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  • Writer's picturekristina Wise

Deeper Meaning Of The Text

Searching For The Bible’s Original Intent

Recently, I had an opportunity to teach an in-depth Bible study called “Salt + Light,” The Gospel of Matthew. The book was written to a Jewish audience with emphasis on how to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. We studied the cultural context of what Jesus means when he says that we are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, [Matthew 5:14, 16]. A brilliant scholar that I had the opportunity to hear from, Dr. Scot McKnight at Kerygma Summit in Franklin, TN for the past two years has opened my eyes to reading The Gospels in a new way.

The Story of God Bible Commentary on the Sermon On The Mount written by Dr. McKnight gives a fantastic statement regarding salt and light in Matthew 5. Dr. McKnight says, “This text [Matthew 5] encourages us to reimagine our role in the world as God’s agents of redemption; The follower of Jesus is summoned into a mission on behalf of and for God in this world. Salt and light both evoke the impact a follower of Jesus is to have on others. (McKnight, pg. 55&60). Salt and light go hand and hand in our walk with Jesus. We are on a mission to bring souls to Christ through the words, actions and how we let our “light” shine through the world. We are on a mission to spread the Gospel through those two elements Jesus speaks to us (in our Western world) and to the Jewish Christian that were sitting listening intently on the mountain.

After studying the Bible for 3+ years now, there is a lot that I am still learning and I am seeing that everything is not going to happen overnight. As a disciple of Christ our heart should beat with who God is and this is found in His Word. Thus, in order to learn all 66 books, their original intent, audience of whom the author is speaking to, all of the Hebrew (which the Old Testament was written in), and Greek/Aramic (which the New Testament was written in) words, dates, maps and cultural background we must praise God for His Spirit that supplies us with endless patience; both, with yourself and with the scriptures. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your Bible study. We can’t study scripture without the Spirit. It doesn’t work. The Holy Spirit is the divine interpreter that will lead us into knowledge about God and His Word. Apostle Paul prays this to the Church of Ephesus in Ephesians 1:17 “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better,” and us as the Body of Christ, are called to know Him more.

Ever wanted to know how to study any particular text in a deeper way and to draw our knowledge, a fancy word is called exegesis, of what that scripture is saying and meaning to the 1st century world? Here are some practical tips:

  1. Before diving into any text, we want to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom. A practical way to study the text is to read it in multiple translations.

  2. Pick your translations and compare the passages side by side in the different translations. For example, if we were to look at Matthew 5:16 you would read it, pick out particular key words, and study these key words in either Greek or Hebrew.

  3. Keep the scripture in its context. Yes, I know!! We all have done this before and I am truly guilty of this. But, as I am learning and growing in studying the word, context is key (I didn’t say this, someone else did). I can not insert my Western thinking into a 1st century world, it does not work. When you are studying scripture, place yourself in the 1st century and make sure any scripture or passage that you are studying is placed in its context.

  4. Find resources to help you look up the definitions such as a concordance, a dictionary with Greek and Hebrew words, or my personal favorite, Blue Letter Bible.

  5. The word “light” in Greek (phōs) means- reason and mind and the sub definition is the power of understanding esp. moral and spiritual truth. Looking at the word now in its original meaning, we can see how Jesus wants us to “shine our light.” In this case, he is saying to shine our spiritual truth to others (Gentiles). Light is a mission metaphor to bring the truth to people who are not Jewish.

So, now that we know how to study a particular passage, I encourage you to study Matthew 5:16 on your own and study in its context on what Jesus means and says. Remind yourself of the points above and I would love a comment below on what you learned and what Holy Spirit revealed to you.

Want more of studying the Word? Click here to dive into the person of Holy Spirit and to dive deep into the Greek word for Spirit ​​

Happy Studying!


McKnight , D. S. (2010). The Story of God Commentary. Zondervan.

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