How to Study the Scriptures and Get it Wrong

Wrong Way

Imagine you are invited to attend a very special event. You get the address; you look it up in your map, spend hours carefully studying all the fine details in the map and off you go. However, after all that effort in studying the map and the time spent travelling, you are told that you are going to the wrong destination. Why? Despite your diligent study, you missed the most important thing, the correct route! This sounds bizarre right? Sadly, this is an illustration of the way many people study their Bibles. Sure, they read it, know many facts, and have a head full of knowledge. However, they have missed the main thing.

contains a sad tragedy. Jesus was speaking to a group of religious leaders who spent hours upon hours studying the Scriptures, yet they had got its message completely wrong. In what way was it completely wrong? Through their study of the Scriptures they obtained many facts and even thought that they had eternal life. Then suddenly Jesus says to them,

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” ().

What was their problem? They were heading to the wrong destination because they were on the wrong route. They studied line upon line, precept upon precept and failed to see that those Scriptures point to Christ. Evidently their trust was not in Him but in their knowledge and rituals. Concerning our Lord’s words in this text JC Ryle comments,

“His words show the important truth which too many are apt to overlook, that every part of our Bibles is meant to teach us about Christ. Christ is not merely in the Gospels and Epistles. Christ is to be found directly and indirectly in the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets. In the promises to Adam, Abraham, Moses, and David,—in the types and emblems of the ceremonial law,—in the predictions of Isaiah and the other prophets,—Jesus, the Messiah, is everywhere to be found in the Old Testament”  (JC Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels – John).

This teaches us an important lesson. Having lots of knowledge about the Bible has no eternal benefit. Now, don’t think that being lazy concerning the study of Scripture is any better! The point I’m raising in this post is that if you are going to read the Scriptures, read with the view of seeing and knowing Christ. The Scriptures point to Christ (), and in Him alone is the only way in which we will receive eternal life ().

39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Luke 24:45

45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Living Effective Lives for God

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” ()

How do we mature in our faith as Christians? What causes us to become more Christ-like in our conduct? It’s not uncommon to witness people declaring they are Christians, but by their actions it’s hard to see much of Christ in them? Clearly we all struggle with our sinful nature. It can inhibit us from doing what we know we should … a struggle even the apostle Paul had (). But too often some so-called Christians seem to live a life devoid of what the Bible teaches. Continue reading Living Effective Lives for God

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.

Wrong ways of reading the Bible

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I’m a big fan of Graeme Goldsworthy’s writings.  In his book Gospel-Centred Hermeneutics[1] he has a chapter on the wrong ways that we Evangelicals sometimes read the Bible.  It might be a bit hard to hear this, but it’s great food for thought.  We all make these mistakes.  Please don’t read it as finger-pointing (unless the finger is pointed back at me/ us).

#1  The “me-centred” approach.  The text of the Bible ‘speaks to me’.  Not in the sense that I read what it means and apply it to myself.  That is absolutely right and good.  This sort of reading plucks words or phrases right out of their context so that they “speak” to my situation.  The historical background and context are ignored.  Exegesis is a dirty word.  I open the Bible wherever, read a text, and let it mean whatever I want it to mean in an inspirational way for me today.

#2  Literalism.  Not in the sense of reading the Bible according to its literature – there is a right literal reading of the Bible.  This means reading Old Testament prophecy in a literalistic way.  Such a reading doesn’t read it in light of the New Testament and Jesus, but jumps in application straight to us today.  Such a reading would take the book of Joshua and have us declaring jihad, like the Crusades.  Fulfilment in Jesus is ignored in the cause of what is wrongly called a literal reading of the Bible.  But the New Testament reads the Old Testament Christologically (; ): OT prophecy is about Jesus.

#3  Legalism.  A selective reading of laws in the Bible so that some apply rigidly today, and others are Continue reading Wrong ways of reading the Bible

25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,

Little Big Decisions – sweat the small stuff

Sometimes little decisions are much bigger than they may appear at first glance.  Let’s say that my boss at work wants me to stay back late, but it’s Bible study night.  Should I go to Bible study?  Or should I stay at work?

It seems to be rare that someone would fall away from the faith by making a one time decision that Christianity is not true.  Usually people drift away from the faith, slowly.

A friend of mine works in ministry to the medical profession.  He told me once that a survey showed that 70% of medical students who were Christian fell away from the faith.  That’s an enormous percentage.  The reason why this is the case is probably due to the fact that medicine is a career that is all consuming.  Enormous hours at all sorts of times are required.  Medicos can start to miss church and Bible study.  They can find it difficult to find the time to keep reading the Bible.  After several months they may find that they haven’t read the Bible or been to church, and it no longer seems to matter.  Slowly they drift off.

Of course this is not true of all medicos (there’s the 30%!).  And it’s not just doctors who are in such spiritual danger.  There are some law and accounting firms that seem to demand similar hours from their workers.  No doubt there Continue reading Little Big Decisions – sweat the small stuff

Assurance of Salvation

The other day I was doing a Bible study with a friend. My opening question I like to ask is whether you are 100% sure that you will go to heaven. She wasn’t. She thought of her sins and couldn’t be 100% sure that God would accept her into heaven. But at the end of the study half an hour or so later, she was 100% sure. Praise God!

The study I was using is from Matthias Media and is called, Just For Starters. Every now and then you find a study or series of studies that just “nails it”. I have to admit that I am yet to find an investigating Christianity course that I think really nails it. There are many that are good, but none that I have seen that really nail it! But when it comes to a gospel presentation, Matthias media’s Two Ways to Live “nails it”. And when it comes to a set of studies for Christians new to the faith or ‘young’ in the faith, Just for Starters nails it. I can’t speak highly enough of these ministry tools. Just for Starters was written for following up new Christians, but it really is good for any Christian who could use a good grounding in the basics, even if they have been Christian for 50 years.

Here’s the passage we studied. says:

Continue reading Assurance of Salvation

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

The Ministry of the Word and Prayer

In Acts , a dispute arose between the Hellenist and Hebrew Christians regarding the daily distribution to widows.  The apostles handed over the responsibility for this task to seven chosen men.  Why?  So that they could devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word ().  This is a key verse, I think, about ministry.  Ministry is made up particularly and especially of two things: the word and prayer.

This has long struck me as being very significant, particularly when it comes to prayer.  I spend many hours a week preparing my sermon, as I should.  I study the passage of Scripture, usually in the original language, and pour over it with commentaries, making notes and thinking about meaning and application.  There’s no easy way around sermon preparation – it takes hours.  It probably takes me about 10 hours or so these days.  Immediately after Bible College it was double that.  So do I spend 20 hours, even 10, in prayer?  If my ministry as a pastor is prayer and the word of God, should I not be giving a lot of time to prayer as well?

Continue reading The Ministry of the Word and Prayer

6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

11 Biblical Tests of Genuine Salvation

I’ve recently been speaking with people who are rather complacent about their ‘faith’. They attend church occasionally, but are quick to say they are “not religious“. They then go on to propose what amounts to a “many roads lead to God” theory.

Although I cannot look at their hearts, these kinds of conversations lead me to conclude that, sadly, these are people with no relationship with God.

I then thought about my own faith. What characteristics are indicative of genuine salvation. Are these characteristics evident in my life? I came across the following list which was useful for me to evaluate the health of my relationship with God. Please understand that we are saved through faith alone and none of these indicators are a means of salvation, rather, they are indicative of the work done by God alone in our lives; they are the outcome not the means.

Continue reading 11 Biblical Tests of Genuine Salvation

How to Improve Your Pastor’s Preaching

Let’s face it – not every Pastor is a C.H. Spurgeon; that’s why they called him the “Prince of Preachers”. No, unfortunately, it takes effort to listen to some Pastors.

Here’s 10 hints to improve your Pastor’s preaching.

HINT #I –Take your Bible to church and follow along whilst it is being read and referenced by the Pastor. This is what the Bereans did in Acts 17:11.

HINT #II – Take a notebook to church and take notes as the Pastor preaches. Write down his main points with Scripture references. Write down the phrases he uses that you think are memorable, or touch your heart. This is worship. Remember, the reason for gathering together in our church services each week is to worship God. Preaching and listening to the message is perhaps the most important part of worship.

Continue reading How to Improve Your Pastor’s Preaching

Don’t Ask Jesus Into Your Heart


“All you have to do is ask Jesus into your heart and He will come in a make you a new person.”

Sound familiar?

Asking Jesus into your heart is probably one of the most frequently used phrases by followers of Christ when evangelising.

There’s only one problem – this term is never used in the Bible. Nowhere – zilch – it isn’t there!

The book of Acts tells us of the spread of the very early church and exactly how and what people did to be saved and become Christians. Yet there is not one single instance of anyone asking Jesus into his or her heart. Jesus never said it – the apostles never said it. In fact, nowhere in the Scriptures is there even one example of any individuals ever asking Jesus into their heart. So if it is never found in the Bible, why use it? Especially when the Bible is very clear about how to be saved.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is no ‘formulaic terminology’ prescribe in the Scriptures to describe a ‘process’ whereby one becomes a Christian. So what’s wrong with this phrase?

Continue reading Don’t Ask Jesus Into Your Heart