How to Study a New Testament Letter – Part 2
Thank you for joining me during our Spiritual Renewal month. One of our New Year’s Resolutions was to study a book of the Bible on our own. Many times people make a New Year’s Resolution to read through the Bible in a year. I think this is a good thing to do, but sometimes we need to slow down to make sure we understand what we are reading. Last week I asked you to choose a New Testament letter to study. We looked up the date the book was written, the author, the recipients and the setting. If you missed this lesson, you might wish to read it before you begin this one, How to Study a New Testament Letter – Part 1.
This next week I want you to slowly read through 1-2 chapters of your book, but no more. You will be amazed at what you learn, when you slow down to see what the writer is actually saying. In many of the letters, especially those written by Paul, he begins with a greeting to the church or person he is writing. How does he refer to the recipients, those he wrote the letter to? For example in 1 Corinthians, Paul calls the believers saints. Last week I asked you to mark the recipients in a distinctive way. I like to underline them in orange. You may wish to also underline any names he calls the recipients in the same way. So in 1 Corinthians, you would also underline saints in orange. Now take a look to see why Paul or your author is writing the letter. Is he rebuking them, commending them or both? Make a list in your notebook of all the good things Paul or the writer has to say about the Christian(s). Next take a look to see if he has anything negative to say about them. This will set the tone for the entire letter. In 1 Corinthians Paul says that the church is quarreling among them. He will have to address several issues in this book, so you may wish to make a list of good things and negative things. In some letters, such as Ephesians, Paul only has good things to say about the church, so this may not apply in every setting.
Next we will look at the 5 W’s and an H or the who, what, when, where, why and how. As you read over your chapter or 2 chapters ask yourself questions like: Who are the characters? What is the purpose in this writing? When did this happen? Where are the characters located? Why did this letter have to be written? How are the recipients supposed to change? You will also want to look out for key words or words which are repeated throughout the chapter. I like to mark these words in a special way and then keep track of the markings on a notecard. I want to be consistent with my markings throughout my Bible. For example, I mark the word prayer with a purple semicircle. This makes it easy for me to flip through my Bible and find all the verses on prayer. Think about how you will mark your Bible before you begin or print out your letter from the internet I used to mark so much in my Bible that I found it to be too messy. Now I mark certain words that are found throughout my Bible like prayer, grace, believe, Jesus etc. Many people do not like marking the text, so it is not a requirement. I do encourage you to at least try it for the duration of your Bible study. You may decide in the end that it is a valuable tool. If you have room, you may wish to make notes in the margin as well. I like for all my notes to be in my Bible, because I will always have it with me. I will not carry around all the notebooks I used while studying a book of the Bible.
This will be enough for this week. I will summarize the steps below:
1. How does the author refer to his audience in the greeting?
2. Does he have good things to say, bad things to say or both? Make a list of each
3. As you are reading ask yourself the 5 W’s and an H.
4. Look for key words (repeated) words and mark in a distinct way.
5. Keep a notecard for all your repeated words.
6. Pat yourself on the back as you finish your study for this week.
To print these instructions, click here: How to Study a New Testament Letter 2
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