How do you read your Bible? There are many great ways to study your Bible. As we study Ephesians, we will focus on an inductive way of studying the Bible—we will use the Bible as a means to interpret itself. In other words, we will consider Ephesians in the context of the entire Bible, which will help us understand the message of Ephesians.
As we study each chapter of Ephesians, we will focus on three stages: observation, interpretation, and application. Observation helps us discover what the passage of Scripture is actually saying. Observation is the foundation for interpretation and application. Interpretation leads us to the meaning of the passage. Application refers to the personal application of the Scriptures to your life. We ask the question, If the Scriptures are true, how will they influence your life?
This method of studying the Scriptures is one that you can use again and again—in the book of Ephesians and beyond.
The observation stage allows us to examine the Scriptures and gain information. We want to figure out what the passage is saying. We will ask the five W questions—the who, what, where, when and why of the text, along with how. Observation also allows us to look for key/repeated words, comparisons and contrasts, commands and questions. God uses our observation to open our eyes to the message and details of the text.
How can we interpret the words of an all-knowing God? The idea of humans accurately interpreting the Scriptures, with all our limitations, might seem impossible, or even presumptuous. Remember, we must approach the Scriptures with humility and an understanding that the Holy Spirit is the One who helps us interpret the Scriptures. Without the Holy Spirit’s revelation, we would not be able to understand and interpret the Scriptures. We also must realize that it is possible for us to misinterpret the Scriptures at times. Not because the Holy Spirit has inaccurately revealed the truth, but because our hearts may be hard. With this in mind, we need to ask the Lord to soften our hearts as we read Scripture and ask Him to open our eyes to the truth.
Observation helps us understand what exactly the text is saying, whereas interpretation helps us understand the meaning of the text. As we seek to accurately interpret the Scriptures, we must consider several things. First, we consider the context of the passage in light of the encompassing verses, the book in which the text is found, and how that book fits into the Bible as a whole. Second, we remember the major themes of the Bible (Jesus, love, mercy, grace, justice) and think about how our interpretation fits into those themes. Compare your interpretation to the major teachings of the Bible, which focus on God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, man, sin, heaven, hell, angels, demons, church, and salvation, for example. Third, we remember that Scripture never contradicts itself, because God inspired it all. Scripture helps us interpret Scripture. Fourth, we always look for the obvious teaching of the Scripture. Last, we consider what the author had in mind when the text was written. We ask, What is the author hoping to communicate to the people of the day? With the Holy Spirit’s revelation, these steps will help us accurately interpret Scripture.
Application is key! If we never applied the Scriptures, the benefits of the truth would have no impact in our lives. James 1:22 says, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” And we do not want to be deceived. By “doing” the word of God, not just hearing it, we become more like Jesus, which is our ultimate goal as His followers. The application of Scripture opens the door for God to work in our lives.
Second Timothy 3:16–17 gives us a great example of how to apply the Scriptures to our lives: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and pro table for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” The teachings of God’s Word are what it says about all areas of life, which lead us down the best path. When it comes to reproof, if we have thoughts or behaviors that are not in line with God’s Word, the Bible sheds light on these areas of our lives. After allowing the Scriptures to give reproof in our lives, we can now correct our ways that are not in line with God’s Word. The Bible trains us in righteousness, showing us how to be more like Christ, and gives us all we need for every situation in life.