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A.     Introduction:  Before we can get into specific aspects of how to study the Bible, we must first consider      some basic facts about the Bible itself.
     1.     The Bible is God's revelation of Himself to man.  The Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, is                          revealed to us in and through the written word, the Bible. John 1:1; John 14:21,23
          a.     We cannot know God through our feelings, our intellect, or our physical senses.  We can only                          know Him through His word.
          b.     The Bible is our only one hundred percent reliable source of information about God.
          c.     The Bible does not prove the existence of God.  It presumes the existence of God and then reveals                     Him to us through His words and works.
     2.     The Bible is our contact with, our source of reliable information about, the unseen realm.
          a.     We are spirit beings who live in physical bodies.  The Bible reveals to us the true condition of our                     spirit both before we were saved and after we are saved. Eph 2:1-3; I John 5:1,11,12;
               II Cor 5:16-18
          b.     We are now members of an unseen spiritual kingdom with full spiritual, unseen provision.  The                     Bible shows us these things. II Cor 4:18
          c.     The Bible is more reliable than any supernatural experience, and all supernatural experiences must                     be judged in the light of the Bible. Luke 24:25-27; II Pet 1:16-21
     3.     The Bible is a unique book -- different from all other books.
          a.     It was written over a 1500 year time span, written over 40 generations.
          b.     It was written by more than 40 authors from all walks of life -- including kings, peasants,                               philosophers, fishermen, poets, statesmen, scholars, etc.
          c.     It was written in different places -- in the wilderness, in prisons, in a palace, on military                               campaigns, on missionary journeys.
          d.     It was written in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek) on three different continents                     (Africa, Asia, Europe).
          e.     Its subject matter includes hundreds of topics, many of them controversial.  Yet, there is unity and                     continuity from Genesis to Revelation.
     4.     The Bible is not a collection of witty sayings and clever words to live by.  It is a book from God.
          II Tim 3:16
          a.     The fact  that it is a book from God means two key things.
               1.     The Bible does not contain the word of God.  It is the word of God.
               2.     Although the Bible is a collection of books and letters, it has one main theme.
          b.     The overall theme of the Bible is God's desire for a family and the great lengths to which He went                     to obtain one through Jesus Christ.     

B.     The number one key to studying the Bible is reading the Bible.
     1.     As we've said, the Bible has one theme which runs from Genesis to Revelation.
          a.     That means anyone serious about understanding God's word must eventually read the whole Bible                     through several times to gain an overview.
          b.     One difficulty we have today is that far too many people read books about the Bible but don't                          actually read the Bible itself.
          c.     You cannot effectively study the Bible without reading it.  Part of successful study of the Bible is                     becoming familiar with it.
     2.     You must develop a systematic reading program for yourself.  This one worked for me.
          a.     Start with the New Testament.  Use a translation you are comfortable with.  Set aside twenty to                     thirty minutes everyday (or as close to that as possible).
          b.     Read Matthew.  Then go to Romans and read through all the epistles.
          c.     Next, read Mark.  Then read all the epistles through again.
          d.     Next, read Luke.  Then, read all the epistles through again.
          e.     Next, read John.  Then read all the epistles through again.
          f.     Lastly, read Acts.  Read all the epistles through again.  Then, start over and read it all again. Save                     Revelation for another time.
     3.     Read as much as you can each day and leave a marker where you stop.  Pick up there the next day.
          a.     If you don't understand something as you read, just keep reading.
          b.     Don't stop to look up all the words in a Greek dictionary.
     4.     Save the Old Testament for later, after you have become familiar with the New Testament.
          a.     We'll talk about reading the Old Testament in a later session.
          b.     I did try to read a Proverb a day, and I divided the Psalms up so that I could read them through in                     one month.
          c.     Why are we saying you must begin any serious study of the Bible with the New Testament?
               1.     The Bible is progressive revelation.  The Old Testament is not a complete revelation of God                          and      His plan for man.
               2.     We find the complete revelation in Jesus, in the New Testament. Heb 1:1-3; John 14:9
               3.     That does not mean the Old Testament is not important.  It most certainly is.  But, it must be                          read in light of the New Testament.
               4.     Also, the New Testament is specifically written to Christians, for Christians.
          d.     It will take a while, but if you will follow this reading pattern (or whatever works for you), you                     will gradually become familiar with the New Testament.
     5.     Here are some additional tips to help you as you read.
          a.     Ask the Holy Spirit to help you, guide you, and give you understanding as you read. John 14:26;                     16:13
          b.     Read a whole letter or book in as few sessions as possible, as close together as possible, to get the                     overview.  Then, read it again.  This makes a good activity for a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
          c.     Look for themes as you read -- ideas, thoughts, point which occur over and over again.
          d.     Get good systematic teaching from someone who has read the whole Bible through numerous                          times, has studied it thoroughly, and has an anointing to teach.  An excellent example of such a                     resource is THE BIBLE IN THE LIGHT OF OUR REDEMPTION      by E.W. Kenyon.

C.     How you read the Bible is as important as what you read.  There are some basic keys to Bible interpretation      which you must understand and use if you are going to effectively study the Bible.
     1.     Each verse in the Bible somehow “fits” with every other verse and with the overall theme of the Bible
          -- God's desire for a family.
          a.     To understand individual parts of the Bible (individual verses), we need some understanding of the                whole.
          b.     Imagine trying to understand a car -- its purpose, function, appearance, etc. -- if you had never seen                a whole car, just a room which contains twenty pieces from a car.
               1.     That's the way many Christians try to interpret the Bible.
               2.     You cannot fully understand the parts (individual verses) until you first have an understanding                     of the whole.
          c.     Systematic, regular reading of the New Testament will help you get a grasp of the overview, of the                whole, of the theme -- God's desire for a family and the lengths to which He went to get one                          through Christ.
          d.     There are also a number of study aids which will help you get an overview of each book.  We'll                     deal with some of those in upcoming sessions.
     2.     Many approach the Bible with the idea -- what does it mean to me?  That is wrong.
          a.     It doesn't matter what it means to you or to me.  What matters is -- what does it say?  What would                     it mean if I did not exist?
          b.     There are not “many different interpretations”.  There is one meaning which we should endeavor                     to determine, one meaning which the Holy Spirit intended when it was written and which He                          wants to show us. II Pet 1:20
          c.     God and His word is not, are not, subjective truth.  He and it are objective truth.
               1.     Subjective = of, relating to, or arising within one's self or mind in contrast to what is                                    outside.  (personal, subjective experience).
               2.     Objective = existing outside and independent of the mind; treating or dealing with facts                               without distortion by personal feelings or prejudices.
     3.     Too often, Bible study for many people means getting together with fellow believers in someone's                     living room, reading a verse, and everyone giving their interpretation (opinion) of the verse.
          a.     What if several people decided to study medicine to become doctors, and they agreed to meet once                a week in one of their homes.
               1.     At the weekly meeting, they'd take a standard medical book and read a paragraph at random.                           Everyone would tell what it meant to them, give an opinion about it, and then they'd                                    thoroughly discuss it.
               2.     Even after a long period of time had passed and much discussion had taken place, would you                          let any of those people operate on you?
          b.     Yet, that's how many people approach the study of the most important book in the universe.
          c.     It isn't wrong to discuss what verses mean with friends.  But, recognize that is not Bible study.                      That is fellowship.
          d.     Bible study must be approached systematically and we must have help from people who have                          already studied it and know more than we do (either in person or through study aids).          
          e.     Remember, systematic, regular reading of the New Testament is the best way to approach the                          Bible systematically.
               1.     As you become familiar with the New Testament, you will begin to notice themes, ideas,                               thoughts, which show up again and again.
               2.     Through systematic reading of the New Testament, you will develop a frame of reference by                          which to judge things.  You get an accurate picture of what New Testament Christianity is                          supposed to look like.
     4.     Lastly, we must learn to read in context.
          a.     The Bible was not written in chapters and verses.  Those were added later for reference purposes.                      So each verse is related to the verse before and after.
          b.     When we talk about context, this is what we mean.  Everything in the Bible was written by                          someone to someone about something.
               1.     To accurately interpret a verse, you must determine those three things.
               2.     Somebody is speaking to someone about something.  What is it?  You must determine those                          things in order to set boundaries of interpretation.     
          c.     Yes, there are eternal, timeless truths in the Bible which can be personally applied to you and me.
               1.     But, before you can determine those, you must have the in-time, historical meaning -- who is                          talking to who about what.
               2.     Otherwise, we can make the Bible say anything we want.
                    a.     Some try to use II Sam 1:26 (David loved Jonathan more than a woman) and Luke 17:34                               (two men in one bed) to say the Bible approves of homosexuality.
                    b.     But, in context of major themes in the Bible (one man, one woman for life), in context of                               when and why they were spoken (in-time historical meaning), these verses cannot mean                               what they seem to say when read on their own with an outside interpretation imposed on                               them.
          d.     You might ask, how can I determine who is speaking to whom about what?
               1.     You must first know that you are supposed to be looking for that information.
               2.     Often times, it is obvious from the text if you are on the lookout for it.
               3.     There are study aids which will help you answer these three questions.

E.     As you become familiar with the New Testament through regular, systematic reading, you can also do           topical studies.
     1.     To do such studies, you will need a concordance or a Bible with a concordance.
          a.     A concordance is an alphabetical index which lists the principal words in the Bible.
          b.     There are two primary concordances available to Bible students:  (James) Strong's and                               (Robert) Young`s.
     2.     If you want to do a study on a particular topic such as righteousness, love, etc.:
          a.     Using the concordance, look up every place in the New Testament where the word is used.
          b.     Write out each verse and then read the list over and over a number of times.
          c.     Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand the verses.  Write down thoughts you get about the                     verses -- any patterns you see, any similarities, etc.
     3.     If, as you are doing your daily reading, a verse particularly speaks to you, note it and come back to it                after you've completed your reading for the day.
          a.     Then, using the marginal references for that verse, look up the various companion verses listed.
          b.     If you don't have a Bible with marginal references, you might consider getting one.
          c.     Once again, you might want to write the verses out.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand                     them.  Write down any thoughts you get or patterns you see, etc.
     4.     Or, if, as you are reading, a particular verse speaks to you, look it up in several translations.
          a.     Write out each translation and read them over a number of times.
          b.     Once again, look to the Holy Spirit to give you understanding.

F.     Conclusion:  Obviously, we have not said everything there is to say about studying the Bible, but, we've      given you some basic foundational techniques without which effective study of the Bible is impossible.