Many years ago, I took a course in journalism. We were taught that every good news report must answer six questions: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. Any news report that does not answer all of those questions gives the reader an incomplete, and possibly misleading, picture of the facts.
Those same six questions also apply to the profitable study of Scripture.
Remember Who you are reading. The God of the universe wrote the words on the page before you. God the Holy Spirit spoke in His own words directly to man through inspired men (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:19-21). The absolutely trustworthy God of the Bible does not contradict Himself (Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29, 1 Kings 8:56, Malachi 3:6, James 1:17). He is not a God of paradox, and Scripture contains none. He does not say both “Yes” and “No” on any matter (2 Corinthians 2:18-22, Hebrews 13:8). When we think we see paradox in the pages of the Bible, the problem is with us, not with God or His Word (Romans 1:25, Hebrews 4:12).
Remember what you are reading – it is revelation. A more literal rendering of 2 Peter 1:19-21 reads, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture originated in the human writer’s own personal determination of what is true or not true – for this reason: Prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved [literally, driven] by the Holy Spirit.” The Scripture is not a mere collection of the words and ideas of men. The Bible is not the record of man’s views, perspectives, opinions, or interpretation of events. Sinful man did not decide what is true and what is not true. The Apostle Paul elaborates on this in 1 Corinthians 2 which says that eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.
Remember where you are reading. We must always keep the context of a passage in mind in all its respects – the immediate passage, the book of the Bible, the full body of Scripture. We must never divorce any part of Scripture from its context. The words of Scripture have one and only one meaning in context – God the Holy Spirit’s meaning. We can understand God’s meaning only by remembering that it is always a meaning in context. We begin with the immediate context of the surrounding verses of the passage we are reading. Then we expand outward to the larger context of the book of the Bible we are considering. We also need to take into account the full context of the entire Word of God, since God the Holy Spirit never contradicts Himself in Scripture. We cannot look at one part of the Bible in a vacuum and build a doctrine that contradicts the rest of the Bible. We must consider the Bible as a whole.
Remember when you are reading. Keep in mind the time and setting, the place of the passage in the unfolding revelation of God and strive to understand matters of history and culture that relate to the portion of the Bible you are reading. For example, the record of the tabernacle and its ceremonies in Leviticus must be read in light of the fact that it was forward-looking, anticipating the coming of the Messiah who would fulfil all of its types and symbols. The book of Hebrews is the Holy Spirit’s great inspired and retrospective commentary on the Levitical system, showing us how Christ fulfilled it all in His incarnation and atonement for sin on the Cross, and that we must never go back to that system because it has been done away.
Remember why you are reading. The believer’s study of the Scriptures is not a mere intellectual exercise, or for the purpose of accumulating knowledge for its own sake, but for God’s purposes in this life and the life to come. “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life in His name.” (John 20:31) “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Remember how you are to read God’s Word. Believers must read in prayerful submission to the divine Author, seeking His enlightenment of the Word and His power to understand it rightly. We must read with careful attention, comparing Scripture with Scripture. We must read with the goal of the glory of God. (Psalm 119:17-18)
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:12)
Resting on God’s Great Promise
As we read and study the Word with these things in mind – the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How – we can rest on God’s great promise to use His Word for His glory. Dear Christian friend, may God’s Word grow and prevail in your own heart and life!
(Adapted for our bulletin.)