There is a Chinese proverb: One who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; one who does not ask a question remains a fool forever. That is nice and all, but, I need to warn you that you will feel like a fool much longer than five minutes as you strive and sweat to answer the questions that you have come up with… Where do you start? How do you find them? What resources should you use?
The first thing people reach for is the commentary, but it is actually the fourth step in this inductive study… We need to recount a few verses to set the stage:
Jn 14:26 - But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
1 Jn 2:26-27 - I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.
Ps 143:10 - Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
The similarity in these verses are striking, in that, the Holy Spirit will be our teacher. Now, there are many other verses that balance out what could be a justification into bad doctrine and serious error, but, at least, it should encourage you that God wants to teach YOU!
So, in order to answer questions, there is four step process to help guide you through the questions:
HELP TO FIND YOUR ANSWERS
Content – what do you think? It sounds silly, but having prayed before you started studying, it is good to put on paper, what you think the answer is… We really do learn best writing down what we think, so write down some thoughts and try to get an idea of what it is saying…
Context - What do the verses near say?
This is so important to take into consideration. Each of the letters and the gospels were all written to be intact. So, taking verses out of context is the number one cause of errors. What is the author saying before this? What is the paragraph, chapter book about? Why is this verse there? This will save many from error!
Compare – what do other verses say?
Cross Referencing (the comparing other words and topics in other parts of the Bible) is a breeze now with the software that exists out there. I use Logos Bible Software, but even biblegateway.com and blueletterbible.com are great, free resources. Cross References using the Greek/Hebrew word are especially great because you get to the root of what the word actually means. If you can use a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, you will be able to see the Greek word numbered and you will see how many times the word you are looking at is in the book you are studying and in the Bible. I also recommend the New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge for getting word by word references to other parts of the Bible. This is very difficult in Africa because 95% do not have a computer and they do not have concordances… So, they are forced to remember by memory. Please do not take this gift you have for granted!
Consult – What do commentaries say? By spending some time in the other three steps, you will then be able to come to the commentary as a contributor, instead of as a leech. You will be able to analyze well, check your thoughts, see things you may not have seen before and also feel like you have seen things the commentator has not.
Now let’s take a question from our previous passage as an example:
We can just take the first few questions:
a. What is scripture?
b. Who wrote the scripture?
c. Why was scripture written?
d. How was it written?
e. Where was it written?
Content: God wrote down words to give to man what they needed to hear and learn to obey Him. The scripture Paul is referring to must be the Old Testament because the New Testament wasn’t really formed yet. It was written by reliable men led by the Holy Spirit.
Context: In the passage before it, Paul wrote this to Timothy:
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
So, we learn that Paul is indeed talking about scripture to Timothy. (Again, you can use the Collect method to get some key insights: We learn in Scripture which leads to belief. The scripture is sacred and they are writings. The scripture is able to make us wise for salvation. The scriptures lead us to Christ.)
In the passage after it says this:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
We are to only consider the writings sacred and necessary, but we are to preach it in all seasons.
So, just in a few verses, we learn who wrote the scripture and what should be the result of scriptures.
Here are just a few references:
2 Pe 1:20 - Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
This is a key verse: God spoke the word carried along by the Holy Spirit (the same Holy Spirit who wants to teach you!)
Jn 13:18 - “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.’
Jn 19:36 - These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,”
Ac 1:16 - and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus—
Three verses that use the word “fulfill” meaning that other scripture was written beforehand predicting certain things to come true.
Ro 10:11 - As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
This is one of the many quoted Old Testament verses in the new testament.
Jas 2:8 - If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.
There is a royal law found in scripture that we must obey…
These verses tell us so much about who wrote scripture and how important it is in light of prophecy and commands on how to live.
Also, here is the New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge:
All. 2 S *23:2. Mt 21:42. 22:31, 32, 43. 26:54, 56. Mk *12:24, 36. Jn *10:35. Ac 1:16. 28:25. Ro 3:2. +m15:4. Ga 3:8. He 3:7. m4:12. 2 P m1:19-21
Some of these verses are the same, but there are different ones as well…
Commentary: Here is a selection from Matthew Henry’s commentary which is found free on many websites:
4. The scriptures we are to know are the holy scriptures; they come from the holy God, were delivered by holy men, contain holy precepts, treat of holy things, and were designed to make us holy and to lead us in the way of holiness to happiness; being called the holy scriptures, they are by this distinguished from profane writings of all sorts, and from those that only treat morality, and common justice and honesty, but do not meddle with holiness. If we would know the holy scriptures, we must read and search them daily, as the noble Bereans did, Acts 17:11. They must not lie by us neglected, and seldom or never looked into. Now here observe,
(1.) What is the excellency of the scripture. It is given by inspiration of God (v. 16), and therefore is his word. It is a divine revelation, which we may depend upon as infallibly true. The same Spirit that breathed reason into us breathes revelation among us: For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men spoke as they were moved or carried forth by the Holy Ghost, 2 Pt. 1:21. The prophets and apostles did not speak from themselves, but what they received of the Lord that they delivered unto us. That the scripture was given by inspiration of God appears from the majesty of its style,—from the truth, purity, and sublimity, of the doctrines contained in it,—from the harmony of its several parts,—from its power and efficacy on the minds of multitudes that converse with it,—from the accomplishment of many prophecies relating to things beyond all human foresight,—and from the uncontrollable miracles that were wrought in proof of its divine original: God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will, Heb. 2:4.
You will see that it affirms many things we have wrestled with and see, but it doesn’t deal with when the scripture was written and other questions we have…
As you can see, as you work through the four steps it will lead you to the answers you are seeking!
Now, what do you do with all the answers? Tune it tomorrow, for an important conclusion to inductive Bible study!
The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (2 Ti 3:14-15). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.