I started this series of blog postings on how to study the Bible and then found out that I wouldn't have efficient Internet access for 2 weeks. So, I've been slow in updating. Now home, I am able to resume this important topic.
In my last 2 posts, I have highlighted the first two steps of good Bible study: Preparation [prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit to teach us] and Observation [the discipline to "What do I see?"]. Interpretation without observation ends in presumption.
Before moving on to the next step, I think it might be helpful to model the process of Observation. Consider Galatians 3:26-29:
26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Here are my initial "observations" on these four verses:
1. The author is Paul, the Apostle
2. "You" are the Christians in Galatia, a church established by Paul
3. They become sons of God "through" faith in Christ Jesus. Does this mean that all people are not automatically "children of God"?
4. "all" is repeated 3x
5. "for" indicates reason or cause: The reason we are sons of Christ is because we have been baptized and clothed in Christ.
6. What does it mean to be "baptized into Christ"? Is this water baptism?
7. What does it mean to be "clothed with Christ"?
8. The "clothing" is something we do [i.e., "clothe yourselves"].
9. Why does Paul raise the issue in v. 28?
10. What does it mean that we are all "one in Christ Jesus"?
11. Is there any reason why Paul uses "Christ Jesus" instead of the more common "Jesus Christ"?
12. Conditional statement in v. 29: "If you..."
13. Does "belonging" parallel "sons" and "clothed with Christ"?
14. What is the significance of "Abraham's seed"? Does the concept appear in other places?
15. "seed" is singular--We might expect "seeds"
16. An "heir" to what [v. 29]?
17. What "promise" is Paul talking about?
18. What problem does Paul seem to be addressing?
Just by recording these observations, I guess that this passage is about clarifying who is included in God's promise to Abraham and, therefore, true children of God. Of course, I won't jump to this conclusion without a more thorough investigation. But, the work of observation [notice that I haven't even done the work of answering my questions] already begins to shed light on the meaning of the text.
Now it's your turn. Find James 1:22-25 in your Bible and make 10-20 observations about the passage. Good practice.