What Does the Bible Say?
March 1, 2006 - For more than three decades Kay Arthur has been a teacher of the Bible. What started out as a Bible study for teenagers in Jack and Kay Arthur's living room grew into Precept Ministries International, now an army of men and women who teach the Bible inductively. The studies the ministry has produced have been taught in 121 countries and in more than 60 languages. Arthur says that she never stops being amazed at what she learns from the Bible by observing the text, interpreting it and applying it to her life.
by Amanda Knoke
Q: What is inductive Bible study, and why is it effective?
A: Psalm 119:102 summarizes to me what our ministry is all about and the calling that God has placed upon our lives to teach people how to discover truth for themselves. "I have not turned aside from Your ordinances, For You Yourself have taught me" (NASB). That verse describes inductive Bible study: God Himself teaches you. We so firmly believe that the books of the Bible are God's words. If we have a good word-for-word translation, we have the very closest thing we can have to God-breathed words.
We teach people how to understand what God has said through three skills.
The skill of observation is discovering what God says by asking Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?
Then, how do we interpret the Scripture? What does the passage mean? Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture. So it's observation, interpretation and then application.
Many times people think that application always means to do something. But application is bringing my thinking alongside the plumb line of God's Word so that my thoughts and beliefs fall straight in line with it. Then I make the necessary changes in my behavior. The fourth part and the end result of all of this is transformation.
If I discover what God says, understand what He means and apply that to my life, then as Romans 12:1-2 says, I'll be transformed by the renewing of my mind and be able to know what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Q: What do you mean when you say that Scripture interprets Scripture?
A: Let's say I read a passage and I don't understand it, or it goes against something I've embraced or have been taught. Another Scripture can shed light on it. With interpretation, we do a lot of cross-referencing. We know that the whole Bible is the Word of God and that God does not contradict Himself.
For example, Ephesians 1:3-4 says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world" (NASB). That's an awesome statement, but a lot of people read that and don't want to believe what it says. If I go to 1 Peter 1:1-2 where it says, "To those ... who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father" (NASB), I see that it's God who has caused us to be born again. I begin to explore salvation and all the Scriptures that tell me about how my salvation happened. That is Scripture interpreting Scripture.
Q: Are you doing anything new in your Bible studies?
A: The 40-Minute Bible Studies are designed for those who will not do homework or for people who are new to the Word of God. We have about 15 different studies on subjects like "Making Choices You Won't Regret," "Building a Marriage That Lasts" and "Being a Disciple."
Anybody can lead them. The leader reads the Scripture, and the group underlines and circles certain words. Then they discuss what they observed. Any time you actively participate or interact, you're going to remember better what you've learned. People do these studies on their school breaks, in workplace Bible study groups, in Sunday schools—and some have gotten saved.
Q: Do you have any studies now that are tailored for young people?
A: We've been training youth pastors, and they have seen for themselves how God's people were perishing for a lack of knowledge. When we've taught on Hosea 4:6, "Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children" (NASB), there's been an audible gasp from the youth pastors. And they've seen in 2 Kings 22 what happened when young Josiah obeyed the Word of God that had been recovered from the temple.
Through our "Transform" program, teenagers have chat rooms where they're studying the Bible inductively.
Q: So teens aren't bored with Bible study?
A: Oh, no, they are not bored! We actually have to turn young people away from summer boot camps where teenagers are in the Bible six hours a day, studying it inductively. Sometimes we treat teenagers as if they can't learn the Word of God or be serious about it. Well, my goodness, they're learning Calculus and Geometry—they can't learn the Word?
When one group of teenagers studied the book of Judges, they came up to me so excited and said, "Thank you for writing that course on Judges. It is so relevant!" Teens know how to do the inductive studies, and they know how to do Greek and Hebrew word studies. We're cutting our teens short and we're entertaining them when we need to be training them.
We have inductive study courses for children as well. They can study the book of Jonah, the Gospel of John and Genesis. They love it. I've heard feedback like, "I can't believe this. These kids know this book of the Bible." And they've inducted it out themselves. Kids have come home and said, "What they taught in church wasn't right. That's not what the Bible says."
Q: What stories have you heard from other parts of the world about people studying the Bible?
A: One of our studies called "The Truth About Sex" is now in five languages and is being taught in public high schools in Russia, Romania, Estonia and Mongolia. We hear feedback from administrators like, "No one has ever told us these things. I have four more schools I want you to go to."
In Romania, where one of our staff members was teaching, 25-year-old Annamaria came to know the Lord. She was the first believer in her Greek Orthodox family. Annamaria began teaching four Bible studies. One was in English, one was for her work colleagues, one was for single girls and a fourth was for youth at her church. She prayed for these individuals' parents to come to know the Lord.
On Dec. 15 Annamaria's roommate, Elaina, another study leader, walked into their apartment and found that Annamaria had died of heart failure.
Annamaria's friends got together with her pastor and made all the necessary arrangements for her funeral because her family lived far away. The Romanian Greek Orthodox tradition is to dress the body in black and put a black veil over the coffin. But Annamaria's Christian friends buried her in a white wedding gown and told her parents—and 300 others—that they dressed her in white as a bride for Jesus. God so touched the hearts of Annamaria's parents that they accepted Christ at the grave site.
Her father announced that he was going to open his house for Bible study classes. One of our staff members in Romania went to his village and started the first Precept class with plans to plant the first evangelical church there.
Q: I understand that you're teaching on the Book of Ruth at the Billy Graham Training Center in June?
A: Yes, but beyond that, the whole concept of the kinsman-redeemer. Understanding the kinsman-redeemer helps us understand what Jesus does at the end of the Book of Revelation. We'll look at the picture God gives us of what it means to have a kinsman-redeemer. A kinsman was responsible to buy his fellow kinsmen out of slavery. That's what Jesus did. This study is similar to our covenant course in that it ties everything together. People really begin to understand the work of Christ and the greatness of what it means to have a redeemer who is the Kinsman.
Q: How has God's Word changed you personally? Is there a specific "A-ha" moment that you recall after studying a passage in-depth and seeing a truth?
A: It's all "A-ha"! And that's the beauty of it. Sometimes I just shake my head and thank the Lord, "O Lord, that is so awesome. I can't believe I didn't see that before now." I think one of the greatest "A-ha" moments has been understanding the sovereignty of God.
I had been married and divorced; I had been immoral. And then I got saved. I told God I'd go back to my husband. But my husband committed suicide. Then I married Jack Arthur. We ended up on the mission field where I began ministering to teenagers. One day I got to thinking, "God, where were You when I was a teenager? Why didn't You save me sooner? Why do I have to have been married twice? Why do I have to have this immoral past?" And it's like God spoke to me and said to me, "If you'll quit moaning and groaning about your past, I'll use it to help others for my glory."
I was studying and came across Galatians 1:15-16 where Paul is giving his testimony. "But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me ..." (NASB). It was like God was saying, "I saved you when I wanted to save you." And then I put that together with Psalm 139 and saw how He formed me in my mother's womb and numbered my days. Then I put that with Ephesians 1:4, "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world" (NASB).
So in the mind and heart of God, I was saved before the foundation of the world. It did not please God to reveal His Son in me until I was 29 and had been through all that garbage. But God showed me, "I saved you when I wanted to save you, and I will take all your wretched past, because I'm the Redeemer, and will cause all things, past, present and future, to work together for good. I will use them to conform you to the image of my Son." And sure enough, He conformed me and He used my past to give hope to others. That was my big "A-ha."
Q: It's great to hear about people who have been changed by Scripture—people who once had a preconceived idea of what the Bible says based on what they've been taught all their life.
A: When you lay aside your theological bent and just look at the Scripture to observe and discover what God is saying, and embrace that, then you're going to build a biblical systematic theology. Everything our ministry does is for the goal: "Discover truth for yourself." If we can bring people face to face with the Word of God, we have brought them face to face with the power to transform lives—because the nature of the Word is that it does not return to God void.