Study The Book: Delighting Grace Interviews Jacob D. Gerber of 19Baskets

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Recently read Jacob D. Gerber’s “5 of the Best Free Bible Study Tools” which is very helpful. His websites http://www.freedailybiblestudy.com articles and podcast are superb. I got the chance to meet him over Tweeter and asked a few questions about Bible Study.

Delighting Grace: What is a Bible Study and how important is it to a Christian?

Jacob D. Gerber: At its most basic, a Bible study is when we open up God’s word in the Bible to read it, ask questions about what we are reading, seek out what God is telling us in his word, and then respond to what God has spoken through prayer, faith, and obedience. 

Since Christianity is first of all a relationship with God through Christ, then studying God’s word is of primary importance. Put simply, we cannot know God unless we listen to him speaking. Just like I cannot have a relationship with my wife (or, at least, not a good one!) unless I talk with her—both listening to her and speaking to her—so also we cannot have a good relationship with God unless we listen to him and respond to him.

Delighting Grace: How do you conduct a Bible Study?

Jacob D. Gerber: A Bible study can happen with an individual, but it’s a very beneficial thing to study God’s word with other people in a group. That way, we can help each other to better understand what we are reading, and we can also help encourage each other to apply what we are learning to our lives as we seek to follow Jesus as his disciples.

To conduct a group Bible study, then, here are a couple of quick tips. 

First, make sure that at least one person prepares to lead the discussion. It’s much better if everyone can prepare, but it’s hard to study the Bible deeply if everyone is reading that passage cold for the first time when you meet together.

Second, work hard to get to what God is actually saying in his word rather than on your own thoughts and feelings. This can be difficult, but it’s important to keep in mind that God has actually spoken, and that we are more interested in what he has to say than what we have to say.

Third, don’t forget to pray, and especially to pray that God himself would guide you into truth by his Holy Spirit. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to lead us into the truth and to bear witness about Jesus (John 15:26–27, 16:13; 1 John 2:20, 5:6–12), so ask God to be faithful to keep that promise as you study his word—he loves to keep his promises!

Delighting Grace: If you’re conducting one for unbelievers, how do you place the gospel in every Bible study you do for them?

Jacob D. Gerber: I think that the two most important aspects of doing a Bible study with unbelievers is (1) to make sure that you explain difficult concepts as you go, and (2) to keep Jesus Christ as the center of your conversation. And frankly, I think that these two factors are important even when your Bible study is filled with believers!

First, always make sure that you aren’t going too fast or using jargon words in your Bible study. I once did a Bible study with an unbeliever who stopped me to ask what all the numbers on the page of the Bible he was using meant! I hadn’t even considered that someone might not understand chapter and verse numbers, but it was a good reminder not to take anything for granted.

Second, keep in mind that the Bible isn’t merely a collection of stories to entertain us or rules to legislate us but that it’s the unfolding revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything in the Bible points to him in one way or another, so if you get through a Bible study and never talk about Jesus Christ and him crucified, then you’ve missed the point! Again, pray that God would illuminate the gospel of Jesus Christ as you study his word.

Delighting Grace: What should the participants expect in a Bible study?

Jacob D. Gerber: Participants should expect to study the Bible seriously. That means that sometimes ideas may get challenged (although we should always challenge ideas with kindness, love and zeal for the truth!), and that we may not have time to talk about every bunny trail, distracting idea that pops up. Instead, we want to see Jesus as we open God’s word together.

Delighting Grace:How do we prepare for Bible study?

Jacob D. Gerber:Ideally, participants would prepare for Bible study by reading the passage ahead of time, and especially by praying. I confess that I always have to remind myself to stop and pray because there is a part of me that really believes that I’m smart enough and spiritually sensitive enough to read the Bible on my own. 

God teaches in his word, though, that only the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ as we read God’s word (2 Cor. 3:7–4:6), so we need to pray that God will do just that!

Delighting Grace: For you what book or verse in the Bible should we study first in a Bible study?

Jacob D. Gerber: This really depends on the needs and maturity of the group, but it’s great to start with Jesus. Maybe begin with the Gospel of Mark, and then the Gospel of John. Then, I also think that 1 John is a fantastic book to study to learn more about what it means to follow Jesus as a disciple (I’ll say more about that in question #9).

If you want to start at the beginning of the Bible and work your way through, you may enjoy the daily Bible study meditations I write. You can subscribe for free at http://freedailybiblestudy.com/

Delighting Grace: How does a Bible study differ from a worship service or Sunday school class?

Jacob D. Gerber: A Bible study and a Sunday School class are pretty similar—both of those events involve studying God’s word in a group to learn more about Jesus.

A worship service is different, though, in that God meets with his people in more ways than through simply the reading of his word and prayer. In a worship service, God’s people still read his word and pray, but we also worship God through giving, through hearing God’s word preached, through the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper), and through singing. A worship service is a dialogue where God speaks and then we respond in more ways than in a Bible study.

Delighting Grace: What is 19Baskets and how do we benefit from it?

Jacob D. Gerber: 19Baskets is my publishing company, and the name derives from the leftovers of the two feedings that Jesus gave: when Jesus fed the 5000 (Matt. 14:13–21), his disciples gathered up 12 baskets of leftovers, and when Jesus fed the 4000, his disciples gathered up 7 baskets of leftovers (Matt. 15:32–39). The theme verse of 19Baskets is John 6:12: “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.”

Accordingly, the goal of 19Baskets is to help pastors and Bible teachers to gather up the fragments of their teaching ministries into a more permanent, written form. So, in my case, the book I wrote about discipleship according to 1, 2, and 3 John was a gathering up of the fragments of a sermon series I had preached.

My hope is that 19Baskets can help ordinary pastors to write solid, valuable books for the benefit of their congregations and beyond for years to come, rather than allowing their sermons to be lost in time.

Delighting Grace: Can please tell about your book and invite our readers to check it out?

Jacob D. Gerber: Absolutely! My book, That You May Know: A Primer on Christian Discipleship is a close, careful study of 1, 2, and 3 John. It’s written to serve as a helpful devotional commentary for an individual’s study of God’s word or for a small group of people. In it, I’ve tried to avoid being so topical as to neglect the text of Scripture itself, and I’ve also tried to avoid getting mired in technical details that only a handful of Bible scholars would find interesting.

I want it to be helpful and beneficial for the average Christian who wants to know what God’s word says about following Jesus.

You can download the first two chapters of the book as a sample here:

http://freedailybiblestudy.com/sample-that-you-may-know

And you can get the book on Amazon here:

http://www.amazon.com/That-You-May-Know-Discipleship/dp/0692292632/

May God bless you richly in Christ through the ministry of the Holy Spirit as you study his word!

Delighting Grace: Thank you pastor. God bless you!

(Jacob D. Gerber is the Assistant Pastor of Preaching and Teaching at Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Lincoln, NE. He lives in Lincoln with his wife, Allison, his daughter, Evelyn, and his son, Zachariah. You can find him on Twitter @jacobdgerber)

Marianito “Nitoy” Gonzales is a 30 something blogger who wears many hats. But his passion is to preach the gospel and make God know to all men. He blogs at Delighting Grace (https://delightinggrace.wordpress.com). You can reach him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.

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