4 Quick Questions About Studying The Bible
BIBLE STUDY MAGAZINE: WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL BIBLE STUDY METHOD?
Justin Holcomb: I prefer to go through the books consecutively, which helps me focus on the message of each book. Reading book by book helps me understand how the text fits together. This way, I’m able to follow the Bible’s themes and ideas from beginning to end. I also don’t want to overlook details. Reading one book at a time helps me get into the texture of each passage and helps me locate themes that repeat.
BSM: WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH TO READING THE BIBLE?
JH: I think the big idea is: What is the Bible? Is it a to-do manual? Is it just a classic text? Do we read it so that we can find a few commands that we should follow, or is it saying something else?
Since I think the big idea of the Bible is “God saves sinners,” that is the theme I’m generally looking for. When I teach the Bible, I want people to be looking for what God has said about Himself, while also being fully aware of who we are or can be: redeemed sinners.
BSM: HOW DID YOU TEACH CHAPLAINS IN SUDAN TO STUDY THE BIBLE?
JH: In Sudan, we taught army chaplains who served without weapons on the front lines. They ministered to the southern army, northern prisoners of war and Sudanese civilians. In this instance, biblical literacy was our main concern. After visiting Sudan for the first time, I realized that these chaplains loved Jesus and they loved the Bible—but they didn’t have Bible training or resources, so they didn’t know it that well.
We went through the entire Bible and taught them how it all hangs together—dates, biblical writers, basic structure. They had such an eagerness to learn.
BSM: CURRENTLY, YOU’RE TEACHING THE BIBLE IN SEVERAL DIFFERENT CONTEXTS. WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AT CHURCH AND AT REFORMED THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY?
JH: I enjoy helping pastors develop sermons. I want to make sure pastors are teaching with their eyes fixed on holiness and the grace of God. I have them ask themselves: Am I giving each person the good message of “repent and believe the gospel,” or am I giving them heaving burdens that they can’t carry?
With my seminary students, I focus on a “gospel-centered” hermeneutic. I want them to see the weight of the holiness of God and the response of repentance. I want them to understand their continual dependence on the grace of God and the message of the Bible, both for themselves and for the people they’re going to be leading and evangelizing.
Justin Holcomb is featured in the current January/February 2012 issue of Bible Study Magazine. This Q&A is available on their site where he talks with the magazine about studying the Bible and equipping leaders.