Digging Deeper into God’s Word

Some General Guidelines

When interpreting Scripture, we are seeking to discover the meaning of the words as the author originally intended them. This is called the literal, grammatical-historical approach.

The specific interpretive principles we apply to a passage will vary depending on its literary format (e.g. narrative, parable, poetry, prophecy), but our goals must always be the same: to discover what the Bible SAYS, what it MEANS, and how it APPLIES.

A passage of Scripture may have many applications but it has only one meaning. Our responsibility is to discover that meaning as accurately as possible with the study tools available to us (2 Tim. 2:15). Once we've done that, we can teach it to others with confidence.

A Suggested Bible Study Procedure

Here is a six-step procedure to understanding God's Word more fully:

1. Preparation

Prayer and purity are essential to every aspect of one's Christian life, but especially when dealing with God's Word. Consequently, we must never approach our studies with an impure heart (1 Pet. 2:1-3; James 1:21) or without seeking spiritual wisdom and understanding (Col. 1:9).

The Spirit's illumination and guidance are essential to accurate, productive Bible study. He won't interpret the passage for us (2 Tim. 2:15), but He will guide our studies and give us insights that can't be discerned on a purely human level (1 Cor. 2:6-16).

2. Observation

In this step we determine what the passage SAYS. To do so, we must read and reread the text, noting vocabulary (individual words) and syntax (relation of words to each another). If possible, we should observe the text in its original language and compare various translations.

It is helpful to ask the text these questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? That's how we focus on details we might otherwise overlook.

At this point we aren't concerned with interpreting what we observe. Our goal is to squeeze every drop of information from the text and formulate that information into questions to be answered in the next step of the process.

3. Interpretation

Here we move beyond what the passage SAYS, to determine what it MEANS. We must reconstruct as much of the original context as possible (i.e. history, culture, geography, and language) by answering the questions we asked in the observation step.

This step always involves the most time and effort but produces the precious rewards of biblical depth and accuracy. Study aids such as original language tools, commentaries, encyclopedias, systematic theologies, and atlases are indispensable in this process.

4. Consolidation

Raw biblical data doesn't always apply directly to every believer's life, but biblical principles do. So we must discern the principles that govern the information we've learned from the text.

Some principles are explicit, others implicit. For example, Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus in John 3 doesn't directly apply to us (because we weren't there, we're not first-century Jewish Rabbis, etc.). However, our Lord's willingness to meet with Nicodemus tells us that He cares for individuals, is personally involved in their lives, is approachable, and welcomes earnest inquires. Those are principles that apply to everyone.

5. Correlation

Here is where we ensure that the principles we've formulated don't contradict what Scripture teaches elsewhere. Scripture is always consistent with itself (Ps. 119:160), so if there's a conflict, we must rethink your conclusions.

6. Application

Once we understand the passage and know that our principles are accurate, we're ready to answer the question: What specific responses does God expect from me? Applying biblical truth is the ultimate goal of Bible study.

Beginning A Bible Reference Library

Here are a few essential study tools that serve as a foundation for a good reference library:

1. Reference Bible (Ryrie, Thompson Chain, etc.)

2. Exhaustive Concordance (Strong's, Young's, Cruden's, NASB, etc.)

3. Topical Bible (Nave's, etc.)

4. Expository Dictionary (Vine's, etc.)

5. Bible Dictionary (Unger's, etc.)

6. A Bible Encyclopedia (Zondervan, etc.)

Note: If you have a Bible encyclopedia, probably you won't need a Bible Dictionary.

7. A Theological Dictionary Of New Testament Words (Colin Brown, etc.)

Principles for Enriching Your Prayer Time

Preparation For Prayer

Before praying, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Have I confessed my sins (Ps. 66:18; Isa. 59:1,2; 1 John 1:9- 10)?
  2. Are my relationships right with others (Matt. 5:24-25)?
  3. Are my motives pure (James 4:3)?
  4. Am I seeking to glorify and please God above all else (John 14:13-14)?
  5. Am I seeking God's will in all things (1 John 5:14-15)?
  6. Am I trusting in the Lord entirely for direction and wisdom (Prov. 3:5-6; James 1:5)?
  7. Am I depending on the Holy Spirit's guidance (Rom. 8:26-27)?
  8. Will I praise God no matter how He answers my prayers (Rom. 8:28; 1 Thess. 5:16-18)?

Elements of Prayer

There are four key elements in prayer, which are easy to remember by the acronym ACTS:

Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.


Adoration

This is selfless prayer in which you express love for God and reflect on His attributes and works (1 Chron. 29:11-13; Ps. 50:23; Dan. 4:34-35).

Adoration of The Father

1. Some attributes and works of God the Father:

  1. His knowledge – 1 Sam. 2:3; Job 12:13; Ps. 139:2-6; 147:5; Ezek. 11:5; Dan. 2:22
  2. His foreknowledge – Acts 2:23; Rom. 8:29-30; 11:2; 1 Pet. 1:2
  3. His supremacy – 1 Chron. 29:11-12; 2 Chron. 20:6
  4. His sovereignty – Ps. 135:6; Isa. 46:8-10; Eph. 1:11
  5. His immutability – Ex. 3:14; Job 23:13; Ps. 33:13; Mal. 3:6; Heb. 6:17; James 1:17
  6. His Holiness – Ex. 15:11; 2 Chron. 20:21; Isa. 6:1-3; Hab. 1:13; 1 John 1:5; Rev. 15:4
  7. His power – Job 26:14; Ps. 33:9; 62:11; 89:11-13; Jer. 32:27; Matt. 19:26
  8. His faithfulness – Num. 23:19; Deut. 7:9; Ps. 36:5; 89:8; 2 Tim. 2:13; Heb. 10:23
  9. His goodness – Ps. 33:5; 52:1; 119:68; Lam. 3:22-23
  10. His patience – Neh. 9:17; Ps. 103:8; 145:8; Nah. 1:3
  11. His grace – Eph. 1:5-7; 2:7-9; Titus 2:11-12; 3:4-7
  12. His mercy – Ex. 34:6-7; 1 Kings 3:6; Ps. 86:5; 136:1; Luke 1:78; 6:36; 1 Pet. 1:3
  13. His love – Jer. 31:3; John 3:16; 13:1; Rom. 5:8; Eph. 1:4-5; 2:4; Heb. 12:6
  14. His wrath – Deut. 32:39-41; Ps. 7:11; Rom. 1:18; 1 Thess. 1:10; Heb. 12:28-29; Rev. 6:16

2. The Father's attributes as reflected in His names

  1. Elohim – Speaks of God's omnipotence and sovereignty. He is the God who created and governs all things (Gen. 1-2).
  2. Jehovah – Speaks of God's personal, eternal, absolute existence; His moral purity; and His covenant relationship to His people (Ex. 3:14-15; 6:2-3; Lev. 19:2).
  3. El-Shaddai – "God Almighty" ("One mighty to nourish, satisfy, supply") – Gen. 17:1-2; 35:11; Isa. 60:15-16
  4. Jehovah – Jireh – "The Lord Provides" – Ps. 116:5, 8, 16-17; 1 John 4:9
  5. Jehovah – Rophe – "The Lord Heals" – Isa. 53:4-5; Acts 4:12; 1 Pet. 2:24
  6. Jehovah – Nissi – "The Lord Our Banner" – 1 Chron. 29:11-13
  7. Jehovah – Rohi – "The Lord My Shepherd" – Ps. 23:3-5; John 14:26; 16:13
  8. Jehovah – Shalom – "The Lord Our Peace" – Ps. 29:1; Isa. 9:6; Rom. 8:31-35
  9. Jehovah – Tsidkenu – "The Lord Our Righteousness" – Ps. 48:10; 119:137; Dan. 9:14; Hos. 14:9; 1 Cor. 1:30; Rom. 10:4
  10. Jehovah – Shammah – "The Lord is Present" – Ps. 139:7-8; Isa. 66:1-2; Heb. 13:5-6
  11. Jehovah – M`Kaddesh – "The Lord Who Sanctifies" – Isa. 6:3; 57:15; 1 John 1:5; Rev. 4:8; 15:4

Adoration of The Son

Examples of the attributes and works of Jesus Christ:

  1. He is the Head of all things – Col. 1:15-20; 2:10
  2. He is the Lamb of God – John 1:29; 1 Cor. 15:3; Col. 1:14; Rev. 5:12,13
  3. He is our Savior – John 3:17; Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:5; Jude 24-25
  4. He is the King of kings – Phil. 2:9-11; 1 Tim. 6:15; 1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 11:15
  5. He is the Good Shepherd – Ps. 23:1-4; 103:1-4; 107:8-9; Ezek. 34:11-16; John 10:14; 2 Cor. 9:8; Phil. 4:19
  6. He is the Way and the Truth – John 8:32,36; 14:6; Eph. 2:18; Heb. 10:20
  7. He is the Bread of Life – John 6:33-35, 48-54
  8. He is the Light of the World – John 1:9, 8:12; Rev. 21:23
  9. He is the only Mediator between God and man – 1 Cor. 1:30; 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 1:3; 7:25
  10. He is the resurrection and the Life – John 11:25-26; Rev. 1:18
  11. He is God – John 1:1; 14:9, 11
  12. He is the Alpha and Omega (beginning and end) – Rev. 1:8
  13. He is Beloved of the Father – Eph. 1:6
  14. He is the Great Counselor – Isa. 28:29; Col. 2:3
  15. He is our Deliverer – Ps. 18:2; Rom. 11:26
  16. He is Immanuel (God with us) – Isa. 7:14; John 14:7
  17. He is the faithful One – 2 Cor. 1:20; 1 Thess. 5:24; Rev. 19:2
  18. He is the Head of His Church – Eph. 5:23; 29-30
  19. He is the Light of the World – John 8:12
  20. He is the Prince of Peace – Isa. 9:6; Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:14
  21. He is the Righteous Judge – 2 Tim. 4:7-8
  22. He is the True Vine – John 15:1-5

Adoration of The Spirit

Examples of the attributes and works of The Holy Spirit:

  1. He was sent from God – John 14:26
  2. He is the Comforter – John 14:16
  3. He indwells believers – 1 Cor. 3:16; Gal. 4:6; Heb. 3:7
  4. He glorifies Christ – John 16:13, 14; 2 Cor. 2:10
  5. He imparts the love of Christ – Rom. 5:5; Eph. 3:19
  6. He produces spiritual fruit – Gal. 5:22-23
  7. He motivates, guides, and intercedes in prayer – Rom. 8:26; Eph. 2:18; Jude 20
  8. He renews believers – 1 Thess. 1:6; 2 Thess. 2:13; Titus 3:5
  9. He baptizes believers into Christ – Matt. 3:11; 1 Cor. 12:13
  10. He imparts spiritual gifts – 2 Cor. 12:4, 7, 11
  11. He unites and edifies believers – Eph. 2:20-22
  12. He grants assurance of salvation – Eph. 1:13-14
  13. He guides believers – Rom. 8:14, 13
  14. He fills believers – Eph. 5:9, 18
  15. He brings conviction – John 16:8-13

Confession

The Greek word translated "confess" literally means to agree with God about your sin. You agree that your sin violates His holiness and hinders your relationship with Him, and you respond accordingly–by repenting of it and turning from it.

This is also a good point in your prayer time to reaffirm your desire to live fully within the scope of His will (Isa. 59:1-2; 1 John 1:9-10).

An unknown Puritan reflected the essence of confession in this insightful prayer:

Merciful Lord,
Pardon all my sins of this day, week, year,
all the sins of my life,
sins of early, middle, and advanced years,
of omission and commission,
of morose, peevish and angry tempers,
of lip, life and walk,
of hard-heartedness, unbelief, presumption, pride,
of unfaithfulness to the souls of men,
of want of bold decision in the cause of Christ,
of deficiency in outspoken zeal for His glory,
of bringing dishonor upon Thy great name,
of deception, injustice, untruthfulness
in my dealings with others,
of impurity in thought, word, and deed,
of covetousness, which is idolatry,
of substance unduly hoarded, improvidently squandered,
not consecrated to the glory of Thee, the Great Giver;
sins in private and in the family, in study and recreation, in the busy haunts of men,
in the study of Thy Word and in the neglect of it,
in prayer irreverently offered and coldly withheld,
in time misspent, in yielding to Satan's wiles,
in opening my heart to his temptations,
in being unwatchful when I know him nigh,
in quenching the Holy Spirit;
against conscience and the restraints of Thy Spirit,
against the law of eternal love.
Pardon all my sins, known and unknown, felt and unfelt,
confessed and not confessed, remembered and forgotten.
Good Lord, hear; and hearing, forgive.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is expressing gratitude to the Lord for His abundant blessings.

"Now therefore, our God, we thank Thee, and praise Thy glorious name" (1 Chron. 29:13).

"Now anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6-7).

Here are some other examples of thanksgiving prayers. You may want to use some of them as models for your own prayers.

  • Exo. 15:11, 13
  • 1 Chron. 29:10-13; Neh. 9:5-6
  • Psa. 8:1, 3-6, 9; Psa. 12:6-7
  • Psa. 19:1; Psa. 34:1-3
  • Psa. 50:23; Psa. 57:7-11
  • Psa. 74:16; Psa. 84:1-4, 11
  • Psa. 86:5, 8-10, 12-13; Psa. 89:11
  • Psa. 91:5-9, 11-14; Psa. 96:1-2, 4-6
  • Psa. 97:1, 2, 6, 9, 12; Psa. 98:2, 3, 9
  • Psa. 99:3; Psa. 100:1-5; Psa. 103:1-22
  • Psa. 104:1, 24, 27-30, 33, 34
  • Psa. 136:1-26
  • Psa. 139:1-12, 14; Isa. 25:1
  • Isa. 58:11
  • Isa. 66:1, 2; Jer. 31:9; 32:17-19
  • Mal. 3:6; John 10:9-11, 28-30
  • 1 Cor. 10:13; 15:51-57; 2 Cor. 1:3, 4; 2:14; 8:9
  • 2 Cor. 9:8; 12:9-10; Eph. 1:3-10; 2:8-10
  • Phil. 4:6-11, 14, 19; Col. 1:14; 2:10
  • 1 Thess. 5:16-18 2 Thess. 3:3
  • Heb. 13:8; James 4:7-8; 5:13
  • 1 Pet. 1:3-5; 2:24; 5:6, 10-11; 2 Pet. 1:4
  • 1 John 1:7; Jude 24-25
  • Rev. 4:11; 5:9-13

Supplication

"Supplication" is a general term that speaks of humble, earnest prayer in any form. It often includes intercession, which is speaking to God about the concerns and needs of others.

Regarding supplication, Paul wrote, "I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior" (1 Tim. 2:1-3).

  1. A suggestion: Keep a written record of your prayer requests and how the Lord answers them. That will be a great source of encouragement.
  2. Examples of supplications include:
  • Luke 1:13; 2:37; 5:33; 2 Cor. 1:11; 9:14
  • Eph. 1:16-19; Phil. 1:4-6, 9-11, 19
  • Col. 1:9-11; Heb. 5:7
  • James 5:15-16; 1 Pet. 3:12

Summary

What I can pray about?

Adoration (worship) – Rev. 5:8-14

  • God's Works (what He has done) – Psa. 103:1-22
  • God's person (who He is) – Isa. 6:3

Confession – 1 John 1:9

  • Personal sins (in deed, thought, or word) – Psa. 32:5
  • Family sins – Lev. 26:40
  • Church body sins – Dan. 9:3-19
  • National sins – Jonah 3:5-10

Thanksgiving – Psa. 50:23

  • For trials – James 1:2-4
  • For blessings – 1 Chron. 16:7-36
  • For everything – 1 Thess. 5:18

Supplication – Matt. 7:7-11

  • For my family – Matt. 6:11
  • For my local church – Col. 1:9-12
  • For the church worldwide – Eph. 6:18-19
  • For individual Christians – Acts 12:5
  • For individual non-Christians – Matt. 5:44
  • For my nation – 1 Tim. 2:1-2
  • For myself – James 1:5

 

Maintaining A Quiet Time Record

"The men who have most fully illustrated Christ in their characters, and have most powerfully affected the world for Him, have been men who spent so much time with God as to make it a notable feature in their lives… To be little with God is to be little for God" (E.M.Bounds).

What is a quiet time?

A Quiet Time is an unhurried time of Bible reading and prayer. As such, it is crucial to your relationship with God.

A note of caution: Your Quiet Time should always include Bible reading, but it won't necessarily include in-depth Bible study. So when meditating on Scripture, be sure you adequately understand what the passage means before you attempt to apply it to your life.

Why have a quiet time?

  1. It promotes spiritual growth and nourishment (Jer. 15:16, Heb. 5:12-14, 1 Pet. 2:2).
  2. It helps cultivate the spiritual disciplines necessary to victorious Christian living.
  3. Above all else, it enables you to have a vital companionship with the Lord Jesus Christ (Ps. 16:11, John 15:4, 1 Cor. 1:9).

What is a quiet time record?

A quiet time record is simply a written journal of your daily quiet time time with the Lord. Your record needn't be fancy or complicated. A simple notebook will do.

Why use a quiet time record?

1. For greater retention, consistency, and accountability

Recording your thoughts each day helps you retain what you've learned. It also develops greater consistency in your quiet times, and holds you accountable to the truths the Lord has taught you.

2. For daily Bible input

Your quiet time gives you principles to reflect on each day. As that occurs, God has a greater opportunity to change and enrich your life as a result of your reading and meditation.

3. For increased analytical and organizational skills

Learning to identify key truths from Bible passages sharpens your discernment and helps you organize your thinking.

4. For tracking personal growth

As you record the things God impresses on your heart, over a period of time you'll often see trends in how He's dealing with you in key areas of your personal growth.

5. For sharing with others

As you continue to meditate on the Word, you'll build a reservoir of biblical truth from which to draw in dealing with others. Often the Lord will direct someone to you who needs to hear the very truth you've discovered that day.

How To Use A Quiet Time Record

  1. As you read a portion of Scripture, you may want to make notations in the text for future reference. Some common notations include using brackets around important phrases, circles around repeated words or phrases, lines in the margin, or underlining or highlighting what impresses you.
  2. Read the portion several times, looking for the key thoughts or principles. Often the verbs (words showing action) are the keys to unlocking the meaning of the text.
  3. Complete your Quiet Time Record as follows:
  • Date – Record the current date of your reading.
  • Today's Reading – Record the reference for the day's reading.
  • Initial Observations – Record the key thoughts or principles you observe in the text.
  • Appropriate Applications – List some ways you can apply the principles you've observed. Keep in mind the importance of understanding what the text really means before attempting to apply it to your life. If in doubt, do further study or apply principles you're sure of.
  • Focus for Prayer – List two or three specific items for prayer that flow out of the text. Spend time praising God and lifting your requests to Him.