When Scripture or any other exposition is taken out of context, the listener only knows what the speaker says or thinks, not what the writer is saying or thinking or intends for us to grasp. If we don’t learn all about a passage, that is, why God said what He said when He said it, then all we are getting is the speaker’s experience of what those words mean to him. This might be one way to emphasize this important step in true learning to your students: Prepare a detailed exposition of a passage of Scripture (refer to my columns of January 2005 and February 2006). Don’t forget the important step of comparing Scripture with Scripture. The Bible repeats important lessons numerous times for obvious reasons. Ask your students to read the passage before coming to Sunday school. During your Sunday session, let each student present his summation of what he learned reading this passage. List each response in a column on your board. Discuss the different opinions (most will be just that) the students drew from their reading. You should also let them discover why there are so many variations (this will point out that personal opinion/observations are the result of that person’s personal experiences with that subject).
Now present to them the exposition you prepared of the passage. Do any of their personal observations of the meaning of this passage match the conclusion drawn from the expository approach? If so, congratulate that student! Did that student come to the same conclusion by studying or by a stroke of chance? This method is an excellent way to demonstrate the importance of real study of any reading, whether Scripture or otherwise. To assume that a reader’s experience is the only way to evaluate any reading is naïve. To present it that way is disservice at the least. To dig into the entire exposition of any reading is the only way to begin to uncover the real meaning. Sometimes it takes going to numerous sources for background information and it often happens that new material can shed previously unknown light on passages.