The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Read, Part 5 | Interpretation, Part 2

July 20, 2011

Welcome to the second part of interpreting the Bible!  This fifth part in my series about how to conduct an in-depth, simplified Bible study is the last day that we’ll learn new things about the text.  Last time we looked at the first six parts of Interpretation.  Today, the last five.

Here is the passage we’re studying:

so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. (Titus 2:4-5)

7. Cultural Context

The cultural context of the text you’re studying is learned similarly to the historical and geographical contexts.  Like these earlier contexts, Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Handbook and the Zondervan NIV Atlas of the Bible are very helpful in learning about the culture of the time you’re reading about.  When using a Bible Handbook you should look up the passage you’re studying and the introduction to the book you’re in.

so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. (Titus 2:4-5)

  • Crete, where Titus is ministering, was the center of the Minoan culture.
  • There were Cretans at Pentecost (Acts 2).
  • Cretans had the reputation in the ancient world as being unruly and depraved.  Epimenides, a Cretan himself, wrote of the culture, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” (Titus 1:12)

8. Theological Context

This is where it’s all at.  To me, the Theological Context is the most important part of the entire study.  This is basically figuring out what the passage you’re studying has to do with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Gospel.  This requires thought, prayer, and eventually consultation.  You may need to back up and read the entire section, passage, or even book in which the passage you’re reading is found.  The main idea to focus on–the question to ask yourself–is What does this say about the Gospel?

so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

  • The whole purpose for the letter of Titus was to teach him how to teach the Cretans to have a church that was good for evangelism.  (Titus 1:1-3)  He begins with qualifications for elders (chapter 1), then discusses how specific members of the congregation should act (chapter 2), and then how everyone should act (chapter 3).  The reason–the motive–behind acting these ways is so that the word of God would not be dishonored (Titus 2:5–although this is just speaking about a small portion, it applies to the whole letter.  Also see 2:10).
  • Therefore, young women are not to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that they would be saved. (This would be a works-based salvation which is un-Biblical).
  • Nor are the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that God would be pleased with them. (This, too, is the wrong motive–there is nothing believers can do to have God look on us with any more or any less pleasure.  The way God looks at us has nothing to do with us or our deeds!  We can do nothing right apart from Jesus–God looks on believers and is pleased–because He is pleased with Jesus’ sacrifice!)
  • The motive behind the young women loving their husbands, loving their children, being sensible, pure, working at home, kind, and being subject to their own husbands is Christ–so that the word of God (the Gospel) would not be dishonored!  So that our testimony will not be tarnished–so that our lives would be intriguing to unbelievers–so that our evangelism will not be done in vain.
  • You see, unbelievers (not God!) judge believers by our actions much more than by our words.  How many times have you heard an unbeliever complain that Christianity is full of hypocrites?  Too many times!  Therefore, if we are to be used as instruments of the Gospel, our conduct must be fitting as one who’s sins have been covered by the blood of Jesus!
  • A Note about Hypocrisy: I don’t think anyone expects Christians to be perfect.  Please don’t think Paul is saying that in order for us to be able to evangelize to our neighbors we must be perfect and never let them see us sin.  Of course not!  In fact, often times it’s the humble confession of sin and asking for forgiveness that will get an unbeliever’s attention.  Even so, Paul is calling the young women to a lifestyle of love in verses four and five–a lifestyle in which we will sin, of course, but one that is so marked by the love of Christ–the grace of the Gospel–that it will still catch the attention of our unbelieving friends and honor the word of God (the Gospel) instead of dishonor it.

Again, this is a tough passage that I’ve chosen to use as an example (sorry!)–however, we have found the Gospel in it, which is the whole point of Bible study!  Isn’t it refreshing!?  The Bible is not just a list of rules that we should follow!  It’s all about Christ and Him crucified!

9. Consultation

Here we are at the end of the search!  Consultation is simply looking in others’ commentaries, listening to others’ sermons, reading others’ articles, etc. to see how they interpreted it.  For a long time this is where I began and finished my Bible study.  I would read the passage in my Bible and immediately pick up my John MacArthur commentary to see what it meant.  Doing this last, though, is so much more rewarding:

  • I learn more by doing my own study.
  • I learn the passage I’m studying better because I get so far into it.
  • Every once in a while after doing my own study I find I don’t agree with a commentator’s interpretation of a certain text.  If I had just read his to begin with I probably would have just “agreed” with his findings.  This is not how it should be!  We need to be good Bereans and search the Scriptures for ourselves! (Acts 17:10-11)

Some Commentaries that We Like:

I’m not going to write here all of the notes I would take and the things that would change after reading these commentaries.

However, when I do an actual study I write down in my own words anything that any commentator says that is pertinent to my study.  Often times I go back to my Observation or Interpretation notes and cross things out, change things, and add things.  The most important things or the things that don’t fit into another category, I list out in the “Consultation” box.  I also make sure to take note of which commentator I got a piece of information from!

10. The Interpretive Overview

Finally you’re ready to summarize your thoughts and findings in one to three paragraphs.  Make this concise, but thorough.  Don’t leave anything out.  Everything that you’ll need to find the application of the passage needs to be in the Interpretive Overview.  This is an example of (a very short) overview for Titus 2:4-5:

so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

  • In Titus 2:4-5, we find ourselves in the middle of a long list of characteristics that older men, older women, young women, and young men are to exemplify (2:1-10).  Paul was writing to Titus to tell him what he needed to teach the Cretans (1:5; 2:1).  The reason for the teaching of these characteristics was so that the word of God would not be dishonored (2:5).  Paul wanted Titus to teach these things to the Cretans so that their testimonies–their efforts at evangelism–would not be thwarted (1:9; 2:5; 2:11-15).
  • Ultimately Paul was concerned about the Gospel.  If the Cretans did not conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel (for young women, this conduct is found in verses 4 and 5), unbelievers looking upon their lives would be able to contradict and disregard them (1:9; 2:15).
  • And so while these are all good characteristics to achieve, achieving these characteristics is not the point.  The point is that Christ came, died, and rose again for them-that is their motivation–that the Gospel of Christ would not be dishonored.

11. The Interpretive Conclusion Statement

Lastly, crystallize your interpretation in one clear, concise, carefully worded sentence in third-person, past tense.

so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

  • In Titus 2:4-5, Paul wrote to Titus to tell him that in order for the Gospel–the word of God–not to be dishonored–in order that the young Cretan womens’ testimonies for Christ not be ruined, they were to love their husbands, love their children, be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, and subject to their own husbands.

And that’s it for Interpretation!  Obviously if we were really studying this verse (and it wasn’t just for teaching purposes) we would have gone much deeper.  We would have studied more words.  We would have read more commentaries.  We would have explored Blue Letter Bible deeper.  But I hope this gave you a good idea of what a simplified, yet in-depth Bible study can look like!

Here, again, is the Interpretation printable to organize your findings:

View this document on Scribd

Are you confused?  Is something I wrote fishy?  Do you want more information?  Let me know and I’ll help you/correct myself!

The next step: Application!  Next time I’ll show you how to take this overview and statement and transfer it to your life.  The more I learn about Bible study the easier this step gets.  As it turns out, my heart is not very different from the men and women Scripture was originally written for.  In addition, I’m learning more and more that the Bible has far less to do with me than it does my Savior.

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