How to Study the Bible: Prophecy and Typology

by Sean Perron

by Sean Perron

Prophecy and Typology – Audio.mp3

The Bible has one main story.

  • A helpful way to summarize the overarching story of the Bible is the four categories of Creation > Fall > Redemption > Consummation.
  • Essential to this story is the road to Emmaus
  • Luke 24:13-27 – The disciples had slow hearts and did not realize the Scriptures spoke about Jesus.
  • John 5:37-46 – The Pharisees hearts were hardened and did not see Jesus in the writings of Moses.

How does the Old Testament point to Jesus?

Often prophecy in the New Testament can perplex readers. Sometimes is seems as though the New Testament writers were not consistent in their use of the Old Testament. Here is an imperfect illustration that may help shed light on how the New Testament writers understood Old Testament prophecy.

The two main painting styles I am familiar with are “Replication” and “Abstract”.

One type of painting technique attempts to replicate a photo or event with minute detail and accuracy. This was my choice of style when I first began to paint. I loved to paint fruit as realistic as possible or reduplicate photographs on a canvas. Another form of art is known as Impressionism. Abstract art uses a much broader stroke of artistic interpretation yet still conveys a message or picture. Against all odds (and to my grandfather’s chagrin), most of my current paintings lean towards the way of Van Gogh. The lines may be blurry, the colors may be abnormal, but it is beautiful in my eyes.

I have learned to appreciate both mediums and understand their places in the art realm. Neither one is wrong but they both have their benefits.

This analogy may be helpful in relation to Scriptural prophecy.

1. Literal Fulfillment

Matthew 2:6 is a direct fulfillment of Micah 5:2. Jesus’ birthplace is predicted hundreds of years in advanced and is fulfilled exactly as foretold. I would equate this with replication type paintings. The Old Testament prophet says “A+B will make C” and thus the New Testament equation unfolds.

2. Typological fulfillment.

An example of this would be found in Matthew 2:15. Matthew saw the life of Israel and the life of Jesus and did not think it was a coincidence. In Hosea 11:1-4, the people of Israel were wandering away from God! They were in Egypt because they were being sinful. Jesus was not in Egypt for slavery but for safety. Jesus is the true and better Israel and fulfills everything Israel was not. In this medium of prophecy, the New Testament writers see a divine foreshadow, theme, or event in the Old Testament and connect it with the life or ministry of Christ. Though these prophecies are not necessarily a detailed blueprint that would have been anticipated, they depict pictures of the Messiah which the inspired authors used. I would compare this type of prophecy with impressionistic art. (e.g. Mt 2:16-18, 2:23)

Both are right and both have their beauty and place in the realm of Scripture. The New Testament writers knew how to read the Bible properly and we would do well to follow their method of study.

In his book, What is Biblical Theology?, Dr. Jim Hamilton correctly points out that in the book of Hebrews, Jesus is the new and better Moses, David, Priest, Sacrifice, Law and Covenant. A good question to ask when reading the Old Testament is: How is Jesus a true and better picture of this character or event? This is how the author of Hebrews interpreted the Old Testament. Look for connections the New Testament apostles make and seek to understand how they interpret the Old Testament.

What about the Old Testament Prophets?

The books of the prophets are often neglected by most Christians. These books include: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.

Here are four common theme found in the books of the prophets. Each of these major themes includes a different nuance of prophecy that is important when interpreting the Bible.

1. Prophets warned of future judgment

  • Some prophecy is conditional (Jonah 3:1-5)

The prophecy that Nineveh was going to be overthrown was conditioned upon repentance. If they repented, then God would not destroy them. If they did not repent, then God would destroy them. It is only uncertain from our perspective. God is all knowing and ordains our steps and from his vantage point, he can see what Nineveh will do. Yet from our perspective as a reader, we cannot.

  • Some prophecy is unconditional (Micah 5:2 – Jesus was going to be born from the tribe of Judah and there is no stopping it.)

2. Prophets called for current repentance

  • Seek to understand the original context of prophecy

It is a mistake to read the Old Testament and jump straight to Jesus! The Old Testament has much value in its original context and we should soak in it before getting out of the tub. Many prophecies are complex and cannot be simplified in a sentence or two. It is important to understand the Old Testament context and then seek to understand how New Testament writers understood that particular passage. An example of this is in the passage of Hosea. We would miss out on the need to repent in the text if we did not explore the surrounding context of Hosea 11.

3. Prophets told about future deliverance

  • Seek to understand how Jesus fulfills prophecy

Prophetic foreshortening – This is like viewing Mountains from a distance. The mountain range appears to be all lined up from the Old Testament point of view, but as you get closer, you realize the peaks are miles apart. Some Old Testament passages lump several events together that appear as one event from the Old Testament perspective. One example of this is Isaiah 61:1-2. This passage declares the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of judgment. Yet when Jesus reads this passage in Luke 4:16-19, he stops half way through verse 2 in Isaiah 60 and does not mention the Day of Judgment. This day had not yet come. The two events appeared as one in the Old Testament but in reality were separated by thousands of years.

4. Prophets called for genuine religion

  • Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:8 – This prophecy is more typological in nature.

Studying the prophetic books should cause us to examine our hearts and make sure we are currently walking with God. The prophets give a clear call for authentic faith that is more than mental agreement with facts. God wants worshipers who love him with their hearts and not just their lips. We know more than Moses and David did about these prophecies. Are we amazed? 1 Peter 1:10-12

Small Group Discussion Questions:

  1. Are you confused by prophecy in the Bible? What was discussed tonight that can help you when you come across Biblical prophecies?
  2. Prophets rebuked religious hypocrisy. Are you the same person around your friends as you are at home? Are you the same person at school as you are at church?
  3. Prophets wanted genuine religion. How would you describe your heart’s affection (love, desires) for God? Are they strong, weak or non-existent?
  4. Prophets called for repentance. Do you simply ask Jesus for forgiveness but not ask him for power to change your behavior? Would you feel comfortable sharing a recent specific instance you repented and turn from sin?
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How to Study the Bible (Narrative)

by Sean Perron

by Sean Perron

How to Study Biblical Narrative – audio.mp3

Why care about stories?

  • Stories are memorable.
  • Stories involve real people with real lives.
  • About 60% of the Bible is in story format.
  • Biblical stories are meant to persuade.

The biblical stories are not meant to be cute. They are meant to persuade. They are meant to lodge truths deep into our hearts. They must be reckoned with. They are not frivolous tales.

Trouble with the Tales:

  • There are usually no direct commands given.
  • How does this relate to my tomorrow?
  • Are the details important?
  • Is this descriptive? Or is this prescriptive?

Tips for Interpreting Narrative:

1) Notice themes highlighted throughout the story

  • OT – Judges 2:11-13; Judges 3:7, 12; Judges 4:1; 6:1 –  Everyone did what was right in their own eyes
  • This is not a good time in the history of Israel. This should give us a big warning before we go through Judges and begin to interpret it. When you read the book of Judges, ask yourself – is this something that is ideal? Is this the best course of action for me to take? Or is this been tainted by the rampant sin throughout the land.
  • NT – Acts 1:6-8; 28  – Great Commission launched by Christ. Acts 28 ends with Paul in Rome preaching the gospel to the ends of the earth. Ask yourself, how does this part of Acts related to the expansion of the kingdom? The signs and miracles are confirmations of the gospel. The Jerusalem council (Acts 15) is designed to bring unity to the church and spread the gospel among the gentiles. These things will help inform you when reading the story.

2) Notice characters mentioned in the story

  • OT – Gideon and the Fleece. Judges 6:11-40

There are many people who read this story and interpret Gideon’s actions as a perfectly acceptable way to seek God’s will for your life. Test the Lord by asking him to show you a sign. Place a fleece out at night and let if it is wet, then you shall know it is God’s will for your life. Or perhaps not a fleece, but a billboard or a cloud. I confess that I used to think this way. Lord, if it is your will for me to date Jennifer, then let me see a bright spot in the clouds when I come around the curve on the road. Or if it is not your will, then let my tire be flat on my way to visit her. But Gideon was a fearful man who lacked faith. Only hold out a fleece if you lack faith and even then it is a bad idea. Gideon was hiding in fear when God found him (Judges 6:11). The author of Judges does not want us to follow the example of Gideon

  • NT – Ananias and Sapphira
  • Acts 4:32- 37 – Good example of Generosity.
  • Acts 5:1-11 – Bad example of Generosity.
  • The main point is not that you have to sell everything you own. The main point is to be generous

Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-47. In these texts, members of the church generously gave up property in order to “hold all things in common.” Those who were wealthy sold their possessions and brought the proceeds to the Apostles in order for them to allocate the funds to the needy. Should modern churches follow the example found in these two passages and sell their possessions in order to distribute money evenly among church members? It appears the primary application from 2:44-45 is that the church should be willing to give freely to the church. This is confirmed by the blessing of God on these actions. Chapter 2 concludes with verse 47 saying “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” The narrative portrays these events in a very positive light. There is also a character highlighted as a good example at the end of chapter 4 in verses 36-37. Joseph is apparently held up in honor by the Apostles and is called a “son of encouragement.” He seems to be portrayed as a positive example to the community due to the fact that he sold a field and brought the money to the Apostle’s feet. If these were the only textual indicators found within the narrative, one might conclude that these actions are totally prescriptive. However, a full reading of the context shows this is not the case. A negative example is given in chapter 5 through the characters Ananias and Sapphira. Luke is careful to note that Ananias and Sapphira were not required to sell their land and give it to the church. On the contrary, in 5:4 the Apostle Peter states it belonged to Ananias and was his to do with as he chose.   The prescriptive nature of this text is not on the selling of possessions, rather it is on generosity.

3) Notice comments made by the storyteller

  • NT – Acts 8:14-17
  • Should we all be asking God to baptize us with the Spirit after our conversion? (See Ephesians 1:13)
  • NT – Acts 8:14-17
  • Should we interpret the baptism of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 as normative for the Christian? Should we all be asking God to baptize us with the Spirit after our conversion? This takes place four different times in Acts – Jerusalem, Samaria, Gentiles Cornelius and the Ephesian disciples of John. In each one of these instances, there is a specific reason why the Holy Spirit fell on them. Luke makes a comment to show the unusual nature of these events and the overarching theme of the Great Commission is at work. The same gospel delivered in Jerusalem is now being spread throughout the world. This is groundbreaking for the Jews and unprecedented in history. It is not normative nor is there a particular pattern being laid. (See Ephesians 1:13).

4) Notice patterns repeated throughout the story

  • NT – Baptism is only for believers.
  • Acts 2:4; 8:34-40; 9:18; 16:15; 10:47; Matthew 28:19-20
  • When it comes to the book of Acts, it is significant that every occurrence of baptism is only for those who have consciously placed their faith in Jesus. The example in Acts 2:41 is that baptism is for believers only and it does not mention anyone other than “those who received his word.” In Acts 8:34-40 recounts the story of the Ethiopian eunuch who was evangelized by Philip and was only baptized after Philip shared the Scriptures with him. This is also true of Saul’s baptism in 9:18, Lydia’s baptism in 16:15 and the baptism of the gentiles with Cornelius in Acts 10:47

                                Are there any passages of Scripture that would show evidence to disregard this pattern? Some have pointed to the “household baptism” of Acts 16:33 as evidence for infant baptism. Yet the text never says infants were baptized. The immediate context actually demonstrates that everyone baptized in the household was able to place conscious faith in the gospel. The whole family “rejoiced” in verse 34 and Peter exhorted the entire household to believe in verse 31. The household baptisms actually point in the direction of believer’s baptism. Second, baptism is directly tied to the great commission and cannot be separated from conscious faith in Christ. Matthew 28:19-20 includes baptism in the great commission alongside the imperative to teach everything Jesus commanded. The church will always be in a state of missionary endeavors and focus on spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth. Allison rightly points this out by saying, “New disciples of Jesus— and the church must be constantly making such— are to be baptized and taught the Christian faith, and infants are not capable of following the Lord and learning all that he has taught the church to obey.”

Two Lenses for viewing Narrative:

1) Zoomed in:

  • Authors comments
  • Good and bad examples

2) Zoomed out.

  • Recurring themes
  • Repeating patterns

 

Small Group Questions:

  1. Was there anything in tonight’s lesson that stuck out to you in a fresh way?
  2. Have you ever thought God revealed his will through signs like he did with Gideon?
  3. Have you thought much about baptism after conversion? Have you been baptized? If so, explain. If not, is anything preventing you?
  4. How are you doing on sharing with others and being generous? Do you find yourself clinging to worldly possessions or willing to give them away freely?

How to Study the Bible (Law and Covenants)

by Sean Perron

by Sean Perron

How to Study the Law and Covenants – audio mp3.

What is the Law?

  • The Law could be the first five books of the Bible (Genesis – Deuteronomy)
  • Sometimes the Law is a term used as simple a reference to the Old Testament. John 10:34
  • The Law can also be the commands given to the people of Israel during the life of Moses – Exodus – Deuteronomy
  • Robert Stein notes that there are over 600 commands found in the first five books of the Old Testament.

Are we under the Old Testament Law?

  • The Law is always attached to a Covenant.
  • A covenant is the way God relates to his people.

The Law was tied to a Covenant. Moses ascended on the Mountain and received the Law of God for his people. The mountain trembled, quaked and shook. The people were terrified as God descended upon the Mountain and lightning flashed.  If any animals touched the mountain of God, they would die. God related to them through a cloud of fire and through communicating with Moses. They were given very detailed instructions about the tent of meeting and the ark. They were told how to carry the ark and how they should trim their beards.

  • Hebrews 8:1-13
  • The Old Covenant was able to condemn but unable to change the heart
  • The New Covenant is able to save and able to change the heart.
  • With a new covenant comes a new law. Romans 7:1-6

Old Testament believers did not have the Holy Spirit living inside of them. They could be given new hearts to love God, but the Holy Spirit did not dwell within them. The Holy Spirit is always accessible for the believer to obey.

Jesus comes onto the scene of redemptive history and a lot changes. Jesus fulfills the Law. John 1:17 – “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Where does this event fall in the story of redemption?

Where does it happen in the movie? Lets say you are watching a murder mystery. You have all the clues but you reach a different conclusion 20 min into the movie than you do 1 hour and 20 minutes into the movie. You know the rest of the story. You have different insight and you cannot watch the first 20 minutes the same way.

 

Matthew 5:17-20 – remaining, but fulfilled.

Ephesians 2:11-17 – Fulfilled but removed authority.

The context makes it clear that he abolishes in Eph 2 in a different sense than he does not abolish in Matthew 5.  In Matthew 5 not abolishing is contrasted with fulfilling.  He makes clear that with regard to the law he fulfilling it rather than getting rid of it. In Ephesians 2 there is an abolishment of the law, but it is specifically the “law of commandments as expressed in ordinances.  We are not under the OT law as a code. [The Law was given to the people of Israel when they were removed from slavery in Egypt.] The relevancy of the OT is not found in its law as expressed in ordinances (that has been abolished per Eph 2).  The OT is relevant as it points to Jesus Christ (as he has fulfilled it per Matt 5). Ephesians 2 makes it clear that we can feel comfortable talking about the law being abolished, we just need to be clear how we describe the sense in which it is abolished and the sense in which it is upheld.” – Heath Lambert

Should we obey the commands the commands of the Bible?

Main Point: We obey an Old Testament command if it is carried over by Christ and His apostles into the New Testament.

This is different than saying we obey an Old testament command unless it is forbidden or replaced by the New Testament. We obey an Old Testament command only if Jesus and his apostles say it continues. We are under the Law of Christ and not under the Law of Moses. Read the Law through the lens of Christ. Jesus obeyed the law perfectly and fulfilled it completely.

1) Animal Sacrifices:

  • Exodus 30:7-10
  • Hebrews 9:1-15

2) Food Laws:

  • Leviticus 11:9-10
  • Mark 7:14-23

3) Honoring Parents:

  • Exodus 20:12
  • Ephesians 6:1-3

4) Homosexuality:

  • Leviticus 20:13
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
  • It is important to read the Old Testament law because we better understand God and character.
  • It is important to read the Old Testament law because we better understand Christ and new covenant.

Application 1: We must take sin very seriously

It might serve us well to ponder the weight of the beams that Jesus took upon his back. The slightest arrogant thought, the faintest lustful fantasy, or the quietest judging critique, all scream “Crucify Him!”  Even the smallest sin demanded that Jesus be pinned to the wood. We need to be staggered by this truth. Yet, it is gloriously true that even the smallest drop of Jesus’ blood can cover the most hideous act.  The most grievous crime is not too much for the blood of God. Perhaps too strong for the blood of bulls and goats, but not too strong for the veins of Christ.

Application 2: We are free to trust and obey.

The Lord has freed us from sin and any restraints for us to plunge headlong into humble service of love for Himself and for others. If the people of Israel died by even touching the mountain in the Old Testament, how much more will we perish if we trample through the blood of Christ who has purchased us. We must obey our sovereign king. He has saved us. His mercy has triumphed over judgment and now we can show mercy to others. But for now, we can say, let us act and speak as those who are going to be judged according to the Law of Christ and not according to the Old Mosaic Law. We have a Savior who triumphs over judgment and sets us free to serve him with hearts full of faith. Are you relying upon Christ alone for salvation? If so, are you taking seriously his commandments?

Are we lawless? No.

  • Galatians 6:1-2
  • John 14:15
  • Matthew 22:40

Small Group Questions:

  1. Was there anything new or interesting that you learned tonight?
  2. Have you given much thought to the reality that every sin demands eternal death?
  3. How does this reminder affect your view of sin and your view of grace?
  4. Would you say that you are truly relying upon Jesus alone for salvation? Or would you say that you are counting on other things (works, status, intellect, family) to get you into heaven? (Assure them there is safety to answer this question honestly)
  5. Are you ever tempted to think that obedience is optional in the Christian life?
  6. If you are a believer, how does it change things to know the Holy Spirit dwells within you?
  7. Do you have any questions about the Old Testament law that are still lingering in your mind?

How to Study the Bible (Poetry and Psalms)

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How to Study the Psalms – audio.mp3

1) Poetry is not sissy.

There are many misconceptions about about Poetry. Some people think that poetry is only for wimps. Girls and weak men. Who would sit around and come up with beautiful prose?

Two responses:

  • First, David was a man’s man. He took down a giant with a singe stop. He fought bears. Any of you guys done this? He was a king who lead armies into battle. The people he hung out with jumped into pits on snowy days and speared lions. (1 Chronicles 11:22-24) He was not just a man, he was a man after God’s own heart. He was in love with God and the things of God.
  • Second, the Psalms are chock full of theology. Ephesians 4:7-8 quotes Psalm 68 about God being a Divine Warrior. In Acts 2:22-36, Peter stands up after the Holy Spirit descended. Fire is above their heads, they are speaking in strange languages, crowds by the thousands are gathered and it is a big moment. He delivers a monumental speech that will be recorded for all eternity. Twice in this speech he quotes the Psalms. He quotes Psalm 16 and Psalm 110 – theology about the Resurrection of the body and the Trinity is found in these Psalms.
  • The Psalms teach us doctrine. They teach us deep biblical truths.

2) Poetry is not pointless.

  • Psalm 22; 110

We have a low view of poetry. “Roses are red, violets are blue, I like cream cheese, how about you.” Pointless and fruitless. But this is not the case with Scripture. Poetry is sweet to the soul and catchy to the mind. Psalm 23, The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters for his name sake, and even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. This is glorious! This has a point! This is eternally significant.

  • The Psalms teach us about Jesus

Psalm 110 was penned years before Jesus was born. Tucked away in this Psalm from the very first verse is a message about Christ. Jesus quotes this in Matthew 22:44 and the author of Hebrews quotes this Psalm in Hebrews 7:11-28. Jesus is called a priest forever according to a different order than the Levitical priests. Hebrews tells us this is because Jesus continually lives to intercede for us and could not die! Psalm 110:5-7 refers to when Christ returns to judge the earth. These are massive truths about the Messiah that are laced in prose. Poetry is not pointless.

3) Poetry is not optional.

The Psalms are raw and vivid. The Psalms are not sterile. They are not safe. They are not confined. They reveal the messy of life and beauty of Christ.

  • The Psalms teach us about ourselves. They teach us how to properly express our emotions.

If you are experiencing an emotion or difficulty in life, I guarantee you that you can find help in the Psalms. I will bet my life on it. No matter what emotional trial you go through, I guarantee you can find a glimmer of light from the Psalms.

  • When you encounter suffering, how should you respond? When you begin to doubt God, how should you respond? When you feel lonely and rejected at school, what should you do? The Psalms offer guidance.

Consider how Psalm 6 teaches us to express our emotions.

  • Verse 3 is honest.
  • Verse 4 is a humble plea.
  • Verse 5 is appealing to God.
  • Verse 6 is honest about the trial.
  • Verse 9 is confident faith in God.

This Psalm demonstrates how to properly express angst to God. Controlled, humble, honest, pleading, confident. Not yelling at God or blaming him. Rather, this Psalm shows how to humbly come to him in life’s trials and make raw requests in faith.

4) Poetry is  practical.

Perhaps you are not experiencing turmoil or darkness in your Christian life. Perhaps things are rosy and you are more in love with God than ever. The Psalms are for you as well! There are bright Psalms for these occasions. But do not overlook the Psalms to be practical and helpful for those around you. Perhaps your friends are experiencing pain and darkness. You can lead them to the Psalms for guidance and life in Christ.

Consider the following three Psalms and the issues they address. Each Psalm  can address a particular issue that someone may be going through. A good exercise is to spend time reading and mediating on these Psalms and dealing with the issues they address.

  • Anger (Psalm 2) – If you are boiling with anger, verse 12 can calm you down.
  • Fear (Psalm 3) – If you are having trouble sleeping at night, verse 5 can sooth you.
  • Temptation (Psalm 4)  – If you are being tempted by the world, verse 7 can satisfy you.

Three Categories of Psalms:

1. Dark Psalms

            – Suffering (55; 56; 59)

            – Sadness (42; 43; 44)

            – Sin & Repentance (32; 38; 39; 41; 51)

2. Bright Psalms

            – Praise (47; 103; 148; 149; 150)

            – Beauty of God (29; 72; 75; 76; 93)

            – Joy & Satisfaction (23; 27; 63; 84)

3. Clear Psalms (Psalms that bring clarity to life)

            – Wisdom (1; 52; 119)

            – Justice (58; 64; 82; 83)

Small Group Discussion Questions:

1.       Which of the four misconceptions of poetry did you have before tonight?

2.       Have you ever experienced anger towards God? If so, why?

3.       Have you ever experienced sadness? If so, how did you express it to God?

4.       Which area (anger, fear, temptation) are you dealing with currently in life?

How to Study the Bible (The Epistles)

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by Joe Bayless

 

Epistles:

  • Represent 21 books of the New Testament
  • 13 by Paul, 3 by John, 2 by Peter, 1 by James the brother of Jesus, 1 by Jude the brother of Jesus, 1 by an unknown writer.
  • Romans, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1st and 2nd Thessalonians, 1st and 2nd Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1st and 2nd Peter, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John, Jude

Definition:

  • Epistles are letters written to churches and to individuals with the purpose of giving specific instruction for a specific situation.
  • If Proverbs and wisdom literature represent general observations for general situations, epistles represent specific observations about specific situations.

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Why Study the Epistles?

1. Some of them are the earliest New Testament writings we have.

  • They represent the earliest written witnesses to the person and work of Christ.
  • James is considered the oldest, followed by Galatians and Thessalonians.

2. They contain some of the most important theological statements in the Bible.

We derive a lot of our theology from the epistles. Some examples:

  • Justification by Faith – Galatians 2:16, Romans 3:21
  • Doctrine of Christ – Colossians 1:15-20
  • Priesthood of Christ – Hebrews 3:1
  • Theology of the Resurrection – 1st Corinthians 15
  • Doctrine of Scripture – 2nd Timothy 3:16

3. They contain some of the clearest statements on practical Christian living.

Take for example James and what he teaches.

  • How to respond to trials. James 1:2-4
  • Being a doer of the word. James 1:22-25
  • Importance of taking care of widows and orphans. James 1:26
  • Praying. James 1:5-8, 5:16b-18

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How to Interpret an Epistle

1. Recognize that an epistle was written to a church or to a person a long time ago.

  • Example: Romans was written to the church in Rome. Titus was written to a man named Titus.

2. Understand that there is a cultural difference between you and the original reader.

  • Example: Kissing – Rom. 16:16; Slaves – Col. 4:1; Meat sacrificed to idols – 1 Cor. 8:4-6

3. Be aware that all epistles have a similar structure.

  • Greeting. (Ex. James 1:1 – The author and audience are identified)
  • Body of the letter.
  • Conclusion.

4. Take general principles away from passages that are very specific to the original readers.

Passages are very specific because of:

  • What was going on in the church at that time
  • Example: Removal of a Corinthian church member – 1 Cor. 5
  • Cultural differences
  • Example: Slaves – Col. 4:1; Meat sacrificed to idols – 1 Cor. 8:4-8; Kissing – Rom. 16:16

5. Notice principles that apply to all believers at all times.

  • Examples: 1st John 2:15-17, James 1:22-24, 1st Thess. 5:16-18

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Discussion Questions

1. Was there anything new about the epistles that you’ve learned tonight?

2. Do you read the New Testament epistles often in your Christian walk?

3. Are there particular passages that you have struggled with understanding from the epistles?

4. Which universal principle do you need to apply to your Christian walk? (1st John 2:15-17, James 1:22-24, 1st Thessalonians 5:16-18)

5. How will you approach the epistles differently after the lesson?

How to Study the Bible (Proverbs)

by Sean Perron

by Sean Perron

How to Study the Proverbs – Audio.mp3 

Planet Earth and Genres

Jenny has been sick frequently over the past several months. One of our favorite things to do when she is sick is to snuggle and watch Planet Earth. I found the complete 6 disc set at a closeout sell several years ago. We are watching the series for the second time and I noticed something about the series last week. There are 3-4 different categories of terrain on each disc. Mountains, Caves, Ice Worlds, Fresh Water, Jungles, Great Plains, etc. Each category of terrain has different animals, unique scenery, and particular dangers. You are not going to find lions on the DVD covering deep sea creatures. Nor should you expect to see cuddly koalas in the footage of the Swiss Alps. The producers of Planet Earth have separated the globe into different genres in order to help their viewers navigate the incredible beauty that they have captured on film. This is precisely what we are attempting to due in this series on how to study the Bible. We want the full HD experience.

 Wisdom books include: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job

Proverbs are common observations about living life before God in a fallen world

Wisdom is learning from God, trusting Him and following His Word.

Folly is rejecting God’s instruction either intentionally or unintentionally and thereby living disobediently.

Misinterpretations of Proverbs

1. Proverbs are usually not water-tight

The emphasis is on a common observation.

  • Proverbs 13:4 – The goal is to collect the particular point the author is trying to make. Not to cross examine it like a lawyer. Proverbs 13:4 does not intend to say there will never be lazy rich people who have inherited masses of cash. This verse is a common observation about the way life usually operates.
  • Proverbs 11:24 – The goal of 11:24 is not to say that the stingy never have an increase in wealth. The point is to say that God honors those who give generously and provides for them. But this should not be a license to give recklessly to the point of going in debt! This would be a misapplication of this verse.

2. Not all proverbs are promises

The emphasis is on an observation.

  • Proverbs 22:6
  • Proverbs 13:25 – Does this proverb mean the righteous will never experience hunger?
  • Proverbs 3:4-6 – If a proverb is rooted in the nature of God or is supported by other passages of Scripture, it can be taken as a promise.

3. Proverbs do not produce Pharisees

The emphasis is on living before God.

  • Proverbs 3:5-7 – The very definition of fear means trusting God.
  • Proverbs 4:4, 23; 15:11 – Proverbs is concerned with the heart.
  • Proverbs 15:26; 16:5 – Rightly understood, Proverbs does not produce Pharisees
  • Proverbs 16:6; 28:13-14 – Proverbs points to the gospel.

4. Proverbs do not mask reality.

The emphasis on living in a fallen world.

  • Proverbs 11:16 – This is a sad but honest assessment of life in a fallen world.
  • Proverbs 13:23 – This proverb observes the cold reality of oppression and cruelty in the world. Many poor people in parts of the country are trying hard to make it in life, but are unable do to the oppression of governments, rich bosses, or society.

Tip: Read slowly and speedily.

This is a new development for me. When I first read Proverbs all in one sitting, I was stunned by the themes that emerged. I had only read Proverbs one chapter at a time and I had missed out on the fullness of the book! There is much to benefit in reading only one section a day (this is the lingering we talked about in the 5 basic attitudes of Bible study). Yet there are several themes that emerge when reading through any book. You begin to notice phrases that sound similar, key words that are used often and connections to phrases you never saw before. It is similar to when Planet Earth zooms in on a rain tree frog jumping in slow motion and then zooming out to survey the breathtaking ridges of the entire rainforest from space. Both are stunning and both invoke worship.

Some Themes in Proverbs

  • Tongue (11:11-13; 12:6, 23; 14:5, 25; 15:7; 16:27-28)
  • Adultery (5:1-23; 6:20-35; 7:1-27)
  • Work (6:6-11; 10:4-5; 12:27)
  • Money (11:4, 7, 16, 24; 13:11; 14:20)

If you are struggling in one of these areas, I have found it helpful to read through the book of Proverbs highlighting the particular theme you need help with and meditating on these passages.

How to Study the Bible (Gospels)

by Sean Perron

by Sean Perron

Gospels as Genre – Audio mp3.

The Bible is composed of different genres. Each genre is designed by God to spur us on in our walk with him. Different genres invoke different moods within us. If you are finding yourself only reading the Epistles (Letters of Paul), you are missing out on God’s full range of blessings for you in the Bible. If you are depressed, perhaps some poetry from the Psalms can sooth your soul. If your brain is tired of logic and argumentation, perhaps a thrilling story of war from the Old Testament will wake you up. We don’t own a bland Bible.

In a similar way, if you only ate Pizza for breakfast lunch and dinner, you would quickly get tired of it (and possibly barf). Why would anyone only eat pizza when there is a world of ice cream awaiting them? God has been kind to us and given us a variety of food options to feast on in the Scriptures. There is Italian, Chinese, American and Mexican. There are salads, steak, yogurt and chocolate cake. If you are not feeling a hot dog, then try a fish taco. It is okay and good to have a variety of food in your life. It is healthy and enjoyable. Don’t remain only in one genre of the Bible. Feast on all the delicacies he has laid out for you in His Word.

Gospel:

Matthew

Mark

Luke

John

Audience:

Jews

Romans

Gentiles

World

Point:

Jesus is Messiah

Immediate Message

For our certainty

For our faith

  • Each have a different purpose in writing
  • Each have a different audience

Lets say something tragic happened. Perhaps during game time, Jonathan decided to jump off of the TV stand and land on the couch. But instead, he missed the couch and landed head first on the table behind him. My perspective would be from the left hand corner of the room. I would have only turned at the moment I heard Rebecca scream and that is when I began to see the story unfold. Yet, Ben happened to be right under the TV stand and everything happened very quickly from his point of view. While all of this was taking place, Dan was in the bathroom. So he saw youth running down the hallway and he had to ask questions and do a little more investigation in order to obtain the whole story. And then later we ask Jonathan about his experience and he tells it from the first person. All of the stories would be about the same events (Jonathan plotting his stunt, climbing up, jumping, crashing, taking him to the hospital, etc.) but each perspective would be different, have a unique emphasis and even have different starting points.

When getting into the depths of each Gospel, there are a couple of different sub-genres to be aware of.

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1. Hyperbole: Exaggerated language to make a powerful point.

There are some overstatements that are literally possible but unlikely and there are some that are impossible.

Here are come tips on how to determine if a text is hyperbolic

  • Conflicts with common sense

Biblical Example: Matthew 5:27-30

What is Jesus main point in using hyperbole? Do everything you physically can to stop lusting and avoid lusting.

Cut off your internet. Give your friend your computer password. (I had a friend who kept his laptop in my dorm room and would only work on his research papers with me in the room) Turn your eyes away from someone who is dressed inappropriately. Walk the other direction. Do whatever you can to kill sin in your life!

Jesus does not expect us to actually do this because of verse 28 which places lust in the heart. The problem is not your hands alone. If you cut off your hands, you can still burn with lust. His point is to do everything you can to kill sin and remove it from your life. Bloody hands and bloody eyes are how serious Jesus takes sin.

  • Conflicts with physical reality

Biblical Example: Matthew 7:3-5

What is Jesus main point in using hyperbole? Jesus wants his followers to not be hypocrites and never deal with their own. Jesus wants his followers to be aware of their own faults and then proceed to help others. This verse does not mean we can never point out your brother or sisters sin (7:5). Nor does this verse mean we actually have wooden planks hanging out of our eyes. But wouldn’t that be strange if we didn’t notice it?

  • Conflicts with the teachings of the speaker

Biblical Example: Matthew 10:34-39

What is Jesus’ main point here in using hyperbole? Following Jesus may cost you even the most precious of relationships. It may feel as though a sword is slicing your home in half. And that is terrible, but it may be necessary because you have to follow Jesus at whatever the costs.

See Matthew 26:47-56 – Jesus did not come to bring a sword

See Matthew 19:18-19 – Jesus tells us to honor our father and mother

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2.Parables: Personally crafted stories to make a memorable point.

There are three helpful questions to ask when reading parables:

  • Are there any unexpected twists in the story? This often gives a clue as to the main point.
  • How does this story end? This often gives a clue as to the main point.
  • Who was the parable addressed to? This often gives a clue for the reason behind the parable.

Biblical Example: Luke 15:11-32

How does it end? – v25-32 – Older brother

Who was it for? 15:1-2

What is the twist? The Jews should repent and rejoice that God is saving the Gentiles. The religious ones are not truly religious. They need to have a change of heart and rejoice in God.

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Resources and Recommended Reading: Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible by Robert Stein and 40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible by Robert Plummer

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Small Group Discussion:

  1. Was there anything we talked about tonight that stuck out to you in a fresh way?

  2. Do you only find yourself reading from one genre of the Bible? What type of Scripture have you never explored? Poetry, Wisdom Lit, Apocalyptic, Story (Narrative), Gospels, Letters, etc.

  3. Have you ever been shocked by something Jesus said? If so, what was it and how did you respond?

  4. Read Luke 14:26

    1. Is Jesus using hyperbole?

    2. What is his main point? (You may need to look at context)

  5. Read the parable of the pearl in Matthew 13:45-47

    1. What is the main point of this parable?

    2. What is the one pearl of great value?

    3. What does Jesus want us to do in response to this parable?