“How to Approach the Bible”
a study series by Arthur J Licursi
Part 1 of 24 – Introduction to “How to Approach the Bible”
The Apostle Paul emphasizes the need for the Ephesian believers to gain a proper understanding as he writes of his prayer for them to receive “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him (Christ).”
“Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself” Ephesians 1:9
“I (Paul)… Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, (Eph.1:17, 18).
We have so much more reason to study the Scriptures now that God's great “eternal purpose…in Christ Jesus” and God’s secret plan called “the mystery” has been revealed through the writings of Paul, the Apostle. We can now understand the Scriptures without contradiction and confusion by making use of a few simple study tools that we will discuss in this study.
How can we believe what the Bible says unless we first understand what it says? God would have us to understand what we read and believe it intelligently. A true believer will want to know and understand more and more of God's Word. One who does not care whether or not he understands what God has said is not really interested in knowing what God has said at all. His faith is based upon his own will and preference rather than on God's Word; regardless of the meaning of Scripture, he will ignore the word or take any passage that suits his fancy and use it as he wishes. He usually says “What I think is…”
God Himself puts importance upon understanding His word. On one occasion, when our Lord Jesus saw the multitudes, He "was moved with compassion toward them because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and He began to teach them many things" (Mark 6:34).
Personally, my desire is to help bring Christians to a better understanding of God's eternal intention as we today live under the dispensation of the pure grace of God. My prayer is that all Christians come to see how it is that God Himself has made a way for us by giving His Son Christ Jesus not only for us, but also to us, to be our all-sufficient life-supply. These truths, with the liberty and enjoyment that they bring may only be seen in His written word as we approach His written word intelligently and receive the light of “the Spirit of Truth.”
I believe also that we can best enter the doorway to understanding these truths by applying the critical instruction we receive from the Apostle Paul with regard to the proper method of study of God’s written word. 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV) Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing (Gk., orthotomeo, cutting straight) the word of truth.
“Rightly dividing” in Greek is “orthotomeo”; it means to make a "straight cut," which results in dividing the word into pieces. We must divide the Bible into its parts if we are to clearly see God’s intention and His all-sufficient accomplishment by the offering of Christ, without confusion and without contradiction.
Dividing the word is one thing, but “rightly dividing the word of truth” is quite another. The phrase “rightly dividing the word of truth” implies that there must be ways to wrongly divide the written word. Sadly, much of Christianity travels a path of either no division or wrong division of the word. Thus, they miss out on God’s intention and the benefits He has made available to those who see and enjoy the truths put forth in His word. Both the undivided word and wrongly divided word of God can only lead us to misunderstandings of God’s intent and His message for “the church which is His body” today.
There are in fact God ordained divisions in the Bible that pertain to different times and different peoples, as to how God deals with them and what is expected of them. There are three kinds of people mentioned in the Bible – “the Jew, the Gentile” and those who are of “the church” (1Cor 10:31,) which is “the Body of Christ.” We can say that the every word given in Scripture pertains to at least one of these, while some Scriptures pertain to only one of these three classes of people.
How can one align themselves with Paul’s instruction to Timothy - “teach no other doctrine,” unless we first understand the content and intent and Paul's unique doctrinal message of grace that He received by direct revelation from the ascended Lord (Gal 1:12), concerning Christ and His relationship with “the body of Christ.”
1 Timothy 1:3-4 As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying (building up) which is in faith: so do.
I want to acknowledge at least some of the many sources for the content of learning over the last 14 years of my study of “the word rightly divided.” My writing of course is built upon the understandings that I have gained over these years through the writings and teachings of many people, as the Lord has enlightened my path by the grace of His “Spirit of Truth.” In my writing I have often borrowed information, phrases, paragraphs, terms, bits, pieces and parts, and thoughts from the writings and/or verbal sharing of men such as Cornelius Stam, E.W. Bullinger, Charles Baker, Richard Jordan, Paul Sadler, Ricky Kurth, Russell Miller, Casey Groeneveld, Robert Brock and others. Yet, I do not ascribe the understandings that I put forth in my writings as the exact understanding of these men, since each of us may see certain aspects of the truth in various shades according to the light we each have received. Nevertheless, the Lord has used these and many other men to whom the Lord has led me in my seeking to know Christ “according to the revelation of the mystery” (Rom 16:25). They have helped open the truth of His word to me, as gained only studying it “rightly divided,” according to its ordained dispensations.
Unless and until we acknowledge and study the word “rightly divided,” we will only have the scantest and most shallow understanding of Bible truth. Otherwise, we cannot fully appreciate the greatness of the grace-filled salvation that we now have and may now enjoy due to the grace we receive in Christ and by the work of His all-sufficient cross.
My prayer is that this 24-part study will help some to gain a better perspective of the import proper study and hermeneutics, (method of interpretation). We should never play fast and loose with the Scriptures as I myself may have done over my former years in ignorance. We must always let Scripture interpret Scripture. God has not been slack in giving us His word as it has been preserved through these 3,500 years of its writing that began with Moses.
There’s a need for us to be doggedly consistent in our contextual study of the written word of God as we seek to know “the whole counsel of God,” as Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, wrote of it.
Romans 11:13a For I (Paul) speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles…
Acts 20:27-30 For I (Paul) have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. 28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of
God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
Arthur J. Licursi