No one would read a letter this way. But this is precisely the way many of us read our Bibles. We skip past reading the “envelope” – who wrote this? To whom is it written? When was it written? Where was it written? – and then try to determine the purpose of its contents from a portion of the whole. What if we took time to read the envelope? What if, after determining the context for its writing, we started at the beginning and read to the end? Wouldn’t that make infinitely more sense?
In our study we will take this approach to Scripture. We will begin by placing our text in its historical and cultural context. We will “read the envelope”. Then we will read through the entire text multiple times, so that we can better determine what it wants to say to us. We will read repetitively so that we might move through three critical stages of understanding: comprehension, interpretation and application.
Stage 1: Comprehension
Remember the reading comprehension section on the SAT? Remember those long reading passages followed by questions to test your knowledge of what you had just read? The objective was to force you to read for detail. We are going to apply the same method to our study of God’s Word. When we read for comprehension we ask ourselves “What does it say?” This is hard work. A person who comprehends the account of the six days of creation can tell you specifically what happened on each day. This is the first step toward being able to interpret and apply the story of creation to our lives.
Stage 2: Interpretation
While comprehension asks “What does it say?” interpretation asks “What does it mean?” Once we have read a passage enough times to know what it says we are ready to look into its meaning. A person who interprets the creation story can tell you why God created in a particular order or way. They are able to imply things from the text beyond what it says.
Stage 3: Application
After doing the work to understand what the text says and what the text means, we are finally ready to ask “How should it change me?” Here is where we draw on our God-centered perspective to ask three supporting questions:
- What does this passage teach me about God?
- How does this aspect of God’s character change my view of self?
- What should I do in response?
A person who applies the creation story can tell us that because God creates in an orderly fashion, we too should live well-ordered lives. Knowledge of God gleaned through comprehension of the text and interpretation of its meaning can now be applied to my life in a way that challenges me to be different.”
Jen’s above breakdown on how to study Scripture forever changed how I approach God’s Word, and because of that I have grown so much in my walk, and have an appetite for His Living Word daily. I want this for you all.
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