When a seamstress cuts out the pieces of a pattern, she must do so accurately or the pieces won’t fit together properly. As a tent-maker, Paul understood this principle because it also applied to his trade. He used similar language to explain the importance of accuracy in our study of God’s Word. Today we’ll look at ten important principles that will help us “cut it straight.”
Jeremiah 43 & 44
2 Timothy 2.1-26
10 Principles for Effective Bible Study
2 Timothy 2.1-26:
Cutting God’s Word Straight
There is an abundance of practical wisdom in this chapter. One of my favorite verses and key to our walk with God is verse 15:
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
To “rightly divide” the Scriptures means to “cut it straight.” When a seamstress cuts out the pieces of a pattern, she must do so accurately or the pieces won’t fit together properly. As a tent-maker, Paul understood this principle and how it carried over into our study of God’s Word. We must be students of Scripture, able to cut it straight, so the pieces fit together and we can understand the full council of God.
Here are some principles that can help us study and understand God’s Word more accurately:
10 Principles for Effective Bible Study
- Unless a passage is clearly symbolic, we should interpret the Bible literally. The Bible does contain parables, analogies, figures of speech and symbolic language, but even those passages point us to literal truth.
- Study the Bible in context. It is easy to lift certain passages out of context and assume they mean something entirely different. Doing so can lead to all kinds of error.
- Study the Bible in its historical and cultural context. What did it mean to the people who first heard it. God’s principles are true for all people at all times, but must be properly understood.
- Allow the Bible to interpret itself by looking up parallel passages and cross references.
- Understand that the Bible does not contradict itself, although sometimes we must dig deeper.
- Consider grammar and sentence structure. Who or what is the subject of the sentence? To whom do the pronouns refer? In what tense is the verb?
- Understand analogies, figures of speech, etc. Jesus Himself sometimes used exaggeration (pluck out your eye, cut off your arm), comparison, simile (I am the Door), and other literary devices to make a point. These are generally obvious. If not, they should only be considered after using other methods of interpretation.
- Never base a doctrine on a single verse or rhetorical question (i. e. 1 Cor. 15.29 about being baptized for the dead).
- Understand the difference between a principle and a promise. The book of Proverbs, for example, is a book of general truths and principles, not iron clad promises.
- Always interpret personal experience in light of Scripture, not Scripture in light of personal experience.
This is not an exhaustive list, but I hope it will help guide you as you seek to rightly divide the Word of Truth.
Today’s Other Readings:
Jeremiah 43 & 44:
Sinning Against Ourselves
Chapter 44.7, “Now therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel. ‘Why do you commit this great evil against yourselves …’”
Sin is, first and foremost, against God. Second, it is sin against other people either directly or indirectly. And, ultimately, it is committing evil against ourselves, because sin has consequences! God will allow us to choose to sin, but, as I’ve said before, we do not get to choose the consequences!
Meditating on God’s Truth
Verse 97, “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.”
We need to be meditating on the truths of Scripture and on God and His character. But I’m always amazed at how easy it is for me to fall into complaining instead of being focused on those things. How about you?
Oppressing the Poor
“A poor man who oppresses the poor is like a driving rain which leaves no food.”
This reminds me of the parable Jesus told in Matthew 18 about the unforgiving servant. The servant had been forgiven much, but refused to show mercy and grace to his fellow servant. In the same way, someone who has experienced poverty, and yet, oppresses others who are going through the same is like a driving rain that destroys the crop.
How has God spoken to you today? Did you see a passage in a new light? Did you see an area where you need to grow and change? Did you find a promise to hold on to? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
In the next few days, we’ll talk about ways to make a difference in someone’s life, whether being good really matters, the basics of the Christian life and more.
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