If you spend some time on this blog, you’ll notice that the studies I do in God’s word are largely line by line, or “expository.” Some people may not be familiar with expository studies as many churches tend to only teach in “topical” ways. That is, there is a subject selected and then scriptures are taken to “fit” that subject. Many topical studies can be beneficial; however, they can tend to give you only part of the story.
I think of it like this. Imagine if you are hungry and instead of giving you a satisfying, full, and nutritious meal, I threw a tiny bit of food at you every 6 hours and called it good. While it may be good to get some food rather than nothing, ultimately you will just walk around half fed and starving! It’s the same with God’s word. We need the whole counsel of God, not just bite-sized pieces.
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With the advent of sites like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc., we see a lot more bite-sized pieces of the bible thrown around. But the bible is not a buffet table where we pick and choose what we like and leave what doesn’t seem interesting. The danger of treating the bible this way is we do not get a well-rounded, complete picture of who God is.
Scripture in Context
Another reason it is critical to read and study the whole bible line by line rather than picking “pet verses” is that otherwise you risk taking a verse or verses completely out of their intended context. So often we can approach scripture with something on our minds and we search for a way to validate our agenda. We force the scripture into our presupposed idea rather than allowing the truth of scripture to shape our thinking.
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“A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.”
–D.A. Carson, quoting his father, minister to French- and English- speaking Canadians
This quote means that context is key to rightly understanding God’s word. It means that you don’t use scripture as a “proof” to your agenda. By this you can understand the differences between, say, what scripture is a command and what scripture is simply descriptive. You learn what the whole bible teaches about a specific subject and you will be less likely to make the mistake of basing your doctrine on one verse.
Resources for Expository Study
- A basic overview of how to read the bible in context: seedbed.com.
- A nice list, broken up in readable chunks, of how to approach bible reading: Blue Letter Bible
- Bill Mounce, a former pastor and New Testament and Greek seminary professor, has a very simple and straightforward way of helping you be able to study your bible without aids. He begins the process here: Phrasing Part 1 and continues it with Phrasing Part 2.
More information and expository bible teacher recommendations under Books and Resources: Expository Study