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Category: Scripture

How Can I Interpret Scripture Accurately?

While I do not purport to offer anything remotely exhaustive on this question, it is still a worthy inquiry to pursue. The Scripture speaks volumes about itself, and does not leave us wondering whether or not it is important to our daily lives.

Psalm 119 is a veritable treasure trove of Scriptural self-descriptors. Verse 105 likens it to a lamp and a light. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells is it is God-breathed and profitable. Hebrews 4:12 addresses the Word as living, active, and sharper than any two-edged sword. We are commanded to long for it like newborn babes. We see the psalmist and Job both likening it to the delight of physical sustenance, and better. There are dozens and dozens more. The Scripture leaves no doubt what place it ought to hold in the life of a Christian.

While Scripture is vital to us, the vast majority of Christians that I know are ill-equipped to read and understand it. Admittedly, I struggle here as well. And the problem with this reality is that when one does not have a good grasp on interpreting Scripture well, erroneous thinking and living remain quite easy to bask in. This leads to all sorts of problems, not the least of which are a refusal to even attempt serious Bible study (while inexplicably continuing to hold strong opinions on its meaning), or a sinful superiority complex which, ironically, is based on a truly erroneous understanding of my latest proof text. These errors often pair nicely with a total lack of awareness of the fallaciousness of my screamingly half-baked interpretations, and woe to the one who disagrees with me!

Admit it, you’ve either heard or thought it yourself: “If David danced before the Lord, why don’t we do that in my church?” Or how about: “Is my pastor the New Testament version of the King (or prophet) of Israel?” Or this: “If God made animal skin outfits for Adam and Eve, why don’t we require that dress code of Christians today?” Wait, you’ve never heard that last one? I admit it, that was just my inner caveman shining through. This viewing of historical texts as permanently binding is just one type of Bible interpretation error. There are others to be sure.

So how should we approach Scripture? Are there helpful principles of interpretation that we can learn and begin implementing right now?

For a helpful starting point to begin shaping your thoughts in this area, I am going to direct you to an outstanding pair of articles by Dr. Kevin Bauder of Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, Minnesota). These articles are the recent impetus behind my own thinking through the proper principles of biblical interpretation, and I encourage you to train yourself in this area. While it is tempting to simply summarize the articles for you and quickly give you the three tools he lists, the fact that the articles are short and easily grasped by the informed reader makes me want you to read them for yourself. It will prove worthy of your time.

Read them. Think about them. Print them off and start a notebook of Christian “Continuing Education” that you can refer to for your own benefit, and for the sharpening of others. If you like them, dig around the many dozens of articles Dr. Bauder has written at the same website. Titled, “In the Nick of Time,” his weekly Friday releases are informative and helpful to the body of Christ. If you like them enough, I encourage you to sign up to receive them via e-mail each week.

The two articles are below, and my hope is that at the very least they will challenge you to carefully consider what criteria you use when interpreting the Bible. If you’re drawing a blank in the criteria department, here’s a good place to start shopping for the right tools.

ARTICLE ONE

ARTICLE TWO

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Dear Deuteronomy, I’m sorry.

April 4, 2014

 

Dear Deuteronomy,

I am writing to apologize for the last 30 years. Though I’ve only been able to read for 25 or so of those years, we may as well just round off.

I have not appreciated you. Oh, I’ve read you. I’ve read you several times. But until recently, I couldn’t have relayed a meaningful thing about you.

This latest time passing through your borders, not much changed through the first three chapters. But then I hit Chapter Four, and something started to stir in my heart. The Lord used you to grab my attention and caused me to begin to see wonderful things out of your Law. I’ve been challenged recently by a fantastic study called Behold Your God to look for God Himself in the Scriptures. Not just His acts, but His nature. His character. It shows up in full color within your fields, Deuteronomy.

4:5 “See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. 6 So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him? Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?

“Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons. (NASB, emphasis mine)

Later in Chapter Four, I found myself highlighting large chunks, like verses 29-40. In Chapter Five, verse 29 reveals the heart of a compassionate and loving God Who desires the hearts of His people:

Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!

Awesome. What a view of the character of God. Who is He? You paint a beautiful portrait for us, Deuteronomy. And of course, who could forget Chapter 6, home of the great Shema, the heart of the Law that Jesus appealed to when asked what was the greatest commandment of all.

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Verses 20-25 are crucial also.

Jump ahead to Chapter Eight, and God continues the great pattern of imploring His people to remember. Remember Me. Remember My mighty works. Remember from where I brought you. Remember what I did for you. Beware lest you forget. Do not attribute My blessing to your own righteousness. You provoked Me, yet I have proven merciful to you.

Deuteronomy, I can’t wait to explore the next 25 chapters of your bountiful land. Like God’s good and physically sustaining creations in the Garden, the spiritual nourishment that you provide is not just pleasing to the eye, it is life and strength. It is a buttress for the soul. And it’s all because you reveal God to my heart. There is no higher end.

Thank you.

 

Newly yours,

JH

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

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