A Good Study

In the summer of 1988, I was privileged to come under the ministry of Dr. David Gooding for the first time. I enjoyed it thoroughly and decided to make it my business to avail myself of the opportunity each summer to spend a week under the guidance of this able and humble servant of the Lord in a Bible Study Seminar at Greenwood Hills, PA. Not only has he enabled me to learn something of the passages of Scripture we were studying, but has taught me some valuable lessons in approaching Scripture that have enabled me to study more effectively on my own.

One of the great lessons that has been demonstrated both in the oral and written ministry of Dr. Gooding is the importance of adherence to context, not only the context of the immediate passage, but its place in the whole of the book. For instance, the great passage of Luke 15 has been used by many gospel preachers for great good. And the Spirit of God has blessed the message to the salvation of many souls. As most of us use it, there is no notice of the reason this particular story told by the Lord Jesus is in Luke as opposed to Matthew or Mark or John. But this incident is only recorded in Luke. Why? And, for that matter, why is it in Luke 15 as opposed to Luke 7 or 9?

These are questions I never really asked myself. Now I'm sure knowing the answers to such questions would not affect whether I would be in heaven. But at the same time, if we are going to be careful students of the Word of God, desiring to discover all the riches of His revelation to us, we ought to stretch our minds a little and find out. At the first session I spent with Dr. Gooding, he started by quoting the commandment that we should "love the Lord our God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength" ( Mk 12:30 ).

The technique he uses to answer the above questions is an understanding of the literary structure of ancient Greek literature. He has been a student and professor of this discipline for many years and is highly respected by his peers in this field. He is the first to point out that this is a technique that, while valuable, must not stand preeminent in the understanding of the text. But by using this tool, we may better understand each of the parts of the text.

Two expositions that illustrate the use of this technique are his study called According to Luke and True to the Faith, his exposition of Acts. Please don't get the idea that these works will be hard to understand and unpleasant to read. They will stretch your mind and encourage your heart at the same time. They are delightful reading.

Another volume I must mention by him is his study on Hebrews. Called The Unshakable Kingdom, a full third of the book is a careful look at the seven quotations in chapter 1 from the Old Testament. In this he demonstrates his careful attention to context. He shows that the writer did not take the Old Testament passages out of their Old Testament context to prove the deity of Christ and the prophetic implications of the text. Since the first readers of this letter were Jewish believers, it was necessary to prove to them that Jesus Christ was indeed the Son of God and that a proper understanding of the Old Testament demanded that He become Man. A proper understanding of the Old Testament is still necessary for us to grasp this most significant book. This will open up the so-called warning passages in a fresh way and ultimately open the whole epistle.

All of this is done with the express purpose of drawing the reader to a fresh and exalted view of the Lord Jesus Christ, not just to bring some intellectual exercise to the study of Scripture. As you read these, you will worship the Lord with a fresh and vibrant understanding of the character of the Lord Jesus and the great salvation of our God. And this, in the final analysis, is what all good exposition should do. May your mind be stretched, but more importantly may your heart be warmed as you study these Scriptures.