WORDsearch: How do you make sure you don’t start viewing the Bible as purely academic?
Thomas Schreiner: It is important to keep reading the Bible with a devotional intent and interest. I spend time praying and meditating when reading the Scripture, asking God to speak to my heart. I ask him to show me my sin, to encourage me, and to strengthen me with His word. I also pray for understanding. Rigorous study is needed as well, but we also need to come to the Bible and remember we are spiritual paupers.
WS: Do you have any Bible study tips?
TS: In our fast-paced age, don’t be in a hurry. Linger over a text. Stare at it. Ask questions of it. Pray over it. Meditate upon it. Outline the text. Write a paragraph sketching the flow of the argument. I use biblearc.com to diagram the text and to produce an analysis of the argument with a tool on the website called bracketing.
WS: What advice or encouragement do you have for pastors in their sermon preparation?
TS:We are called upon to study the text diligently, to handle the word accurately. That is an awesome responsibility. As pastors we need to keep reading good books besides the Bible to be strengthened, especially books in systematic and biblical theology. We need to keep sharp on these matters or we are liable to forget about some crucial doctrines and make mistakes in our preaching. Our sermons aren’t lectures; they are teaching mixed with strong exhortations and encouragements from the Bible. But don’t undersell your congregation. Many of them are smarter than you! Feed them deeply from God’s word with the truth of what it says. Work to make it accessible of course to every member, but many are starving for more substance. This will be dry, of course, if you don’t apply it well, so be sure to work hard at applying the text.
WS: What was the most intriguing discovery you made when working on Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation – Hebrews? (Coming soon to WORDsearch.) Was there anything that really stood out to you?
TS: I could pick out many things, but Hebrews emphasizes that God speaks to us. God is a God who communicates with us. He spoke to us in the OT scriptures, and now he has spoken definitively and finally to us in Jesus Christ. So, when we read about the Levitical cult and OT sacrifices, God speaks to us about Jesus Christ. When we read about Israel wandering in the wilderness and rebelling, God speaks to us and warns us as the church of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit speaks to us through the word of God, and thus we must as Hebrews says make sure we aren’t too dull to hear it!