Reflections on life, marriage, and a young woman who is constantly learning how much there will always be to learn!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Studying God's Word

As I wrote about several weeks ago, I'm trying to find the best way (for me; I believe different people have different "best ways") to spend daily focused quiet time with God.

For Bible study, I decided that some in-depth expository commentaries would be very helpful, because:

a) Reading through passages on my own often raises questions that I--with my relatively limited knowledge of biblical language and culture--find perplexing. While I think the most important points in the Bible--namely, those related to the Gospel message--are very clear, I want to make sure that my interpretations of the more minor points are accurate; that I'm understanding contexts correctly, etc.

b) I am weary of "devotional books" that ask lots of surfacey questions, like "Name five times you failed to trust God this week" (Good grief...I wish it were only five!) or "Why do you think God instructs us to forgive?" (Umm, because He-first-forgave-us. Can we get past the sunday school questions now? Thanks :op ) Again, this is just my opinion. I'm not necessarily saying some of these books don't have their place...especially for new Christians or those just beginning to study the Bible. Perhaps the biblically-accurate ones can be a good starting place, but aren't meant to nourish someone who has been a Christian for 20 years.

So, I've borrowed a couple of John MacArthur commentaries from my dad. Right now I'm beginning to work my way through 1&2 Thessalonians, and I think I've found what I wanted! From the preface:

It continues to be a rewarding, divine communion for me to preach expositionally through the New Testament. My goal is always to have deep fellowship with the Lord in the understanding of His Word and out of that experience to explain to His people what a passage means. In the words of Nehemiah 8:8, I strive to "give the sense of" it so they may truly hear God speak and, in so doing, may respond to Him.[...]

This New Testament commentary series reflects this objective of explaining and applying Scripture. Some commentaries are primarily linguistic, others are mostly theological, and some are mainly homiletical. This one is basically explanatory, or expository. It is not linguistically technical, but deals with linguistics when that seems helpful to proper interpretation. It is not theologically expansive but focuses on the major doctrines in each text and how they relate to the whole of Scripture. It is not primarily homiletical, although each unit of thought is generally treated as one chapter, with a clear outline and logical flow of thought. Most truths are illustrated and applied with other Scripture. After establishing the context of a passage, I have tried to follow closely the writer's development and reasoning.

From what I've read so far, I highly recommend MacArthur's commentaries to anyone wanting to study the Bible in-depth. I like how his entire focus is ON THE SCRIPTURE instead of extra-biblical application, because I think the ability to apply God's Word to our daily lives must first grow out of our proper understanding of and internalization of that Word. Life application comes later, when the fruits of hiding God's Word in our hearts spring forth naturally. This cannot be manufactured.

I'd love to hear what helps you in your study of Scripture!


Blogger Wendy WaterBirde said...

Hi Erin, I really like Christine's Lectio Divina series over at Abbey of the Arts, its helped me and it's here:

Blessed Easter and Blessed Week : ) Wendy

12:26 AM, April 09, 2007  
Blogger Diane said...

Dear Erin, I'm glad you are enjoying the John MacArthur commentaries. We have appreciated his ministry since we first met him in 1979. We are studying James in our weekly Home Bible Study. However, on a personal basis, I do tend to jump around to various books and verses as they are brought to my attention or meet a personal need. I tend to search things out topically. One on-line resource I find helpful for looking up scripture and light commentary is: As far as a comprehensive study it's hard to beat the MacArthur study series. Blessings to you, Mom :-)

3:38 PM, April 09, 2007  
Blogger Erin said...

Thanks for sharing, Wendy! I've never heard of that, but I'll look at your link!

Mom, thanks for the new link to check out! And thanks again for lending me the MacArthur commentaries!:o)

11:42 AM, April 12, 2007  
Blogger zan said...

I really enjoy John MacArthur, too.

12:37 PM, April 12, 2007  
Blogger Michelle said...

I don't see anything wrong with reading a commentary along with Scripture, although I do have a word of caution. You said that you specifically want to read them, because you don't feel knowledgable enough to understand everything on your own. I hear ya! I think it's safe to say that no human has arrived when it comes to Bible knowledge. So, my advice would be to read more than just one author. Please take this in the gentle love I'm trying to give it in. I am in no means judging your study method.

By the way, you have a nice blog. I found your site while wandering through other Christian women's blogs.

8:22 PM, April 15, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely understand. Sometimes I feel that many of the daily devotionals produced can be so trite. I graduated from a Christian University with a degree in Biblical Studies which really doesn't mean a thing other than I figured out I don't know much about the Bible! There is so much to learn! I needed something to take me a little deeper than just giving little life lessons. (Not that there is anything wrong with these, it's just that most of these things I really know already... not that I always do them! I think these devotionals serve as good reminders but I wanted something more.)

I recently bought a study Bible but it still didn't go in depth on the historical and Biblical context of the Bible passages which is something I feel we all need to know.

Dr. David L. Baker sums explains it much better than I ever could. He holds a PhD from Sheffield University, England and is Deputy Warden of Tyndale House, Cambridge.
He states:
An understanding of context is a vital part of hermeneutics. It is generally obvious that words and events are related to their immediate context. What is not always fully appreciated is the need to consider the whole background to the immediate context. A man bathing in the river Musi does not mean the same thing as if he were taking a bath in an English river: in one context he would be perfectly normal, in the other an eccentric or exhibitionist...So the meaning of an event or word is affected by its place within the context of a whole culture and way of life. In terms of biblical hermeneutics, this means that a text needs to be understood not only in its immediate context, but also in its wider context, which is the whole Bible.

Sorry this is so long, but I was excited to see that someone besides myself is interested in commentaries! These are something I used in college but never in my own Bible reading. (Always related them to homework!)

10:57 AM, April 24, 2007  
Anonymous (((((HUGS))))) sandi said...

We seem to be similar in Bible studying thoughts, so I really appreciate this recommendation! *I think* that hsi commentaries are also available to read freely somewhere online.... (((((HUGS))))) sandi

8:34 PM, April 25, 2007  
Blogger Erin said...

Michelle, If you read this, I'm sorry for my slowness of response to you! I think you bring up a good point, and take absolutely no offense whatsoever:o) It's a very good idea to read various authors so that we don't become become too dependant on just one man's perspective. That's one reason I'm interested in hearing what other books/commentaries have been helpful to others. But I am super-excited to be reading MacArthur, because I've been looking for something like his books for a while and had trouble finding it before! I'd also love to check out anything else I can find that is firmly grounded in Scripture once I'm done with MacArthur. (And at this rate, that will probably be awhile. These books are dense!)

New Mom, great comment! I liked the quote you provided and agree with that. Context is essential. Though the message in the Bible is definitely valid and relevant for today, our understanding of context helps us to interpret the cultural elements (like the bathing in the river Dr. Baker mentions) that might perplex us on first reading. Also, the Bible can only be properly interpreted when take as a whole, rather than bits and pieces.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I'm glad to know others out there feel the same way about Bible Study. BTW, I second your comment about Bible classes on the university level! I went for two years to a Christian University where a Bible minor was requisite, so I took several Bible classes as well. Yup...I was certainly made aware of how much I don't know! I guess that's why I become impatient with the fluffier devotional books. I'm itching to become more knowledgeable about all that depth the Bible contains!

Sandi, ooh...they are? I would love to find them if they are available online! Thanks for sharing!

11:14 PM, April 25, 2007  
Blogger New Mom said...

Um, I don't know if this is appropriate to ask in Blog World, but did you by chance attend SAGU? I did and I was just wondering.

11:26 PM, April 26, 2007  
Blogger Erin said...

New, I didn't. It was a small private Baptist school, though I'm not officially "Baptist":o)

10:15 AM, April 27, 2007  
Anonymous Andre' said...

It is really great you have the desire to learn more about God through His word. What I have found to be helpful in my studies is to obtain the definitions of certain words in their language of origin. (Hebrew - old testement and Greek - new testement)

Language plays a big part in context, especially when a somewhat common english translation is defined with a completely different understanding than in the original.

A good resource for me is It gives you the hebrew, sometimes arabic, and greek words as well as other reference scriptues that utilize the word in the same manner.

Thanks for allowing me to share and always remember to God be the glory.

1:17 PM, July 17, 2007  
Anonymous lolposter said...

I really appreciate this recommendation. Thanks

1:13 PM, November 02, 2009  

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