Saturday, January 21, 2012

How to Read the Bible

The Bible study last night was awesome. We had eleven adults—much more than what I was expecting. We talked about the gospel, so the non-believers had the opportunity ot hear about the heart of our faith.

One thing that we are trying to do is study Mark compared with the other Gospels. They have many stories in common and there are enough differences that you can see more clearly Mark’s emphasis. What we want to do is discover the main point of Mark. Why did he share this story? Why did he put it here? How would he finish this sentence: I, Mark, have written this so that…?

We look for the main point because there are many things that can be learned from a passage in the Bible, but not everying is primary. There are many secondary ideas in the narrative. Also, there are many ideas that have nothing to do with the passage—they originate elsewhere (another Bible passage or in my mind). For example, when Jesus calms the storm in Mark 4, the main point has nothing to do with “Jesus can calm the storms in your life.” At best this is secondary, but I believe it falls into the third category.

Looking for the main point is very important because it affects our conclusions and applications that we draw out of the text. “Jesus can calm the storms in your life” seems innocent, but consider a passage that we all should know is an essential foundation of our faith: the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Suppose a pastor says, “God and revive your life’s dreams,” after reading about the resurrection in the Bible (cf. Rom. 5:6-11). Yes, it’s correct that God can revive your life’s dreams. He’s God Almighty. But this has nothing to do with the death and resurrection of Christ. The death and resurrection of Christ was so that God could punish sin in the body of Jesus and transmit His righteousness to all who believe in Him. The death and resurrection mean life and salvation for us, not life and salvation for our dreams. The focus is off base. If it isn’t acceptable to do that with the resurrection, why would we do it with other passages?

When we study the Bible and look for the main point, we are in a better position to apply the secondary truths to our lives. Then we can find an application that deals with our “storms” in a way that respects and proceeds from the passage, not just our minds.

Originally published on my Spanish blog as “Cómo Leer la Biblia” on January 20, 2012.

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