Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Daily Study

"I've heard you talk about your priority for daily teaching of the Word ... do you look to this as your primary or even sole source of "feeding," or do you spend a corresponding amount of time reading and studying Scripture on your own?"

Yes, I do look to this as my primary and pretty much sole source of feeding. What?! I don't read and study the Scriptures on my own? Well, no, and there are many reasons why. First you have to understand the type of teaching that I'm talking about. My pastor teaches directly from the scriptures, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little (Is 28:10).

What that means is that he goes through a book of the Bible verse by verse, exegeting from the original languages to show us the meaning of the verb tenses, voices, etc. Greek, especially, is very different from English in that regard, so you can't just read the English and really get any idea what it's saying in many cases. In addition to the verbs, there is the meaning of the word in question, the usage at the time -- historical setting -- and the way the word has been used in other places of scripture, the latter often developing into an entire category related concepts. In that case, he usually stops to teach us the category, going throughout the scriptures to examine the concept as it is presented in various verses. Once that is completed we go back to the original verse and continue.

He is currently going through the book of Philippians, and is in Chapter 4. So far I think he's accumulated about 1400 hours of teaching on that book. To give you an example of how the process works, take Philippians 4:12 --

"I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need."

When our pastor came to the words "learned the secret" he first told us what those words meant (mueo -- to be initiated into the secrets of a fraternity) and then began teaching us the category of doctrine called mystery doctrine, which is that group of doctrines that are specific to the Church and totally unknown to old Testament saints. First there was the establishment of the usage of the word mystery (musterion, related to mueo) and what it means (relates to the Greek mystery cults at the time, where they had secret doctrines known only to those who were members of the fraternity); from there he went to John 13, the night before Jesus's death when for the first time our Lord began to teach the disciples about the specific doctrines of the church age which would shortly be upon them -- truths that were new and startling and not something Old Testament belivers would even have imagined. These doctrines include heirship, adoption, election and predestination, positional sanctification, experiential sanctification, the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Holy Spirit, among others.

When I was first saved, I did read the Scriptures but often they didn't make a lot of sense to me. Verses that were supposed to explain things, didn't and I saw lots of contradictions, things would make sense for a bit and then something would come in that didn't seem to fit at all... I had many questions. So when I was first exposed to this kind of teaching it was incredible. Like lights going on and doors flying open. So much that I had wondered about, so many verses that didn't make sense, were now making sense. Things I had never seen in just reading the Scripture I was now seeing, though they had been there all along. I ate it up.

Then, a year or so later, circumstances conspired to prevent me from being able to listen to my pastor's teaching, so I decided that I would study the scriptures for myself. I knew by then a little bit of what was needed so I bought a book on learning New Testament Greek, several commentaries, a Greek New Testament, Strong's Concordance, vine's Expository Dictionary and other books. Then I set about the task of teaching myself Greek and studying the Bible on my own. Since I had no job outside the home, and no children at that time, I was free to devote myself to study all day long.

And I did. And when I was done, having spent an entire day chasing one thing after another, looking up this meaning and that, I ended up with so very, very little of actual value to my life -- nothing I could really apply, that I was shocked. This kept on for a month or so and then I realized how behind the curve I was. My pastor at the time had majored in Greek and history in college, then went on to become a doctoral candidate in Seminary. He studied straight from the original languages, and he considered it his full time job to study the Bible and teach it. He didn't do counseling, or visit the sick, he spent his time studying and teaching the word as Acts 6:2 commands.

Well, I had a house to keep, a husband to please and other duties, plus... the pastor was already doing the studying and from a knowledge base it would take me years to gain. So why shouldn't I take advantage of his work? Add to that the fact he had a supernatural spiritual gift that I did not have (Eph 4:11,12) which enabled him to see things and make connections in the Scriptures I would never see on my own, and I saw the futility of what I was trying to do. I couldn't even come close to getting the kinds of things from the word that he did. And that my pastor now, still does.

So I stuck with the daily study. He taught about an hour a day, the lessons at that time on cassette tapes and I listened to one and sometimes two a day. The amount of understanding and information that I got from those lessons completely dwarfed whatever I might glean from any daily reading. In fact, for a long time after that, I still would read passages and often would feel like I didn't really know what they meant. I would wonder what the original languages said, what the verb tenses were, what the history at the time of writing was...

So I still prefer class for my daily feeding -- the one thing that is the given in my day, the high point, the time when God most often and most dramatically speaks to me. I've memorized passages just because they've become so familiar not from any attempt to do so. And now, when I read the Scriptures, I understand them like I never did before. A lot of times I don't want to stop, but at the same time, to read it like that still gives me the sense that I'm just passing right over so many important concepts -- especially in the epistles, where it seems like every single word can launch you into so many important, deeply relevant concepts. They are the kind of things you have to stop and think about and it just doesn't seem right to blow over them.

So, that explains a little bit of why I do what I do.