Most of the time, preachers and Bible scholars will encourage their people or audience to study the Bible by looking at key themes and key words. Now, before you quit reading this post, please understand that I am not belittling this type of Bible study method; I think it absolutely necessary for one’s own study of the Bible. However, I do also believe that many people miss the point of passages whenever they find the incorrect key words or key themes (which is very likely). So what do we do?
Well, of course, the obvious answer to this question is to continue in learning how to do correct exegesis and homiletics. Exegesis is simply the act of explaining the meaning of a text. So, the task of exegesis aims to find the one specific meaning from the biblical author to his original audience. Homiletics, however, is the task of taking that information from your exegesis and applying it to yourself. These two tasks of exegesis and homiletics should be a continual goal for every believer as they study their Bibles, because these two tasks illuminate the meaning of the text and apply that meaning to the student’s life.
However, there is one element of these two tasks that I have developed over the years which has helped me tremendously in understanding the meaning and applications of texts: taking special notice of the prepositional phrases. You miss the point of many passages of Scripture without these prepositional phrases. Think about it with this example:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB)
As you notice, I have bolded the prepositional phrases within this common passage of Scripture. When you remove phrases like “by grace,” “through faith,” “of yourselves,” and “of works” you will actually miss the point of this passage. You miss grace, faith, yourselves, and works as an intricate part of the passage speaking to our salvation that only comes from God alone and nothing we have to contribute.
The prepositional phrases cannot be ignored. Otherwise, we might just miss the entire point of the passage!