If you are hungry, reading a recipe from a cookbook won’t fill you up.
You could read one recipe from a cookbook every day, or even read the whole thing in a year, but if you never eat, you will die.
So, if you don’t want to die, you will need to read and follow the recipe. But even more than that you will need to cook the food, serve it, sit down at the table, take a bite, and then chew that bite until it can be swallowed and digested.
Then you take another bite.
You’ll never read in the Bible that you should read the Bible.
Translating, studying, and sharing the Bible has never been easier thanks to the technology that is available to us today. There are plenty of innovations out there but in this series of posts I want to share with you some of the tools I’m using and why. Welcome to the 21st century of studying the Bible!
The first part of this series will highlight the translation I use and why I believe modern advancements in linguistics, technology, archaeology, research and collaboration make it the best English translation available.
The Holman Christian Standard Bible is the most balanced version of the Bible that exists today thanks to contemporary scholarship, technology, and archaeology.
21st Century Translation – The HCSB is a contemporary, readable, English translation that is based on the earliest manuscripts. Other popular translations are actually revisions of previous translations (such as the NKJV and the ESV).
Every year (especially around Easter) I hear of another church doing something crazy to get people in the door of their building:
◊ One church gave away a car.
◊ One church surprised random attenders with a shopping spree.
◊ One church dropped Easter eggs on top of people’s heads from a helicopter.
Somehow I don’t think that Easter eggs or Oprah-like bribery is exactly what Jesus had in mind when He told us to make disciples of all nations. Jesus has given the church a specific mission and He has also given us the means to pursue that mission.
In order for the local church to bring glory to God and be obedient to Jesus’ commands we must use Jesus’ means to pursue Jesus’ mission.
The Spirit of God
Jesus told His disciples that He would send them the Holy Spirit as a Helper. Just before He ascends into heaven, Jesus says to His followers, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Because the Spirit of God indwells us, the local church has received supernatural power, spiritual gifts, encouragement, guidance, wisdom, comfort, and strength. These are all gifts that do not come from human abilities, innovation, or training (though by God’s grace He has given us those things too). In other words, anyone can have leadership skills or marketing skills but only the church has the Spirit of God dwelling among them and empowering them to pursue the mission.
I recently had an interesting conversation with someone named Dan about the value of exegesis and the role of the Holy Spirit in helping us understand God’s Word. I made the argument that faithfully studying the context, author, purpose, audience, and even the languages can help us to more fully understand a text. This doesn’t negate the role of the Holy Spirit in illuminating the words on the page but I think these language and contextual tools are helpful.
I agree that there is certainly value in studying the original language and historical aspects of a text, but I would lean toward those being nonessential, because ultimately The Bible is nothing but words without God’s Spirit working in the heart of the reader/hearer.”
I wouldn’t say they are nonessential. I would even say that they are essential because without them we wouldn’t even have an English translation. Further, I would say that the more questions we ask of a text and the more we can use cultural and contextual and linguistic tools to help us answer them, the more faithful we are as students of the Word.
When we get a letter in the mail it’s helpful to know the author, the recipient(s), the subject, the purpose, etc. Why wouldn’t we also employ what we know about a biblical text to help us more fully understand the message? Especially since that text is from a culture years removed from ours today. There is a lot of insight that can be gleaned just from doing 5 minutes of research from a commentary or with a word study. Again, no seminary education necessary just a healthy desire to meditate on and study God’s Word.