SOAP Introduction - 2 Timothy 3:16-17
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Webster’s dictionary calls the Bible the “book of books.” Historians call it the most unique book ever written. It was composed over a 1500-year span. There were over 40 different authors from every walk of life imaginable including a fisherman, a statesman, a poet, a doctor, a peasant and a king and yet not one portion of the Scripture contradicts another. As if written by a single skilled novelist, there is one unfolding theme throughout its pages: Jesus Christ is Lord! The Bible is God’s love letter to us. God, who is infinite, Almighty, and holy communicates to us who are finite in knowledge and understanding and bound by time. He shares His thoughts, His will and His character.
The Bible is a collection of books written through the course of history, dating from the creation through the age of the apostles. The first books were written by Moses and the last book written was by John, the beloved disciple. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to man in the arena of history. This history primarily deals with a group of people called the Jews and the nation of Israel. Other foreign governments include those from Canaan, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Asia-Minor, Greece and Rome. In the Bible, we have many different kinds of literature such as narratives, wisdom, prophecy, letters, and apocalyptic, each with its own style and purpose. It is through these various styles of literature that God reveals Himself to all of mankind. God’s redemptive plan for mankind is the overarching theme of Scripture. We see this theme played out through two major groups of people. The first major group is seen in the Old Testament through the children of Israel. The second major group is the church found in the New Testament. In addition to these major groups of people, God operated in individual’s lives. These individuals often had an effect on the greater group of people, whether the Israelites or the church. Through these individual stories, we see how God move throughout history in the two groups and are able to see the overall scriptural theme of redemption. All of Scripture points to this theme of God’s redemption.
When reading the Scriptures, I recently ran across an acronym that best describes my Bible reading and application method. It’s called SOAP which stands for Scripture, Observation, Application and Prayer. We will go in detail on the upcoming days, but in short Scripture is hearing, reading and meditating on verses and seeing what stands out. Observation is to think about what the events or messages truly meant to the people at that time. Application is interpreting these events and messages, learning the overall truth being taught and applying those truths into our lives. Prayer is asking God to guide me as I apply these truths in specific arenas of the day and asking for the resources and strength to carry out what He has shown us that we may not only know His will, but live out His will every day.
Dear God, thank You for Your Word. Thank You for showing us Your plan of redemption and Your overall will for my life and all mankind. Help me to develop a love for Your Word. Amen. Now let’s go lived the transformed life in His Word!
SOAP - Scripture - Joshua 1:8
Exactly how do we have a passage or verse go from words written on a page to coming into our hearts? How does a verse leave an indelible impression on our hearts? How can we make the Bible a vital part of whom we are? There is a path to helping God's Word come alive in each of us.
First, we must hear the Word of God. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Hearing the Word from godly pastors and teachers provides insight into others' study as well as stimulating our own appetite for the Scriptures. Sometimes when we hear a verse read by someone, all of a sudden a truth stands out as never before.
The next step is reading the Word of God. Revelation 1:3 says, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.” When we read, we can see what God has to say to us. As a pastor, I may share truths and people learn, but I have discovered when a person reads the truths for themselves, it goes deeper into that person’s heart. As we read, it may be helpful to underline a phrase or word that stands out to us. The Bible is for each of us; it is a useful tool not simply meant to look pretty. But there is one more step that takes time to making the Scriptures go deeper.
Finally, we must meditate on the Word of God. Joshua 1:8 says, "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” People can be scared of the word meditation because of the stigma from Eastern religions. The purpose of mediation in some of the Eastern religions is to empty and cleanse the mind. On the contrary, the purpose of Biblical meditation is not only to empty and cleanse the mind, but to refill it with the thoughts of God. For the believer meditation is a means to an end-a mind in tune with the mind of God. When we meditate, we are holding a spiritual thought, idea or Scripture in our hearts and minds until it affects every dimension of our lives. It is not to be idle but to go deeper in thought, in cleansing, and in investigation. Only as we reflect on God's Word-thinking of its meaning and application in our lives-will we discover its transforming power at work within us. The average Christ-follower discards meditation because our schedules are overcrowded with activity. There just is no time to be quiet and still before God. We begin to live with the assumption that quiet time is wasted time. You will not be able to maximize God’s word until you meditate.
Hearing, reading, and meditating - all of these are important aspects to receiving the Word of God. May we truly understand all that He wants for us through the Scripture.
Thank You Lord for the Scriptures. I choose to regularly and consistently hear, read and meditate on Your Word as I apply it to my life. Amen. Now let’s go lived the transformed life in the Scriptures!
SOAP - Observation - Isaiah 40:8
Isaiah 40:8 says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” When we read the Bible, some people have difficulty seeing how the Bible relates to our lives today. After all, it was written about people who live 2000 to 4000 years ago. How can we take such an old book and make it apply to our lives today? It begins by observing and asking God to help a verse or passage stand out to us. When a verse catches my attention, I am drawn to it. Many times there is a truth I need to unpack and I begin by asking God to show me the context of the verse.
As we read the Scriptures, we need to realize that the events did not happen yesterday, a month ago or a hundred years ago. These events happened 2000 to 4000 years ago during a time when the culture was much different. There were no automobiles, airplanes, internet, or great number of books. In the days of Moses, the first five books of the Bible were just being written. The people lived in an agricultural society, depending heavily on the crops to bring forth produce. Imagine living in that culture; try to picture the surroundings and the circumstances. For instance, how would it feel to be the Israelites crossing the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army all around us - to have no defenses because we were slaves; to be totally helpless with only the clothes on our backs; to be trapped? We should be able to ask ourselves, if I were in that situation, how would I feel and what would I do? It is out of this setting that the Red Sea parted and the children of Israel were able to go across on dry ground. When the Egyptians followed, the Israelites continued to worry; would they be caught? Then the parted sea closes and the pursuing army drowned. It is hard to imagine the hush that must have come over the crowd or the shouting and celebration that ensued. They had known nothing but slavery and now they were free. What should they do next? How would their lives change? We must ask these questions when reading Scriptures. Picturing the children of Israel in slavery and fleeing for their lives is the best way to understand their celebration and their fear the future; reading this way allows us to receive the intended message of the Scripture in the context of events around it.
We sometimes put our situation into the Scriptures and pull out a meaning the text was never intended to reveal. We cannot do that. When we put our own interpretations into the passages we read, we make the Bible say things it was never meant to say. For example, sometimes we may read passages and say Abraham or David committed a sin and so we can do it and it will be okay. That is not what the Bible is saying. The Bible shares both the achievements and faults of its people. So I need to avoid adding meaning to the text and instead understand the real message in it. We need to read the surrounding passage and understand the setting in which the Scriptures were written.
Father, help me to not just read a book, but really see what You were doing and saying in the lives of the people and help me to gain new insights. Help me to see what you want me to see and not add my opinion to it. Amen. Now let’s go lived the transformed life!
SOAP - Application - James 1:22
James 1:22 says “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” It is not enough to read God’s Word, but we must apply it to our lives daily. God is not interested in what we know but in what we do. We can take the truth of God’s Word and begin to apply it to our everyday life.
The process of application involves interpretation. We need to be able to ask ourselves the question, what is the overall meaning of the passage? Sometimes the message is clear and sometimes it is not. Some of the commands in Scripture have contextual settings that no longer apply. A distinct command is found in Matthew 22 when Jesus is asked, “What is the greatest command?” Jesus tells them to love God with all their heart, soul and mind. This is a crystal clear command that transcends all time. But other passages take more time to get the overall meaning. We read of Joshua’s taking down the walls of Jericho and realize that it was a great battle. The overall principal we can apply to our lives is that Joshua received a word from God and obeyed, not that he brought down the city. The truthful message about obedience is one that can transcend all time.
A great beginning point to making application is found in these four questions:
1. Is there a command to obey? Sometimes I have been asked, “I don’t know if God is leading me to share my faith with a friend?” My answer is simple – “Of course He wants you to.” When I am asked how I can be so confident, it is because God has already commanded us in Scripture to share our faith. We know it is God’s will because He tells us it is His will through a command.
2. Is there a promise to claim? Sometimes God shows us promises He has made to His people in Scripture. When we see those promises, they provide encouragement and gives us something to hold onto.
3. Is there a sin to avoid? In Scripture we see two kinds of sins – the sin of commission and the sin of omission. The sin of commission is doing something we should not do like lying. The sin of commission is not doing something we should do like sharing our faith. God shows us these sins we should avoid.
4. Is there a lesson to learn? Sometimes we can see positive and negative lessons to help us learn from the lives of others. We can see what happens when a people do not listen to God or when they do listen. Those lessons can help us to avoid the same mistakes. Sometimes those lessons when God reveals who He is to us.
When we are able to apply these questions from our own lives to the Scriptures we read, then God begins to make changes, sometimes gradual and sometimes drastic, within our lives.
Father, help me to see what You want to do in my life. Help me to apply Your Word everyday so I may truly live out Your will. Help me to see if there is a command I should obey, a promise to claim, a sin to avoid or a lesson to learn. Amen. Now let’s go live the transformed life – applying His Word!
SOAP - Prayer - Matthew 6:10-11
As God begins to helps me grow through Scripture, I see how God wants me to hear, read and meditate on the Scripture. As I look at these passages in the Bible, I see the challenges and struggles the people had in Scripture are the same I face every day. I need to learn, grow and apply the truths into my life. But one last aspect I need to do as I read the Bible is to pray to God regarding this truth He is showing me. Matthew 6:10 says, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.” In the model prayer, Jesus prays for God’s will. What is God’s will? One of the surest methods of knowing God’s will is to see what the Scriptures say. It is God’s will for us to live honestly, to share Christ, to display the fruits of the Spirit, to confess our sins. How do we know this is God’s will? Because the Scriptures tell us it is God’s will. As God reveals His will to us through the Scripture, we can pray for God to carry His will through us here on earth.
After Jesus prayed for God’s will to be accomplished, Jesus prayed for God to provide everything we need to carry out His will. Jesus prayed, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Sometimes we do not know how we can accomplish His will. Perhaps we need wisdom or strength or opportunities to carry out His will. For example, I am reading where Paul shared his faith boldly and the thought comes to my mind I need to share my faith. It is God’s will. So I can pray, “God, I know You want me to share my faith. Who do you want me to share it with?” I sit in silence for a moment and immediately a person comes to my mind. That is the moment God may be sharing with me who I need to talk with. So I begin to pray, “God, help me to have a divine appointment with this person so I can share You with them.” If no one comes to mind, I begin to think through the day and the places I will be and asking God in each of those places for a divine opportunity to share Him. Then I begin to ask God for a moment – an opening – where I can begin the conversation. I ask God for wisdom to know what to say. Sometimes I ask God if there is something He wants me to say. If something comes to my mind immediately, I will begin to pray about it. I ask for courage and strength. This is praying through the truth God has shown me so that I may carry out His will.
Other times God has given me a promise, a truth or a revelation of who He is and I thank Him for those moments as well. I can pray that as a result of that truth, I can walk in that light and it changes my perspective. I can thank God for His love for me. As we pray through the truths of Scripture, God uses those prayers to help us change and walk in His character and will.
Thank You Lord Your will does not have to be a mystery. Your will is seen in the Scripture and help me to walk in Your will. Help me to pray to You in all things. Amen.
Now let’s go live the transformed life as we pray through the Scriptures.