The most read and most amazing book ever written is the Bible. Hands down! Yet, the range of reactions to the Bible is also probably the most varied and diverse of any book ever written. Opinions about it range from viewing it as fiction, fables, and fantasy on one end to holy, sacred, and totally inspired on the other. As followers of Jesus, who came to believe and accept Him as Lord and Savior based on the message and veracity of the Bible, we understand it to be God’s message to His creation. The Bible explains why God created us and what He had to do to make a relationship with Him possible. In the Bible we see God’s unfolding plan for how unholy humans can be one with Him, our Holy God and Father. It tracks the many things He did to give man the opportunity to seek Him and dwell with Him because we choose Him. God is love and love is always a choice. God never did nor ever will, take away our freedom to choose. Man’s problem has always been a matter of making the right choices about God. He gave man choices using family leaders, called Patriarchs, laws through Moses, priests, kings, prophets, and specially called leaders, but man constantly ignored and rejected his efforts to have a relationship with them. At the right time, He presented the final part of his plan by sending his only Son to live, preach Good News of salvation through Him, and offer Him up to pay for all the sins of unholy mankind. Jesus called us to follow him, declaring that if we believe and are baptized in His name we would be children of God and spend eternity with Him. The initial choice to follow Him must be followed by a lifetime of making the right choices to grow spiritually and relationally with Him and our Father.
That being said, while the message of the Bible seems to be very clear, we have had a very difficult time agreeing about much of what it says. Why can two people read the same passage of scripture and come away with two very different conclusions? If it were any other book, we’d just say that one is smart and one is dumb, but we can’t say that about understanding biblical truths. Why? Because we can’t agree on some things it says with the people we know and love the most! Not only that, but how many things have you changed your mind about over the years? I’ve got sermons from just a few years ago that examined and explained passages of the Bible, and I wouldn’t say the same thing today, and some would be totally different.
One of the biggest reasons why we read and understand the Bible differently is because our life experiences are different. Another factor that probably has an even greater impact on our different interpretations of the Bible comes from the different teachings we all received about it over the years. Here is the explanation principle I have quoted for several years now. “The biggest obstacle to biblical interpretation is the absence of objectivity.” We carry all our baggage with us when we study the Bible. All our history, experiences, preferences, education, personality, and every Bible class and sermon taught by every teacher, preacher, and professor we’ve ever heard becomes the lens through which we try to hear God speak in His Word. That shapes and drives how we study it. We already have conclusions, interpretations, and doctrines embedded in our heads and we study to confirm and conform to what we already believe it says.
Objectivity is the ability to ignore all that! See it fresh and new! What is God saying to those people who heard it first and how does He want me to understand it? Why did He put this into His message? What is He telling me about deepening my relationship with Him? Am I looking for material to prove what I’ve been taught, or am I seeking insight into God’s mind and plan?
In the coming weeks I will be looking at some helpful guidelines for getting the most from the Word of God. Call them rules of interpretations if you want, but my intent is to dig deeper and get the real treasure God wants me – us – to have. Are you ready to dig it?