Wednesday, January 26, 2022

IBS-27 Timeless Truth Made Easier : T-R-U-T-H in five steps

The Big Idea: Five steps to timeless truths using the acronym TRUTH.

Peter and Paul Didn’t Carry Smart Phone

In Inductive Bible Study how can an ancient Middle Eastern text apply to the modern world? Peter and Paul didn’t carry smart phones! A Sci-fi time-portal would be nice but we don’t live on a Star Trek set. We need real advice from the real God who seeks real communication with us.

The Bible itself speaks of its relevancy to life, not just in its time, but for all time.

Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. Romans 15:4 NLT

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3 NLT

The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever. Isaiah 40:8, quoted again by Peter in 1 Peter 1:25 NLT

Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear. Matthew 24:35 NLT stated by Jesus.

The challenge is about Bible stories with unfamiliar odd customs and storytelling styles so vastly different from our world of breaking news tweets, tabloids and Reality TV. The timeless truth process forces us to ask what the Bible is saying in a time/cultural neutral way. Then we can transition to application to our life.


Here are five easy-to-remember steps to lead you to understand the point of the Bible passage. Saturate the process with prayer. Realize this process may take some time and reflection.

T Track the text. Read it. Read it again. Read it in another Bible translation or two. Read it in context.

Review the background. Who is the author, audience, players in the story, time frame, location, situation, cultural backdrop, world power, etc. Consult a Study Bible introduction to the book.

Understand the main point. Reflect on the passage. Picture yourself there listening or watching. Ask why it’s in the Bible. Ask what it says and shows about God, about man and about life with or without God. Meditate, ruminate, and contemplate what it must be saying. Then think some more.

T Tweak it to a sentence. Try to write one sentence that explains the main point of the passage.

H Hone a timeless culture-free statement. You may have done this is #4, but you may have included cultural elements, such as “Abraham believed God which pleased Him.” This step would remove the cultural and time limited context to a statement such as, “Believing God will do what He says, pleases God.”

The next blog starts the final phase of Inductive Bible Study: Application.

This is the twenty-seventh in a series called Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.
Table of Contents

Up next: Application. The So-What Factor
Previous post: The Timeless Truth of Matthew8:5-13

Also check out a post from about a year ago: Five steps to finding Biblical Timeless Truth


1. What is your opinion on the relevance of the Bible to your life today? What role does it play in your everyday life?

2. Reflect a little on this verse. Has this been your experience as it suggests? Ask God to work out this verse in your life giving you hope and encouragement.

Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. Romans 15:4 NLT

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

IBS-26 The Timeless Truth of Matthew 8:5-13

The Big Idea: Ten steps to Timeless Truth is a bit complex so here is an example from Matthew using the ten steps.

Last week I presented ten steps to find a timeless truth of a Bible passage. Let’s work through Matthew 8:5-13 using the ten step method.

Ten Steps using Matthew 8: 5-13

1. Pray.

2. Read the passage (including other Bible translations). ESV, NIV, NLT

When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment. Matthew 8:5-13 ESV

3. Discern the context:

Author – Matthew the tax collector a disciple of Jesus

Audience – Matthew wrote especially to Jewish Christians

Time period, location – About 30 AD, first century Israel, in Capernaum the ministry base for Jesus. Matthew probably wrote about 50 AD

Cultural Era – Roman power invaded every walk of life in Israel. Jews were treated poorly.

Book theme - Jesus was the long awaited Messiah to bring the Kingdom of God to the world. (From the ESV study Bible)

Chapter and surrounding chapters review (and section headings). The Sermon on the mount preceded this passage. Chapter 8 headings: Jesus cleanses a leper, the Faith of a Centurion, Jesus heals many, The cost of following Jesus, Jesus calms a story, Jesus heals two men with demons. A lot of headings are about healing.

4. Type of writing: Narrative story about a soldier who needs a servant healed.

5. Read the passage again picturing yourself there.

Picture the time period and surroundings. A busy small town on the Sea of Galilee with shops, a synagogue, a lot of people bustling around.

Note who is present and the type of situation. Jesus has gathered followers listening to everything He says and does (v 10). He may have been at the countryside (Sermon on the Mount by the Sea of Galilee) as the story occurred when He entered town.

Note a Centurion is a soldier in command.

6. Author's Intent

Intentional audience – Jewish believers.

Tone of the passage – Amicable. Centurion asking Jesus for a favor, asking very humbly. Jesus amazed at his faith.

Passage purpose: a exemplary example of faith; the faith of a Roman soldier showing faith at work beyond Jewish people.

Why included in the Bible: To highlight faith, especially of some who were outside the Jewish people, from early in Jesus’ ministry.

7. Describe the passage in a sentence. Example: A Roman military leader humbly asks Jesus to heal his servant.

8. Pray over ambiguities or concerns. The role of a Roman Centurion is worth looking up.

9. The Point of the author in a sentence. Example: Jesus is amazed by a non- Jew’s faith and heals his servant from long distance.

10. A timeless culture-free statement. Example:  Bring Jesus your needs humbly acknowledging He is Lord of the universe.

Next week a simplified easy-to-remember five step list will be available for those with less experience in inductive Bible Study. I appreciate feedback that ten steps is too complex for those less experienced in Bible study and Bible background.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

IBS-25 Ten Steps to Timeless Truth

 The Big Idea: A check list to discover the timeless truth of a passage. Disclaimer - advanced Bible study method.

A timeless truth is the central basic idea of a Bible passage not bound by time or culture. It applies to any era or country. An example of a culture-stripped timeless truth: "God’s Word helps us fight temptation."

I know of no guide listing Biblical timeless truths. Discerning them is not impossible if one takes time for reflection and a little background research. The more you have studied the Word of God the easier this process will be. These are steps I would go through. 

The Ten Points in Detail

1. Start with prayer.

2. Read the passage a couple of times (including other Bible translations).

3. Discern the context. A lot of this can be found in a Study Bible or you may have covered if you have been studying this passage in a Bible study and already covered this information. 

a. Identify the author, audience, time period, location, cultural era (world power)

b. Identify the book theme. Thumb through section headings in chapters before and after your passage. 

c. Read the whole chapter of your passage, and skim surrounding chapters by examining section headings.

d. Look at cross references and footnotes in your Study Bible.   

Bible introductions include valuable information on the author, audience, time period, setting theme, and outline of the book.  Intros precede each book in Study Bibles.  Try this Study Bible online from English Standard Version Study Bible. 

4. Identify type of writing:

            a. Narrative (story style)

            b. Instruction (legal, teaching, guidelines)

            c. Example or figurative (parable, proverb, apocalyptic)

5. Read the passage again picturing yourself there.

            a. Picture the time period and surroundings.

            b. Note who is present and the type of situation.

6. Intention of the author

            a. Intentional audience

            b. Tone of the passage

  c. Passage purpose (encouragement, scolding/correction, teaching about God, sin, heaven, hell, how God’s people should live, prayer, a good or bad example?)

            d. Why might this passage or story be included in the Bible?

7. Discribe the passage in a sentence/statement.

8. Admit ambuiguities or concerns. At this point reviewing a trusted commentary or two may be useful. Ask a pastor or Bible study leader’s opinion. Press humbly in spite of fquestions. If you have chosen a difficult passage it has most likely been debated by others. Some passages won’t fully understood till we are with Jesus face to face.

9. Write the author's point in one sentence. Take time here to reflect and pray.

10. Write down the most basic message contained in the passage not bound by time or culture after reviewing your response to #7 and #9.

Congratulations: you have likely found a timeless truth!

God’s Word is both simple and complex. You may argue there is too much for one sentence. One sentence can later be developed adding sub points and applications but it is useful to find the big idea.

 Disclaimer: This could be frustrating for beginners. These ten steps are an activity for people seasoned in studying the Bible on their own.  Pastors do something similar to prepare a clear applicable sermon from a Biblical text. It takes some practice.  I would recommend starting with a fairly short passage that is familiar to you for practice.  To start with a difficult passage that churches have debated for centuries is not an appropriate test for a first effort. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

IBS-24 What does "Timeless Truth" mean?

The Big Idea: What does Biblical timeless truth mean and why does it matter?

Today we return to the series A Practical Starter Guide to Inductive Bible Study which we paused from for Advent.

 The Big Idea

When interpreting a Bible passage look for the timeless truth, sometimes called the universal truth.  What does that mean? I propose it is the most basic big idea at the core as a simple statement stripped of culture or historical period. It should be as relevant for the Biblical Abraham as for Abraham Lincoln. Simply state it in a short sentence.

“God is always with us.”

“Lies are destructive to relationships.”

“When one prays to God He listens.” 

Our own cultural era is known for relativism, which touts that truth is relative to each individual’s own perception and experiences. Experience based, it tends to be subjective. We know that even our culture must admit there are some absolutes. In science, the law of gravity for instance. Regarding moral truth, we know that there is a collective conscience among human beings that deplores a brutally heinous crime.


Standard of Truth

The Bible sets itself as a standard of truth. Look at Psalm 19:7 about the Word of God, the Bible.

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. Psalm 19:7 ESV

Jesus calls the Holy Spirit “The Spirit of truth” in John 16:13. He calls Himself the Way, the Truth and the Life in John 14:6.

Distilling a Bible story or passage down to the timeless truth is important because it leads us to appropriate application to our own everyday life. It bridges the journey from the cultural of the Middle Eastern ancient Bible times to our modern world.


The Picture, the Window and the Mirror

A pastor heard a well known pastor, Warren Wiersbe, illustrate finding timeless truths for writing sermons. He described it using the components of a picture, a window and a mirror A good explanation of this analogy for timeless truth would be like this.

The picture is the story or narrative in the Bible, beautifully written in its cultural context. We can look at it and admire it like a Rembrandt painting. But is it not our world.

Consider the window as the process from the Biblical world to our own. Someone referred to it like a time portal. Do it in prayer, study, and reflection on the key thought and driving principles that shed insight like a window opened, to cross over to our time. In writing magazine articles and Bible messages on world missions I found time spent thinking and praying on the big idea of the passage was time well spent.

The mirror represents reflection and introspection. We look at the passage for it to illuminate our current life. Could one apply the point of the passage on our life like putting on a shirt or a hat? Could we use the passage to examine our life similar to looking at a mirror before heading out the door?

God’s Word was written and is presented to us in multiple ancient Middle Eastern contexts. To best apply it to our lives it is useful to distill the big idea, that is, the timeless truth separated from culture, to move to relevancy of Scripture to our own world. Many of us do this without realizing it. 

Next week we will explore how ten steps can help us find the timeless truth of a passage.