You Must Do Justice to the Text
Welcome to our online Guide for Bible Study Leaders! This page contains Lesson #2 entitled “You Must Do Justice to the Text.”
Your first task when leading or facilitating a Bible Study is to do justice to the text of the Bible. This does not mean that you must become an expert in biblical languages, exegesis and the like.
It does mean, however, that you should take the time to understand what a particular portion of Scripture is trying to communicate.
Your Goal is To Draw Out the Meaning of a Text
People can make the Bible say any number of crazy things, and in all likelihood, they will do that as you facilitate a study.
Thus, your part is to try to facilitate the conversation in such a way as to draw out the probable meaning (s) for the text.
Good Bible Study leaders do not shut down off-base discussions or prohibit people from honestly wrestling with what a passage is trying to communicate. However, in some form or fashion the group should arrive at a satisfactory place in terms of a passage’s meaning.
How do you know if you’ve arrived at an acceptable meaning for a passage?
Your own preparation will be helpful in this regard because it will give you confidence you are on the right track. After this, you should rely on the work of others (commentaries, dictionaries, study bibles, etc.) and on the contributions of the individuals in the group.
Many passages will yield their meanings if you simply slow down, carefully read and observe what the text actually says (and does not say), and then asking the right questions. This will come with time and with the acquisition of more knowledge for each book or topic you happen to lead.
Context is King
You may have heard the old adage, “a text without a context is a pretext.” Let me tell you, I’ve been around long enough and have experienced Christianity in many different contexts (including cross-cultural) to know this is a very true statement.
Because people sometimes approach the Bible from their own pre-conceived notions, cultural perspectives or personal /theological agendas, it is quite easy to read a text out of context and misinterpret its meaning.
Thus, one of your greatest allies to doing justice to the text is to begin with a proper understanding of a book’s context. Who wrote it, for what purpose, to whom and when?
This is especially true when studying the epistles in the New Testament because all were written for specific audiences and with specific intentions in mind.
An Example of Context from Colossians
Colossians, for example, was written to combat a particular sect of Christianity whose focus was ascetics of the body, worship of angels, special knowledge and Jewish legalism.
What was Paul’s answer to this insidious teaching that was threatening the Colossian church? Jesus is the express image of God, supreme over all creation, head of the Church and superior to any human knowledge or tradition!
The more you understand those specifics (the context), the more conviction you will have that your interpretations are on target. These in turn will lead to great applications for a modern context because, the more you understand God’s word for the original audience, the more you will understand it for a modern (or post-modern) audience.