A Life’s Work

As preachers we have the privilege of intensive Bible study. Most believers have the privilege of Bible study, but few have the added pressure of having to communicate it to others. However, it is easy to fall into the trap of simply meeting the next deadline and preparing the next sermon. This way of functioning can easily get us trapped in a “micro” approach to God’s Word. Instead, I’d like to encourage us all to be “macro” students of the Word.

Bible study requires both micro and macro views. My first professor of hermeneutics used to refer to the analysis-synthesis interchange. This speaks of the moving back and forth between analyzing the details and synthesizing the passage as a whole in its larger context. Details, like words, can only be truly understood in their context or setting.

Three things push us toward micro Bible study. The first thing is preaching itself. We tend to need details that “will preach” in order to make the sermon sound biblical and interesting. The second thing is personal preference. Some of us are more micro-inclined, while apparently fewer are more macro-inclined. Third, Bible school training has traditionally given more micro tools and approaches, leaving many students unsure how to pursue “bigger picture” study.

We need to master the Book, book by book. As we study a book in order to preach it (or for personal growth – imagine!), let’s try to be aware of the whole. How does the argument flow throughout, how do the pieces fit together? Keep a document that is all about the big picture of the book. As one writer puts it, “Begin to build up a living understanding of Colossians, or of Genesis, or of Mark’s Gospel – whatever – as a whole. Make it your life’s work, and take your time. Let yourself enjoy it.”

I agree. We can never truly master the Book, but let’s spend our lives trying, book-by-book.

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