(NOTE: As with last week, please don’t worry about the For a Few Credits More review. I simply review things in the order that I finished them, and this was next on the list.  It looks like I’ll review the next story in that anthology in next week.)

Bible studyAfter I finished reading the Bible all the way through, I was happy I’d done it, and I truly felt better, but I didn’t feel wiser. Anyone who just sits and reads the Bible is doing a great thing in any area of study, reading, or literature, but I wanted to understand it.  This is where How to Study the Bible by  John MacArthur comes in.

MacArthur establishes a few prerequisite for the study of the Bible. I understand them in one context, but I’d still challenge anyone to read the Bible all the way through and not be changed by it.  Detractors might say that anyone who reads anything with an affirming mindset will only become more convinced, and those people are correct. I leave these choices to the individual.  If you are saved and open to the Holy Spirit, I do believe you will find more value. I just also feel that anyone who does the same thing I did, read it and see what you learn and feel, will be positively impacted by it.

MacArthur provides a few key aspects that boil down to a concept called hermeneutics, which is the interpretation of the Bible. It’s not what people think. It’s a way to understand the context, language, and syntax used when the Bible was written.  Understanding the audience and the purpose of the information is key to having a greater concept. Reading the Bible isn’t about looking for affirmation to one’s thoughts; it’s about reading the Bible to better understand what it says. Where most people get frustrated with people who carelessly through scripture around, I’d advise others to go to the source interpret what it says rather than look for evidence to what you think.

The basic mechanics of study involves the approach to reading and making sure one understands the aforementioned hermeneutics.  From there, it’s reading with a purpose.

I’m currently trying this.  As early as I can in my day, I read my New Testament section.  I started in Romans because it’s my second favorite book in the Bible. I read it (the whole thing) once a day for thirty days. (I’d say it took about 45 minutes a day.)  One twist I added (because I find making a thing your own increases effectiveness of learning) is I started tracking what Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) Romans connected or cross-referenced with most.  I’m doing this with the John MacArthur English Standard Version Study Bible.  So in the notes, each time I saw a Gospel mentioned, I made a mark.  I did this both in the Bible and on a note pad I kept around.  If you’re curious, Matthew was mentioned more than 16 times (That’s just what I have on my notepad and doesn’t include the totals from the marks I made on the book). Mark was mentioned more than twice. Luke was mentioned more than seven times, and John was referenced more than 19 times. Again, these are just the numbers I have right in front of me.

I also took notes. I tracked words or phrases that come up a bunch of times, just to see if I could identify themes. Matthew won the overall count, so I broke that book of the Bible into chunks of seven. I read Matthew 1-7, and I just finished Matthew 8-14.  As I type this, I’ve just read Matthew 15-21 for the first of 30 times. That’s how this book recommends going through the New Testament. That might be a bit more than I can chew, but I’m torn between wanting to dedicate the time I read and the amount I read with how intently I can read it. I have pages of notes on Romans, and not so much on Matthew. I am reading it, and a lot is sticking. I also find the Epistles a bit easier as they’re clear messages rather than narratives as the Gospels are. Still, I read what I committed to reading and try to hold on to what I read (The repetition of 30 times helps).

The end of the night is for my Old Testament reading. That’s just starting at Genesis 1:1 and working through it. I read about a chapter a day there.

What I’ve discovered is pretty cool.  Doing this, I see a the connections. Many argue the Old and New Testaments conflict.  There’s a reason for that. Jesus came to further explain and uphold the law (Matthew 5:17-20). One thing Jesus did was com and separate a legalistic, ceremonial sense of justification from the real source of salvation (his death on the cross and resurrection).  But we see other things. As I read about Rahab, I found Matthew 1:1, and realized, “Hey! That’s the same woman from the Old Testament!” Those connections are simply astounding. And, the conflicts are resolved when one has the context for it.

I guess I’m going to digress here because this was a major sticking point in my growth with Christ. The Pharisees and Sadducees had started to rely on the Law and ceremony. They’d become hypocritical.  Jesus quotes the Old Testament at least once a chapter. The Law is still the Law, but through Christ we have Grace. Through the Law, we are condemned. We need the law to understand how impossible our salvation is on our own.

Christ helped us better understand the law and how we are to act individually and with each other. (The sermon on the mount is pretty much all about that. Matthew Chapter 5-7.)

Reading the Old with the New makes it easier to understand the context of the law and appreciate the grace God gave us through his son Jesus Christ.

I have a few other plans regarding how I’ll read and study the Bible. My intent is to read it again and again. The trick is, I want to look at it in every way I can, seeking to understand what it says more than evaluate how I feel about it or what it means to me. This is something people do too often. First, Word of God is our Sword of the Spirit. We use it to fight temptation and stand strong. In terms of apologetics,

John-MacArthur-Primary-2

we use it to understand context. I’m wary of those who use it to attack a brother. I have a plank in my eye, I don’t have time to look for the speck in my brother’s eye (Matthew

7:3-5).

I’m not saying any time someone quotes scripture at you, they’re being a hypocrite. But the spirit of why one is doing something matters.

I’m thrilled with this book and the approach it offers. If you’ve read the Bible, and it doesn’t make a ton of sense, I wouldn’t stop there and say, “It’s not real.”  First off, the Bible isn’t like a story to read (It can be, but that’s the lowest use of it).  It’s a manual. It’s a reference book. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a single text book I’ve read once through and considered myself a master at the subject.  But to study anything effectively, one needs a study approach, and this one is really giving me more insight.

 

Thanks for reading,

Matt

2 thoughts on “Book Review: How to Study the Bible by John MacArthur

  1. It’s great that you are so dedicated to reading and understanding the Bible. As Jesus said, “Not by bread alone…”. In trying to help people get the most out of their Bible, I have a list of “4 kinds of things to look for wherever you happen to be reading” (not all passages have all of them). It’s nothing profound, but may be a help to you or others:

    – Theology & Worship: what does this passage say about God’s character? (things that cause me to praise and trust him more)
    – Blessings & Promises: What does this passage say about my relationship with God and his work in my life? (things to encourage now and give hope for the future)
    – Principles & Commands: What does this passage say about what God expects of me in my thoughts, actions, and attitudes? (holds up a mirror to my life, and if I see ares where I’m falling short, I make adjustments with the help of the Holy Spirit)
    – Examples & Illustrations: What can I learn from the behavior of the people in this passage? (whether good or bad)

    I love how you’re seeing the connections. That’s one my favorite parts of studying that helps in understanding. My college and seminary profs drilled into us that when trying to understand what a passage means “Context is king”…and the context can be the verses immediately around it, the flow of thought in the book as a whole, and the teachings of the Bible as a whole on that topic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That list sounds very much like what my men’s group does. I think they call it the “Four As” Attributes …. I can’t name them all because we don’t exactly call them out. But it seems to be closely aligned with what you’re saying. It’s great that you stop by to offer insights. I’m just basically trying something new and seeing how it works.

      Thanks for the questions to ponder! It’s good to hear from you!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s