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Thursday, August 28, 2014

New Wednesday Night Study: Colossians!

September 3 will mark the return of our Wednesday night AWANA and adult Bible study series.  If your children have not been involved with AWANA before, it is a great opportunity to reinforce the basic truths of the faith and to cultivate in them love for the Scriptures.  They will be blessed to participate.
Our adult Bible study for the Fall semester will be an inductive study of Colossians.  Numerous people have requested a study on this book and others have commented that it is their favorite book of the Bible.  It is no wonder that people are drawn to this book - it is filled with rich truths about the Savior and about our position in Him.  For those who desire to fan the flame of their affection for Christ, there may be no better book to study than Colossians.
Our main objective will be to understand and apply the message of this epistle.  A secondary objective will be to become more familiar with the discipline of studying the bible.  The more we study the Bible together in this setting, the more comfortable we will all be using this study method on our own.  
Each week, in each passage we study, we will have four objectives:
1.     Observe the text.  “What does the text say?”
2.     Interpret the text.  “What does the text mean by what it says?”
3.     Apply the text.  “What does the text require of me?”
4.     Obey the text.  “What practical steps do I need to take to be obedient to the text?”
Our first order of business in the series will be to do a thorough overview of Colossians.  The overview is the most important component of studying the Bible, and yet, it is often neglected.  It is natural to want to start digging into the first verse right way.  However, when we do that without getting a feel for the book as a whole, we can make serious errors in interpretation.
Context is vitally important to biblical interpretation, so we must understand the context before we look closely at individual sections, paragraphs, and verses.  If you have been with us for long in our Sunday morning study of Matthew, you know that we often take a step back from our weekly text to be reminded of the larger context.  Without doing that, we are in danger of completely misunderstanding the message of any given passage.  For that reason, we’ll spend several weeks gaining an overall familiarity with the message of Colossians. 
The first step in doing an overview is to simply read the book in its entirety repetitively.  There are only 4 chapters in Colossians, which most of us could find time to read in one sitting (or two).  If you are interested in joining us for this study, you would find it beneficial to try to read through the book several times between now and the beginning of the series on September 3.  If you are not able, you will not be behind—we are going to take this a step at a time together on Wednesday nights.
The main things we want to discover when we do an overview are:
1. Author – What can we learn about the author?  Of course, we know that Paul wrote the book, but does he say anything about himself? (Look for 1st person pronouns – I, me, my.)  Can we glean anything from the text about his circumstances or why he is writing the book?
2. Recipients – Who are they?  Where are they?  What are their circumstances?  The circumstances of the author and recipients of an epistle will be valuable clues to the purpose and themes of the book.  What do you learn about them?
3. Occasion – What is the issue or situation that has prompted the writing of the book? Paul is writing for a reason.  He is addressing a specific need or issue.  We call that issue or situation “the occasion.” Finding the occasion is like listening to one side of a phone conversation.  By paying attention to what Paul writes, we need to try to determine what is being said on the other line, so to speak.  Why is Paul writing what he is writing?
3. Key words – After reading the text a few times, you will start to notice words that are used repeatedly in the book.  Many people note that Colossians and Ephesians are very similar.  That is true, but just in a few readings of Colossians I have noted several key words that are not prominent in Ephesians.  Those key words will help us to identify the main themes unique to Colossians.   
4. Themes – What seems to be the key content in the book?  What issues are addressed?  What exhortations are made?  What rebukes?   
Our goal at the end of the overview is to be able to answer in one short sentence what the book is about.  It is time-consuming work, but what a treasure to become more familiar with the text of God’s Word and to be changed by it.  If you were to ask anyone who has participated in our past inductive studies (1 Peter, 2 Peter, Titus), most of them would still be able to tell you the specifics of those books because of the overview that we did.  Colossians may be an enigma to you now, but imagine the blessing of gaining a deep familiarity with it in just a few short months.  Imagine further how its application could change your life!
May the Lord bless the fruit of this our study together.  Again, the new study begins Wednesday, September 3 at 6:30 next door at Partners in Prime.  I hope to see you there!

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