There are three major ways to understand a passage in the Bible. I’m sure we could list more, but for this article, we will just look at just three. In scripture there is a story and there’s a meaning behind the story. Always allow the Holy Spirit to guide your study and teaching.
The first way to teach a story is to find one primary overall meaning of the text. This is when you read a passage and do exegesis. This is when you ask the question, “What was the author’s intended meaning?” For example, Jay Smith wrote a summary on BibleHub.com on the book of Jonah. He stated, “The purpose of this book is to show that God is a merciful and gracious God. Although the wicked city of Nineveh deserved to be crushed immediately, God was patient towards them.” When we do exegesis, this can really get us out of our bubble and help us see the perspective of the one who wrote it.
The second way to teach a passage is called application. This is when we apply the story to our lives. For some teachers this can be difficult and for others it can be easy. If we are studying the story of Jonah, we could point out that Jonah teaches us that even when we run away from God’s plan, He still has a purpose for us. In the story of David, we can see how God can give us the ability to defeat our giants when we trust in Him.
The Final way to teach a passage is the Christ-Center hermeneutic. This is my favorite. This is about seeing Christ through each story in the Bible. Jesus once said, “for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40). We can also see this on the road to Emmaus. After Jesus’ death two disciples were found walking on the road to Emmaus with sadness. Jesus appeared to them and showed them typologies of Himself in the Old Testament. They began sad, and as they heard the story of Jesus, they were filled with peace. They ended their journey with joy running to tell others about what Christ had done.
When we preach with these three methods, we will achieve a one-two hit, with an uppercut to finish the enemy’s plans. There are layers of meaning to each story. So, remember not to diminish any of these. It could be easy to neglect one of these three, but I believe having a exegesis, application, and a Christ-centered approach to the Bible will make our Bible Study powerful.