Introduction to bible reading

1.       What is the Bible ?

The word “Bible” comes from the Greek word Biblia which means “books”. It is a collection of sixty-six books of poetry, sermons, history, prayers, parables, letters and law and visions written over a period of about   1500 years by over forty “inspired” authors.

The Bible is God’s message speaking through the holy spirit to inspired men who spoke and wrote inspired words of truth  ( 2peter 1:21, 2Samuel 23:2, 2Corinthians 14:37 and Jeremiah 36: 4-6). We believe that by grace and through faith this coming into being of the bible over many years was a process led by God.

Both Jews in the Old Testament times and early Christians in the New Testament days produced many more writing than those we have in the scriptures of the two testaments. Books not included in the canon (testaments) such as book of Jasher, Maccabees, book of wars of  Jehovah etc, are called “Aporypha” ( hidden or not for public use)

All the versions we use are translations from the original Hebrew of the Old Testament, and the Greek of the Old Testament. The revered Authorized version of the  English bible appeared in 1611;  and in south Africa the first printed translation into our vernacular languages was in in 1846. The divisions into versus is an artificial arrangement for convenience in reference, and did not appear until the thirteenth century.

  1. 2.       Scriptures as the fountain of confirmation

The Bible is all sufficient to furnish the Christian with all direction that is necessary to be acceptable to God. Through the bible, God seeks:-

a)      To produce faith ( John 20:30-31, Romans 10:17)

b)      To sanctify the soul ( John 17:17, 1timothy4:4-3)

c)       To give understanding ( Psalms 119:104, Ephesians 3:4)

d)      To lead one’s life ( Psalms 73:24)

e)      To produce spiritual growth ( Acts 20:32; Colossians 1:10-11)

f)       To comfort the heart ( Romans 15:4, 1Thessalonians 4:18)

Let us use the help of translators and commentators (which explains the meanings of the words in the original)  in sincere and humble reliance upon the leading of God’s spirit.

  1. 3.       How should we approach the bible ?

(i)                  Background of the book: – this requires an understanding of the circumstances (types of the book/purpose ; time to book was written ; country ; inhabitants, etc ) I n which the book was written. To read scriptures faithfully we need to be able to make the connection between the scriptural text and our own context.

(ii)                The help transforming questions in mind – examine and analyse the study passage with the view to gaining the following

(a)    What does the text say about God?

(b)   What does the text say / teaches us about humanity?

(c)    What does the text say about the relationship between God and humanity?

( iii)  The help of the holy spirit – God’s self-revelation and wisdom to accurately apply it in our present life. If you believe it to be the word of God, then you will treasure its message, and thus, your life will be transformed into the life that is pleasing to God.

Remember that you cannot know the bible easily, to know it is worth a great deal of time and pains

We must be honest with the bible when we study it, we must try to find out what it means, and not what we may make it mean.

  1. 4.       Methods of the bible study

a)      Study of Special Books  – for close study of a particular book, verse by verse, we need for each verse/paragraph:

  • Its nearer context – that which goes immediately before and after.
  • The line of thought in which the context occurs.
  • The circumstances in which it was written.
  • The larger context of history in which the book is placed.
  • The personality of the writer.

The book should then be read through more once if possible.

b) Topical study – take some great subjects, such as “salvation” and follow it from the Old Testament (origin of sin), through to the New Testament (salvation itself) making your own notes upon it, and tracing its development, importance and application to our lives.

c) General study – uses a notebook and arranges the testament books of interest. For instance, with Isaiah, note the background of his period, the social conditions of his day, the messiah, the prophet himself, and the great promises of God. If possible read a good standard work on each book as you study it.

5. Outline the books of the Bible:

A. The five books of Moses :

à         Genesis 1-12 creation; man in the garden; table of nations.

à         Genesis 13-50 Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, (Israel) and children of Israel in Egyptian bondage

à         Exodus, Leviticus, numbers, Deuteronomy, Moses, Israelites delivered from Egypt, giving of the law at MT Sinai, Israel at the Jordan.

B. Former Prophets :

à         Joshua; judges; Ruth; 1samuel; Israel enters canan; Israel under the judges

à         1samuel 11-31;1kings 1-11; successive reigns of Saul, david Solomon

à         1kings 12-22, 2kings, 1chronicles; 2chronicles, kingdom of Israel and Judah, wars with Assyria and Nebuchadnezzar.

à         Daniel, Esther, Ezekiel, Israel in Babylon and the fall of Babylon.

à         Ezra; Nehemiah ; post – exilic period, the return of Jews led by Zenibbabel Ezra and Nehemiah

C. Wisdom Literature:

à         Job: why the righteous suffer?

à         Psalms: hymn book of the bible.

à         Proverbs: words of the wise.

à         Ecclesiastes : what brings true happiness

à         Song of Solomon : true love

  1. The latter prophets :

à         Isaiah : prophet of salvation

à         Jeremiah : prophet of the new covenant

à         Daniel :prophet of eternal kingdom

à         Jonah: Joel; Amos, Hosea, Micah prophets of the Assyrian period

à         Nahum: Zephaniah Habakkuk; Obadiah ; prophets of Babylon period

à         Haggai ; Zechariah ; Malachi; prophets of the Persian period.

  1. Outline of the new testament:

à         Mathew, Jesus the messiah, fulfilment of the old testament scriptures

à         Mark: Jesus the conquering servant and saviour of mankind.

à         John: God’s love for the world.

à         Luke : Jesus the son of man offers salvation

à         Acts : establishment of the church in Jerusalem, spread of Christianity , missionary journey of st paul

à         Thessalonians: the day of the lord.

à         Galatians: the spirit versus the law.

à         Romans : God’s power to salvation

à         Corinthians: problems of Christian giving.

à         Colossians : Christ – the head of the church

à         Ephesians: the church – the body of Christ.

à         Philippians: the secret of Christian joy.

à         Philemon: Paul’s appeal for onesimus.

à         Letters to timothy and Titus: instructions to preachers.

à         Hebrews : superiority of Christianity

à         James : faith without work is dead

à         Peter: suffer as a Christian.

à         John 1, 11,111 fellowships with God is eternal life.

à         Jude : contend earnestly for faith

à         Revelation: vision of the son of man.

PRAYER

 

  1. A.      Prayer.  
  2. B.      Communion of our whole being with God or relationship of our souls with God.

*Why do we pray? We recognize that God is the Almighty and we are dependent on Him about everything.

*Type of Prayers:

à         Adoration – glorify His name or praise and worship Him.

à         Thanksgiving – acknowledgement of His gifts; give thanks in recognition of God’s faithfulness.

à         Confession – self-examination or acceptance of sins and repentance; asking for forgiveness and assurance of His presence.

à         Intercession – praying for the needs of others show love and caring for them.

à         Petition – praying for our needs and problems.

à         Consecration – dedication of ourselves as “living sacrifice”.

à         Meditation – reflection on God’s word.

*Prayers can either be personal (pray about personal needs or the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:2-4) or Matthew 6:9-13.

*Praying needs perseverance.  Patience and asking for our needs in such a way that fits in with the God’s will is important.

*Elements of a personal prayer are:

à         Doxology/ adoration.

à         Confession

à         Intercession

à         Petition

à         Thanksgiving (Math 21:22)

*Does God always answer our prayers?  God always hears, but sometimes seem to answer “NO” or give a response very different from what we expect.  The reasons God seems to sometimes give negative answers are:

  • Wants us to learn to trust Him (Math 26:39)
  • We tend to ask selfishly (Jos 4:3)
  • We fail to forgive (Mark 11:25)
  • Sometimes our sins get in the way (Isaiah 59:1-2)
  • Our relationship may not be right (1Peter 3:17)

*Suggestions:  For intercession prayers, take few situations or people on different days/times to pray for example:

à         Church, Leaders, other Christians, seeking faith.

à         Family

à         Poor, sick, orphans, bereaved.

à         Country, leaders, politics worldwide, etc.

B. Quiet Time:

 

*This is the time when you find a quiet place to be alone with God to pray, read the Bible and meditate.

*The discipline of a regular prayer and Bible reading lead to deepening spirituality at personal level.

*The purpose of a firm foundation of regular time alone with God in prayer and with His word is to develop your relationship with Him.

*Time: Spend 15-30 minutes preferably before you begin daily activities.  Take regular times off tea or lunch breaks at work/school or in the evening before going to bed.

*Place: Quiet and free of interruption – indoors/outdoors.

*Devotional helps: (a) Bible eg Psalms.

                                       (b) Hymns and choruses.

These serve to improve concentration, and bring more meaning to your praying time.

*Be regular and disciplined at your personal quiet devotions

*Keep notebook of any special situations/special names God leads you to pray for.

*The daily reading – use some form of systematic Bible reading eg Scripture Union; IBRA notes.

This should be followed by quiet meditation on a selected verse from the reading.

*Typical outline for your quiet time:

ü  Morning: worship and praise; read the Bible and meditation.  Pray for the day ahead, for others, for yourself, consecrate yourself to God for the tasks of the day.

ü  Evening: Read the Bible, review the day with your Lord, confession, intercession and thanksgiving.

C. Bible reading in brief

 

*Bible means “book”: it is the soil from which all Christian faith grows; His “Master Voice”.

*Bible has 66 books: 39 in the Old Testament

                                          27 in the New Testament

*Why are the scriptures important?

  • To develop our relationship with God.
  • To give God an opportunity to speak to us and guide us.
  • Scriptures introduce us to Jesus.

Reading the bible regularly, expectantly and slowly so that the message (for the day) can be grasped.  Bible study in groups encourages Christian fellowshipping. 

The confirmand is referred to the lesson on Bible reading (still to come) for more information.

  1. C.      MEDITATION

Different styles of meditation and practices of devotional life are aimed at encouraging people to explore and experiment so that eventually a way of being quiet in the presence of God makes sense to a person.

Forms of meditation:

à         Reflection – sit with the Bible or devotional book for a few minutes; think about what the author of the passage is saying; consider how it may apply to your life and how you can put it into action.

à         Contemplation – involves short time of imagination about a story read from the Bible i.e. people; scene, etc.

à         Music – playing informative gospel music in your quiet time and then think about the message from the words.

à         Prayer walking – take time to notice and think about some of the people you come across on your way to work/school; picture them within a family and offer a prayer in your heart for them. 

Our prayer becomes much more meaningful and intercessory when we take time off our busy lifestyles to notice and then budget for quality time engaging with things happening around us; other people; self; and with God.

  1. D.      Benediction:

As you close your devotion it is important to depart with knowledge if God’s continued grace, presence and His never ending Blessings; you may use one of the following:

à         May the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with me throughout this day. Amen.

à         The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with me mow and always. Amen.

à         The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep my heart and mind in the knowledge and love of God, and His Son, Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

References: 1Timothy 1:2, Numbers 6:24-26, Ephesians 3:20-21; Acts 20:32, Romans 15:5-6 and verse 13.

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