I’ve been studying and teaching the Bible quite a few years. The first time I taught was in my father-in-law’s Sunday School class in Waynesboro. He let me teach even though he was there – it was intimidating, but also exhilarating. I remember thinking it was a good thing to help people understand the Bible. A few years later at my sister’s college graduation I was explaining a Bible passage to my mom as we sat on the grass waiting for commencement to commence, when a lady behind us interrupted and said, “I’ve never heard the Bible explained the way you do it; I love the way you illustrate it.” It was the first time I ever thought I might have a talent for teaching and that I might actually be useful to people by teaching them the Bible in my own way.
Back then my Bible study and teaching preparation was simple. I would read a passage over several times and then I just “lived with it” until it began to speak to me. Often a picture or a story or a metaphor would attach itself to the passage. I would see it and then I would teach it. This method worked well for a long time. It worked until I went to seminary and was introduced to “proper” Bible study, including the use of commentaries. Commentaries. Commentaries came to dominate all my study of the Bible. Commentaries and long written papers with footnotes in the Turabian style and professors who didn’t appreciate vision as much as precision, and didn’t enjoy illustrations as much as parsing an ancient verb. These commentaries were all good at explaining what the text of the Bible said; some gave context, and all educated but few lifted me up or placed me in the story. What I mean is that reading most of the commentaries I read in seminary informed me but few (very few) inspired me.
I think I started to lose the ability to see and hear a passage the way I originally did. Bible study went from being something organic to inorganic. I could blame seminary but I think that’s too simple. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a seminary education. In my case the pursuit of facts began to compete with pursuit of Christ – this is the fault of the Pharisees to whom Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40) Life! It is life that we need, not facts.
I want to return to the old way of reading and teaching the Bible. And I want to offer something useful and inspiring. That is why I am writing this commentary on the book of Acts. It will be a gospel commentary, pointing to to Christ in every verse or passage we tackle together. We will go through the book together and we can “live with it” together. I believe this will be a way to more life and good life. The whole Bible is gospel; good news, and we can all use more of that. Lets find it together.