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What do you mean by “Deeper Study”?

OK, definitions: By ‘deeper’ I mean that we are moving beyond the obvious. We are perceiving the connections preceding and proceeding from our target text, and also its connections with other writings of the same author and of other biblical writers (see for example how Joel 2:11 connects with what goes before and what comes after). We also draw conclusions based on synonymous and antithetical parallelism that are not explicitly stated in the text (see e.g., Proverbs 12:15 and 17:17). We should pay attention to the details, but also integrate what those details contribute to the big picture.

Deeper study of the historical sections of the Bible includes working out the way the characters of the story relate to each other socially. For example, Bathsheba was the granddaughter of David’s advisor Ahithophel (see 2 Samuel 11:3 and 23:34), which helps us understand Ahithophel’s probable motivation for participating in Absalom’s rebellion (see 2 Samuel 16:15-17:23). Also the disagreement Paul and Barnabas have over John Mark (see Acts 15:36-41) is more understandable when we remember that John Mark is the cousin of Barnabas (Col. 4:10).

Going deeper means that you consciously bridge the gap between what God commanded some Old Testament character or group and what He wants us to do. Of course, that does not necessarily mean that He wants us to do or avoid the same thing, e.g. not boiling a young goat in its mother’s milk (Exodus 23:19), but we derive principles from them that are applicable to us. In this case, perhaps, steering clear of all forms of cruelty, though this particular recipe may have been part of some kind of idolatrous practice.

Going deeper also means that you don’t assume that you know everything there is to know about Bible passages that are super familiar to us. You try to look at them again from a fresh perspective or with the eyes of someone looking at the passage for the very first time. For example, in the Parable of the Sower, Jesus seems to switch from having the soil stand for persons to having the seed represent them (see Luke 8:14-15). Perhaps this suggests that in the case of the thorny soil and the good soil, the growing seed becomes inextricably united with the soil, as the photo of a cauliflower root below illustrates.

cauliflower roots

Going deeper also means that you try to set aside your assumptions about what a text means and try on a different understanding. For example, “Accept one another” (Romans 15:7) is often understood individualistically, but Paul is talking about two groups–Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. Getting one group to accept another group is much more difficult than getting one person to accept another, especially if the difference between the two groups is racial and cultural. But of course, the verse still applies to individuals.

Finally, going deeper means that we want to discern what God is saying to us in our own particular situation (take a look, for example, at Ephesians 5:3-7, and ask yourself if it speaks to our entertain-me generation). Going deeper means that we have the humility to recognize our own sinfulness and that we still need God’s moral guidance even if we have gone a considerable distance toward spiritual maturity. And it means that when we realize what God would have us do or not do, we obey—readily and courageously.

Now, it’s your turn. What ideas do you have about what going deeper in Bible study means?

Steve has been a Bible teacher for over 30 years. He has written many articles, more than 20 e-books, and several study guides, most recently, Overcoming: Guide to Understanding the Book of Revelation. His website, DeeperStudy.com, encourages all people to go deeper in their understanding of the Word of God, the Bible, and to become authentic, New Testament Christians who serve a risen Lord.

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