While I’m cautious of the over-valuing of a “seminary education” … I also recognize their great value (when used properly).

So much so … I’m looking to begin a seminary program next fall.

[more] How to study the Bible – PROIA

7 years ago, I wrote a post on studying the Bible (itself a follow-up to another previous post).

Today, as part of an ongoing series of sessions several of the life group leaders (including myself) have been having with one of pastors on improving/learning how to not only study the Bible, but lead others in study, we did an inductive bible study walk-through of part of Matthew 19.

I propose a simple acronym for this process:

P – Pray

Start every study with prayer for God’s blessing on the time you spend in His word.

R – Read

Read the passage (with enough context (may even be extra historical information outside scripture which can be brought to mind) to grasp the scene): any “text without a context is a pretext for a prooftext“. You may be able to break it up into chunks (paragraphs, thoughts, etc), but be sure each chunk you read is complete-enough to move to the next steps.

If you don’t read the whole passage, you’ll be iterating through some of these steps ?

O – Observe

This comes in the form of the “Journalist’s Questions”: “Who?” “What?” “Where?” “When?” “How?”

Who is in the passage?

What happened / did they say?

Where did it happen?

When did it happen? (context, context, context!) This includes not only the historical period/timing; not only the chronological timing (events before & after); but also “time words” in the passage itself – words like, “then”, “now”, “after”, “before”.

How did it happen? What were the external, situational circumstances of the passage?

It can be helpful to use color highlighting and/or different fonts to highlight these features of the text as you’re constructing your study.

Here’s an example with when in bold, who italicized, and what in underline:

Do you see anything I missed annotating?

I – Interpret

This is mostly the final Journalist Question – “why?”

Interpretation “requires a more in-depth examination than the first step. At this step, we want to be careful to find the meaning of the verse in its context”

Be sure to not ask, “what does this mean to me?”

Personalization is the path to heresy. Personalization leads to eisegesis. Eisegesis leads to heterodoxy. Heterodoxy leads to heresy. (Thanks, Yoda!)

Ask instead, “what does this mean?”

This will often as not necessitate exploring not only the immediate context (verses before and after), but also greater context. For example, if you are doing an inductive study through the book of Hebrews, you’re going to need to read most of Exodus & Leviticus to fully grasp the allusions and references made.

Be very aware of the dangers of turning the “Interpret” step into a prooftext!

A – Apply

In other words, “what about what this passage says needs to take effect in my life now?”

Christ fulfilled even the smallest details

In my recent regular reading through the Old Testament, I’ve been in Everyone’s Favorite Book™: Leviticus.

The last time I read through Leviticus was probably 20 years ago. And wow! I had no idea how much I had never noticed before!

Here’s one that jumped out at me like a giant, flashing neon sign. Lots of people know Jesus said, when breaking the Passover tradition with His disciples and inaugurating Communion, “I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (as worded in Luke‘s account). It’s just kind of “in there”, but how often have you given it any thought? About as often as me, huh? Of all the things Jesus could have told His disciples, why this? Why here?

Enter Leviticus. No, really. Specifically, 10:8-11 (right after the account of Nadab & Abihu bringing “strange fire” before the Lord):

“And the Lord spoke to Aaron: ‘Drink no wine or strong drink, neither you nor your sons, when you enter the tent of meeting, that you may not die; it is a statute forever throughout your generations. You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean; and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the Lord has spoken to them through Moses.’

This is explained, albeit only obliquely, if you’re not familiar with Levitical Law (which the original audience of the letter would have been, unlike most people like you and I) in the epistle to the Hebrews:

“Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people.” (2:17)

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, holy partners in a heavenly calling, consider that Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses also ‘was faithful in all God’s house.'” (3:1-2)

“Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (4:14-16)

As the guys I used to have a bi-weekly study with would often say – it’s almost like God knew what He was doing! And Jesus knew His word (not that He shouldn’t – He is the Word of God incarnate, after all). Just like He demonstrated when refuting the Devil’s temptations in the desert.

Don’t let anyone tell you the Old Testament needs to be “unhitched” from your faith! Don’t let those exacting details get you down! It’s all of those exactingly-precise details that were fulfilled in their complete and utter entirety in the person and work of Jesus Christ!

How many other connections can you find in Jesus’ final hours, Exodus, and Leviticus? Share them here!

Malachi 4 (ASV)

{Malachi 3}

For, behold, the day cometh, it burneth as a furnace; and all the proud, and all that work wickedness, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith Jehovah of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

But unto you that fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in its wings; and ye shall go forth, and gambol as calves of the stall.

And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I make, saith Jehovah of hosts.

Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, even statutes and ordinances.

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Jehovah come.

And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers; lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Malachi 3 (ASV)

{Malachi 2}

Behold, I send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant, whom ye desire, behold, he cometh, saith Jehovah of hosts.

But who can abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap:

and he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, and refine them as gold and silver; and they shall offer unto Jehovah offerings in righteousness.

Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto Jehovah, as in the days of old, and as in ancient years.

And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against the false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the sojourner from his right, and fear not me, saith Jehovah of hosts.

For I, Jehovah, change not; therefore ye, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.

From the days of your fathers ye have turned aside from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith Jehovah of hosts. But ye say, Wherein shall we return?

Will a man rob God? yet ye rob me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.

Ye are cursed with the curse; for ye rob me, even this whole nation.

Bring ye the whole tithe into the store-house, that there may be food in my house, and prove me now herewith, saith Jehovah of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast its fruit before the time in the field, saith Jehovah of hosts.

And all nations shall call you happy; for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith Jehovah of hosts.

Your words have been stout against me, saith Jehovah. Yet ye say, What have we spoken against thee?

Ye have said, It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept his charge, and that we have walked mournfully before Jehovah of hosts?

And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are built up; yea, they tempt God, and escape.

Then they that feared Jehovah spake one with another; and Jehovah hearkened, and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before him, for them that feared Jehovah, and that thought upon his name.

And they shall be mine, saith Jehovah of hosts, even mine own possession, in the day that I make; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.

Then shall ye return and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.

Malachi 2 (ASV)

{Malachi 1}

And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you.

If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith Jehovah of hosts, then will I send the curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings; yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart.

Behold, I will rebuke your seed, and will spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your feasts; and ye shall be taken away with it.

And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant may be with Levi, saith Jehovah of hosts.

My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him that he might fear; and he feared me, and stood in awe of my name.

The law of truth was in his mouth, and unrighteousness was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many away from iniquity.

For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth; for he is the messenger of Jehovah of hosts.

But ye are turned aside out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble in the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith Jehovah of hosts.

Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have had respect of persons in the law.

Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, profaning the covenant of our fathers?

Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of Jehovah which he loveth, and hath married the daughter of a foreign god.

Jehovah will cut off, to the man that doeth this, him that waketh and him that answereth, out of the tents of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto Jehovah of hosts.

And this again ye do: ye cover the altar of Jehovah with tears, with weeping, and with sighing, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, neither receiveth it with good will at your hand.

Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because Jehovah hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously, though she is thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.

And did he not make one, although he had the residue of the Spirit? And wherefore one? He sought a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.

For I hate putting away, saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, and him that covereth his garment with violence, saith Jehovah of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

Ye have wearied Jehovah with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? In that ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of Jehovah, and he delighteth in them; or where is the God of justice?