Galatians — Introduction

For our next series of Monday Meat, we’ll be looking at Jono’s study notes of Galatians.

Jono's Bible Study Notes

We’ve just finished a three-year study of Luke’s two-volume writing: Luke-Acts. We’ll now go through each of the letters of Paul in chronological order, taking note of where Paul was in Acts when he wrote them, Paul’s history with churches to which he wrote, and what happened in those churches that prompted the letter.

We start with Paul’s first book: Galatians.

An Outline of Paul’s Life

(from Acts from the first introduction to the end of the first missionary journey; shaded areas indicate the churches in Galatia to whom the letter would have been written)

Acts 7:58 First mention at the stoning of Stephen
8:1 Saul approves of the stoning of Stephen
9:1-2 Saul was the primary persecutor and enemy of the church.
9:3-19 The conversion of Saul
9:20-25 Saul’s witness in Damascus
9:26-29 Saul’s witness in Jerusalem
9:30 Saul sent to his home town of Tarsus
11:25-26 Barnabas brings…

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Wednesday Worship

Taw

Let my cry come before you, O Lord;
give me understanding according to your word!
Let my plea come before you;
deliver me according to your word.
My lips will pour forth praise,
for you teach me your statutes.
My tongue will sing of your word,
for all your commandments are right.
Let your hand be ready to help me,
for I have chosen your precepts.
I long for your salvation, O Lord,
and your law is my delight.
Let my soul live and praise you,
and let your rules help me.
I have gone astray like a lost sheep;
seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.

Psalm 119:169-176 (ESV)

How to Study the Bible: Application

And now we come to the step that most people try to jump to right away when reading and studying the Bible: application. This is where we take the interpretation we have found, the timeless principle from the passage, and apply it to our own lives for growth and transformation.
While interpreting a passage is focused on what the meaning is, application takes that meaning and puts it into action. Some questions to ask to determine application:
Who should I be?
How should I think?
What should I do?
Where should I go?
Whom should I teach?

Other questions that can be asked are:
Is there a sin to avoid?
Is there a promise to claim?
Is there a verse to memorize?
Is there a command to obey?
Is there a prayer to repeat?
Is there a condition to meet?
Is there a challenge to face?

To help with application, look at the timeless truth in the passage in the original situation. What are the key elements there – the people, the place, relationships and ideas? Then find the contemporary situation that would parallel the original: the key people, relationships and places. Take the timeless truth and relate it to the contemporary situation that would parallel the original.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that all Scripture is profitable for (1) doctrine, (2) reproof, (3) correction, and (4) instruction in righteousness. How does this timeless principle from this passage provide us with these areas: doctrine – what to believe, reproof – behavior or belief that is sinful, correction – what needs to change to be made right, and instruction – how to live in light of God’s truth?

Application is meant to conform us to the Word of God and to make us more like Christ. How can the meaning of the passage – the timeless truth – do that in our lives? The best way to then learn the application and make it part of our lives is to teach it to others, helping them to learn and grow as well. Studying God’s Word is best done in community, sharing with others so that we can learn together and keep each other on track with what the Bible is saying.

*Source material for this blog series came from a variety of sources.
Living by the Book by Howard and William Hendricks
Women of the Word by Jen Wilkins
Lord, Teach Me to Study the Bible in 28 Days by Kay Arthur
Credo House Bible Boot Camp video series (link is broken, no longer posted)
Secret Church: How to Study the Bible series
How to Read the Bible by A.J. Conyers (out of print, but seemingly available used)

Previous Posts in this series:
How to Study the Bible: Introduction
How to Study the Bible: Genre and Context
How to Study the Bible: Observation
How to Study the Bible: Interpretation

Wednesday Worship

Sin and Shin

Princes persecute me without cause,
but my heart stands in awe of your words.
I rejoice at your word
like one who finds great spoil.
I hate and abhor falsehood,
but I love your law.
Seven times a day I praise you
for your righteous rules.
Great peace have those who love your law;
nothing can make them stumble.
I hope for your salvation, O Lord,
and I do your commandments.
My soul keeps your testimonies;
I love them exceedingly.
I keep your precepts and testimonies,
for all my ways are before you.

Psalm 119:161-168 (ESV)

How to Study the Bible: Interpretation

Interpretation – determining the meaning of a passage – comes after much observation and asking questions. The more observations, the more accurate the interpretation. An important rule to keep in mind during the process of interpretation is that the text cannot mean what it never meant. We need to determine what it originally meant to the original audience in order to determine what it means for us today. Once we have learned what the text originally meant, we look for the timeless truth, that principle which remains regardless of time or place and is for all people throughout all ages.
In interpreting a passage, remember that context rules. We are not to take a passage to make it say what we want it to say. We must keep in mind the full context of Scripture. We compare Scripture with Scripture. It won’t contradict itself. If a passage seems to contradict another passage of Scripture, then we are not grasping the meaning of one of them.
We need to interpret Scripture plainly, but at the same time realizing what type of speech it is or the genre of what we are studying. Some principles from the Credo House Bible Boot Camp (see link below):
“Use the literal sense unless there is some good reason not to.
Use the figurative sense when the passage tells you to do so.
Use the figurative sense if the expression is an obvious figure of speech.
Use the figurative sense if a literal interpretation goes contrary to the context of the passage, the context of the book, or the purpose of the author.
Use the figurative sense if a literal interpretation involves a contradiction of other Scripture.
Use the figurative sense if a literal meaning is impossible, absurd, or
immoral.”

As we look at our observations, we determine what the text meant to the original audience. Once that meaning is determined, we can extract the theological principle that is timeless and for all people of all time. That’s the goal of interpretation – finding the timeless truth – for after that we can determine how to apply the passage. But first we determine what the text meant to the original audience in order to determine what it means for us today. As a way to determine the interpretation, writing out what the author intended to say in the passage helps to clarify the meaning for us. We compare Scripture with Scripture using cross-references to see if our interpretation matches up with the rest of Scripture. Once we have reached our conclusions on the passage, then we can look at other resources to see if our interpretation matches what others have concluded. Only after we have reached the meaning for ourselves do we then look at commentaries to compare meaning and see whether we have reached similar conclusions as others in the church throughout the ages.

Some of the factors that affect interpretation that we need to be mindful of:
Presuppositions/Pre-conceived notions – we all come to the text with our own worldview and framework for how we view the world. We need to be mindful of these, though often these are unconscious notions.
Agenda – what we want the text to say
Familiarity – a familiar passage is easy to jump immediately to a conclusion on the meaning instead of taking the time to ask questions and observe the text as though we’ve never seen it before
Our Culture – language, customs, politics, geography, family, values, ethnicity, gender, stories, religion, arts, economics, images: these will vary by person as well
We need to be cognizant of these factors and try to minimize the subjectivity that comes with them as we examine the text.

Once we have interpreted the passage and determined its meaning, then we move on to Application, which we’ll look at in our next post.

*Source material for this blog series came from a variety of sources.
Living by the Book by Howard and William Hendricks
Women of the Word by Jen Wilkins
Lord, Teach Me to Study the Bible in 28 Days by Kay Arthur
Credo House Bible Boot Camp video series (link is broken, no longer posted)
Secret Church: How to Study the Bible series
How to Read the Bible by A.J. Conyers (out of print, but seemingly available used)

Previous Posts in this series:
How to Study the Bible: Introduction
How to Study the Bible: Genre and Context
How to Study the Bible: Observation

Wednesday Worship

Resh

Look on my affliction and deliver me,
for I do not forget your law.
Plead my cause and redeem me;
give me life according to your promise!
Salvation is far from the wicked,
for they do not seek your statutes.
Great is your mercy, O Lord;
give me life according to your rules.
Many are my persecutors and my adversaries,
but I do not swerve from your testimonies.
I look at the faithless with disgust,
because they do not keep your commands.
Consider how I love your precepts!
Give me life according to your steadfast love.
The sum of your word is truth,
and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.

Psalm 119:153-160 (ESV)

How to Study the Bible: Observation

After getting the historical, cultural background of what we are studying, the first step in the inductive study method is observation. This includes finding the background, such as who is the author and who is the original audience that it was written to. In the stage of observation we are reading through the passage and asking lots of questions. To help get started in what questions to ask, several books recommend the 5 W’s – Who, What, Where, When, and Why? You might not be able to get answers to all these but they are a good starting point to get the juices flowing.

Bombard the text with questions:
-Who are the people in the passage?
-Who is talking?
-Who wrote it?
-Who was it written to originally?
-What is happening?
-What is the author talking about?
-What is historically taking place at this time?
-What is wrong?
-What is right?
-What did the author intend?
-What is being emphasized?
-What is the style it is written in?
-What type of genre is this?
-Where is this taking place?
-Where is the author?
-Where are the original readers when they receive this writing?
-When is it happening?
-When was it written?
-Why is this being told? Why did the author write this?
-Why is this included in Scripture?
-How is it being portrayed?

Other things to look for in observing:
-Repeated words or phrases: what is their significance?
-Verb tense – how is the action portrayed (past, present, future)?
-The order of things mentioned – is there a significance to the order that is presented?
-Comparisons and contrasts – look for similes and metaphors
-Emotion or tone of the text
-Amount of time or space spent on a particular subject
-Imperatives
-Does the author give a purpose statement?
-New Testament use of Old Testament passages
-Connections – look for conjunctions, relationships between words and sentences, prepositions
-General to specific or specific to general – how is the material presented?
-Conditions – if, then statements or consequences; cause and effect
-Question and answer – are the questions rhetorical?
-Lists – such as character traits or sins – why are these listed together?
-Major shifts – when the text takes a turn
-Pronouns – how do these connect relationships?
-What is emphasized in the passage? What stands out?

It is helpful in this stage to mark words and phrases and have a notebook to jot down all the observations that you make. If you’re not comfortable marking directly in your Bible, print out a copy of the passage that you can mark on. Repetitive reading is important- reading the passage several times through as you ask the different questions.

Summarize your observations using charts or lists. This helps to solidify them in your mind as well as organize the information. A lot of study Bibles have charts in them showing themes of the book or a timeline. Look at some sample charts or lists found in study Bibles if you feel stuck compiling one yourself at first. But eventually you’ll want to get to the point of creating them on your own.

The more time that is spent in the stage of observation, the more likely that the interpretation stage will be accurate. You may spend several days in the observation stage before moving on to interpretation and that’s okay. One aspect of Bible study that often frustrates people is that it involves delayed gratification, not instant. It takes time and effort to ask questions of the text and make observations. But the rewards are worth it if you will stick with it and work your way through the text.

Next we’ll move on to the second stage of the inductive study method: Interpretation.

*Source material for this blog series came from a variety of sources.
Living by the Book by Howard and William Hendricks
Women of the Word by Jen Wilkins
Lord, Teach Me to Study the Bible in 28 Days by Kay Arthur
Credo House Bible Boot Camp video series (link is broken, no longer posted)
Secret Church: How to Study the Bible series
How to Read the Bible by A.J. Conyers (out of print, but seemingly available used)

Previous Posts in this series:
How to Study the Bible: Introduction
How to Study the Bible: Genre and Context