How should we read and understand the Bible?

Mar 03, 2014

Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, interpretation is part of almost every human’s daily life. Communication would not be possible without a common understanding and means of interpreting.

However, even with thousands of years of practice, we can all misjudge or misinterpret someone else’s—even our own spouse’s—words, actions, or facial expressions.

This is even a greater danger when we come to the Bible.

For one reason, we are depraved and sinful by nature and still struggle with these temptations after we are born again by the Spirit of God.

Secondly, the subject matter is far more important than even communication with our wife or husband: the Bible speaks to us regarding the only and eternal way of salvation. There are, of course, numerous ways of misinterpreting the Bible, but we might sum them up into three categories: 1) errors related to prejudice (e.g. our sinful nature, religious/educational background, personal spiritual maturity), 2) errors related to meaning and perception (e.g. human and linguistic limitations, failure to consider context, failure to recognize possible alternative meaning(s) to a word), and 3) errors related to collection and integration (e.g. ignoring or overemphasizing certain portions of Scripture, allowing emotions or denominational pressure to influence interpretation).

When we consider the diversity of errors that are possible to make when considering any given passage from the Bible, it should have the effect of causing us to remove every prejudice or bias that we can, to study carefully and completely the passage and its context, and to refuse to allow any outside pressures or inward sinfulness to keep us from receiving the full impact and accurate message of God’s Word.

While the Bible is shallow enough for the child of God to wade in, it is deep enough for the theologian to drown in.

Therefore, we must be careful not to ever pretend to have fully comprehended God, his ways, or even his purposes. However, we should properly appraise the Bible as God’s faithful and clear communication to his creatures; if we are honest and humble enough to come to his Word with the single desire to understand, to enjoy, and to do what he tells us, we can be confident that his Word will prove sufficient for every need that we have in our lives.

While the Bible certainly never claims to be exhaustive in its treatment of God, mankind, salvation, or any other subject, it does claim to exhaustively equip the child of God with what he or she needs to know for the true and joyful Christian life.

Resource: Q&A

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