Often times when we read the bible, we do so with presuppositions that have been implanted in our minds based on teachings we have heard or read. While there is a lot of good teaching being done, there are also a lot of errors being promulgated. That is why it is important when you read the bible to keep open to the Holy Spirit’s promptings while you study in context.
It is wise to read a book over many times before you break out the study tools. Well, perhaps it is a good idea to have an understanding of who wrote the book, and who it was written to, as well as the historical setting. But most bibles have a preface for each book that gives you a thumbnail of that information. You can also glean that information readily from such sites as www.biblestudytools.com.
When you read the book, try not to chop it up according to chapters and verses, or the subheadings provided in your bible. Read it as though you were reading a letter from a friend, or a novel. There is an overall message to be learned, and pulling chapters and sentences out of the whole and building a doctrine on them is not wise. You have to read through the whole thing in order to understand what is being said or taught. If you built your doctrine just on the first chapter of Romans, you would be teaching condemnation. But as you read the whole book, you see that the message of Romans is not God’s condemnation, but God’s incomprehensible grace.
Pay attention to the “therefore’s”. That means that the following statement is directly dependent upon the preceding information. A good example is Matthew 6:24:
24“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
This verse is usually quoted on its own, followed by a lambasting sermon against riches.
But the following verses say:
25“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
The “therefore” tells us that this section is directly related to the previous, and the message becomes completely different. You can’t be a slave to money and be a slave to God. We tend to be slaves to money when we are dependent on our own earning capacity to provide for our needs. It is our Heavenly Father who provides for us, because He IS our father and he loves us. As we seek His Kingdom and His righteousness (bestowed upon us by His grace), all our needs will be provided for. That kind of plants a kick in the head to teachings that suggest we have to give money to God in order to have a roof over our heads, and food in our bellies. Here is a great lesson on the topic of God’s provision: