Come Follow Me 2023, Come Unto Christ, New Testament Study, Scripture Commentary, Scripture Study

The New Testament – An Interpretive Journey

People all over the world love reading the Bible – and they have loved it for thousands of years. Why? People read the Bible because it is a fascinating book. Filled with gripping stories and challenging exhortations. People read it because it is an important book, dealing with the big issues of life – God, eternal life, death, love, sin, and morals. People read it because they believe that in the Bible God speaks to them through written words. The Bible encourages us, lifts our spirits, comforts us, guides us, chides us, builds us up, gives us hope, and brings us close to the living God.
~ Duvall and Hays – Journey into God’s Word: Your guide to understanding and applying the Bible ~

The New Testament is going to be the focal point of study, devotion, and commentary for 2023. I am personally looking forward to my own immersion and journey through the Gospels, the Pauline Epistles, and Pastoral letters. It is always refreshing to take the time to read, study, ponder, and develop a meaningful understanding of how to apply the scriptures in my own life.

I also want to invite my readers to take up their own personal journey as well. Discover what the New Testament has to offer. How it is relevant to today. Ways to deepen one’s faith and testimony in Jesus Christ. And to have an enriching and empowering resilient faith.

With that said –

There is a valid approach in not only properly interpreting the scriptures contained within the New Testament – there is also an appropriate means whereby we are empowered to apply those Gospel Principles into our own lives. Today, there appears to be a lack of literary understanding of the New Testament. Not only a lacking in literary understanding. It seems many have an uncomfortable view and approach in how to apply the messages of scripture. Missing the means by which one is able to liken the scriptures unto themselves.

Some Christians approach the New Testament from an intuitive way of understanding scripture. Others may attempt to spiritualize the text. Still, some simply appear to shrug off the text and move on to the next passage:

Christians nonetheless frequently employ an intuitive or feels-right approach to interpretation. If the text looks as if it could be applied directly, then they attempt to apply it directly. If not, then they take a spiritualizing approach to the meaning – an approach that borders on allegorizing the biblical text (which shows little or no sensitivity to the biblical context). Or else they simply shrug their shoulders and move onto another passage, ignoring the meaning of the text altogether.

Duvall, J. S., and J. D. Hays. Journey Into God’s Word: Your Guide to Understanding and Applying the Bible. Zondervan Publishing Company, 2008.

What typically appears to happen is that many Christians, and some of them admit it is the wrong approach, engage in what is known as Eisegesis of a passage. Meaning, they read into the text what they want it to say – so long as it fits within their own confirmation bias. This becomes problematic as it prevents one from receiving true personal revelation in how it applies into their own lives.

Part of living a mindful and crucified Christian life is to put to death any presumptions, personal bias, prejudices, and current beliefs so that we are empowered to receive those spiritual truths into our hearts and minds. If we continue to hold onto our own personal bias and prejudicial views and beliefs – we may become all the more stagnant in our spiritual growth. We essentially remain illiterate, confused, and possess an inability to find answers to our questions. On the other hand, we deceive ourselves into a false sense of assurance and false sense of hope. Deceiving ourselves into thinking we are growing spiritually and living out the gospel principles in our own lives.

Becoming a true disciple means we no longer live by our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). It means we take the time to not only read to also meditate on the scriptures (Psalm 1:1-3). We further come to understand and appreciate the truths of the scriptures and how they reveal unto us who Christ is and who we are (Matthew 22:29, John 5:39). In doing so, we do not create meaning out of a text; rather, we seek to find the meaning that is already there (Duval and Hays, 2008).

Once we discover the true meaning of scripture – we are not to be mere hearers of the message, we are to act accordingly and be doers of the word (James 1:22). And how are we to be doers of the word? How are we to apply the scriptures? In his wise counsel to Timothy, the Apostle Paul made it clear as to how we are to apply scripture to our own lives:

10 But you have faithfully followed my teaching, way of life, purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, and sufferings that happened to me in Antioch, in Iconium, and in Lystra, what sort of persecutions I endured, and the Lord delivered me from all of them12 And indeed, all those who want to live in a godly manner in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil people and imposters will progress to the worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you continue in the things which you have learned and are convinced ofbecause you* know from whom you learned them15 and that from childhood you have known the holy writings that are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, 17 in order that the person of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:10-17, The Lexham English Bible

First, the apostle Paul recognized the importance of scripture study in the life of his disciple. That those scriptures brought wisdom of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Second, he expounded on how scripture brings wisdom of salvation:

  • For Teaching: It is through consistent reading and studying the scriptures where we are taught the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • For Reproof: Meaning to rebuke – or refute – any preconceived notions, bias and prejudicial perspectives, false ideas and beliefs, and even refute and rebuke an individual who is walking in disobedience and transgression.
  • For Correction: To set straight, reform, and even restore one’s true character, life, and purpose in Christ.
  • For Training in Righteousness: To discipline and train up into maturity where one develops true spiritual discipline, integrity, virtue, purity of life, uprightness, correctness in thinking, feeling, and acting.

Third, the apostle concludes that such creates a person of God who is competent and equipped to find fulfillment, purpose, meaning, and walk in faithful obedience for every good work.

It is this very reason we want to take our own personal journey through the New Testament this year. To come away with what the Savior and the first Apostles of His church taught. To be open to rebuke of any preconceived notions we may hold. Bias and prejudicial views we may have read into the text for our own benefit and gain. To be open to rebuke by self-examination of our own hearts and minds whereby we need to repent of a transgression and find grace and mercy through the forgiveness the Atonement of Christ offers. All to correct us so that we are spiritually maturing into a true and authentic Christian where we find purpose and meaning in our relationship to Christ. To be disciplined where we develop true spiritual integrity, virtue, purity of life, being upright and corrected in our own thinking and feeling. Fully acting in a manner that is consistent to the principle truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What are your personal goals and commitments for continual scripture study? Specifically, when it comes to the New Testament? As you consider your personal goals and commitments for continual scripture study, and more specifically studying through the New Testament, take a moment to understand the following process:

  • Reading
  • Understanding
  • Likening
  • Applying

When it comes to reading the scriptures, we are able to come to know of their worth and truthfulness. By careful study and understanding of the scriptures, we are able to come to know them. How we liken the scriptures unto ourselves is through visualization of the people, the events, and situations. What is the situation? How does it relate to my own circumstance? By likening the scriptures, we grow, learn, and receive personal insight and inspiration. We also learn the principles and truths from our Heavenly Father. Finally, we want to ponder – or meditate – upon those things that are revealed through our scripture study. By meditating, we ask questions, look for the practical applications and solutions. Are we being convicted and need to seek forgiveness? Do we need to develop more of an attitude toward charity in ministering to others? Are we struggling and need assurance that when we submit our cares and worries over to God – he is faithful and just in meeting us where we are?

Another way of looking at this is to follow the S.O.A.P method to scripture study.

  • Scripture: What is the passage? Paraphrase the scripture(s)
  • Observe: Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why?
  • Apply: What is the spiritual and practical application here for me?
  • Pray: how do I apply those things into my own life?

As we enhance our discipline and commitment over to scripture study, we come to understand that it is not merely what we read. It is what we are taking away from what we are reading. Develop awareness of how to apply those things into our own lives in order to learn and grow in faith. When we read, understand, liken, and apply the scriptures, the power of the Lord’s word helps us overcome temptation, influence others for good, and endure the trials within our own lives.

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Timothy Berman

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