In response to my post regarding apostolic and prophetic insanity, blogger MC Lang asked a very good question. MC asked what can be done to equip one’s self to be a disciplined student of scripture. Short of getting a formal education that can cost tens of thousands of dollars, there are some things we can do to help ourselves avoid being spiritually misled. These are not necessarily listed in any priority, except the first item. I believe it is the most important thing I have learned in my life regarding healthy study of scripture.
1. Never Proof Text
Proof texting is a curse. Chain-linked proof texts mean nothing. More mischief is caused in the church through public preaching of out of context proof texts than any other source of trouble. When people are emotionally attached to believing an out of context proof text, they are almost always irrational and unpersuadeable. Demagogues and an out of context proof text are the bread and butter of hell. Always look for culture and context: who was speaking to whom, about what, why, what was going on, old or new creation, pre or post resurrection, history, setting, what circumstances were making the passage necessary, what kind of literature is it . . . and so forth.
2. A Vital Relationship with the Person of Jesus
Obviously, a vital relationship with the Lord by and through the Spirit is irreplaceable. No amount of educational information can supplant that. Remember, believers were very effective for Jesus in a time where the literacy rate was 1.5-3% of the population and there was no “Bible” to study! So clearly, you do not need to be a “scholar” to affect the world positively for Christ. However, if it comes down to “teaching the Bible” and expecting others to conform their lives to what is taught, we better do our proverbial homework, and an eighth-grade equivalent reading comprehension level, a Bible under the arm, passion, strong opinions, a gift for public speaking, and the “anointing,” do not make someone competent to expound the scriptures. Healthy scripture study habits require much more than that.
3. Love Others Well.
Love is amazingly educational.
4. Embrace the Disciplines of the Cross.
The cross is the method and energy that works the transformed image of Christ into each of us. The cross, administered by the Spirit, is the “teacher” we all need. A well-informed but untransformed “believer” is dangerous, harmful . . . like a psychotic with a gun.
5. Be an Avid Reader
Being an avid reader is key for healthy scripture study habits. Read books from people that you, your group, association, or denomination DO NOT AGREE WITH. Why? It provides breadth of perspective and you might discover some things your group would rather not be completely honest about. You will develop skills to think for yourself when fully informed with all points of view on an issue. It is too common in churches and bible schools to hear only the “accepted” point of view on a topic.
6. Develop Your Own Original Language Skills.
There is perhaps not a more important scripture study habit than this. You will be less likely to be manipulated or misled if you can do your own original language study. You do not have to be an expert. There are many excellent Hebrew and Greek home-study courses available.
7. Invest in a Good Study Library.
Start small and every year invest in another resource-these resources can be pricey.
8. Get a Good Interlinear, Lexicon, and Grammar.
Never trust just a concordance definition alone for anything, especially a concordance that is over 100 years old! There are some good “all in one” (concordance, lexicon, grammar) sort of Bibles available that are a good starting point for beginners.
9. Understand that Nearly All Resources Will Have a Bias
You will have to develop skill, a filter, to realize when you are being propagandized, and when you are being educated. It’s rare to find resources that admit when they don’t know for sure on a point. Those are the ones I respect the most. Honesty, even when it goes against the consensus accepted position, can be rare.
10. Invest in Good Social Science Commentaries.
I consider this a must for healthy scripture study habits. Discover the world Jesus and the apostles lived in. Discover how they thought and viewed themselves in the cosmos, and the cosmos itself. Figure out what a passage meant to the original author and hearers before trying to apply it to ourselves.
11. Fellowship Regularly with Others.
This includes those that might not agree with you. The whole Truth is in the whole Church.
I hope these suggestions help.
Copyright 2014, Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, www.stevecrosby.org. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references. For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Stephen, What is the name of your Social Science Commentary in you #9 comment. Jerry
I have been marvelously blessed by any of the works of Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh. It is not an exaggeration to say that my life and view of the scripture was, and has been, transformed by their work. I will never look at the scripture the same again. Not for the faint of heart . . . I found that many of the things I held dear were just . . . nonsense . . . when considering the original culture and context.
Hi Jerry, I am reluctant to make recommendations on specific titles, as I don’t want to project my preferences on other people, and particularly in a public forum. Call me or text me some time if you are still interested in specific titles.
Thanks Steve for this article 🙂
Great advice… and instruction! I would also suggest, online resources, interlinear, concordances, blue letter editions, different bible translations and such are all available on-line and can offset the high cost of building your own library.
And above all else, be sensitive to the Holy Spirits leading and wooing to explore beyond our man-made intellectual boundaries… God’s grace is endless!!!
Hi Marcus, thanks, indeed, online is the way to go to keep cost down if folks are wired that way.
Thanks Steve – I might also suggest investing in Logos Bible software. It can help keep the costs down for many excellent resources that would cost a ton more. You can save thousands, but is a hefty initial investment.
Hi Chad, you are right. Long term it will save cash, but it is hefty on the front end. I bought it years ago and found it to not be too user friendly and it never got traction with me, and since I have converted to the MAC universe in 2006, I have gone to other alternatives. But it is surely a very thorough and great “one stop shop” for the serious. Blessings.
Thanks for this article Stephen. Could you expound on #3 a bit more or point to some resources / authors / passages that you would suggest?
Hi Seth, Re #3 . . . here’s an example. It is not enough to know the Greek definition of patience, and how it is used in context, and the difference between patience and long suffering, and to be able to teach on the “five qualities of patience,” etc. (LOL) When what we learn about patience is processed in us (usually through trial) by the Spirit, when the process of death and resurrection touches the information about patience in us, and changes it from information to incarnate life, then we have something to teach and share. Just gathering coffee beans does not mean we have a cup of coffee. The beans can be great beans! But until they are processed by heat and water, we do not have anything fit for consumption. In the article on this blog called “Are You a revelation Junkie?” we unpack this a bit more. You might check it out if you haven’t already.
Ah, I see what you mean. Words carry weight when they are backed up with reality. I will check that article out. Thanks.
Good stuff bro!
Cool best practices, Steve. Some of the usual gang of idiots up here in the DC metro are getting together to do an inductive Bible Study of 1st Corinthians, which is a discipline that require much of what you’re describing
Real good stuff Steve, may I add some wisdom based on 25 years of hard knocks.
WAIT -just one word WAIT- the Holy Spirit will speak and confirm but in this day an age we all want microwave prophecies and instant direction. How do you know if part of the test is ; Will YOU sit still???
Much love, Jose
thanks Jose, and for the addition.