Monday, June 16, 2008
Some practical suggestions for basic Bible interpretation
2 Tim 3:14-17
But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The Bible is used to make one wise unto salvation. It directs us to the object of our faith, namely, Jesus.
After salvation, the new birth, we see that Scripture is good and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness. This reveals to us that the Bible ought to be used not only for orthodoxy but also orthopraxy. Simplified, that means, learn what it teaches and walk in it. Don't be a hearer of the Word and not a doer. Be a doer of what you hear in the Word. The Bible is used not only to lead one to salvation but to deepen mans understanding of the things of God.
With that said, shouldn't the Bible be used in personal study and reflection or devotional times? The answer is yes! Absolutely, but there is a caution. That caution is, all believers should have a grasp (a working knowledge) on proper biblical and protestant hermeneutics. A Christians quite time should be governed by a proper understanding of how to interpret the Word for his or herself.
With that said, here are some basic grammatical and historical hermeneutical guidelines and helps:
1. The Bible is more of a book of principals than a catalogue of specific directions. It is not a legal code of rules but rather it is a book which gives us principals to guide us in all things. Most protestants say that they believe the Bible to be the only rule for faith and life. That is the idea here, a guide book of principals for all of faith and life.
2. The Bible speaks more to the inward man in comparison to external conformity or appearances. The aim of the Bible is not outward conformity but inward reality. When outward conformity is sought above all else leagalism is fostered and that is what the Pharisees were guilty of. There must be an inward heart change in relation to the Word. A spiritual connectedness to the things of God through the power of the Holy Spirit living and abiding in us.
3. It is important to remember that in some statements a literal interpretation is wrong. An important rule to follow is, when the literal sense makes sense, seek no other sense, but there are some statements where the spirit or tone of the words is more important than the words themselves. Take for example Matt. 18:21. This is the story where Peter asks Jesus how many times he is to forgive a brother who has wronged him. Jesus says, "Not seven times, but seventy times seven." Now a literal interpretation would be on the four hundredth and ninety first time we can stop forgiving our brothers. However, simple logic tells us that is not correct. Elsewhere the Bible teaches us to always be forgiving as our heavenly Father forgives us. Therefore, there are those certain instances where we must pay attention to the spirit or tone of what is said.
4. It is important to remember that some commands are not for us to follow and obsereve. We must use discernment and keep the context in mind.
5. Always keep the context in mind. Context is King when you are interpreting a passage of scripture.
6. Certain promises in Scripture aren't for us. When dealing with a promise ask questions like, "Is it a conditional promise," "Is the promise to a specific person," or "Is the promise for our day and age?"
7. Don't try to make the Bible say what you want it to say. There is a process known as the "Hermeneutical Circle," that means, everytime you come to the word to interpret a passage, you are confronted with how off your life is, you are broke down and built up, and this is a continual thing. Coming to the Word get broke down, less of me and more of God. More and more truth and less and less of my ways and my mind.
8. Pray as you go through the Word. Stay true to God in confession of sin and wrestle with the text in prayer. Talk to God about it and tell Him your struggles with what you see.
As you get into the Word and spend more time interpreting the passages you read, you will grow. Stay true to the Word and true to God. Let Him do the work, don't try and make things happen. God will reward your desire to grow and learn more of Him. I guarantee it!