TGOC Bible Class Cirricula - How To Study The Bible - Lesson 9 - Digging Deeper Into Observation

1. In lesson 7 we surveyed the three basic steps of Bible study:

a. Observation: “What does the text say?”

b. Interpretation: “What did the text mean?”

c. Application: “What does the text mean for us?”

  1. In this lesson, we are going to delve a bit further into step one, observation. There is a famous story taken from American Poems (3rd ed.; Boston: Houghton, Osgood & Co., 1879, pp. 450-54). It can be found here: It is the story of a Harvard professor and a student. The Harvard professor assigned a research project to the student in which the student was to take a fish, look at the fish, and give his observations of it. So the student took the fish, looked at it for a short period of time, and then took his paper on his observations back to the professor. The professor told him to go back to the fish to write down more observations. The student would return and the professor told him to find more observations. This kept on going for a long period of time. The student was able to ascertain a lot of observations because he studied it long and hard with careful, thoughtful observation. We ought to apply the same lesson when it comes to the word of God. We can go over and over a passage, think we know all that it means, and then skip over it next time. But that ought not to be the way we look at it when we study God's Word.

  2. Sherlock Holmes, the famous detective, once stated to his companion, Watson: “The problem is that everyone sees, but not everyone observes.”

  3. The Bible is all-inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16,17; 1 Corinthians 2:10-12). Therefore, every word has been given out of the mouth of God; every word is important.

A. The Basic Building Blocks

1. Nouns

a. A noun is a person, place, thing, or idea. As you answer the questions: “Who?” “What?” “Where?”, you will be looking for nouns.

b. Closely related to nouns are pronouns (words that replace nouns). When you see a pronoun, you need to identify the noun it is replacing (the antecedent).

c. Example: Read Romans 12:1 and circle all the nouns and pronouns, and identify the antecedents of the pronouns. 

d. Example: Read Acts 2:1. Who is the “they” in this passage? Acts 1:26 gives us the answer: “the eleven apostles”. 

e. Example: Read John 16:13. Who is the “you” in this passage? John 13:1-6 let us know it was the twelve disciples (who would become the apostles). Jesus is giving a long discourse (in John 13-16) to them because He is about to die and wants to give them comfort during this dark time.

2. Verbs

a. Verbs express action (I ran) or a state of being (I am).

b. Verbs have tenses (such as past, present, or future). There are a number of different tenses in the original language in which the New Testament was written. A good example of the different tenses is found in Colossians 3:1.

c. Colossians 3:1: “If then you were raised (past tense) with Christ, seek (present tense) those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.”

d. Read Romans 12:1 to look for the verbs: “beseech”; “present”.

e. Verbs also have voice. The active voice is where the subject is performing the action. For example, John hit the ball. The passive voice is where the subject is receiving the action of the verb. For example, John was hit by the ball. Look again at Colossians 3:1.

f. Colossians 3:1: “If then you were raised (passive voice) with Christ, seek (active voice) those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.” 

g. This action occurred on the Colossian brethren in that they were raised with Christ. They received this action when they were baptized into Christ and they were raised to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3,4). This is the work of God (Colossians 2:11-12 - “faith in the working of God”). That is why water baptism is an essential condition of faith in order to receive God's grace! (Romans 5:1,2)

h. When a person becomes a Christian (after being immersed for the forgiveness of sins, Acts 2:38), he or she is to seek the things that are above. Jesus saves us when we comply with His conditions on how to be saved. God's grace motivates us to show a living faith by living out our faith to His glory as we seek the things which are above (Ephesians 2:8-10).

i. The action of verbs can be continuous or occur at one point in time.

j. For example, 1 John 3:9 states: "Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin because he has been born of God."

k. Some believe 1 John 3:9 supports their false doctrine of "once saved, always saved" [the "P" (Perseverance of the Saints) in the Calvinistic acrostic known as TULIP]. They will say that a child of God cannot sin because he has been born of God and therefore can never be lost. Is that the intended meaning of this passage? Absolutely not.

l. This doctrine would contradict 1 John 1:7-9, which states that Christians do sin from time to time. Therefore, “eternal security” is not the meaning of the passage.

m. "Whoever has been born of God does not sin" - John is stating that those who have obeyed the gospel (which includes having a contrite heart of repentance from sin - Acts 2:38; 3:19; Romans 6:1-2) will not continually make a habit to sin. They have turned from a life of sin to a life of righteousness. The present tense emphasizes this point and can be translated: "Whoever has been born of God does not continue in sin."

n. "for His seed remains in him" - What is the seed? It is the word of God that is planted in a good and honest heart (Luke 8:11). A person who allows God's word to flourish in his heart and life will remain faithful to the Lord.

o. "and he cannot sin because he has been born of God" - This is the necessary conclusion of John. When a person allows God's word to reign in his heart (just as the Psalmist stated in Psalm 119:11: "Your word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you."), he cannot sin; for his heart is settled on living for the Lord. He intends to live out his new life of righteousness and holiness.

3. Adjectives And Adverbs

a. Adjectives are words that modify nouns. In Romans 12:1, what kind of sacrifice does Paul write that we should present?

b. “living”; “holy”; “acceptable”

c. In Romans 12:1, what kind of service are we to offer? 

d. “spiritual”; “reasonable”

e. Adverbs are words that modify verbs. In James 1:5, what adverbs describe God's giving?

f. “generously” and “without reproach”

4. Prepositions

a. Prepositions are small words with the important purpose of expressing relationships in time or space between words in a sentence.

b. Read Romans 12:1 and find the prepositional phrase(s).

c. “by the mercies of God”

d. Some important relationships to look for: 

(a) Purpose (“for”, “unto”) - Acts 2:38

(b) Means (“by”, “through”, “on basis of”) - notice the basis of Paul's appeal in Romans 12:1; 11:36

(c) Comparison (“like”, “as”) - notice how we are to present our bodies in Romans 12:1

(d) Possession (“of”) - notice the possessive “of” in Romans 12:1. 

e. This is not an exhaustive list of how prepositions are used in the Bible. This is just a sample.

5. Conjunctions

1. Conjunctions are connectors.

2. Some important connections:

(a) “And” - adds information. Where is the “and” in Romans 12:1,2?

(b) “or” - gives alternatives. See Philemon 18.

(c) “but” - creates contrast. See Romans 12:1,2. We are to be transformed, not conformed to the world.

(d) “Therefore” (“accordingly,” “so”) - transitions between ideas, indicating cause and effect. The famous question is asked: “What is it there for?” What is the transition in Romans 12:1?

(e) “If” expresses conditional statements. A good example is Colossians 3:1.

Putting The Pieces Together

A. There are several levels of observation:

  1. Sentences

  2. Paragraphs

  3. Sections

  4. Books as a whole

B. Some things to look for as you expand out:

  1. Repetition of words and phrases

  2. (a) In a sentence (see 1 John 2:15) - “the world”

  3. (b) In a paragraph (1 John 2:15-17 - “the world”; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 - “comfort”)

  4. (c) In a section (What words do you see in Mark 8:14-21 and 8:22-26)? 

C. Bracketing

    1. Sometimes the writers use a phrase or theme to bracket a section of Scripture (called an inclusio).

    2. This can include a paragraph (Psalm 8:1,9), a larger section (two healings of blind men in Mark 8:22-26 and 10:46-52), or even a book (Romans 1:5; 16:26).

    3. Major shifts or turning points:

    4. (a) This sometimes occurs when a term has been repeated several times, only to be reversed (“hour” in the Gospel of John – 2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12;23,27; 13:1).

    5. (b) Sometimes this occurs when the tense of verbs changes (notice Ephesians 3:4-6).

    6. (c) This could also be indicated by geographical details (Acts 1:8; 8:1,25,40, etc.).

    7. Read Mark 5:21-43. This contains a story (the healing of the woman with the bleeding disease) within a story (the raising of the daughter of Jairus). Use the tips on observation we have discussed to analyze this passage. Use a separate sheet of paper to do the following: List all the observations you can make about the people mentioned in this passage. List all the observations you can make about the events mentioned in this passage. List all the observations you can make about the time frames mentioned in this passage. List all the observations you can make about the places mentioned in this passage. What points of similarity can you find between the stories? What points of contrast can you find between the stories?

    8. The people that are mentioned are:  (1) Jesus - the Son of God; a worker of miracles (2) Jairus - a ruler of the synagogue; believes Jesus can heal his daughter (3) a great multitude - followed Jesus (4) a certain woman - had a flow of blood for twelve years; the doctors could not help her and she was financially bankrupt; her medical condition gets worse; she believed Jesus could help her (5) Peter, James, John - three closest friends of Jesus; disciples of Jesus; ridiculed Jesus (6)  the daughter of Jairus - she was dead, but she was resurrected by Jesus; twelve years of age (7) the mother (8) the weeping people who cried.
    9. A similarity between the two stories is twelve years.  Another similarity is that they both would have been unclean according to the Jewish purity laws.
    10. We have two incredible miracles:  (1) the miracle of the woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years (2) the twelve year old girl is raised back to life.  
    11. Jesus crossed over by boat on the other side of the sea of Galilee.
    12. The woman approached Jesus indirectly and believed if she touched His garment that she would be healed.
    13. Jesus takes Jairus' daughter by the hand and states for her to arise.
    14. Mark uses the word "immediately" with both miracles (verse 29 and verse 42)
    15. The place is that they are on the other side of the Sea of Galilee.
    16. The woman has faith in Jesus and trusts in His power.  It is an active faith because she reaches out to Jesus.  She has heard about Him.  
    17. Jairus' faith leads him to leave his little girl and go find Jesus.
    18. They are both in seemingly hopeless circumstances.
    19. They are both female.
    20. Some disimilarities is that one female is older than the other female.
    21. One miracle is more public in nature than the other one.
    22. One person asks for help directly while another person intercedes for another.


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