One of the many excellent things I got to do on my sabbatical was to attend a three day theology conference, hosted by Andrew Wilson. The subject was 1 Corinthians, the letter which Paul wrote to the church in Corinth to address a number of different issues which he'd been told were impacting the church there.
Many of us will remember Andrew from the time he came and preached in Kerith, or may have heard him speak at a conference or read one of his excellent books. He's an elder in King's Church in Eastbourne, but is also someone God is raising up to have a much wider voice to both the church and society. Andrew has that rare gift of being both hugely gifted (and I don't use that phrase lightly) in terms of his understanding of how we should properly understand what the Bible teaches, whilst also having the ability to express his understanding in a way that ordinary human beings like you and me can understand!
It was excellent to spend three days going much deeper into the contents of a book than I would normally get time to do. Especially with 1 Corinthians as many of the issues Paul is addressing are issues the church in the UK faces too. Division in the church, living in a society which has a very different view of sex and sexuality, dealing with immorality in the church, the place of marriage, the correct use of spiritual gifts, the role of women in leadership and much more. It was a real privilege to be in the room as Andrew took us through the various different views people have held on how to interpret what 1 Corinthians teaches on these different subjects, and helped us to think about how we might come to our own conclusions about which position held the most weight.
One practical outcome of the conference is that I've started to learn New Testament Greek! I was deeply challenged when I was discussing a passage with the young lad I was sat next to (he only looked about 12 but he must have been older than that!) and he suddenly started reading from his Greek New Testament. I don't know how far I'll get, but even where I've got to so far is inspiring me to go deeper. There's something strangely moving about reading the words in the Greek and realising these are the actual words that Paul, Luke or John wrote - not just the interpreters translation of them into English. Don't worry - I'm not going to start trying to bamboozle anyone by claiming I know more than I actually do, which so far really isn't very much!
I'd like to encourage all of us to dig deeper into the Bible. I spent the whole of my sabbatical reading very slowly through John's gospel - spending about 4 days in each chapter. That was an incredible revelation as I felt I met Jesus in a deeper way. I'm now doing the same with Luke's gospel - in the 3 weeks since I got back I've made it to chapter 4! I don't know what that would mean for you? Starting a YouVersion reading plan? Getting a Beth Moore study guide and working your way through a book of the Bible? Joining me in learning Greek? As Christ followers it is our responsibility to feed ourselves - let's take that seriously and feed more deeply than we've ever done before.