On our recent Overview Weekend Away, we studied 1 Thessalonians. We were considering the value of studying it as a whole book, rather than just dipping into bits. It's something we do all the time at St Helen's; we study all of Mark or Romans, we preach through books. So why is studying whole Bible books so beneficial?
Well, at the weekend, I loved how studying a whole book helped us:
1. Understand the context.
As we looked at 1 Thessalonians we got to know a young church, with which Paul had only spent a short time. We felt his joy that they'd stuck with the gospel. We understood his longing for them to stand firm. His knowledge of them shaped what he wrote to them.
Stepping back and looking at whole Bible books, forces us to consider their context. And whether like 1 Thessalonians it's a letter to a young church, or like Haggai it's a message to Israel, that context adds richness. That context makes us ask, why he is saying these things, to these people, at this time.
2. See Paul's agenda.
Looking at 1 Thessalonians we saw Paul had a reason to write to this church. He wanted them to stand firm; to know what standing firm looks like; to know what might stop them standing firm. And there were somethings he wasn't interested in talking about at all.
Stepping back and looking at whole Bible books, helps us understand different authors' purposes for different books. That's good for us. It means we can't just ask our questions and then try to find a single verse answer; rather we have to work out what God considers important in this book. And, if God considers it important, it's probably something we need to know!
3. Feel the big applications.
Looking at 1 Thessalonians, we discovered it only had a few big applications. All were related to standing firm as Christians! The application was much simpler, but came with much more force, than we expected.
Stepping back and looking at whole Bible books, gives us perspective on their big applications. We see the author's headline applications emerging. We see how the details fit with these applications. We see why the author wants these things for these people. The applications become obvious and more real.
The overview weekend was a really helpful reminder of the benefits of studying Bible books, as whole books. It left me, for one, rejoicing at the wisdom with which God wrote His big book.
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