D. As you read a passage or chapter, seek to find:
1. A command to obey
This has nothing to do with legalism and everything to do with obedience and spiritual growth.
Sometimes a command is directly stated, grammatically in the imperative mood, and no careful, attentive reader of the Bible will miss these. How about:
John 5:39, “Search the Scriptures…”
In flagrant disobedience to this command of Christ, there appears to be very little searching of the Scriptures today. Apparently many have adopted the lazy model of Christianity that lets the pastor do all the work. That is not the Biblical model! You, and yes I mean you, must adopt the Biblical model of searching Scripture for yourself so that you are fed spiritually directly from God’s Word as written in the Bible. To do otherwise is to both invite and experience spiritual starvation and a much weakened personal relationship with God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 15:7, “Receive one another…”
Individuals, church members, church committees and boards, need to focus intently upon obeying this command. You have lost your ability to reach the lost for Christ and the ability to impact the world around you when you have flagrantly disobeyed and ignored this command. See on this site a full discussion of Romans 15:7 under the category “Verse-by-Verse Studies” at the right.
1 John 2:15, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.”
This verse was one of the very first passages to impress me as a new reader of the Bible. It needs to impress you, too! By way of an example application, the time we devote to something is what really demonstrates how we truly value it. Christians can claim to hold a high view of the Bible, but if no significant time is given to its personal study and application, you are only kidding yourself, and have fallen victim to devastating spiritual starvation. Devastating because neglect of God’s Word stunts your spiritual growth. Devastating because you are less equipped to resist the temptation of sin. Devastating because you are not equipped to resist false doctrine. Devastating because you are not equipped to share your faith with others that they might be saved.
You need to devote quality time to things that count for eternity that matter to God, just as you spend time for the things of this life that matter to you.
Someone has said, “Life is short, death is sure, sin the cause, Christ the cure.” Another has said, “Only one life, will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.” These were statements I read on silk Bible bookmarks received in Sunday school many years ago. Focus on their truth and set your priorities accordingly.
Sometimes a command is given indirectly, as by example, or by implication. How about:
Jeremiah 15:16, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts.”
You won’t find those words if you don’t search for them. To eat those words means to feed spiritually on those words you find–by meditating on them, as you repeatedly think about them and explore their implications. If you do that, you too will rejoice in God’s Word.
Matthew 12:5, “Have ye not read in the law…”
Jesus expected his hearers to have spent time reading God’s written Word to the point that they would know these things. By implication, therefore, this often-repeated question of Jesus (follow carefully the cross references given for this verse to see just how often) asserts a command to read, know, rightly divide, and follow the teaching of Scripture.
2. A promise to claim and believe. (Any conditions?)
While not obvious to the casual reader, the careful reader will learn by a careful, even meticulous study of the promises in the Bible, that there are both conditions and limitations to some of even the most loved promises in the Bible. It is possible to mistakenly lay claim to a promise that was not necessarily intended in the way a surface reading of the text seems to support.
Some promises made originally to the nation of Israel, when based upon principles God has declared in His Word to be applicable for all time, can be claimed by us today.
I have discussed a number of these promises in depth here on this site, including 2 Chronicles 7:14, a passage for which I have shared here my most complete collection of cross references. I have discussed in “Politics and the Bible” the matter of the national debt. National debt is a result of the curse, not the blessing of God, according to Deuteronomy 28:44. The same chapter indicates most clearly that natural disasters such as storms and drought are sometimes brought about by God as a judgment upon a nation for flagrantly violating His commandments and making laws that clearly are not in accordance with His revealed will in Scripture. See Deuteronomy 28:24 with Deuteronomy 11:16, 17 and Amos 4:7. Many Christians, even Christian leaders, have expressed a contrary opinion. My advice to them is go back and study your Bible some more. You have forgotten that Psalm 9:17 is still in the Bible, with all its far-reaching implications for all nations of the earth, as well as the individuals which comprise them.
But on the other hand, there are some promises that may have unexpressed limitations regarding to whom they are valid. The most recent and shocking example I found in my recent study is Matthew 17:20,
Mat 17:19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?
Mat 17:20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
This promise appears fully valid only to the persons to whom it was directly given at the time, namely, Christ’s Apostles.
I believe Sir Robert Anderson has discussed this verse in an Appendix to his book, The Silence of God, and throughout the book has discussed the discouragement many have faced when sincere prayers for a specific need offered in faith by believers have gone unanswered. I have discussed on this site more about unanswered prayer in terms of what the Bible says about it than you are likely to find anywhere else, using more complete cross references that I have furnished for Psalm 66:18 in Nelson’s Cross Reference Guide to the Bible. Because this topic continues to concern me, I have been working on the task to expand the cross references for Matthew 17:20, and I share them for your prayerful study, since Sir Robert Anderson does not furnish a satisfactory Biblical study of the issue:
20. Because. ver. 17. Mt +9:2. 13:58. 14:30, 31. Lk 17:6. Jn 11:40. He 3:19. unbelief. Mt +6:30. 16:8. Nu 20:12. Jg 16:20. Mk 16:14. Lk 8:25. 12:28. for verily. Mt +5:18. If. FS184C, Mt +4:9. faith. Note: That is, as Bp. Pearce well remarks, a thriving and increasing faith, like a grain of mustard seed, which, from being the least of seeds, becomes the greatest of all herbs. Mt 8:13. *21:21, 22. Ho %5:15. Mk 5:36. *11:23. Lk 17:6. Ac 3:16. 1 C 12:9. 13:2, 8n. 2 C %5:7. 6:13. 2 T %4:20. He 11:32-38. Ja 5:15. a grain. FS138B, Ge +13:16. Mt 13:31. Mk 4:31. Lk 13:19. this mountain. The Rabbins were termed rooters up of mountains, because they were dexterous in removing difficulties (CB). ver. 1, 9. Mk *11:22-24. Lk 17:6. 1 C 13:2. nothing. Mt 14:29. Jb 22:30. 42:2. Mk 9:23. Lk 1:37. 18:27.
The % symbol means a contrasting verse, and in the above cross reference Bible study for Matthew 17:20 the indicated passages MUST be carefully taken into account in arriving at a proper understanding of the teaching of Scripture.
I’ve waxed rather long-winded on the first two points, but these matters are crucial. I’ll just give my outline for the remaining points about what to watch for as you read a passage of Scripture:
3. A sin to forsake or an error to avoid.
I could and ought to say much about this. But there are many other posts and discussions here on this site that address these matters, including the October 2010 Archives articles about the Rules of Interpretation.
4. A prayer to echo, or something for which to praise God.
5. Something about God the Father, the Holy Spirit, or Jesus.
For teasers, concerning God the Father: Which attribute of God revealed in the Bible reflects His central character? Calvinists think that God’s Sovereignty is His central controlling attribute. But they are almost always wrong, deriving their doctrine from Augustine not the Bible. Love is God’s controlling attribute and declarative of his basic character, as directly stated in 1 John 4:8,
1Jn 4:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
Concerning the Holy Spirit: Contrary to the assertions of false cults, including the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Holy Spirit is a person, for only a person can brood or grieve (Genesis 1:2; Ephesians 4:30);
Concerning Jesus: Jesus is Jehovah, not only the Son of God, but literally God the Son, for the Bible lets us know in the story of Abraham in Genesis 19 and surrounding context that Abraham saw Jesus, just as Jesus claimed as recorded in John 8, and at Genesis 19:24 there are two Jehovah’s on the scene, one on earth speaking to Abraham, and one in heaven sending down destruction upon Sodom and Gomorrah for their exceeding sinfulness, a sin mistakenly today given special protection under law, which surely merits and brings God’s judgment. Paul tells us that no one who is an unbeliever can affirm that Jesus is Jehovah (1 Corinthians 12:3).
6. The best verse.
Make the best verse–the one that strikes you as you have read–the object of further study by looking up its cross references. A good verse to start from is Colossians 1:10.
7. The main lesson.
8. Something from the above which you can apply to your life now.