At first blush, my reaction to this book was that it would make a good primer for youth pastors to use or perhaps for new believers. My reasoning for this is that each verse has a simple question that could easily be answered by simply reading the verse closely. No reach or reflection is really required to answer the question; anyone can answer them. This is a very useful teaching technique. We have all read a story or a newspaper article and at its conclusion we realize we don’t really know what we just read. What Ellis’s technique causes readers to do is to actively read Scripture. By causing readers to pause, engage, and interact with the Word he makes us think about it in a new, fresh way that makes it meaningful to us.
As I thought about this book more careful, I realized that it can be just as valuable to the experienced scholar as it is the new Christian. Scholars often look for those ever deeper analyses of Scripture in a hope to be enlightened and thus brought closer to God. These are people who can recite the Word from memory, people who know the New Testament, but perhaps that know it too well. We can get so comfortable with Scripture that our knowledge becomes rote. We recite it back on autopilot like we would the Pledge of Allegiance. If these more knowledgeable readers add one or two questions to each of Ellis’s, they will come back to a deeper understanding of the words we know but may not really own. By adding questions like, “So why is that important?” or “What does that mean to me?” or even “Where else did I see that I the Bible?” we start to engage in recursive learning. By doing this process, readers come back to verses that they have read again and again to apply questions to find personal relevance, deeper connections, and interconnectivity within the Bible. The irony is that we are always looking for deeper relevance and more profound teachers. This simple approach allows you to access the source of the greatest relevance in your life, yourself. It exposes you to the most profound of all teachers, the Holy Spirit.
An example of this is happens when I look at 2 Timothy 3:16. The ESV reads “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” What Ellis asks about this verse is “What specifically are the Scriptures useful for?” This simple question forces the reader to isolate the purposes of Scripture: teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. Then I ask a simple application question of “Why is this important?” The first thing that stands out to me is there are two purposes: not only teaching and training people in the Word, but also reproving and correcting those who do not. “What does that mean to me?” That when people tell me that I can’t “judge them” that the Bible tells me the opposite. It is just as important according to this verse to correct behavior as it is to teach the Word. I could even go so far as noticing that since “reproof” and “correction” are at the center of the 4 purposes of Scripture. I might therefore even take from that, that correction is at the core of teaching and training. “Where else did I see this in the Bible?” After all I can misinterpret something once. It might an anomaly. So where else do I see this idea of reproof? How about 2 Tim 4:2; Pr. 6:23, 15:10, 31; John 3:20; Ep. 5:11–13; or He. 11:1? Wow! A whole sermon with one question and I honestly choose that verse randomly.
What Ellis shows us is that questions are powerful. He gives us a chance to actively read passages that we have struggled with for years or are seeing for the first time. He encourages to go back and look at, really look at, the Word of God.