Principle #1: The On-Your-Mark, Get-Set, Go Principle of Interpretation
While interpreting the Bible may seem like challenging endeavor, several guidelines exist to help us. The first one is the Preparation Principle, or as I like to think of it, The On-Your-Mark, Get-Set, Go Principle.
A runner in a race finds her mark on the starting line, gets her feet set in the starting blocks and assumes a position to accelerate with a burst of effort, and waits to hear the starting pistol. When the shot comes, she is ready to run the race. As a student of the Word begins to study, there are similarities to running a race.
On Your Mark – prepare the physical environment.
- Find a place where you can study. The spot should be a place free of distractions, comfortable, but not too comfortable that you drift off to sleep. Arrange for good lighting.
- Place your Bible study resources close by. You have lots of choices here but consider having your favorite Bible, a couple of other Bible translations, a Bible dictionary, a Bible atlas, a Bible encyclopedia, and commentaries. You might choose to use many of these in digital form on your tablet, computer, or smart phone but hardcopy books like these are very helpful.
- Secure a way to take notes. This might be a notebook and a pen or you can take notes electronically.
- Make appointments with God for regularly Bible study and keep the appointments.
- Being rested and alert will enhance your study.
Get Set – prepare spiritually.
- Pray. Confess any known sin so that you are not quenching the Spirit as He teaches you.
- Ask God to teach you. God wants you to understand and rely on His Word. He will answer this prayer in the affirmative.
- Ask for wisdom (James 1:5-8).
- Admit your limitations—you can’t and won’t know it all! Further realize that the Bible is so rich that one can spend a lifetime in fulltime study of it. Go easy on yourself.
Go—prepare your mind.
- Be open to God and His Word.
- Acknowledge your prejudices and previous learning.
- Read the passage you are studying multiple times in a few translations. Note the differences.
- Put your study resources to use.
- Take notes and write observations.
- Apply what you learn to your life.
- Share what you learn with someone.
Engaging the Bible transforms our lives. Get prepare for Bible study and see what God will do.
Next we will look at the When-and-Where Principle.
Reflection: Read Acts 17:10-12. Note that the Jews in Berea were eager to learn God’s Word. They searched it regularly and many of them turned in faith to Jesus. This is what Bible study will do.
Learn more: If you can get a copy of The Disciple’s Study Bible you will find an excellent treatment of Bible interpretation skills in one of the many helps included in the study resources in the back of the volume.