Bible Study, Mailbag

The Mailbag: We Want Bible Study Answers

 

Why don’t you provide the answers to the questions you ask in your Bible studies?

If you’ve been around the blog for any length of time you’ve noticed (I hope) that Wednesday is Bible study day. We’ve been through several books, including Jonah, Colossians, Ezra, and our current study of Ruth. We’ve done two topical studies: one on the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) and one on assurance (1 John). And there are 66+ (every book of the Bible and then some) one lesson stand-alone studies. If you’re looking for a Bible study for group or personal use, they’re all hereand they’re all free (all I ask is that you don’t plagiarize).

The format I’ve developed for my studies is to present the biblical text, provide several study questions, and finish off with a homework assignment- action you can take to apply one of the truths of the passage to your own life.

But I intentionally refrain from providing a list of answers to the study questions. Why?

Because the purpose of my Bible studies is not for you to get the “right answers.” My goal is to demonstrate for you the kinds of questions you should be asking of any passage of Scripture you approach. The purpose is to teach you (or your small group) how to study the Bible on your own so you won’t need to depend on a “canned” study written by somebody else, even me. I’m trying to work myself out of a job. You know- teach a woman to fish rather than giving her a fish.

In my own private study time as well as in Sunday School classes and other small group Bible studies, I’ve found that diving into the text and studying it for myself – or with my group – is far more meaningful and memorable than looking at the passage through the eyes of a third party. Approaching Scripture without a “middle man” lends itself to an intimacy with God that just isn’t there otherwise. It’s the difference between a private, behind closed doors, conversation with your husband and a conversation with your husband while out on a double date with friends. You get that “double date conversation” every Sunday when your pastor preaches, but God is a personal God, and you need some time alone with Him during the week.

But I’m afraid that if I study on my own, I’ll get something wrong! What if I misunderstand Scripture and end up believing false doctrine?

Bible study is a skill. And just like every other new skill you learn, you’re probably going to make some mistakes when you’re first starting out. When you first learned to read, you pronounced some words incorrectly. When you were learning to ride a bike, you fell down a few times. But you didn’t let those mistakes stop you. You kept practicing until you learned the skill. Bible study is the same way. You probably will make some mistakes along the way. But God has provided a lot of “training wheels” to help you out:

His Goodness and Trustworthiness
God is a good God. He wants you to study His word, get to know Him, and grow in Christ. It would be evil and cruel of God to tell you this, and then lead you – His child, who wants to draw near to Him through the study of His word – into false doctrine. And God is not evil and cruel. He is good, He is a God of truth, and His word is truth. Trust Him as you open His word to study.

What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 11:11-13

The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.
Psalm 119:160

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
John 17:17

The Holy Spirit
If you are a genuinely regenerated Believer, you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the author of Scripture. Because God does not contradict Himself and He does not lie, the Holy Spirit indwelling you will not lead you to believe what is contrary to the words of Scripture He inspired. Ask Him to give you wisdom and understanding as you study.

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 11:9-13

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
John 16:13-14

Tools
God has blessed us with a number of helps for learning how to study His word, from instructions on handling the text to commentaries, Bible dictionaries, Bible atlases, and the like. Many are online and available for free. I’ve included some of those here (be sure to scroll down). And don’t forget your (doctrinally sound) pastor, elders, and Sunday School teachers as invaluable resources. I’ve never met one who wouldn’t be delighted to help someone understand a passage of Scripture.

Easter Eggs
If you’ve worked through any of my studies, you’ve probably noticed that, if you read carefully, I do provide answers to some of the study questions.

Hyperlinks– If you see a hyperlink in a question, try answering the question on your own first. Then, click the link. It will take you either to related Scriptures that will help you answer the question or to an article or resource you can read for more information.

Follow Up Questions– Each study “question” is usually a series of questions. Try to answer them one at a time. But, if you’ll notice, I sometimes provide the answer to one question in a subsequent question. For example (from Ezra, Lesson 11):

What was Israel’s hope? Compare Israel’s hope for God’s mercy and forgiveness of sin in response to true repentance with 1 John 1:9.

God loves you and wants you to dive into the treasure chest of His word. Trust Him. Use the resources He has provided. And if you fall off your bike in the process, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep practicing.


Additional Resources

Bible Study resource articles

Bible Studies by Michelle Lesley

10 Simple Steps to Plain Vanilla Bible Study

You’re Not as Dumb as You Think You Are: Five Reasons to Put Down that Devotional and Pick Up the Actual Bible

10 Bookmarkable Biblical Resources for Christian Women

Rightly Dividing: 12 Do’s and Don’ts for Effective Bible Study


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

3 thoughts on “The Mailbag: We Want Bible Study Answers”

  1. Michelle, I have a question about theology/doctrine that I am hoping you can help me with. I am a fairly new Christian, and certainly new to discernment and studying theology. I have a desire to understand certain theological concepts and I’ve been searching the internet for sound teachers on these topics. That is how I came upon your blog, among others. In my search, I seem to come upon quite a few people who describe themselves as Reformed or Calvinist or some variation of those. (I am new to learning about these distinctions as well.) As I read blogs or listen to podcasts by people who identify themselves as Reformed or Calvinist, I understand most of it until they discuss the topic of God’s sovereignty and whether man has some form of free will. I have found that this is a topic of much debate. I am struggling with this, and I can’t seem to find a good source on this topic. Most of what I find seems to be extreme viewpoints on either end of the debate. Some respected and well-known Calvinist teachers have said that God is controlling every thought in a man’s mind, even to the point of causing man to murder and rape. (This idea troubles me greatly, and the thought of it being true is becoming a stumbling block. Is this the character of God? Is this view held by most Reformed or Calvinist believers, or just some?) Others say God is in overall control but allows man to do evil from our sinful nature, using it for an ultimate good. (Does holding this view describe God as weak, as some Calvinists have said?) I realize that the truth of how God works is a mystery to man, and I will not know for sure, but I feel I am in need some sound teaching on this subject. Do you have any guidance on this topic? Do you have any books or teachers you can recommend on the topic of God’s sovereignty? Thank you for having this blog! I appreciate your work!

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    1. Hi Erin- It’s always great to hear from godly women like you who are studying theology! Let me see if I can help a little…

      “…God is controlling every thought in a man’s mind, even to the point of causing man to murder and rape. (This idea troubles me greatly…”

      It should trouble you greatly. It troubles me greatly too, because this idea is patently evil, unbiblical, and is a slap in the face of our holy God. I cannot speak to how many people who claim to be Reformed hold this idea. All I can tell you is that a) I’ve never heard a doctrinally sound Calvinist teach this, and b) it sounds more like (heretical) hyper-calvinism that actual, biblical Calvinism.

      “Others say God is in overall control but allows man to do evil from our sinful nature, using it for an ultimate good.”

      That’s the correct and biblical view.

      “Does holding this view describe God as weak, as some Calvinists have said?”

      No. Again, that idea sounds more like hyper-calvinism than real Calvinism.

      Resources:
      If you’re on Facebook, I would highly recommend joining the Theology Gals group, run by my friend Coleen Sharp. It’s a group that centers around teaching and discussing Reformed theology. Lots of knowledgeable ladies over there who can answer your questions and recommend good resources. If you’re not on Facebook, it would be worth joining just for this group. I’d also recommend the Theology Gals podcast.

      Next, anything on God’s sovereignty from R.C. Sproul or John MacArthur. Sproul is Reformed Presbyterian, while MacArthur leans more Reformed Baptist, so there are a few differences, but both are great teachers. In addition to their sermons, articles, and books, Sproul also has some short on-line courses you can take, and I’m sure some of them deal with God’s sovereignty.

      Sproul’s Does God Control Everything? is short and free for Kindle, so that might be a good place to start.

      I’m reading MacArthur’s None Other right now, which deals with God’s sovereignty and other aspects of His nature.

      Hope this helps :0)

      Like

      1. Thank you for your reply! I will definitely look up these resources. Also, I have been listening to some of John MacArthur’s sermons on the Grace To You: Pulpit Podcast. Thank you so much!

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