Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Introduction to Hermeneutics, Part 2 of 4: Prerequisites

The following material is adapted from what I am teaching in the Cumberland Area Pulpit Supply ministry.




First, to truly understand the Bible, we must be regenerated by the Spirit of God.  We must be born again.  Our faith must be in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.  The unconverted man – even if he is an accomplished scholar – is at a great disadvantage when it comes to studying the Bible (2 Cor. 2:11-16, especially v. 14).  We need God's Spirit to open our understanding (2 Cor. 3:16, 4:4) as well as our hearts.  Do you know that you have passed from death to life and are a new creature in Christ Jesus?  Apart from knowing the Author, you will never truly understand His Book.




As believers, we continually need God's Spirit to renew our minds (Rom. 12:2) and transform us more into the likeness of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18).  He even sanctifies our hermeneutics!  Psalm 119 is a 22-stanza song about God's Word and the Psalmist's love for it.  (One professor used to have his students memorize this Psalm prior to their theological training – this is not a bad idea!)  Notice the repeated cries for help in understanding.  This is a believer who needs the operations of God's Spirit in order to truly profit from the Scriptures.  Martin Luther studied this Psalm and found a threefold method for studying theology:  prayer, meditation, and trials.  It is through our calling out to Him for help, thinking long and deeply upon the Scriptures, and experiencing their power in our lives, that we truly come to understand them.  Do you pray as you seek to understand God's Word?  Do you seek to think upon it deeply, mining its riches?  Do you experience its power in your trials?


B. B. Warfield, in his essay, "The Religious Life of Theological Students," expressed the inappropriateness of separating our prayer lives and Bible study, and encourages us to combine them:


Sometimes we hear it said that ten minutes on your knees will give you a truer, deeper, more operative knowledge of God than ten hours over your books.  "What!" is the appropriate response, "than ten hours over your books, on your knees?"




Unless we have application as the goal of our Bible study, we will fail in our efforts, despite any knowledge we gain.  God did not give the Bible simply for us to stock the shelves of our minds with information.  He gave it to change us more and more into the image of His dear Son (2 Cor. 3:18) – the purpose for which He saved us (Rom. 8:29).  We must certainly seek to understand the context and culture in which the various Scriptures were written, but doing so to be a means of faithfully applying it to ourselves so that we may live in obedience to the Word of God.  You are accountable for what you learn (and for what you have the opportunity to learn) and what you do with that learning.  Do you study the Bible simply to impress others with your vast knowledge – or do you learn it so that you may please God with how you live before Him and others?


Consider this warning from John Frame's article, "Studying Theology as a Servant of Jesus":


Your very immersion in the Word of God can be a blessing, or it can be a curse.  If you hear the Word in unbelief or indifference, and respond to it that way over and over again over several years, you will be much worse off spiritually as a result.



Previous posts:

PART 1 - Why We Should Learn How to Study the Bible


Upcoming posts:

PART 3 - Tools for Bible Study

PART 4 - Approaches to Bible Study

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