Encouraging God’s People to Study the Bible Better!
Welcome to the September edition of the Bible-Student-Online.org e-zine, The Encourager.
(Sigh!) For those of us living here in the Northern Hemisphere, summer has fled oh so quickly. Vacations, swimming, beach combing, camping and many other activities have dominated our vision for the past three months.
But now it's almost gone. School has swung itself into action. And the temperatures have begun to dip (just a bit.) Alas, amongst all the fun and frolicing many of us have forgotten the importance of Bible study. This slowing down may be a good time to rededicate ourselves to the task of studying God's Word.
That's why we're here. To refocus ourselves to the task at hand and encourage one another in the faith.
...without further ado...
Here are some of the useful little tidbits we’re offering in this issue…
1. Tip of the Month – Supercharge your Bible study time with these great ideas.
2. Starters of the Month – Can’t find anything to study? Look here for “starter” ideas.
3. Study of the Month – We’ve posed a question that we would like you to answer by making a thorough study of the Bible. Feel free to use resources. But the applications need to be your own.
4. What’s New? – We have several projects going (and are we busy!) Find out the "new news" here at Bible-Student-Online.org!
Alright…let’s get to it!
Bible Study Tip of the Month
Commenting on Commentaries (the Next Generation!)
William J. Brown
I have to admit, this subject burdens my heart. And I'm afraid I may offend some with what I have to say. That isn't my intention.
My thinking on this matter has much to do with the misconceptions I've observed bouncing around the last many years. What am I babbling about?
I'm talking about the use of commentaries.
I confess, the title of this article isn't original. It comes from a piece written many years ago by Charles Spurgeon. I hope this article is as helpful as his was.
In my years in the ministry I've heard such statements as, "I don't use commentaries because they're men's wisdom. I only use God's Word when I study."
I can appreciate the spirit of such a statement. And if that's your attitude, by all means, study the Bible that way!
My only request is that you hear me out on this. I believe in using commentaries. I have biblical and logical reasoning behind my view too. So please grant me audience just for a few moments.
Here's my answer to the above statement about using commentaries...
II Timothy 2:2 says this...
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
In this passage, Paul assumes that "the things" that he speaks, Timothy will take and "commit" to other men as faithful as he who in turn will "teach" those lessons to others. And so on and so forth.
Paul here speaks of oral communication. But this was more than just preaching. This was training able ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And this was obviously more than just shoving a Bible at someone and having them read it. It seems Paul intended Timothy to "teach" the Bible to these people. In other words, teach them through oral instruction.
Quoting Scripture wasn't enough. Timothy needed to commit and teach those lessons found in God's Word.
Today the mantle of the teaching ministry has been handed to able pastors and teachers in local churches. They preach from the pulpit (or Sunday school room) the lessons of God's Word.
In essence what they do is give "oral commentary" to make God's Word a little easier to understand. When your pastor stands before you, he becomes your oral commentator.
And that was Paul's point. The teaching ministry of the church has always been a kind of commentary to illuminate God's Word to the masses (with a few exceptions throughout history, of course.)
Commentaries are part of that ministry. Many preachers have even written their oral discourses and converted them into written commentaries. That's actually what I do. I write out my messages and use them later as needed.
So those who say they don't use commentaries have a problem. God commands preachers and Bible teachers to expound on the Bible. Does that mean these who refuse to use commentaries also have rejected this biblical ministry of the church, oral commentary? Do they refuse to listen to the "oral commentary" of their pastors? I certainly hope not! God commanded this kind of teaching ministry!
And there are also a few logical facts to consider...
In and of ourselves, we aren't the end of all wisdom about God's Word. So sometimes we need a little help. That's what commentaries are for, they become our "written preachers and teachers" to help us understand the Bible better.
To say the written wisdom of Spurgeon, Whitefield, Wesley, Calvin, Luther, Augustine and others has no bearing on our lives shows a bit of arrogance on our part. All we have left of these men is what they wrote. Their pastoral voices cry from the pages of ink-stained books. These men were wise (in many ways much wiser in their times than we are in ours.) We need to listen to these men and the things they desire to teach us about God's Word.
Yes, it's true these men were only human. But so are our pastors and Bible teachers. And we go back week after week to hear them commentate on the Scriptures. Are they any greater than Spurgeon and Wesley?
And these men came to their biblical conclusions the same way we do today, through thorough Bible study. Should we reject them because they are flawed humans while espousing our own thoughts on the Bible as correct? Are we greater than they that our opinions are so correct that we need only listen to our own biblical gleanings and not the wise observations of others?
Commentaries certainly fill a need in the church. They are an extension of the teaching ministry of the Body of Christ. We just have to keep in mind they have been written by flawed human beings. They do sometimes come up imperfect. But that shouldn't cause us to shove them aside as "flawed writings". That's where we should practice a little discernment.
God says in Proverbs 1:7...
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Let not that be said of us. Commenataries have their place. We just need to learn where they fit in to our own Bible study.
I hope I've in no way offended anyone. That wasn't my intention. But we must be clear on this. God's Word is true. The wisdom of men may or may not be. We must discern and learn from everything we read, neither readily rejecting it nor heartily accepting it.
In this way, commentaries can become one of our most trusted friends in our Bible study time.
That's it for this month. I hope this was a help. We'll have more next month.
Keep up the good work. And...
Keep the Faith!
Bible Study Starters of the Month
Here are a couple ideas to jump-start your brain for your personal Bible study…
1. Find a hymnal or praise and chorus book. Go through it and find your favorite songs. Now take your Bible and try to find some of the concepts the writer used in the words of that song. For example...
"Amazing Grace" contains the concept of God's saving grace. See how many verses on God's grace you can find. A concordance may be helful here.
2. Read through the Gospels and try to determine the theme of each book.
Bible Study Project of the Month
Put on your thinking caps this month...
Read the Hebrews Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11). As you come to each name, research the life of that person from the Old Testament. Try to find out all you can about them. Look up their names in a concordance just in case they appear in other passages of Scripture. A good study Bible may help as well.
Get a notebook and write the name of the person at the top, one page for each person. Write everything you found out (including all passage references) under their name. You may want to organize the page into sub headings for passages, actions and consequences from the lives of each Old Testament saint. Also note what God did for each and how He was faithful to them.
And of course...
Contact us through our “Contact Page” and tell us what you found. We're interested to hear what your studies turn up!
The subscribership for this e-zine is rising every week. We feel the more, the merrier. So make sure to mention our site and this e-zine to all your friends and family. Don't hide a good thing. Share it with everyone!
Also, we took the summer off from writing Bible studies (but not studying for them, of course) for the site. We hope to resume the writing process this fall, probably in October. So stay tuned! There's more coming!
And of course...
Please pray for the ministry here as well. Putting our ministry on your prayer list would be such a blessing and a help. Thanks everyone!
That about wraps it up for this month. We hope you enjoyed this e-zine provided by Bible-Student-Online.org.