This week we looked at part 2 of our Understanding The Bible series, learning that, as with an ordinary book, when we read a passage of the Bible, we should be aware of where the passage fits into the Bible as a whole, what God intended it to mean and asking God to show us how it relates to our own life and situation.
We started off with some photos of things in the youth room – see if you can guess what the items are without the context (click on them to see what they really are!):
And it was obvious that we couldn’t be sure what we were seeing without a ‘bigger picture’ of the object. The bigger picture gives us the context for the object and with that it becomes clear what we’re looking at!
When we read the Bible context is important because it helps us understand what it really means. Context includes:
- Language (What language was the text written in?)
- Time (Where in history did the events occur?)
- Place (Where in the world did it happen?)
- Situation (What was the historical and political situation?)
- Culture (What was the society like?)
Remembering the message of the whole of the Bible always helps us to understand a given passage in the big context. Reading a verse or paragraph and looking at the surrounding chapters and book keeps us grounded in the immediate context.
After we’ve gone through the initial process of working out where the passage fits in relating to the rest of the bible, history, cultures etc. there are two different and separate ways of treating a passage from the Bible to help our understanding of it.
The first is Interpretation. This is the one GOD INTENDED meaning of the passage from when it was written. I reminisced on Sunday about my trip to Uganda a few weeks ago – on several occasions, there were times we had to share stories and testimony and preach. Sometimes we needed an interpreter to translate what we were saying from English to their local dialect. If the interpreter had given any other meaning to our words than those we spoke, it would be wrong, completely pointless and pretty frustrating! In the same way, there’s only one way to interpret a scripture, only one truth.
The other way is application. One way God speaks to us is through the Holy Spirit revealing things through the Bible that apply to our situations. I spoke about God being a never-ending source. ([biblegateway passage=”Isaiah 40:28-31″ display=”Isaiah 40:28-31″]). It’s amazing to think that for however long the earth lasts for, however intelligent people get, we will never exhaust the wisdom from the Bible. God is constantly revealing new things through scripture. But we need to weigh up whether our applications are from God or just a. God can affect our minds to think certain things, but we always need to remember that these applications will never go against the Interpretation.
To understand this a better we looked at the Parable of the Sower in groups. This is the a story that Jesus told. It’s recorded in Matthew’s, Mark’s and Luke’s accounts of Jesus’ life. The great thing is Jesus Himself gives us the interpretation so we can be sure that we understand the story correctly. Interpretation – Jesus tells the disciples what it means for all time
- So we know what it means for all time
- Application – So as well as what it means for all time, what is Jesus’ message to us?*
* A valid application won’t contradict or break the interpretation
The exciting thing is that each record of this contains small but significant differences that help us to understand the whole meaning without any contradiction. So in our groups we tried to find the similarities and the differences. When we’d finished it looked like this:
When you do this some things stand out clearly. The interpretation is clear:
- The sower sows the seed, which is the word of God
- The difference is the kind of ground the word of God falls on
- On the wayside/pathway it gets taken away by Satan the wicked one who is the devil
- On the stony ground it grows quickly without any root but when trouble comes the word withers and dies producing no fruit
- On the thorny ground it grows and puts down roots but it gets choked by the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, the desires for other things and the pleasures of life and produces no fruit.
- On the good ground it grows, puts down roots and produces fruit; to do this it needs the person to understand the word of God, to accept it and to keep it then they bear fruit with patience.
WHAT’S THE APPLICATION?
If you think about it, any seed produces a plant like the one it came from. When God’s word is living and active in our hearts and lives we become more like Jesus.
Also, every seed produces a plant that produces yet more seeds like itself. So when we share Jesus with others and they trust Him that same process is going on is a spiritual way.
- The only thing that’s different is the four types of ground either the hard pathway or stony ground or weed-covered ground or good ground. What sort of ‘ground’ are you when you hear God’s word?
- Are you uninterested and just forget about it?
- Do you get excited but lose interest when you feel under pressure?
- Do you get excited about what God’s saying but somehow life is so busy and it never really grows to any kind of maturity in your heart and life?
- Or, are you like the good ground where the word takes root, grows to maturity and produces fruit in your life as you become more like Jesus and share Him with others?
SO… WHAT KIND OF GROUND DO YOU WANT TO BE?
See you this Sunday for the next instalment!