Better Bible Study Tip #55: Try Expressing Your Beliefs in Writing

Have you ever had difficulty expressing what you mean with clarity? Try writing. Bible study tip #19 was to always study with a pen in hand. Try grabbing that pen and putting your conclusions into words. The process of choosing the right words forces you think.

For example, in Matthew 5:31-32, Jesus says,

It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

With your pen you could write that you believe that a man should not divorce his wife except on the ground of sexual immorality. But what exactly does that mean?

Do you mean to say that you believe that there are no other times when divorce is permitted? Or do you mean that there are no other times when remarriage is permitted? If divorce could be permitted on other grounds, how could it be justified in light of Jesus’s words? If divorce could not be permitted on other grounds, what should a Christian do in situations that involve abuse or other extreme situations? What exactly do you think Jesus means by sexual immorality? Is he only referring to sexual intercourse? Or, based on what he says in the previous verses, can it also include lust? Maybe Jesus isn’t trying to lay down a hard and fast rule, but just teaching a general principle, or perhaps an ideal we should strive for? What if a person is previously divorced and remarried before they become a Christian? Is the new “spouse” even a spouse at all? If so, in what sense could remarriage be adultery? If not, is a Christian required to divorce their new “spouse” in order to be faithful to Jesus’s teaching? Is that how Jesus would have intended for his teaching to be applied, or was he making another point entirely? How certain are you about your conclusions? What if another Christians draws slightly different conclusions? Is that permissible? Why or why not?

Write out your questions. Write out your answers. Write out what you are certain about. Write out what you are uncertain about. Write out what you believe the text teaches. Write out what you do not believe the text teaches. Practice nuancing your beliefs appropriately. Try writing. It sharpens your thinking.