Seventh-Day Adventists/How to Study the Bible
Dear Bro Sal:
I am currently an SDA. I have been for ten years. I want to believe whatever the Bible teaches. If God through the Bible teaches the doctrines of the SDA Church then I want to believe them. If God doesn’t then I want to reject them. What do you suggest I should do to accomplish this?
Dear Brother Nigel:
Before I answer your question, let me say congratulations on questioning pat church answers and desiring the truth. I know from personal experience that this is not an easy thing to do. It is much easier to simply give lip service to accepted church beliefs then to search for the truth even if that truth is uncomfortable.
You must earnestly study God’s word, the Bible. But first one must pray. One should pray for God to open his mind to God’s truth and open his heart to humbly accept the truth God reveals. One should ask God to help him to understand what His word says not where one can find favorite church teachings. One must prepare one’s heart to accept the truth. “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10 NKJV). One must sincerely desire God’s truth like a newborn desires its mother’s milk (cf. 1 Peter 2:2). Proper studying will enable one to recognize and avoid error/false teaching. If one lacks knowledge of God he can be headed for destruction (see Isaiah 5:13 & Hosea 4:6). If one knows the Bible he can put all teachers to the test (cf. 1 John 4:1). One should be like the noble Bereans and study the Bible with an open mind and heart to distinguish truth from error. “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11 NIV).
How one studies the Bible is extremely important. One should not merely read the Bible. One must study the Bible in order to ascertain what is actually being said. Absolutely do not read the Bible with the mindset of trying to find confirmation for already held beliefs. If one does this he will find whatever he likes despite what the text actually says. We all come to the Bible with a set of beliefs; however, we must learn to put those beliefs aside as we read the Bible so that we can learn what God is saying. I suggest reading several different translations in order to better understand what is being said. No one translation is perfect. Therefore, different versions can compliment one another.
One must read the Bible in context. Do not proof text. Proof texting is ignoring the context when interpreting a text in order to support one’s theological position. When reading the Bible one should always ask who is being spoken to. This is important because not everything in the Bible was written to apply to us today. For example, it would be a mistake to read Exodus 20:8, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy”, and to think that it applies to oneself. In context God is speaking to the Israelites not to Gentiles and certainly not to Christians. The Old Testament was written to teach us. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” (Romans 15:4 NIV). All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to Christians. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NASB). We are never to neglect any portion of Scripture. It’s all able to teach us today. Teaching us and commanding us are two very different things, however.
Read the Bible with covenants in mind. Carefully discern the differences between the covenants especially the Old and New covenants. If one disregards the covenants he will not be able to come to a correct understand of what the Bible teaches. He may be concerned with obsolete Old Covenant practices such as food laws, keeping special days, holy places, holy objects, etc. These are all mere shadows of Christ. We now have the reality in the New Covenant. “Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17 NRSV).
One must do his own study of the Bible. You are responsible for what you believe. Do not put some preacher, church, or other church authority above yourself. If one does then one may hold to some unbiblical doctrine. For example, if one holds the SDA Church as an authority then one will except the Investigative Judgment doctrine despite its complete lack of Biblical support.
One must accept the Bible as inspired and infallible or one may reject what it says in order to preserve a favorite doctrine. Also keep in mind that Bible study is not a cafeteria where one may take what one likes and leave the rest. We must accept all of what the Bible teaches is for us today in the New Covenant.
If I can be of further help to you please just let me know. I pray that you have an enlightening Bible study.