Wednesday, January 2, 2013

How to Study a Verse in the Bible: Galatians 5:22-23

I kept feeling like I should blog today, but I also committed to researching the verses Galatians 5:22-23.  With this being the first week of the new year, I wanted to start things out right with a focus on God and the fruits of the spirit.  I've heard them a million times.  I've even studied them in passing, but I've never gone deep enough.  Honestly?  I haven't wanted to go deeper.  I might have to change.  I might actually have to let God into my heart and break down walls.  He might even give me a new heart.  I'm so glad that God is persistent!

Without further ado, I will lead you through the steps to study a verse.  The way to really dig deeper and get past the surface and not only understand what a verse means and it's context but to apply it to your life.

1.  Pick a verse in the Bible that you want to understand more about and pray over your study.

The Verse:
Galatians 5:22-23
My Prayer:
Lord, help us to open our eyes to your word.  Help us to understand the fruit of the Spirit that you want to see in our lives and help us to take hold of them as we take hold of your word.  Amen.

2.  Look up the verse in more than one translation.  I use Bible Gateway for this study, but remember that all translations are not created equally.  My favorite translations are the ESV and the NIV 84.  I will not use the current NIV (they made much of the Bible gender neutral) and I am careful when using paraphrases.  It's great to have things simplified for understanding, but always remember that there is more to the actual Bible than what is in the paraphrase version.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV 84)
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23 (KJV)
"By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things." Galatians 5:22-23 (NRSV)
Be sure to pay close attention to the words (I've underlined them) that are different between the translations.  This normally means that the Greek (or Hebrew) word used is more flavorful than our English words permit or it could indicate a difference in the time period of the translation.  Therefore, the interpreters have chosen different English words to describe the Greek.

3.  Notice the language at the beginning of the verses and decide if you need to look back in the chapter or book to understand the context.  Also, look at what happens directly following the passage to understand where the author was going with his point.

If you look back to Galatians 5:1-15 you notice that Paul is writing about how Christ brought freedom and intends for the Galatians to live their lives in response to freedom not tied down by trying to be justified by the law.  The law brought the understanding of sin, but Jesus brings freedom.  Notice Paul does not tell them to run wild but to simply live in love.

Then getting closer to Galatians 5:22-23, verses 16-21 are going further with living by the Spirit in love in contrast to living by the flesh.  These verses give examples of behavior that can be found in the lives of those who live by the flesh.  Finally, Paul begins to show the Galatians that those who live by the Spirit will show fruit.

After Galatians 5:22-23 in verse 24, Paul wraps up this thought with the firm statement that those "who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."  He pretty firmly says that either we belong to Jesus and live in the Spirit or we are living in the flesh.

The context is found in these verses around the ones that you are studying.  Paul is talking to Christians who have been deceived by someone in their church telling them that they should follow old customs and laws in order to be living the life that Jesus wants them to have.  Paul wants them to know that the basis of all the law is about loving God and loving each other not nitpicking each other to death.  The fruits of the Spirit are provided so they can look into their own hearts and see if they are living life if the Spirit.  The flesh does not share space with the Spirit!

4.  When you have understood the context in which the verse was written, move on to studying the verse itself.  Take the words that are given in the ESV and look them up in an English dictionary to expand my knowledge of the English words that are used.  If online, I use the Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary.

Here are the definitions that I found:

Fruit – a product of plant growth; the usually edible reproductive body of a seed plant; especially: one having a sweet pulp associated with the seed; the effect or consequence of an action or operation

Love – strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties; affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests; warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion; unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another; brotherly concern for others

Joy – the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires; the expression or exhibition of such emotion; a state of happiness or felicity

Peace – a state of tranquility or quiet; freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions; harmony in personal relations

Patience – the capacity, habit, or fact of being patient

Kindness – a kind deed; the quality or state of being kind

Goodness – the quality or state of being good

Faithfulness – full of faith; steadfast in affection or allegiance; firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty; given with strong assurance

Gentleness – the quality or state of being gentle; especially: mildness of manners or disposition

Self-Control – restraint exercised over one's own impulses, emotions, or desires

Long Suffering – patiently enduring lasting offense or hardship

Meekness – enduring injury with patience and without resentment; deficient in spirit and courage; not violent or strong

Temperance – moderation in action, thought, or feeling; habitual moderation in the indulgence of the appetites or passions
Now wrap your head around this:  These definitions are not all correct.  What I mean is that the Biblical definition of the Greek words are not fully expressed in the definitions of our English words.  For instance, in the term gentleness the Bible in no way meant that all manners and dispositions should be mild, because the Bible also said make a joyful noise.  To be biblically gentle may be different in meaning than our secular dictionary's definition.  Having the English definitions available helps us to be able to be able to see where our own definitions need to be realigned to God's definition.
5.  Look up the verse and the words in the Greek.  Here is where the Blue Letter Bible is such a wonderful resource.  The Blue Letter Bible allows those who are not Greek Scholars (or Hebrew Scholars) to look up a verse and see the correlating Greek (or Hebrew) words.  With Strong's Concordance numbers included, you can look up each word and see what the actual Greek word meant!  Fantastic.
Put in the verse that you wish to study into the Search Bar.  Then click the C button to bring up the Concordance.  Click any of the Strong's Numbers to bring up the definition of the Greek or Hebrew word.
Fruit – καρπός
1) fruit
a) the fruit of the trees, vines, of the fields
b) the fruit of one's loins, i.e. his progeny, his posterity
2) that which originates or comes from something, an effect, result
a) work, act, deed
b) advantage, profit, utility
c) praises, which are presented to God as a thank offering
Love – ἀγάπη
1) affection, good will, love, benevolence, brotherly love
Joy – χαρά
1) joy, gladness
a) the joy received from you
b) the cause or occasion of joy
1) of persons who are one's joy
Peace – εἰρήνη
1) a state of national tranquility
a) exemption from the rage and havoc of war
2) peace between individuals, i.e. harmony, concord
3) security, safety, prosperity, felicity, (because peace and harmony make and keep things safe and prosperous)
4) of the Messiah's peace
a) the way that leads to peace (salvation)
5) of Christianity, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is
6) the blessed state of devout and upright men after death
Patience (Long-Suffering) – μακροθυμία
1) patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance
2) patience, forbearance, longsuffering, slowness in avenging wrongs
Kindness (Gentleness) – χρηστότης
1) moral goodness, integrity
2) benignity, kindness
Goodness – ἀγαθωσύνη
1) uprightness of heart and life, goodness, kindness
Faithfulness (Faith) – πίστις
1) conviction of the truth of anything, belief; in the NT of a conviction or belief respecting man's relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervour born of faith and joined with it
a) relating to God
1) the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ
b) relating to Christ
1) a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God
c) the religious beliefs of Christians
d) belief with the predominate idea of trust (or confidence) whether in God or in Christ, springing from faith in the same
2) fidelity, faithfulness
a) the character of one who can be relied on
Gentleness (Meekness) – πραότης
1) gentleness, mildness, meekness
Self-Control (Temperance) – ἐγκράτεια
1) self-control (the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, esp. his sensual appetites)
6. Contrast and compare the words.  Which words completely agree with our English definitions?  Which ones have more vibrancy when defining the Greek words?  Which ones are similar to each other?  What are their differences?
I notice that the MW's (Merriam-Webster's) definition of love equates to brotherly concern and affection based on family connection, personal ties, or for some reason, while the Greek definition says affection, good will, love, etc with no need for a reason or a direction.  The Biblical love seems to apply regardless of reason, just love.
In my personal study, I will continue to go down the list considering each.  Chewing on them and thinking about what their similarities and differences mean in this verse.  What is this fruit that God wants to pour into our lives?
7.  Digging deeper, we can actually take these Greek words and look for them elsewhere in the Bible.  When studying God's word, the best resource is using his word.  If we understand a word in one context, we may be able to reference that word in our current verse to bring out more clarity.
The same Greek word for love that is used in Galatians 5:22 is also used in John 15:13 (ESV):  "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends."
The same Greek word for joy that is used in Galatians 5:22 is also used in 1 Peter 1:8-9 (ESV): 
"Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
The same Greek word for peace that is used in Galatians 5:22 is also used in John 14:27 (ESV): 
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
The same Greek word for patience that is used in Galatians 5:22 is also used in James 5:10 (ESV): 
"As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord."
For me, I fully have my eyes opened to the word when I use other verses to bring understanding to the one I am seeking to study.  The love that we are to have is a love that would lead us to lay down our life for our friends.  Each of the verses that you read to open up your eyes to God's word, God will use to build you up and teach you.
8.  Study all you want, but it doesn't become alive in you until you apply it to your life personally.  Personal application is pivotal to studying the Bible.  Many people read the Bible, but few have the word become life within them.  Why is this?  They have not allowed the words to be planted inside!
Consider these questions in our application time and come up with your own too!
What has God taught from this verse?
How should my life be different because of what I have read?
Am I willing to let God to work in this area in my life?
What am I going to do to spend more time with God so He can bring this verse to fruition in my life?
Is God's love in me?
Is God's joy in me?

Is God's _______ in me?
Where am I walking in the flesh?
Am I going to give it up to God to be crucified with Jesus to live a life in the Spirit with Him?

9.  Spend time in prayer.  Let God change you.  You can't become more like God without being with God.  The whole meaning of Galatians 5:22-23 is how it is only God working through us and not us justifying ourselves or making ourselves lawful.
Thank you for stopping by Designing Life Blog and I hope this will be a tool for your personal study of the Bible.  God is my life and when it comes to designing my life, it can't be done without Him.  God bless!

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