This blog post is a continuation of the series discussing the excellent guidance in the September/October 2019 issue of Bible Study Magazine. The second article is entitled “Receiving God’s Message for Us” by Peter Krol. By the way, Peter has a helpful Bible study-oriented website entitled knowableword.com.
Peter opens up by pointing out that Jesus assumed three things about Scripture: (1) the authors of Scripture had a message for their audience, (2) it is possible to understand that message, even centuries later, and (3) adequately understood, that message will influence the lives of God’s people in any generation. He describes the OIA (an acronym for Observe, Interpret, and Apply) method as:
One simple way to establish a process of carefully hearing, understanding, and living out what God has spoken through his prophets and apostles.
He observes that humans have been using the OIA to communicate, “as long as humans have been communicating.” In the Bible study context, when we see the text, we should do the following: (1) learn all we can about the genre, words, grammar, structure, and mood, and (2) note literary devices including repetition. He gives excellent advice in saying, “and refuse to relinquish the text until we have seen and heard it inside out.” In my view, a thorough observation of the text is critical to provide the basis for a correct interpretation and valid applications.
When we interpret the text, we interrogate our observations, trying to find the implications of the structure, the words, and phrases, etc. We focus only on those questions that are within the four corners of the text under study. We must let other questions go so we will not become distracted from the message of the text. After assimilating the answers, we arrive at our best assessment of what was the author’s main point in hand.
We also contemplate how that main point looks either forward to or backward to the Person and work of Jesus Christ. As the Scriptural basis, he cites John 5:39–40 (ESV), which reads:
39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
When we apply the main point of the text and its gospel connections, we put it into practice by looking inward at our lives and outward for opportunities to influence others’ lives. Application impacts what we are to do (and not do), as well what we believe and value.
Peter Krol then lists five benefits of the OIA method. First, the OIA method enables us to receive God’s message to us because it is like all communication. Second, the OIA method works for any person of any age in any culture at any time in history. Third, the OIA method works on any genre of literature. Fourth, in five minutes, one can teach the OIA method, and one can perfect it over a lifetime. Fifth, the OIA method trains us in critical thinking and clear communication.
Peter identifies some challenges of the OIA method. First, the OIA method can be “terrifying” because people don’t use study Bible and the like. Their only source material is the text itself. He writes:
And the OIA method requires people to take the wheel and refuse to allow a commentator to do their driving for them.
A second challenge is the OIA method cuts against our natural inclination based upon a familiarity with the Bible. Because a person is familiar with the Bible, it can be easy to fail to observe what it says. We can sometimes hang to our preconceptions or “folk theology,” and do not want to do the work to evaluate them. In our Christian lives, we experience inertia that makes it difficult to change direction or get moving even when Scripture says we should do so.
Overall, by using the OIA method, we can hear the message of God’s Holy Spirit, who carried men along to testify to the Person and work of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
While the OIA method and the inductive Bible study method have similarities, there are also differences. These differences are not in opposition to one another but result in synergy with a combination of both approaches. My last blog post in this series will attempt to combine all five articles to arrive at a “grand plan” for Bible study.
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