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1. If the Bible has many interpretations, and one has to pick and choose rather like a smorgasbord of doctrines which appeal to some tastes and not to others, then the Bible is a book of confusion. Our God is not a God of confusion however.
2. If the reason to believe a doctrine is true is because "this
is the way I see it" then the foundation upon which the reader is building
their faith is their own opinion. Even if the foundation is "what my Pastor
sees it as", then faith is still built on man's opinion, not on what God's
Word actually tells us.
Bible study is really finding out what GOD has written in His Word, and knowing for certain that there is a clear word given which is not confusing. Disagreement comes when the Bible is not studied diligently, and people's "opinions" dominate instead of God's truth. How important then to know how to find your way through Scripture, for yourself! The Bible is a book of communication, therefore God wants to communicate with you, the reader, far more than you want to read it. Do you really think His communication must be difficult or is sure to have many, many different meanings? Of course not.
(11 Timothy 3:16-17).
The Bible is the believer's manual book. Now if you bought a car which had a manual, you would expect to be shown clearly how to service and run the car, would you not? Then expect this book to give instruction, training, a plan for your life and tactics for spiritual warfare, and approach it with reverence and confidence in God. The Scriptures are the Word of God (Heb. 4:12). Through the Bible's pages you will understand the Mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). The Bible is the Voice of the Holy Spirit (Heb. 3:7). The Greek word translated "inspired by God" is "theopneustos" which comes from "theos", God, and "pneuma", breath. God is telling us that "all Scripture is God-breathed." Through the Holy Spirit, the Bible is the very breath of God.
1. For doctrine "Didaskalia" means "that which is taught, doctrine." What use is this to you and me? Doctrine is a Body of Truth upon which we shape our world-view and perspective of life, death and reality. To make Godly decisions in life we need that solid Body of Truth.
2. For reproof. "Elegchos", means "to convict of error and to rebuke." The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to show us where we are going wrong. We humans are always biased toward our own selves! We need the Word to show us where WE are wrong and have wandered away from God.
3. For correction. "Epanorthosis" means "restoration to an upright or right state."
If we have gone wrong, then we also need to know what is the right way. When we humble ourselves before the Lord, His reproof and correction will bring a change in our thinking, our actions and our understanding of God's plan and will. This sets us back on the right path again.
4. For instruction. "Paideia" means "instruction and discipline given with the goal of raising a child to maturity." Christians often reImages spiritual babies for many years after conversion. The reason often is that they have never matured under the discipline of the Holy Bible's instructions. God's Word will lead you out of infancy into spiritual and emotional maturity, as you read, mark and inwardly digest this wonderful book. Don't forget, of course, to be a doer as well as a hearer.
"But be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like a man be holding his natural face in a glass (mirror); For he be holdeth himself, and goeth his way, and immediately forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whosever looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth in it, he being not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed." (James 1:22-25).
The Scriptures are revelations of God. We must subject ourselves unto the Holy Spirit, who will lead us into an understanding of the Word. Humble dependence on God is the proper attitude when we come to Bible study. Avoid proud reliance on your own intellectual powers like the plague. It is to the obedient, humble Christian that God gives spiritual knowledge.
" The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction." Proverbs 1: 7:1. "The Rule of First Mentioned"
2. "The Bible interprets itself."
The Bible actual tells the serious reader how a passage or verse should be interpreted. More about this later.
3. "If a passage makes good sense seek no other sense."
This is called a "literal" interpretation of Scripture.
In a nut-shell, this simply means that the true understanding of Scripture is there on the surface, it is not a "hidden" mystery, lying buried beneath. Nor can it be seen symbolically, unless the verses say so themselves.
If a verse says, for example, "LIKE a jasper and a sardius stone" it means just that! It does not mean in Revelation 4:3 that God IS a jasper and a sardius stone, no He is gloriously "like" these gems. Plain grammatical rules apply to reading the Bible just like any other book, this is just common sense.
This primary understanding of Scripture does not mean that there is NO deeper teaching from that passage, however, as the Holy Spirit enlightens and opens the passage through study and comparison with the whole Body of the Word. For instance, Jonah being swallowed by the great fish in Jonah 1:17. Here the Bible tells us that a man named Jonah was swallowed by a large fish. There is no reason to doubt God's Word and invent some "hidden" interpretation which "proves" that the Bible means something else entirely.
Yet, a deeper understanding of the simply truth shows that Christ Jesus
was in the grave (as Jonah was in the belly of the fish) and He rose again
after three days and three nights, ( just as Jonah was freed from the fish's
belly after three days and three nights). (Matthew 12:40). Jonah was a
"type" of Christ Jesus.
4. "There is one interpretation, but many applications."
This means that God has given a clear Word with one primary meaning. How could anything else be true? Why there would be utter chaos if this were not so. But, Scriptures can be "applied" to different people in different ways as we look at that one, sensible communication from the Lord. For instance, consider the Bible passage in Hosea 11:1 , "When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my child out of Egypt."
The above passage has the primary meaning, or interpretation, that there was an exodus of Israel the nation out of Egypt as recorded in the Old Testament, out of slavery to Pharoah. But it has an application to God's love in calling His Son, Jesus Christ, back from safety in Egypt in order that He might take up His great task of redemption. (Matthew 2:15.) This is one example. Israel was a son (Exodus 4:22) but Christ was a greater son.
5. "Do not make a doctrine out of one verse."
This means that the whole teaching of the Bible should be considered before God, prayerfully, before the truth of something is grasped. We cannot just open the Bible and read one verse in isolation and make it tell the whole story!
An example could be Ephesians 1:2. " Grace to you, and peace, from God, our Father..." People have assumed that God is the "Father" of all human beings, fallen and rebellious or saved and cleansed from sin. On further examination of the Bible it is revealed that only the redeemed can call God their Father, because they have been adopted into the family of God, through trust in God's Son. Read on to verse four. We only receive the right to become a child of God from the moment we believe.(Galatians 3:25-26).
6. "A verse taken out of context is a pretext."
The Bible student cannot ignore the context, or surrounds, in which statements are made. Just as in any book, what the whole chapter, the whole book, the other parts of the Bible say on the matter have to be taken into consideration, before one just makes a snap judgement.
An example is the verse James 2:17,
"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone."
Some have jumped to the conclusion that we must work for our salvation by reading that verse without reference to the whole of the teaching of Scripture. Yet, it is easily seen that we are saved by faith from other parts of the Bible, and that this verse is only saying that true, genuine faith will always bring good works along with it. When we are born-again we are alive to God and His righteousness, we have a great desire to be righteous - if not, our faith is not alive in God, it is dead. Ephesians 2:8 -10. We were never truly born-again.
It is a Bible which has small numbers beside key words, these are then lined up with corresponding Scriptures in other parts of the Bible, shown in the reference section on each page. (See the illustration above.)
Comparing Scriptures carefully will often be enough to gain a sensible understanding of verses and passages. Providing that the chain reference Bible you use is sound. Also a TOPICAL CONCORDANCE is a great help. Looking up the subjects in the verses, shown in listings, and seeking the whole counsel of God on a matter, will often reveal the true meaning.
Let us now use a chain reference to gain a proper understanding of one verse as an example. Many church leaders today say that Psalm 2: 8-9 is a mandate for the Church to take "dominion" over the nations of this world, and to rule them severely.
How can we find out if this true or not?
Is this just their interpretation versus someone else's, who may not agree? Find the verses in your own Bible and read them.
Verse seven says, "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee." This is obviously a reference to Christ Jesus, not the Church. (John 3:16). So, God is speaking to the Lord Jesus here.
Now go to the chain reference.
( I am using a sound one, Scofield's chain reference Bible [a very old version not the New Scofield]). There are a number of reference verses given, I will show just two for now.
"Thou" has a "c" and "dash" has a "d".
"c" in the reference section shows the Scriptures about Christ's Second Coming.Psalm 24:10; Deut. 30:3, Acts 1:11. There is also a note on Acts 1:11.
"d" in the reference section shows the Scriptures which deal with the Day of the Lord, also at His Second Coming. [ Isaiah 2:12; Revelation 19:19. ]
When we read those passages we can clearly see that the verses in Psalm
2 refer to the Lord Jesus Christ being given the uttermost parts of the
earth, and in HIS rule over the nations etc., at His Second Coming. The
interpretation that the CHURCH is to take dominion NOW is WRONG.
Now we will look up the meaning of another verse.
1 Timothy 5: 22. Often interpreted wrongly as meaning that people shouldn't run around "laying hands" on others unexpectedly, giving offence, or causing fear. "Lay hands suddenly on no man..." The rest of the verse is often just ignored. Can we get a obvious, true interpretation of this, as clear as a bell? Yes, of course, God is not a God of confusion.
The context of the verse shows that the whole chapter is dealing with the work of good ministry. How the people of God should conduct themselves. Verse seventeen turns the instructions to "elders" or leaders in the early Church. On through 18-22, all dealing with these leaders. Obviously the subject is these leaders, then the verse 22 says, "lay hands suddenly on no man..." In the early church, as often happens today, a man was ordained into leadership by the "laying on of hands". Obviously the verse is telling the Christians to not ordain into leadership a new-comer, or a new convert! To not inflict upon the fellowships of God an inexperienced or immature person.
Let us look at the chain reference to see what it has to say.
The rest of the verse in 1 Timothy 5:22 says, "neither be partakers of other men's sins; keep thyself pure." "Partakers" has the chain reference number "hh". Under this in the reference section the verses Ephesians 5:6-7 and 11 John 11 appear. We look them up and find that these refer to men who deceive, who are not what they seem to be. Then it is clear that the verse "lay hands on no man suddenly" has nothing at all to do with an individual Christian "laying hands" on someone unexpectedly, praying for their healing or "prophesying", not at all. It is a verse which calls on the Church leaders not to decide on and grab up some man they do not know well, and "suddenly" or "impulsively" lay hands on him for leadership. He may be a deceiver!
This is explained in the Unit, entitled "Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth" by W.B. Howard. It is vitally important that the student of God's Word understand the different ages or "dispensations" of Bible history, in order to apply to the right people the right commands and the right plan of the Lord to those people, in their own period of history. Ephesians 3: 2; 11 Timothy 2:15. The Bible does support Dispensations
For an example, the Christian cannot take a promise given to Israel
in Deut. 28, which deals with the Palestinian Covenant made with the Jews,
and claim it for the Church of today. This is what the false "prosperity"
teaching has done.