How we see nearly anything in this life depends on the lens we choose to look through to see it. We joke about seeing life through rose-tinted glasses, and we understand that we are saying our perspective colors our view. A similar metaphor is the classic water glass that is half full or half empty, depending on the viewers perspective, or more precisely, their frame of mind.
When we read the Word of God, our perspective colors what we read. As I have already mentioned, the first casualty of biblical interpretation is objectivity. We not only bring all our baggage to our study of scripture, but that baggage or perspective, colors our understanding and conclusions. In this blog I have been sharing my rules for interpreting the Word of God. If you have been following these articles, I hope and pray that these suggestions/rules have helped you. I have developed them over the last several decades as I have tried to be true, accurate, and balanced in my study of the Bible. I have four basic rules or principles that I attempt to use as I study. To keep them simple and easy to remember, I use them in question form most of the time. I have already written about the first three, but here they all are:
- What does it tell me about God? This must be first because everything written in the Bible is there to tell us something about Him.
- What does He want me to do? God is ALWAYS simple and clear about what He wants us to do. The only thing that truly matters are His direct commands. Everything else is an invention of man subject to debate, division, and discouragement.
- Why couldn’t He tell me more? Remember His challenge to communicate spirit realm eternal concepts to physical finite beings. Some things can’t be explained or understood. Especially the realm He lives in and that we will go to. It’s not physical and it’s not limited by time. How do you explain that?
- How did the original audience understand what was written to them? This may be the most difficult one of all. We can’t know exactly how they heard and understood what a gospel or letter said to them. How did the crowd on the mount hear the Beatitudes when Jesus spoke them. Was it simply a call to spiritual growth or was He commending their seeking hearts? What did Timothy hear when Paul said, “Preach the word”? There was no Bible in existence, yet every preacher today hears the call to proclaim it. Sit in their seat, picture their situation, feel their apprehensions, and remember they knew the who, what, and why about many things we’ll never know – especially concerning the letters written to specific church families. We can not begin to understand the true message of any scripture if we don’t consider the context, the culture, and the occasion surrounding the text. Many things that are proclaimed as law today came from very specific and isolated problems that had to be dealt with and resolved in that church family and were never meant to be universal truths.
Write these four questions down on a small note and stick it in your Bible. I keep them on my phone notebook even though I know them quite well.
God bless your study of His Word. I hope something from these suggestions will help you get the most from your study.