Pay careful attention to the opening section of any discourse. The first five minutes of a movie, the first chapter or so of a novel, the opening introduction of a sermon, the first paragraph of a newspaper article—all of these “first moments” are specifically designed to orient you to the thing that you are reading or hearing or watching. Remember, authors generally want to be understood, and because they want to be understood they want to set you up to read well.
Over the years we have trained ourselves to read the Bible in an unnatural way, so we’re going to have to break some bad habits. We are trained to read the Bible verse-by-verse, but in keeping with the “ordinary reading principle” we need to change our habits. We should ordinarily be reading the Bible paragraph-by-paragraph or, even better, book-by-book.
The μυστήριον for Paul is less the “secret” of Christ’s Messianic identity and more like the “surprise” that the Gospel, as it is fulfilled in the resurrection and Pentecost, goes out beyond the Jews; it goes directly to the Gentiles too, and to the ends of the earth.
In other words, while the Bible is always extra-ordinary, it is such through the use of the ordinary ways that human beings speak to one another. It is supernatural revelation that God has given in natural language. The Bible is special and unique, but it is not special and unique in this way, that is, in the manner by which it communicates truth to human beings. That’s why the Westminster Standards go on to describe the meaning of the Bible as accessible “through a due use of ordinary means” (WCF 1.7).
As we question our souls we are really just turning Scripture inward. In the end, it’s God that asks the questions. We are involved in the process, investigation ourselves on his behalf, as it were, but in the end we can only know ourselves in so far as God begins the inquiry.
Research isn’t about gathering data. Research is a conversation, one in which you are both a contributor and a moderator.