concrete person or event elsewhere in the Bible that visibly illustrates that idea.  So for instance, the word "name" in the Bible refers to a person's character, as seen Nabal's name in 1 Samuel 25:25, whose name means "fool".  As you read the account of his life, you can see his opposition of David as being fraught with foolish decisions and actions.  What he did and thought was in line with his nature, or the way he was "internally wound or wired". 

I learn from other passages that when a person was concerned about someone's name, they identified with the authority and reputation of that person.  When you read about David for instance in 1 Samuel 18, you discover that His "name" was connecting you to his "authority" or "reputation".  (Compare 1 Samuel 18:30)  We can use examples such as these to understand things like "God's name", since His name stands for His character, reputation and authority.  

3. The law of progressive mention.  God's revelation in His word is a progressive revelation.  God doesn't reveal all the details of a given topic all at once.  God knows that we need things delivered in bits and pieces over time.  Tracing ideas like "The Name of God" through the Bible can be a study of discovery.  According to one resource, the phrase "the name" occurs some 385 times in the Old Testament and almost 200 times in the New Testament in reference to God or Jesus Christ.  Seeing how God progressively reveals Himself is like watching the unfolding of Eternity's most beautiful rose.

4.  The law of full mention. Its always great to find a chapter or major section in the Bible that summarizes a given subject, with all of its facets, in one place.  Revelation 19-22 gives us one section where we see most of the major themes of "God's name" which are revealed throughout the Bible.  At least 6 times do we find reference to "The Name", giving us the full treatment of all that is meant by that phrase.  With this particular law you can "check your interpretation" of that phrase that you gained through the other "laws of mention".

5. The law of final mention. This law, as its name implies, deals with the final place a given idea or thought is mentioned in the Bible.  So for example, the final mention of "the name" or God's name is in Revelation 22:4.  Often a word or idea in its final mention gives you the fullest and most mature form of that idea.  It is like comparing an acorn to an oak tree.  The acorn being the "first mention of an idea", and the oak tree being its "final mention". 

Over the course of the next few days, by God's grace,  I want us to not only see how these laws of Bible study function, but also show you how you can begin to raise your study of God's Word to a whole new level.  Christ and His word is worth everything.