40 days in the word – Sunday teaching from Ian White. Week 4

Print This Post Print This Post

These are Ian’s preaching notes …



Recap 40 days in the word.

  • Skeleton notes in news sheet
  • Workbook

I hope you’re able to keep up with gong to a small group each week and reading each day

  • blog www.whites.me.uk/40ditw



First a couple of things to notice before we launch into the meat of this morning:

We need to study our Bibles to grow

But for some of us the idea of ‘study’ is unnerving

  • it sounds very studious and we’re not students!
  • It sounds rather intellectual, but we’re not intellectuals

Consider this:

  • We can all benefit from running – but some of us find it easier than others.
  • But however much or however little you may run, you can still benefit from it.

Bible Study is like that – we can all do it, and benefit from it, however little we do – and the more we do, the more our soul’s are fed by God at their deepest level.

  • The point of Bible study is not to turn you into a theologian or to get a degree or a diploma (although one of those might help if you get the chance!) it’s to feed you soul! It’s to help you, bit by bit, to be more life the One we follow – Jesus Christ, God’s son.

The point is to be effective in our Christian living, in our family, with our money, to be responsible and trustworthy in your workplace. Then when crises come or awkward people cross our past we will already have the abilities we need to live as Jesus would have lived and react as He would have reacted. And all because we’ve soaked our minds in God’s word – we’ve been fed by Him.

BUT there’s a caveat I want to warn you about.

Sometimes we can jump too quickly from reading the text of the Bible to applying the Bible and we can end up feeding our hearts on a message that isn’t quite what the author of the Bible intended.

The Bible says “money is the root of all evil” Does it? The answer is both yes and no.

The Bible does use exactly those words, but we all need money (to buy breakfast, to pay the gas bill) we can’t survive without at least some of it, so how can it be evil?

Actually the wording is “The love of money is the root of all evil.”

  • if I love money more than anything else it will take me down all sorts of dark alleys, just to get more and more of it. (and even end up wanting to become a US president!!)
  • It’s a rudimentary example, but you get the point.

There are some steps in between that will help us hear God’s word more clearly and more accurately as we study it.

There’s a difference between Bible reading and Bible study

That’s why I want to to share with you

  • for some of us this will be a fairly new idea
  • for some it will be revision of familiar territory

So how do I extract the Bible’s true message so as to feed my souls and inspire my mind with God’s word?

Bible reading becomes Bible study when

  • I record it (write it down, tap it into my tablet or PC) so I can return to it later
  • I recall it (later in the day I might say to myself What was I reading this morning)
  • And so often God bring in to our days moments when our Bible reading is applicable. For me it’s one of the ways that confirms (for me) the reality of God’s Holy Spirit speaking.

What are the steps in between? I’ll illustrate them with the passage we read

Find Philippians 2:19-30

Observation: What does it say?

We’re asking: What’s on the lines

We’re not asking ‘what does it say to me’ – that comes later.

Principle: To understand God’s word always read what is on the lines before reading what’s between the lines.

  • We’re not ready to read between the lines – yet.

To do this you simply look at the Bible passage or the story to observe it, and then jot down what you see.

Have you ever seen the show ‘catchphrase’? The presenter’s own catchphrase is ‘say what you see’, so try this one …


  • Answer? ‘keeping an eye on things’

When it comes to observing the Bible’s message, just ‘say what you see’

  • write down what you observe, whatever you see.
  • It’s just what does it say? And make a note of it

Come into Philippians 2 and we’ll do it together

In this case – three people – Timothy and Epaphroditus

Timothy – is

  • is Paul’s blue-eyed boy (‘I’ve got no-one else like him’)
  • he cares for the Christians in Philippi (‘takes a genuine interest in your welfare’)
  • Timothy isn’t in Philippi (‘hope to send him to you soon’)


  • a Trojan for the gospel (‘my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier’)
  • he’s been sick and nearly died.
  • Paul wants him to go back – because only by Epaphras turning up will the Philippians be sure that he’s alive (no internet communication!)


  • currently in prison and writing about some of his travel plans.

Remember the difference between Bible reading and Bible study is you use a pencil or a pen or you type it on your computer. Record and recall. And you write down, it says this.… It says this… It says this… That’s the first step.

Interpretation: What does it mean?

We’re asking: What’s behind the lines?

In every piece of communication there are elements that aren’t explicit in the words we use. There are metaphors, we use analogies; we use phrases that shouldn’t be taken literally.

E.g. conference in Thailand for mission workers. Rosi and I were two of only four Brits. The rest were Americans, Australians, Germans etc. I’d said something that most of them would have thought was a bit basic and threw out the expression “I feel I’m telling grandma how to suck eggs” and just went on.

Over the next mealtime I was interrogated about the theological implications of egg-sucking! What did I mean? How did it apply? In fact I had to spend a few minutes out of the next session to tell them about grandma and why egg-sucking was so basic for her!

That can happen when we’re studying the Bible

In our passage:

  • Verse 20 and 21, he says about Timothy “He takes a genuine interest in you.”
  • In verse 22 he says about Timothy “He has proved himself.”
  • In verse 25 he says about Epaphroditus “He’s my brother, my fellow worker and my fellow soldier.” I’ve got to figure out what that means.
  • In verse 26 he says “He longs for all of you and he is distressed.” (this guy Epaphroditus.)
  • In verse 27-30 he says “He almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life.”

A helpful way of thinking about this is to ask “what did it mean for the person who heard it first?”

Our best guess here is likely to be that these men are role models of Christian leadership and service

Just look at their characteristics!


“I have no-one else (like Timothy) who takes a genuine interest in your welfare”


“Everyone else looks out for their own interests, but Timothy has proved himself – he has served with me in the work of the gospel”


Paul says ‘I want to send Timothy and I want to come myself’ He was determined to complete the ministry he’d started.


Paul says “I’m sending Epaphroditus back to you – he is a fellow worker and fellow soldier >>>


Epaphroditus ‘cared for my needs’. Behind that is the fact that Paul is in prison and this man was sent to look after him, and did so willingly.

What is more: Epaphroditus was ‘distressed that the Philippians had heard he was ill’

So Paul concludes (v29) “Welcome him in the Lord and honour men like him.”

If you’re a woman looking out for a man – here are some criteria for you to look for. >>>

(Beware the man who is a charmer in public and a bully in private!)

3. Correlation: Which other verses explain it?

What’s on other lines?

Are there other passages of scripture which talk about the same character (e.g. Timothy), or the same subject (determination, godliness)

You may need a dictionary or commentary for this – or one of many web sites that will make these connections for you. (e.g. Biblegateway on your phone or tablet, PC)

Here’s an example from Acts 16

16 Paul came to … Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. 2 at Lystra and Iconium, everyone spoke well of him. 3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

This is valuable background on Timothy – ‘everyone spoke well of him’

We’re appointing an additional member of staff to take over where Andy will leave off in July and I felt this was a word from the Lord for us. Look for someone for whom “everyone spoke well of him, or her”

4. Application: What will I do about it?

What should I put on my lines?

Now we’ve covered the other steps of understanding this passage, the personal application becomes much clearer

  • Do other people speak well of me? Or are there things I need to address in my own life?
  • Am I like these two men, caring, consistent, determined to be used by God to communicate His message? Or do I leave it to toehrs (leave it to the professionals?!)

Make a note of it >>>

Let the scriptures

change your thinking


Change your loving

those things which you invest your heart and your emotions.