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Bible Studies (i.e. mine) vs. Sermons and/or Teaching (i.e. others)


I am writing this on 8-18-10 and the last study listed is dated 6-20-10 (i.e. 'Salted with Fire'). Even so, I shall be placing it at the top of the list of 'short Bible studies' in the hope that all new and regular visitors will notice it and read it. (Barbara and I have had a very busy summer.)

As these are my personal studies and I offer them to others (to gaze over my shoulder, so to speak), earlier it had not occurred to me to discuss the distinction between Bible study (as I do it) versus the typical sermon and teaching. However, over the last eight to ten studies I have been commenting about how most of the New Testament authors - in writing a particular passage - were at the same time writing of a broader truth. Especially this is true in the Gospels, and recently I had begun to point it out to the reader.

For many years my studies typically have begun with my attention being drawn to a passage, and from there I would read before and after that passage to gather in the author's broader message (i.e. it is like a stage upon which a particular passage is presented). This broader message (or stage) contains the proper lighting in which to consider the particular passage.

The New Testament authors had for their Bible the Old Testament and they typically and often referred to passages in it (often in direct quotes - Jesus did this as a matter of course). Therefore, I would usually search out the Old Testament contexts for such references and/or quotations. Taken together, this would prepare the environment for me as I pursued my course of study.

However, for too many of my younger years I did not follow this procedure and thus I came to too many “correct” conclusions only later to find in further studies that I must correct what I had thought to be “correct”. In my many years of study this became habitual. At first it was discouraging, in that I had worked hard to become “correct”. Ah, but in time it became enlightening. For finding errors in my concepts and beliefs only led to clearer and often simpler concepts (that is, when I pressed on through my discouragements) and these usually merged in me even better toward the whole of God's Truth.

In other words, I had entered a long process which removed much of my own bias from the study-process by allowing (indeed searching for) the Bible to speak to me of Itself. The process continues and I continue receiving, learning, receiving, changing... etc. My early discouragements (that I was not nearly as smart, knowledgeable, or spiritual as I had thought) turned to joy as eventually something newer and better was revealed to me. It might be quickly or in a week, or months, or years depending upon God preparing me to receive something. It became fun; it is fun; and I am continually being changed.

I no longer compare myself to others and their beliefs. Nor do I compare a new study to my present state of beliefs or doctrines. It is interesting how that a Bible text that no longer makes sense to me... and then a word of preaching or another passage or even a tv commercial will suddenly trigger the Bible text into much better and clear view. Moreover, it is interesting how this then raises questions about my thinking on other passages.

Seek and it shall be opened unto you”. Also consider 'But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.' Hebrews 11:6

Moreover, my fellowship with others is always good: in that I am free to seek the Lord my way and I have freed others (in my mind and heart) from having to agree with me. I feel no need to change others; and as I am being changed I trust that it is mostly by the Lord. Therefore, I also entrust to Him the changing (or steadfastness) of others. In this, then, I experience 'rest'... the kind of 'rest' in Hebrews 4.

It seems to me that the lack of 'rest' among most of God's people is the reason there are so many differing opinions, which have led to so many differing teachings, which have led to so many differing doctrines among Christians...and sadly among scholars of scripture. As individually we read and study, we naturally think within the knowledge already existing in us. That is, a person reads or listens within his present environment of knowledge, and therefore he considers incoming thoughts in the light of that same knowledge. Consider too that his knowledge has been molded by his or her internal condition (i.e. mental, spiritual, educational, etc.).

Consider an example of a TV Episode

Within the last year I have taken note of the number of commercials inserted into an episode of a tv show. This, then, led me to note the time of each segment of an episode between the commercials. This led to noting how the writers of such episodes had mastered the art of telling a full story (i.e. the episode) in about forty-five minutes... not an easy thing for long winded folk like me. This discovery, then, led to considering each segment, which is nearly a self-contained piece of the story. That is, each segment has a beginning to catch again the viewer's interest and it has an ending that must lead the viewer naturally into the next segment...and so on.

Bible Study

Bible study (as I do it, somewhat described above) is similar to a TV episode.  In reading scripture before and after an interesting passage, I have found that usually there is a beginning and ending of some broad truth upon which the author is intent, which do not necessarily match beginnings and endings of our Bible's chapters. Within a small New Testament book usually there are several 'episodes'. Larger New Testament books usually contain even more 'episodes'. (Though I write this well after having written 'Salted with Fire', that study a good example of what I mean.)

This style of writing is especially true in the Gospels where a writer had detailed some of Jesus' teachings, actions, along with some of Jesus' Old Testament quotes. Please note that the writer organized such small episodes within a broader truth (episode). Jesus spoke and did far too many things to be captured in print; therefore, none of the Gospel writers even thought to attempt them all. We know that the Spirit inspired each writer to write what he wrote, and in this the Spirit limited the author. Yet, the Spirit enabled the author to do some of his own preaching, which we can find amid his groupings of the things he wrote.

Therefore, dear reader, consider that the detailing of Jesus' teachings, actions, quotes, etc. is contained within a broader teaching (i.e. episode) which, in the author's opinion, is very important to each Christian reader. Yes, a recorded teaching or action of Jesus is ultimately important in God's Plan of the Ages. Yet, the Gospel author details them encapsulated, if you will, in an essential truth which he especially wants to convey to the reader.

Example: Many such 'episodes' have to do with faith - Biblical faith that is implanted into each child of God. Yes indeed, salvation came to the child of God by this faith (i.e. from heaven to the child of God). But also, only by this same faith can he or she properly experience, believe, grow, and comprehend the God of Salvation.

This is why the apostles in the Gospels and in the Epistles continued to emphasize 'faith' whenever they could. Sadly - because one's mind and emotions are obviously involved - the child of God nearly always thinks that he is mostly acting, reacting, learning, etc., within his connections with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. Ah, but nearly all of it (if it is real) is truly of God and not of His child's abilities (you and me).

Yes, in the large scheme of things, what Jesus taught and did was (and is) of ultimate importance. Yet, the author's own context (i.e. the episode, the stage within which may exist in any number of passages) is ultimately important and timely in the present unto the individual reader. According to the apostles, how else can a child of God actually comprehend, much less experience, such truths? 

So let me simply explain the 'episode'. It usually begins where a major thought of a previous 'episode' ended. Thus, any number of passages about Jesus' miracles, doings, or teachings are sequentially detailed within another and yet different concept which the author wants the Christian reader to understand. Now, comparing this concept to a tv show, then each detailed something (Jesus' miracle, doing, teaching, etc.) is a segment of the episode, and all segments together make up the episode. Moreover, each segment is usually almost complete in itself (as described above about tv episodes). And this is why so many teachings are about short segments, but without the broader light of the Bible's episode shining upon the segment. It is far too easy to come to one's own conclusions by not using the author's intended conclusion.

Again: this is why it is so easy for Christians to focus on a passage segment only to miss the entire episode. So often it is focusing on a wonderful foundational truth while missing the author's own preaching to the reader (i.e. the 'episode'). So dear reader, besides the wonders of Jesus Christ, try also to catch the preaching of the Gospel writer.

Sermons and Teachings

Usually an episode of scripture is too long, thus not convenient for teaching or sermon. Most teachings and sermons are given to us to motivating us; therefore, much of a teaching or a sermon is presented within the abilities of the teacher or preacher. Indeed, it is what we expect. Then we can agree or disagree. Moreover, then, we can admire (or not) the teacher or preacher. Seldom in today's sermons and teachings can one find an entire 'episode'. We hardly even know that such 'episodes' exist in scripture – infarct, in all scripture.

As you well know, motivating is selling. However, the broader concept in all that I do in our website is not to sell the visitor on what I believe; rather it is to sell the visitor on the notion that he or she can and should study scripture alone in private; and that amid such study, a unique and better relationship will likely occur between you and the Master. I know and trust that within that kind of relationship you will receive and grow according to God's plan for you. Thank Goodness, teachings and sermons are usually good and often blessed of our Lord. And yes, study groups and study books are fine and the same can be said for them. Yet, I encourage you to try going it alone for awhile... and the Lord will surely meet you there.

Ah, but for the time being (or the moment) you are visiting Barbara and me, and I am trying to open you up to how I study scripture and to its advantages. 

Sincerely, Ron


These are free printable Bible studies by C. Ronald Johnson at Christian Wilderness Press

- Christian Wilderness Press -