We want to know God’s heart and mind when studying the Bible. Our best way of discovering God’s heart and mind is to approach the Bible as fairly as possible.
To make ourselves the focus of Scripture can be a serious mistake. Here’s an example: “David is a heroic national figure in 1 Samuel. He slays Goliath, a Philistine, an enemy of Israel. …How can you be heroic like David in your faith? What enemy will you need to slay?” Sounds reasonable doesn’t it? All that was needed was to create a principle from the story of David and Goliath so that someone can imagine an enemy that needs to be removed from their life. Subjective teaching from Scripture leads to subjective faith… God has something for us to learn from the Bible. If not, then our studying is futile. However, what God wants us to learn must be in view of what God wants every generation to learn as well.
Too often, the Bible is marketed. Targeting all demographics has created a worship culture of individualism, and therefore, a dependence upon a God who promotes gratification more than faith.
Egza was a woman who listened to what the Bible was telling her about God and her relationship to God. Isa was a woman who listened to what the Bible was telling her about her and her life. To get God’s instruction from the Bible we must try to be (Egza) exegetical and not (Isa) eisegetical. Exegesis and Eisegesis aren’t words in everyone’s vocabulary. They don’t have to be but the definitions should be. Exegesis is basically a process where we evaluate the Bible to get God’s instruction out of it. Eisegesis is the process where we insert our own ideas and concerns into the Bible before discovering God’s instruction. Let’s illustrate again: 1 Corinthians 13 speaks of love. Typically, this chapter is read at weddings where the context of the reading becomes marriage. Most people only associate 1 Corinthians 13 with marriage vows. And, who could argue that love isn’t needed in marriage? So, most feel that the apostle Paul had sentimental moments (he did) and decided to be inspirational on the topic of love. We then hear topical teaching and preaching on the attributes of love. Love is patient. Love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs. Love never fails, etc. While all these topics are truths, all these topics don’t tell us what we don’t really already know, and they don’t tell us anything about what Paul was really trying to say to the Corinthians, who had real problems like most churches do today. Teaching this way is being eisegetical. Its inserting our personal concerns and ideas into this text to address ourselves independently of whatever Paul was teaching. Paul was exalting Christ-like love over intellectual arrogance. Believers in Corinth were snubbing other believers who didn’t possess similar spiritual gifts. Pride became such an issue that it was tearing the church apart and the only cure was genuine love (born out of spiritual maturity) and not more giftedness.
All of us can be “Isa” if we’re not careful. No one living today has omniscience and can be correct on every aspect of interpreting Scripture. But, why wouldn’t we want to strive to know God’s instruction?
1. None of the Bible was written to anyone living today. There aren’t any epistles written to the churches of Los Angeles, Hong Kong, or Paris.
2. ALL of the Bible was written FOR anyone living today. We can learn what God intended for us in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, or Paris, by discovering what the Bible meant for its original recipients.
3. We must strive to learn contextually. This means we must do our best to approach Scripture from a historical perspective first, before attempting to apply lessons for ourselves. God has lessons for us but they aren’t so unique that the original recipients were expected to learn different lessons.
4. We must attempt to learn who the authors of Scripture were, what their relationship to their audiences were, when they wrote, why they wrote, what they wrote about, etc. Then we can make good attempts at finding present day application.
Today, many are still reliant on ministers to relay Biblical instruction. This can be good and bad. Ministers of Scripture should be faithful at relaying the intentions of texts. Take it from Inigo Montoya!
More to come….
Categories: How to Study Scripture