How many times have you spoken to a friend using a passage of Scripture only to find out later that its true meaning was different than the way you presented it? Such an occurrence should lead us to ask several questions: Why did this happen? How can we guard against this? Can we ever be sure of the meaning of a particular passage? Are we willing to do the work to ensure it doesn’t happen again? Do we simply rely on what someone else has said about a verse? Too often our interpretations are the culmination of a plethora of ideas from others. Some of these ideas may be sound and right, but some may lie in error.
In our sin we are prone to take some of what God has said and done and fill it with our own ideas in order to create an outcome that we find palatable not only for ourselves, but also for sharing with others. When we give people counsel, we cannot formulate truth from isolated bits of God’s Word; this would be a misrepresentation of the God who owns us. In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 we are told, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” While the specific lesson of the passage is to avoid sexual sin, it is also a reminder that every part of who we are belongs to God, He has purchased us with the very blood of His Son. If this is true, we need to be careful not to live as if we are our own, or that our thoughts and ideas can spring from our own minds, but we must be careful to be true to the One to whom we belong.
There are four principles of biblical interpretation that help ensure we are interpreting God’s Word accurately. These are not the only four principles that could be used, but if followed, these four provide a measure of safety in the way we use the Word of God to help others.
- Four Principles for Biblical Interpretation:
- Understand the context of the passage
- Understand the meanings (content) of the words used
- Understand the storyline of the Bible (not just its individual parts)
- Understand the relationship between God’s story and our lives
In future posts I will expound on each of these points to help us better understand what it means to properly interpret God’s Word.