The scripture is precious to us, or it should be. We should look at scripture differently than we do any other works of literature.
- The Bible has a consistent message throughout, although there are many authors.
- The Bible has a larger circulation than any other book and can be found in almost every corner of the globe.
- The Bible has been translated more than any other book. Almost anywhere you look in the world there is a Bible, or at least part of the Bible, in the native language.
- The Bible is unique in its survival as well. It has been attacked more than any other work of literature.
- The Bible is also unique in its influence in peoples lives.
- The Bible is also unique in its inerrancy. This is because of who the author is. God cannot lie.
- The Bible has a source that is entirely unique. It is not just a book, it is the message of God to us.
Our practice as a Christian church must be tied directly to the Word of God.
The Basics of Interpretation
Some would say that we should simply read and obey what the Bible has to say. The problem is more in the obedience than in the reading. However there are also times when the scripture isn’t entirely clear in what we are to take from it.
What is interpretation? It is bringing some piece of information into something that we can understand.
There are two main problems with just reading scripture.
- We are weak in our understanding. The nature of the reader makes a difference.
- The nature of the scripture is also something that affects our interpretation of scripture. There are things that we cannot always relate to.
When we read the scripture, we are bringing things along with us.
- We bring our past experiences.
- We bring along the culture that we’ve grown up in.
- We bring our prior understating.
- We bring our religious background.
- We bring our English language.
The things that we bring along to the scripture can lead us astray and can cloud our interpretation of what scripture says or means.
It is vital that we are careful about how we interpret scripture. Because the Bible is the most critical document that we have and can interpret, we must have some framework to follow as we dig into the word.
The Bible is both human and Divine. We believe that the words in scripture were inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Bible was also given in human words/terms in history. It actually happened and a human wrote the words based on his context, language and surroundings.
God chose numerous ways to reveal and communicate his truth to us.
- Narrative – about 80% of scripture is stories.
- The Old Testament Law
- Prophetic Oracles
- Apocalyptic Literature
This is the careful systematic study of scripture to discover what the original intention and meaning of the writing was.
This is something that needs to be done constantly. We need to continually look at scripture and understand that these words were real men who were trying to convey a message to their readers. It is important to work hard to find the message that they were attempting to convey.
Honesty is important as we look at scripture and attempt to understand it.
- Read the text carefully. Read it multiple times.
- We need to constantly ask questions of the text. Why? How? What?
Some other questions we can ask as we study scripture.
- Sin to confess?
- Promise to claim?
- Attitude to change?
- Command to obey?
- Example to follow?
- Prayer to pray?
- Error to avoid?
- Truth to believe?
- Something to praise God for?
It is important that we never take scripture out of context. This is where a lot of cults come from. You can find a little piece of scripture to say a lot of things that are totally in contrast to what it means in context.
Some contextual things to keep in mind.
- Setting geographically.
- Political setting.
- Occasion for writing.
- Look backward/forward.
- Trace the authors train of thought.
It is difficult at times to follow the train of thought contextually as a result of adding chapters and verses. Make sure you are getting the context for the scripture you’re reading.
- A good Bible is important, pick a translation that is faithful to the original text.
- A concordance can be very helpful.
- A Bible dictionary can be very helpful.
- There are a lot of other really helpful literal tools that can be used.
- We do need to be very careful about the tools that we use. They are put together and written by fallible men.
Seeking the contemporary relevance of an ancient text. How does the Bible apply to us today?
A lot of this comes down to common sense. Not all of it, but a lot of it.
Hermeneutics must always begin with solid exegesis. Make sure you understand what the word/meaning was then before you try to say how it applies today. A text can never mean now what it never meant originally.
Can we apply principles of scripture to our modern day? Yes, but we need to be careful in how we apply these things. There needs to be a direct link between what we do and scriptural principles.
You cannot get to know the Word of God unless you apply it to your life. This is God’s word. As truth is revealed to us we need to act upon it.
If there is no willingness to apply it to our lives, it is not just a wast of time, it is dangerous. We can become callous to these truths.
Application isn’t easy. It is hard work to apply scripture to our lives. It requires prayer. Meditation. The work of the Holy Spirit. And application to our daily experience.