“What does this Bible passage mean to you?” This is an often asked question in many Bible study groups. Unfortunately, it’s a dangerous question. It can easily take us far away from God’s truth.
Why Shouldn’t We Ask “What does this passage mean to you?”
The question itself implies that God’s truth is relative. That it’s okay for a Bible verse or passage to mean one thing to one person and something different to another. But God’s truth is not relative. It is absolute because the Bible reflects the character of its Author. The Bible is true and unchaining because God is true and unchanging. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth (John 17:17). The times and our culture change constantly, but God’s Word never changes. It is just as relevant today as when it was first written. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:17).
His Word has just one, true meaning – what God meant when He inspired it to be written. While, there is but one meaning of any Bible passage, there is endless application. (For the difference between “meaning” and “significance” see “What Does This Verse Mean to You?”)
Keep reading to see what questions we should ask.
What Question Should We Ask First?
So, where do we begin? Let’s start with: “What does this passage mean?” Our first goal in Bible study is to discover God’s one, original meaning. It may sound daunting, but with the proper tools we can understand the Bible. In fact, God wants us to understand His Word. And it doesn’t have to be hard. There are lots of great Bible study methods and tools that help us approach and study God’s Word correctly. (For instance, see “4 R Bible Study Method” and “Video Teaching on the 4 R Bible Study Method.” for a little hands on demonstration!)
Yes! We can understand God’s Word when we handle it correctly! Just be careful. It is also easy to fall into some common ways of incorrectly approaching Scripture. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). (See also “Do You Read the Bible All Wrong?“)
What Question Should We Ask Last?
After using correct Bible study tools to understand what the Scripture means, we can apply God’s truth to our lives. Now, instead of asking, “What does this passage mean to you?” we can ask “What does this passage mean for you?”
The Bible is a book by God and about God. (See also “Do You Look for God When You Read the Bible?“) It reveals God’s character, plans, purposes, and ways. Again, the Bible is by God and about God. But the Bible is God’s Word for us. Every spiritual truth we find in the Bible has real-life application for our lives today. And the way God shows us to apply His truth will change with time, the circumstances, and our need.
One meaning. Same truth. Endless application.
What Bible study method do you use? Was today’s post helpful?