We believe that the Bible is God’s word graciously preserved for us, relevant for our lives even in the 21st century. But the Bible was not originally written to us. It was written over a very long period of time by many different human authors, to a time and people who were very different from us today. This means that we need to learn how to read the Bible carefully in its original context, before we properly understand how it is relevant for us in today’s context.
There are many “methods” to study and make sense of the Bible, but they essentially boil down to four key tasks:
- Paying attention to the text. This means reading carefully to observe what is there in the text, and also doing our best to understand the world that lies behind the text. Who was it written to? What specific situation is being addressed? What was the culture like? Are there repeated words and emphases? How does it fit into the larger book/biblical context?
- Understanding the meaning of the biblical text in its context. Here we ask what the text might have meant to its original audience. How would they have heard it? How was it relevant to them? What kind of response is the text requiring from them? What might the theology and principles be? What does it tell us about God and ourselves?
- Bridging to the present The Bible, though ancient, still speaks words of truth to the present and changes lives today. For it to be truly relevant to today, we need to understand the world we live in, and allow the Bible’s lenses to help us “see” our world and situations in a different light.
- Applying the text to our lives. The outcome of Bible study should not be mere head knowledge, but faithful living for God in the present. The Bible changes us because in the written word, we encounter the living God. This means that application involves practical action, and equally importantly leads us to worship God with renewed inner conviction.