– Tools for Understanding God’s Word–
By Nigel Beynon and Andrew Sach
Crossway (Wheaton, Illinois): 2010
About a year ago, after a Truth For Life broadcast, the radio announcer recommended Dig Deeper to the listeners as a good resource for the believer who seeks to know more about God through His word. I accepted the challenge and got the book; and what a wonderful book it is.
Every believer should care deeply about understanding God’s word. The consequences of misunderstanding the Bible through misinterpretation are grave. As the authors state on page 12:
Many of the world’s leading cults – Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science – claim to place the Bible at the center of their religion. They just interpret it “differently.” But even mainstream Christians can end up in a real mess because they think that the Bible is saying or promising something that it isn’t.
Beynon and Sach call understanding the Bible both a science and an art. As a science, it is a structured process; and as an art, it is something that you “catch on to” like riding a bike – it just becomes second nature. The tools that the authors suggest to the reader are similar to tools in the hands of a fine craftsman who has to “exercise judgment and skill” to use them effectively.
After explaining what the Bible is and how we should approach it in the first chapter, the 16 remaining chapters focus on one tool each. The chapters are from six to ten pages long, so if you only have a few minutes to read, you can still get through a full chapter and learn another tool.
I hear, I forget; I see, I remember; I do, I understand.
Each chapter tells you about the tool and gives examples of how to use it. Then the authors give you a chance to Dig Deeper and use the tool on suggested biblical passages. When I was learning how to work with wood in high school or learning how to write in college, I used this method and it is very effective. You won’t just hear about how to use a tool, you will see it used correctly and then have the opportunity to use it yourself and to practice your new skill. This is an excellent method to learn how to understand God’s word.
The first few tools focus on the author’s purpose, context and structure, by far the most important facets of rightly understanding scripture. Other useful skills are taught in chapters focusing on parallelism, vocabulary, tone, repetition and genre.
I found the Linking Words Tool and the Structure Tool chapters to be the most interesting. It was like using a telescope to look at the planets rather than binoculars. What was once just a dot in the sky becomes a rich, deep picture of something far more vast and glorious than you ever suspected previously.
The book concludes with the “So What” Tool, and the authors sum it up thusly,
You might apply the tools in this book with such care and precision that you know exactly what Paul meant when he wrote to the Romans or what Isaiah was saying to the people in his day. That’s interesting as a history lesson, but unless you recognize that God is also speaking through those things to you today, it will have been a waste of time.
This chapter as well as the conclusion is about application and they (rightly, I think) come last. So often, people want to jump right into the Bible, rip a verse or two out of their context, ignore the author’s purpose and apply it directly to their 21st century lives. Without rightly understanding God’s word (His WHOLE Word), this is a dangerous exercise. Beynon and Sach understand this and accompany this chapter with many warnings.
The words of Paul to the elders of the church in Ephesus close the book:
And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. Acts 20:32 ESV
If you want to know God better so you can love Him better and better do His will, then you must know His Holy Word better. Dig Deeper is a toolbox full of valuable instruments that are useful and effective for this purpose.
Dig Deeper is available through Crossway and Amazon.