On Interpreting the Bible

Some religious leaders have the idea that only certain people have the right
to read and pray to God in order to understand what God is saying to them through
the Bible. For this reasons in some churches the Bible was kept for centuries
untranslated in the language of the people. In this way religious leaders could
claim to represent Christ and teach the truth without people being able to check
them out. Just as Jesus said to the Pharisees, so we say to such leaders: “Hypocrites!
For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves,
nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” (Matthew 23:13).

We do not need to have a perfect interpretation of all things in the
Bible in order for God to able to speak to us through it. Those who want
to do God’s will shall be guided into all truth (John 7:17), step by step.
We are commanded to be filled with the Word of God, and we must begin.
“Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16).

All who want to be disciples of Jesus (i.e. true Christians – see Acts
11:26) must remain in His Word. “If you remain in my word, you are my disciples
indeed.” (John 8:30-32; John 15:7; John 14:21,23). True believers must
know what they believe and in whom. It is not just a matter of believing
that Jesus existed and is somehow a saviour.

Religious leaders who tell us not to read the Bible are telling us to
disobey Jesus. They cannot show that they teach all of God’s Word themselves.
Noble hearted people will verify the teaching of any man – even if he is
an apostle – against the Scriptures (read Acts 17:11).

The Holy Spirit created the Scipture,
not the Church (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20).
The 4th century church merely ratified what the Holy Spirit had already
written. The church has no right to modify the eternal teachings of Jesus.
God has exalted His Word above all his name (Ps. 138.2). This means that
the Word has the ultimate authority – not traditions of churches. Traditions
can only be good when they don’t contradict the Bible, and when they don’t
seek to replace the need for a personal dynamic relationship with God.

The Scripture is never superseded by man’s tradition (Mt 15:1-9; Mk
7:8,13). Jesus condemned those who put there own traditions before the
written word of God. We are commanded to test all things. (1 Thessalonians
5:21). How? By the Standard of God’s Word, the Scripture. “To the law and
the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because
there is no light in them.” (Isaiah 8:20).

All church leaders and those claiming to be Christians who reject Christ’s
words will one day be judged according to the words of Christ which are
recorded in Scripture (John 12:48)

God reveals the truth about doctrine to those who want to do his will.
(John 7.17). We cannot trust those who willingly and consistently disobey
God’s Word to interpret the Bible correctly to us. Such men do not have
the Holy Spirit. They are blind leaders of the blind.

Thus, everyone who wants to follow Christ must seek the first hand knowledge
of the Scriptures diligently. Laziness and indifference are not excuses.
The matter is urgent. Our response to God’s Word has eternal consequences
and must be attended to now! 

Principles of Interpreting the Scripture

Being the Word of God, the Scripture is consistent with itself – Scripture
interpets Scripture (2 Peter 1:21; Ps 12.6-7). We cannot build a doctrine
just based on one verse taken out of context. This principle gives us an
important safeguard against false interpretations and doctrines. So we
must know Scripture well.

The Holy Spirit, as author, is ultimate interpreter. No man can say
that he is always right about Scripture and its application simply because
he claims a position of religious authority. Even Peter the apostle was
wrong at times and had to be corrected. See Galatians 2:11-14.

The Holy Spirit never contradicts himself. So if an interpretation of
Scripture contradicts another part of Scripture, taken in the context of
the whole Bible, it cannot be right.

Jesus said the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth (John 16.13).
We should therefore ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in our search for truth
in the Bible, without being afraid. The Holy Spirit is given to those who
obey God (Acts 5.32). Let us therefore seek to please God by believing
and acting on what He has already revealed to us through the Bible and
our consciences.

Daniel studied Jeremiah to understand it (Daniel 9:2). Likewise we are
commanded to study it (2 Timothy 2:15). We should ask God for wisdom in
our study of the Scripture (James 1.5). God promises to give us the wisdom
we need.

Everyone must be fully convinced in his own mind about issues of importance
(Romans 14:5). Much study, prayer and listening to godly men will help
us to know the truth. We should not allow ourselves to be full of doubts
on issues of major importance such as salvation.

The concept of present truth (2 Peter 1.12) shows that the church may
grow in its understanding and application of the Scripture as history progresses.
Therefore we must not reject an interpretation just because no one has
preached it before in the last centuries. A more relevant question is whether
there is evidence that the apostles could have accepted that interpretation.

God judges us according to the light we have, or the light we claim
to have (John 9:41; Romans 2:11-16). This means that it is more important to
submit to what we understand God wants, than to understand all the finer points
of doctrine that men argue about. 

Copyright (C) 1996, Michael Fackerell.

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About Michael Fackerell

Michael is the founder of Christian faith dot come, a site about Jesus. He came to save the lost. Bible teaching, Testimonies, Salvation, Prayer, Faith, Networking.

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