August 21st 2006, 02:09 PM #1
ARTICLE: The Most Important Thing
The Most Important Thing
by Greg Koukl
Recently I asked myself a question.
If there was one bit of wisdom, one rule of thumb, one single skill I could impart to Christians, one useful tip that would help build their knowledge as a Christian ambassador and help them cultivate a sensible faith, what would it be?
Here’s what I came up with: Never read a Bible verse. That’s right, never read a Bible verse. Instead, always read a paragraph—at least. Here’s why.
On the radio I use this simple rule to help me answer the majority of Bible questions I’m asked, even when I’m not familiar with the verse. I don’t read the verse, I read the paragraph. The paragraph provides me with the context and that helps me understand what’s going on.
This works because of a basic rule of all communication: Meaning always flows from the top down, from the larger units to the smaller units. The key to the meaning of any verse comes from the paragraph, not just from the individual words.
It’s an amazingly effective technique you can use, too. First, get the big picture. Look at the broad context of the book. What type of writing is it—history, poetry, proverb?
Next, stand back from the verse and look for breaks in the passage that identify major units of thought. Ask, “What in this paragraph or group of paragraphs gives any clue to the meaning of the verse? In general, what idea is being developed?”
With the larger context now in view, you can narrow your focus and speculate on the meaning of the verse itself. Sum it up in your own words. Finally—and this is critical— see if your paraphrase makes sense when inserted in the passage.
A reflection on a Bible passage from a sermon or a devotional may be edifying, encouraging, and uplifting. But if it is not the message of the text, it lacks biblical authority even when the quote comes right out of the Word of God.
If you will begin to do these two things—read the context carefully and apply the paraphrase principle—you will begin to understand the Bible as God intended. Remember, meaning always flows from the top down, from the larger units to the smaller units. Without the bigger picture you’ll be lost.
Only when you are properly informed by God’s Word the way it is written—in its context—can you be transformed by it. Every piece becomes powerful when it’s working together with the whole.
Stand to Reason - Equipping Christian Ambassadors with knowledge, wisdom, and character - www.str.org
Stand to Reason - Training Christian in knowledge, wisdom, and character - www.str.org
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