Did not our hearts burn?: expository reading – part 1
God has preserved for us an invaluable gift and resource in the canon of Scripture. In it we have the very words of God, written over many centuries by many men, and all inspired by one divine mind. He could not have given a better gift with more profitable guidance than he has in…
God has preserved for us an invaluable gift and resource in the canon of Scripture. In it we have the very words of God, written over many centuries by many men, and all inspired by one divine mind. He could not have given a better gift with more profitable guidance than he has in the Bible. As the hymn writer said, “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in his excellent word!”
As God’s people, and especially as those in the 21st century, we have the privilege of reading God’s Word in our own language, in many different versions, with innumerable resources at our disposal. This is a rich blessing and a great responsibility, for to whom much is given much will be required (Luke 12:48). We should strive to read the Bible as well as we can and understand its meaning as clearly as possible. It is a joyful task to dig into the Scriptures, and the more you do it the more skilled you will become in interpreting its content.
In what follows, I hope to provide a few practical tips for you to grow in your ability to read and interpret the Bible faithfully. And as you improve as an expository reader of the Bible, I pray that you will know God more intimately, be a more faithful church member and continue to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18).
Approach the Bible in Prayer
The first thing to do on the way to expository reading is assume the appropriate posture for an encounter with God’s Word. The Scriptures tell us that the human heart is desperately wicked and deceitful (Jer 17:9). Indeed, the basic human response to God’s natural revelation (through conscience or nature) is to suppress it in idolatry (Rom 1:18-23). Even God’s people, though given a new nature and the Holy Spirit as a guide, must beware of the deceitful inclinations of their remaining sinful nature. As we approach the Bible, we need to realize that sin affects all of our being – our emotions, wills and rational faculties. We can easily deceive ourselves or be deceived by others. We need the Holy Spirit to instruct and guide us. Thus, [tweetable]prayer is the essential starting point for any study of the Bible.[/tweetable]
Read the Bible as a Book That Points to Jesus
In a debate with the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem, Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40; cf., Luke 24:25-27). [tweetable]If we study or teach any part of the Bible without reference to Jesus the Savior, we are not faithful interpreters.[/tweetable] Of course, not every text points to Jesus in the same way. The Old Testament promises, anticipates and prepares. The New Testament announces the fulfillment in Christ of all of Israel’s law, history, prophecies and institutions. Every passage of Scripture must be read as a chapter in a completed book. As we know how the story wraps up (in Christ’s life, death and resurrection), we must always be asking how prior chapters lead to that culmination.
Robert L. Plummer serves as associate professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern Seminary