1 – Study now for what you will need later. This is what I call the “Joseph effect”…go ahead and store up scripture in barns today for what you will need tomorrow. There are times scripture reading is like mana…you need it right now and may not remember or need it tomorrow…but tomorrow will supply its own opportunities to gather more scripture up and consume it. Other times, like Joseph, you have to store up as much as you can now and only later will some of that get used in a season of dryness.
2 – Scripture really does have a meaning and it is important that we find it. God gave us scripture, he gave us a brain, he gave us a history in the church and He gave us a community of faith in the present to help us understand what the Scriptures actually mean. They really do mean something and it really can be figured out.
3 – Meaning is rarely ever found when you proof text. You can take a single verse and often point it any which way you like. But that is not how scripture is to be read. You take the verse at hand, the context, the broader theology of the writer and of the Bible as a whole along with historical context, and original languages and all of a sudden you have something that, unlike a proof text, has something to stand on that is hard to knock down…something that can withstand the prevailing winds of relativism or criticism from unbelievers.
4 – Personal situations do not change the meaning of the text, they illuminate it. As you go through different seasons of life different things in the Bible stand out to you like never before. Verses you have read a dozen times jump out at you like it is the first time ever actually heard the verse in your life. The Scriptures didn’t change. Their intended meaning didn’t change. You were just better able to hear it because you and/or your circumstances had shifted to give you a new vista of the same landscape.
5 – The Bible must be opened with a submissive spirit…not a domineering one. Try as you might to twist scriptures all that happens is a twisting of your heart. When your heart is willing to dominate not just other people but the very words of God…you have a major heart issue that has to be addressed. Come to the Bible ready and willing to submit to what you are convicted that you have found.
6 – Your attitude, emotions and what you ate for dinner last night can very easily color the text. This is why we look for more clues in and around the text than just personal whims. We look to church history on the interpretation of a text. We look to context. We look to original languages and broader theology to make sure that our interpretation isn’t in isolation to the clues that have been given to us to point us closer and closer to the original meaning or authorial intent.
7 – Application is an essential part of reading the Bible but you cannot apply what you do not understand. So before you rush to application make sure you have laid the proper foundation of interpretation. Otherwise you twist the text and twist people or yourself into doing things that were never intended. Also, don’t get sucked into the lie that says your formation is solely dependent on how well you apply the text. Much of our spiritual growth is 100% grace. Application is important (Matt 7:24-28) but there is more to our spiritual growth and relationship with God than getting neurotic in applying everything we find.
8 – The text is not meant solely for public consumption. If you are a minister, chances are you often read the text in order to “get a lesson out of it.” That means that you are reading the text for someone else or to produce things that will eventually “go public.” You cannot nourish your own soul on a constant diet of food you intend to feed someone else. Make sure you study at times purposefully not to give the results to someone else…but that what you find is a secret between you and God. The discoveries you made might be shared at some later point, years down the road, but that is not the initial intent. This keeps us from getting trained to open the Bible to always figure out what someone else needs to hear and keeps study personal.
9 – A good interpretive strategy is responsible but don’t leave out the Holy Spirit. There are times I have gleaned great riches from the text because I knew how to study but most of the greatest discoveries I have made in the text have been acts of grace through the mercy of the Holy Spirit ushering me into something that seemed like I just stumbled in upon it. So learn how to study the Bible but don’t conclude that the greatest riches of your personal study will come as the result of gaming the hermeneutical (interpretive) system.
10 – What insight would you add in for number 10?