Rightly interpreting the word of God, His Holy Bible, often is a complicated, tricky, humbling, and extremely rewarding endeavor. It is also commanded by our Lord to accomplish this vital and holy activity in a way that pleases Him and causes us no shame.
2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
If the Bible is so easy to understand (i.e. to interpret) as some say, then why do we have so many sinful denominations, so many fights, and so much stonewalling over it?
Is the problem the word of God? Or man?
Man, of course. Arrogant irreconcilable pride is a terrible and heinous sin.
We all interpret God’s Word all the time, even if we don’t recognize it. How many times have we, or others we know, said, “What God really meant was…what this means is…” Or we read a commentary, or a book, or hear a message by a Bible teacher.
In my walk with the Lord God, I have met with hundreds of people and read hundreds of articles, books, etc in my yearning to understand and obey the heart of God. There has been so much taught and written on this subject it can be overwhelming. But as a prophetic apostolic teacher with the gift of discernment, this is my contribution to help the body zero in on the top points that have helped so many others from very simple folks to scholars.
Most Christians I know are not accurately handling the Word and will be ashamed at the judgment seat of Christ. Worse yet, many are foolishly confident and just stonewall all other parties, their brethren. In doing this, they refuse to agree, and are irreconcilable with a form of godliness but have denied its power (2 Tim 3). Let us not be among that number, brethren.
You will not – I repeat – will not become familiar with God in our urban modern cultures as we should without a good working knowledge of His Word. His Bible, and its application.
This is just a short article, but I trust will help you and many others on to God, His kingdom, and all people!
Here are our 25 top points, then followed by a brief explanation and example of each. You will immediately notice that many of these points deal with attitude and preparation long before the actual “interpretation.”
- Prayer – Beg & Beseech God For His Help
- Humility – Being Poor In Spirit
- Heart of God – Purpose, Principle, Practice
- Holiness – God’s Main Attribute As A Person
- Eternal Purpose – The Kingdom: Population, Maturation, Completion
- Unity, Agreement, and No Denominations
- Don’t Cast Pearls – Discern the Pigs & Dogs
- Interpretation Needed for Accuracy
- Not Everything Is In The Bible
- Inquiry First, Then Advocate
- High Context Means Little Detail
- Learn Modern Culture’s Sin Habits
- Spiritual Warfare and Deliverance
- Old Testament in New Testament
- God’s Ways Are Written As Minimums For The Lowest Creature
- Then and There – Exegesis, Only Back Then?
- Here and Now – Hermeneutic, For All Time?
- Bible Interprets Bible – Eternal Purpose, Book, Passage
- Think Paragraphs – What’s The Point?
- Specific-Clear-Consistent-Context, then General-Isolated-Sporadic
- All Passages, then A Single One
- Repetition, Order in Line, Literal-Figurative
- Bible Over Special Revelation
- Styles & Genres
- Greek, Hebrew, and Other Tools
Now we turn to a short explanation and example of each point.
Of course it’s a bit trite in most circles to say we begin with prayer…but we do. Nothing, absolutely nothing can be done of any import in His kingdom without our begging and beseeching the Lord of glory. Personally, in my daily walk, my prayer here may be short but intense.
“Our Father, we are without a hope unless you open our hearts and minds to Your heart and mind. Help us to interpret, and apply, Your Word to our lives and the lives of others so we may work with You to populate, mature, and complete Your kingdom!”
Luke 6:12 It was at this time that He (Jesus Christ) went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.
Always remember: prayer is the cornerstone to our relationship and understanding with The Cornerstone!
2. Humility – Being Poor In Spirit
True humility is strength under control like our Lord Jesus, and not a wimp that collapses at every skirmish or full-fledged fight for the truth of God. We are in a war with the devil for God’s truth since false teachers are the #1 problem in the Word, and throughout history.
We must all admit with gratitude that whatever wisdom God has chosen to impart to us we still need the body of Christ and His Holy Spirit. No one believer knows or will know everything. We may be confident in Him, but remember the devil seeks to devour like a roaring lion. Arrogant irreconcilable sarcastic stonewalling is a key in falling for his lies. Let us not be his victims, dear ones. We need God’s help at all times to rightly divide His Word.
Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Always remember: God’s loving sacrifice on our behalf will always produce humility in us if we lead surrendered lives.
3. Heart of God – Purpose, Principle, Practice
Trusting now we have gotten the Lord’s attention with our earnest prayer and humility of heart, we now turn to remembering that He does nothing contrary to His Eternal Purpose. So, therefore, any Practice in our daily lives will be in harmony with His Principles. Since there is very little in the Word about specifics for our daily lives, we must know and follow His Practices and Principles that always tie to the Purpose.
For example, we do not get high or drunk as a Practice, since God’s Principle here in this case is to be sober in all things and alert at all times. This is in accord with His eternal Purpose of populating, maturing, and completing the kingdom of God. In that way, we cause no one to stumble, and all are pointing to Christ the Son Who is the perfect reflection of the Father!
Always remember: Purpose, Principle, and Practice is the key to God’s heart.
Most Christians think only of God in terms of “love.” And in that term many think of a sentimental and mushy type that typifies only the baby Jesus in the manger at His birth. When God chooses to identify Himself with His main attribute, He writes it in the Word through His prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah 6:1-4 In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.
God is not ‘love, love, love’ or ‘grace, grace, grace,’ but Holy, Holy, Holy. He is altogether separate from His creation and creatures. But He fully expects His brethren to act in holiness in all ways as we imitate His Son. Indeed, our entrance into His very presence someday is predicated on our personal holiness as seen in Hebrews 12.14. We are saints, never sinners.
1 Peter 1:14-16 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”
Always remember: nothing is God’s Word or in our lives will ever lead us to do anything other than being holy in all our behavior.
5. Eternal Purpose – The Kingdom: Population, Maturation, Completion
Our Lord God is the most focused Being in the universe. He will never do anything that is outside His Eternal Purpose. In Bible times most folks were mostly illiterate and lived in an oral culture of storytelling. The Almighty then chose to communicate vital things by repetition in His Holy Scriptures.
There is one theme in the Gospels that Jesus speaks of way more than any other: the kingdom. Over 100 references to this of His are recorded. His Eternal Purpose is to populate, mature, and complete His kingdom. The Father carried out this Purpose in His Son, and Ephesians states this plainly.
Ephesians 3:11-12 This (preaching of the wisdom of God) was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.
Always remember: anything God does or has us do for His kingdom is always in accord with His Eternal Purpose.
6. Unity, Agreement, and No Denominations
Part of the holiness of God for His believers is that they preserve at all costs the unity that He has given us. This is the physical and spiritual manifestation of God Himself: the unity of the Triune God of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are newer divided, and always agree.
Ephesians 4:1-6 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
We are to work with diligence, tolerance, humility, and gentleness to quickly and eventually agree on everything. Yes, everything. Is God divided on anything? You then see the supreme lie of Satan that we can agree to disagree. If your think you can’t agree on everything, then it’s already a defeat for you. Do not serve the enemy, dear one.
1 Corinthians 1:10 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.
The apostle Paul goes on to declare we are to put no name, no denomination, on any body part of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Never! And that those who do and act in disunity are ‘men of flesh…mere men’ which produces ‘jealously and strife’ and sends those who practice such to the lake of fire as irreconcilable people.
1 Corinthians 3:3-4 …for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?
Of course, we’re to be vigilant and put out of the assembly those who are factious with a party spirit, turning them over to Satan himself to destroy the flesh but to save the spirit…if possible.
Titus 3:10-11 Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.
1 Corinthians 11:18-19 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved (vs. disapproved) may become evident among you.
1 Corinthians 5:5 I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Always remember: unity and agreement in all things is paramount to the Lord, as it should be to us too.
Jesus Christ warned His disciples that among themselves would be folks who act like ferocious pigs and wild dogs. This is a warning to those in the church, not outside the church. Be forewarned. In our modern times we say that most, not some, are of this ilk, this persuasion. Arrogant irresponsible sarcastic stonewalling is the de rigueur and standard of the day. We must come out from among them.
Don’t be like me and waste decades pleading and cajoling unreceptive pigs and dogs in the church to preserve the unity. They have no intention of doing so, and they indeed turn and attack you. Shake the dust off your feet and move on. Hear the words of Jesus Christ here:
Matthew 7:6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces…”
Luke 10:10-12 “But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city…”
Always remember: do not waste any time with the pigs and dogs in the body of Christ, but move on.
8. Interpretation Needed For Accuracy
Everyone interprets the Word of God, for even in “Bible times” they had teachers of the Word of God in the Old Covenant. Those who claim the Word always has a ‘clear meaning’ are naïve and a danger to the body of Christ. Beware…
We hear all the time a phrase like, “what God really meant was…” That is interpretation, plain and simple.
The Bible is a mid-east document written to another culture entirely than most of ours, over thousands of years, and thousands of years ago. It is a treasure unparalleled, indeed, but God gives us teachers for the body even today.
Ephesians 4:11-13 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the (final) unity of the faith, and of the (perfect) knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
Always remember: we all interpret the Word all the time, and it’s a normal and expected holy behavior.
9. Not Everything Is In The Bible
No one ever told me to study the Bible to learn all the details needed to be a business consultant. My auto mechanic never refers to the Bible when he works on my mechanical and electrical system for my van.
But, you might protest, what about this passage?
2 Peter 1:2-3 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
Everything pertaining to life and godliness is in the Word, but this means a limited ‘everything.’ It means for salvation, faith, and general principles.
Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher of the 1800’s, was asked if he was stranded on a desert island what one book would he desire. He didn’t bat an eye with his answer. “How to build a ship,” he rightly declared!
This quote from the Westminster Confession is a beauty to put a bow on this point. For by good and necessary consequence we may deduce by the light of nature the other things needed for our lives.
The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge…that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed. (Westminster Confession of Faith 1:6)
Always remember: there are things in life we need to learn from God’s world and others that are not in the Bible.
In our modern age of arrogant irreconcilable sarcastic stonewallers, genuinely asking questions to fully understand the others viewpoint is truly revolutionary…and often disarming! There are times when the Holy Spirit will need to guide us all to seek the final truth like Acts 15. And there are times when we need to be patient with others to lead them to truth we already know as “Gospel.”
Of course, there are some things we need not search together to find the Truth. Jesus is God, wrath abides on the lost sinner and consistently disobedient church member, and Jesus will return are but a small few of doctrines we know needs no great revelation but agreement!
Notice in Acts 15, the first possible church split, that all were present, all listened first, and all finally agreed. The body only compromised on levels of holiness, not any murky actions that could be construed as sin in the church.
Acts 15:12 All the people kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they were relating what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.
And God was honored and glorified. When we know the others position and can repeat it back to them so they know we know, then we can advocate our own current truth.
Always remember: any fool can spout off quickly, but it takes wisdom and love in the Spirit to inquire, then advocate.
11. High Context Means Little Detail
Since the ancient mid-east was an oral culture of story-telling, God chose to convey His written truth in the minimum way. This is known as high context which means little detail. For example, there is no description of crucifixion in the Word, the most brutal and despicable way to die in that time frame. None.
But all the people of Palestine knew exactly what Jesus said when He commanded them to take up their own cross and follow Him. They could see with their own eyes the crucified souls lining the roads of Galilee and smell their rotting flesh after death. No need for detail in the Scriptures, plus God saves parchment too.
In the modern west we’re known as low context meaning we would write dozens of articles and books detailing crucifixion. And we do!
So, we moderns need to be prayerfully humble and ask our gracious Lord for favor to know and apply the ancient writings and their meaning to our current ways. Avoid the cocky and condescending ‘leaders’ and others in the body who convey a know-it-all attitude.
2 Peter 3:15-16 …and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.
Always remember: the Word lacks a lot of detail we need and God’s Spirit must supply that to us in order to know His heart.
12. Learn Modern Culture’s Sin Habits
Jesus and the apostles said a lot about the sin of their day. The Word is mostly corrective: don’t so this, but do that. Paul wrote extensively to the churches about the sin he saw and heard. Many in the Word opposed the idea of their sin, or were oblivious to it. These people fought against the truth, and eventually killed the men the Lord had sent to them.
The Holy Spirit needs holiness in His saints to work as He desires. So, we must know in detail what are the modern culture’s sin habits. And when we do know them, we can speak to those sins, the leaders of the sin, and the children of the next generation that must see holiness modeled on a daily basis.
In Revelation 3 the church body at Sardis has already lost most of their congregation to persistent sin, and had their names erased from the book of life. This ought to strike fear in our modern hearts.
Revelation 3:4-5 ‘But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels…’
2 Corinthians 2:10-11 But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his (Satan’s) schemes.
Always remember: Learn the sins and schemes of our age to preach against them, and to wisely apply today the purpose, principles, and practices that bring great pleasure to our God’s heart.
The Word is replete with admonitions and exhortations describing the warfare and needed deliverance against our great enemy and its king of the world, Satan. If we and our circles are subtlety controlled by bad doctrine, we will never know the heart of God. Never.
The #1 problem in the Word is false teaching, and the #2 is closely allied to it in the appearance of false prophesy. All of this is the result of demonic influence permeating the leadership in the church of Jesus Christ.
In the west, the enemy needs not to manifest physically but simply use the modern tools of the world. Those in the west rarely, if ever, give any thought to the devil and the demonic. In more primitive areas, the evil angels and demons appear and control the populace. The evil ones are subject to us through Christ, but they can devour the unsuspecting human.
1 Timothy 4:1 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons…
2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
1 Peter 5:8-9 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.
Ephesians 3:10-12 …so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities (evil angels and demons) in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.
Ephesians 6:10-13 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle (wrestling) is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
Always remember: All opposition to the true truth of God’s Word is demonic, warfare is constant, with many Christians needing deliverance from demons.
14. Old Testament in the New Testament
In the New Testament there is no mention of marriage vows, rape, and incest, to name but a few apparent omissions. There are over 300 direct quotes from the Old Testament, and thousands of other illusions to the first covenant. What are we to make of this?
Well, many say the Old Testament never applies today, and some say all the Old Testament applies today. But there is a third option we believe to be true. If the New Testament does not negate (all foods are now clean), amplify (But I, Jesus, say to you…), or is silent about the Old Testament, then the Old Testament doctrine still applies for all time.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture (Old Testament) is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
Always remember: Always factor in the whole of Scripture, for those who pound the drum of ‘New Testament only’ will never, ever handle accurately the Word of God.
15. God’s Ways are Written As Minimums For The Lowest Creature
Speaking of finding modern marriage vows, we must go to the passage in Exodus regarding a freeman taking a slave woman as a second wife. That is it for marriage vows in the Word! This is part and parcel of the high context of God’s commands.
Exodus 21:10-11 “If he (a freeman husband) takes to himself another (slave) woman, he may not reduce her food, her clothing, or her conjugal rights (sex). If he will not do these three things for her, then she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money…”
What does this mean, really? God writes His commands, His laws, as minimums for the lowest creature. In this case, the absolute minimums for sustaining marriage vows long term are three things. Both the new wife, as well as her new husband, is due 1) food, 2) clothing (shelter), and 3) sex. In addition, the bottom rung or lowest creature in this case is a slave woman.
If these three are minimums and it applies to a slave wife, it also applies to the husband’s first wife! Moreover, if there is sustained physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or abandonment, these are also grounds for the victim to divorce the perpetrator spouse.
Interestingly, if the second slave wife is ‘at fault’ and the guilty party of breaking the three minimum marriage vows, she would end up paying the husband money for her sin! If we read that part of the passage to apply to that situation, it would read like this since the church found fault with the wife: “If she (the wife) will not do these three things for him (the husband), then she shall go out with payment of money…”
We also see this principle in the care of oxen and financially supported church workers. Not muzzling an oxen to allow them to eat while threshing is a minimum as the lowest creature. The apostle Paul had to set his greedy Corinthian church plant straight for they must have been confused or remiss in caring financially for the hard working apostles, elders, teachers, and leaders. We see it illustrated here.
1 Corinthians 9:7-9 Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock? I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING.” God is not concerned about oxen (alone), is He?
1 Timothy 5:17-18 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”
Always remember: look for the minimum with the lowest creature and use your head for the rest while ignoring the ranting and raving of the pigs and dogs.
Now then, we’ve described many vital areas that are normally skipped by most everybody in Biblical interpretation. If we first do not pray, are not humble, etc. and ignore these first fifteen points, we most likely will end up in the hermeneutic ditch right from the get go, miss the heart of God, and cause many to stumble. Not good.
Personally, when I know my heart is right with God, and I’m humble, and I’m in the Spirit, I can begin our interpretation in earnest.
We must always, always begin here with exegesis, or the ‘then and there.’ In other words, what did the Biblical passage mean to the original audience when written from the heart of God? If we miss this, we miss everything.
For instance, we now know now all our marriage vows come from only one verse in the Old Testament in Exodus 21. But we only learned that when we launched our boat into those ancient waters to understand the three minimum marriage rights of food, covering, and sex in those days and times.
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul declares that woman in a simple house church meeting should always cover their hair when they pray. Most moderns see that as both confusing and ridiculous. But when we humble ourselves we learn that certain ancient woman used to dress up their hair in ostentatious ways and it was also a sexually provocative thing, we then know the reason for the head covering of the day. The principle of not causing someone to stumble is in view.
Always remember: concentrate on the ancient original meaning from the Holy Spirit to be able to see how it may or may not apply to our current modern lives.
17. Here And Now – Hermeneutic, For All Time?
Although the complete study of Biblical interpretation is called hermeneutics, it has the two parts of exegesis (Part 1) and hermeneutics (Part 2). So, part two is to work through the challenge to know if the ancient practice commanded by our Lord is for all recorded time, that is, for our day as well, or conversely, just ‘then and there.’
Sometimes a practice carries forward for all recorded time, i.e. the prohibition against adultery, and the minimum marriage vows of food, covering, and sex. Then at other times there is a principle that God desires for all time, i.e. modesty in dress in order to never cause anyone to stumble sexually.
In all cases, the Eternal Purpose of God is to be obeyed, i.e. the population, maturation, and completion of His kingdom. Therefore, all principles of God can be observed and kept by His loving and gracious practices.
This came home to roost years ago when my teenage grandson was ranting and raving about the American gospel of killing your enemy, et all. To stop him in his tracks I declared, “Well, then it’s OK for me to smoke marijuana!” He was stunned and shouted, “Oh no, Grandpa, you can’t do that.”
I stared him down, and smirking I replied, “Why not? It’s not in the Bible!” Poor man, he was like a deer in the headlights! He had no idea on how to think Biblically to obey the heart of God and had been trained to be a dutiful American gospel devotee by his church and unbiblical youth group.
Quickly and thoroughly, I taught him how this applies to him and all of us. God’s Purpose is to populate, mature, and complete the kingdom. His principle here is to remain on alert, vigilant, and be a steady witness for our Lord. Therefore, we never smoke marijuana or get drunk as a practice.
In so doing, we never thwart God’s work with any human being causing him or us to stumble. For if we do cause them to stumble, we help de-populate, cause immaturity, and help postpone the completion of the kingdom. And, thus, Christ’s return.
Always remember: use God’s Purpose, Principle, and Practice when determining when ancient commands are to be obeyed today to bring our Lord and Savior pleasure.
18. Bible Interprets Bible – Eternal Purpose, Book, Passage
Long before we go to a commentary or book for an explanation or greater revelation of God’s heart, we need to use the Word of God itself to compare and contrast. Amen. For example, in a grossly materialistic culture like the west these days, serving mammon is the rule of the day…in the church of Jesus Christ.
There are two basic false arguments used to overrule the clear and consistent command to sell all our excess and live very simply without a long term savings for something now called “retirement.” One, the naysayers go to the Old Testament patriarchs that were rich…you know them as Abraham, Solomon, etc. Two, they take Paul’s general discourse to the rich in 1 Timothy 6.17-19, and all the while ignore all of the admonitions of Jesus Christ as well as Paul’s scathing warning to Timothy in the same chapter to flee all these things like wealth.
Let’s look at this argument over mammon and how we should understand it. We should take the Eternal Purpose of God first: the population, maturation, and completion of the kingdom as His utmost desire. Second, we look at the book of the Bible, i.e. 1 Timothy, where Paul details the danger of wealth and how it leads people to hell. Last, we take the passage itself and harmonize it with the book and purpose. The above false arguments using the proof text passage of 1 Timothy 6.17-19 do not fit in the least with the book and purpose.
We also take other Bible books and their passages with the same theme. In this case, we learn that our Lord and Savior spoke more about money and mammon in the Gospels than any other topic, about 15% of the total content. And the false arguments about 1 Timothy 6 by the naysayers find no place in the doctrines of Christ. None. Zero. Zip. End of story…unless we disobey, and we finds ourselves on the wrong side of heaven by our greed. Greed is idolatry and idol worshipers end up in the lake of fire. Thus, all the dozens of warnings, for money is like a poisonous snake that kills when handled like the pagans.
Always remember: after the exegesis (then-and-there) and the hermeneutic (here-and-now), our first task is to glean all the riches of the Word of Christ in His marvelous Holy Scriptures itself.
When we take the passage and harmonize it with the book and purpose, we will always see a theme. But then we also need to think paragraphs, to be certain of our interpretation. What do the paragraphs above and below the specific passage indicate? Are they in harmony with our initial leading by the Spirit? We ask ourselves, “what is the point?”
Modern day narcissism in the western church body has basically personalized everything to the individual, not the corporate body when the context demands it. So, for instance, in 1 Corinthians 3.16-17 most church goers say the temple of the Holy Spirit is them personally! But when we think paragraphs and trace Paul’s argument and admonition, we see he clearly means the whole congregation in Corinth is the temple against all the other “temples” in the city.
This means the unified and holy corporate body is what brings salt and light to the evil kingdom of darkness, the world. The Lone Ranger Christian, if apart from a holy corporate body that exists in the area, is a sitting duck for the enemy and his schemes. And to think and act differently reveals a foolish pride.
Always remember: use paragraphs to discover if our original ideas are correct and follow the teaching, admonition, or argument.
20. Specific-Clear-Consistent-Context, then General-Isolated-Sporadic
If we’ve remained humble and open to the Spirit, then we care not who is right or wrong if we gain the mind of the Lord together! In my own Christian life, I’ve encountered hundreds of cases where the individual or group desires to only force their interpretation down the throat of all who will listen. This is nothing but evil stonewalling, and infuriates God if practiced. Discipline and further blindness sent from God Himself is the result.
We need to carefully look at the specific, the clear, the consistent, and in their rightful context. Biblical context means discovering the whole passage and idea surrounding the doctrine or story being declared. Take the wrong doctrine that is universally taught in the west that believers are “sinners.” The crowd that plays this fiddle takes the isolated and sporadic verse from Paul in Romans 7 and 1 Timothy 1. But these passages refer to his past life as a pagan!
So, as Holy Spirit led Bible interpreters, we look to the good and pure heart taught clearly, consistently, and in context by both Jesus and the apostles. And it is taught in multiple passages.
Also, be very careful to “complete” the verse by inserting what is already understood. For instance, most translations do this with italics to differentiate the addition. For example, here we see the words His, principles, chosen, spirit, too, responsibility are added to clarify the passage:
1 Timothy 5:21-22 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality. Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.
Here’s how it would read without these additions:
1 Timothy 5:21-22 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of chosen angels, to maintain these without bias, doing nothing in partiality. Do not lay hands upon anyone hastily and thereby share the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.
Makes a substantial difference. So, when we see passages that need our mental or verbal additions, do it for clarity. For example, we mentally add these phrases below to make better sense:
Matthew 27:59-60 And Joseph (brought other men and they all) took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he (had ordered other men to complete and they) had hewn out in the rock; and he (ordered other men and they) rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away.
Always remember: when stonewallers steamroll a general-isolated-sporadic doctrine, be sure to point out the error by revealing the specific, clear and consistent…before you shake the dust off your feet.
21. All Passages, Then A Single One
Now, we saw above the main demonic doctrine by the majority that a believer in Christ is nothing but a “sinner” vs. the saint that the apostles clearly and consistently use. In tandem with this error is that believers also have a “deceitful heart…desperately sick…who can know it.” This single passage in Jeremiah has launched a thousand ships in the opposite direction of the true truth.
But, we look at the dozens of passages that proclaim we are “saints,” the holy ones. Moreover, Paul uses the term blameless for our overall walk with God. And also that he (and we) have a clear conscience. Finally, when we look at the fate of “sinners” just in the New Covenant record, we are shocked and dismayed that anyone would allow themselves to be called this despicable term!
Another vital example is Jesus’ remark about divorce. He was only answering the question about the no-fault divorce of the day: “for any cause.” It was not a treatise on marriage vows and divorce, for this is in keeping with the high context of the Bible spoken of earlier.
Is there at least separation and possible divorce from a spouse, the perpetrator, who consistently fires a gun but thus far has missed their victim, the other married spouse? Yes, you say? Of course, for that’s the heart of God, you say? But wait…it’s not in the New Testament. So, do we wait until the victim is murdered? No, for the Exodus 21 marriage vows are the minimum requirement for the marriage to remain intact in the eyes of our Lord.
This is looking at and interpreting all the passages, not just one or two. To do less, we ignore the heart of God. The heart of the law, His commands, is mercy.
Always remember: look at 100% of the passages, and all the complementary scriptures that convey the same theme, the doctrine in question.
In Isaiah 6 we see the term “holy, holy, holy” used as repetition to describe the most important description of God in the Bible. Jesus chides a sister by saying, “Martha, Martha…” Our Lord also tells us five times in Matthew 6 “do not worry” about money.
We also see that the Spirit places an order in line over and over with the apostle Peter: Peter, James, and John. Or “go and tell Peter” and the others. Also, it’s always the Father, then His Son, then His Spirit.
Be careful when a literal interpretation is actually used like Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus off the cross, and rolled the stone across the tomb! No, it took several men to take our Lord down, and to roll the stone into its rightful place. Joseph was most likely used as a proxy by the writer.
Figurative language includes metaphor (“is” – the Lord is my shepherd), simile (“like, as” – the Lord will come as a thief in the night), hyperbole (tear out your eye and cast it from you), sarcasm (go and tell that fox), etc.
Dual, or multiple, fulfillment means that there are times when the Lord uses a passage, usually predictive prophecy, to teach us at least two separate things about Him and His Word. For example, Jesus in Matthew 24 is speaking of both the destruction of the temple in 70 AD as a type of tribulation, as well as The Great Tribulation just prior to His final return. In the Older Covenant, we see in Isaiah 17 and Malachi 4 where the prophecy was partially fulfilled by the coming of the Assyrians, but will be fully fulfilled at the time of Christ’s final return!
Always remember: whenever these tools are used, the wise saint pays special attention to learn more of the heart of God and what pleases Him.
23. Bible Over Special Revelation
If we all made $100 for every time we hear a person declare special revelation that is in direct conflict with the Word of God, we could probably retire the national debt for a fairly large nation! This is particularly rampant in the circles that ironically claim the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Whenever the claim appears to be suspect or outright bogus (“God has said we all must…, etc”) and in conflict with the heart and Eternal Purpose of God, be sure to practice extra caution in the interpretation and any adoption of that revelation.
Always remember: the Bible and it’s Holy Spirit themes and doctrines always, always, always has precedent over so-called special revelation.
24. Styles & Genres
Many diverse styles are used in God’s Word. Some might call them genres. In essence, one man’s genre is another’s style! Within the genre there can be other styles like Parables in the Gospels, and Genealogies in both the Old and New Testaments.
Consequently, believers all need extra wisdom interpreting multiple styles and genres that span sixty six books over thousands of years depicting the heart of God for all time to an ancient Mideast culture! Be mindful, dear saint.
Historical narrative/epic: Genesis and the first half of Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Jonah, and possibly Acts
The Law: the last half of Exodus; also Leviticus, Deuteronomy
Wisdom: Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes
Poetry/Psalms: Psalms, Song of Solomon, Lamentations
Prophecy: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
Apocalyptic: Daniel, Revelation
Gospel: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and possibly Acts
Epistle (letter): Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, Jude
An epistle is a public treatise and written as a public letter, i.e. Romans, Hebrews, etc. A letter is correspondence written to an individual and not intended primarily for public exposure, i.e. Timothy, Philemon, etc.
Always remember: many types of ways to communicate God’s purpose mean many types of interpretation skills and knowledge are needed.
God’s Holy Spirit is enough to live a life of grateful holiness and please the Lord…let us be perfectly clear on that, beloved! But in times of universal deceit, overwhelming false teaching, and arrogant irreconcilable sarcastic stonewalling, we must be sure of our doctrine and stand firm.
When first saved, I extensively used an exhaustive concordance and single volume illustrated Bible dictionary. There were invaluable. Discovering Greek and Hebrew words and their multiple meanings was like working in a gold mine! Quickly, I added the Complete Biblical Library, which is still my single most used resource.
Nowadays, we have a plethora of Bible programs that are excellent. And let us not forget the wonderful commentaries by a vast array of favorite authors. In addition, supplement with the best of books too. Nowadays, I also use dozens of proven commentaries and books. If your have an interest in what we use here at Walk Worthy, connect with me and I’ll share the list!
Note: do not get seduced and addicted to study and research for our main command from God is to go and make disciples.
An interesting aside. Years ago I attended a house church that really was run by an in-charge head buffalo pastor who had retired…or so he claimed. His wife was a saint to put up with his shenanigans.
He hassled me from the start whenever I quoted a commentary to make a point about valuable doctrines to our Lord…and to correct his subtle yet bombastic approach. He always proclaimed we “just need the clear meaning.” His face would turn bright red whenever he tried to restrain himself after my admonishment. No one else dared to correct his error.
Well, one night after a few of these weekly admonishments he handed out to all the attendees without asking anyone a rather substantially sized red three ring folder with his “notes” on pertinent Bible passages. I waited until the next week to mention that this was his “commentary!” Needless to say, there were many smiles all around the group and a couple of stifled laughs! In a little while longer after a private meeting with him about his heavy handedness and stonewalling, I left for good.
Always remember: feel free to utilize well recommended Bible tools and books, but never neglect the Word itself, and never let the tail wag the dog.
God desires us to search together and carefully preserve His unity. May we all submit to His Holy Spirit and each other to obey His holiness commands. Again, who cares who’s right or wrong if we collectively have the mind of God and bring Him pleasure in every respect?
Here is but a very, very short list of many controversial doctrines and absolute statements made by those in the body of Christ that we feel are in error:
God loves everyone 100% unconditionally, and all people the same; The most important thing is an intimate relationship with God and that God is love; We’re free in Christ, so you can’t judge me; We’re just all sinners, and God sees only Jesus when I sin; We need to keep Saturday as the only Sabbath day; A husband is to submit to his wife every bit as much as his wife to him; Paul said it was OK to get rich; We can just agree to disagree; We all need to attend a church with a pastor; Divorce is only allowed for adultery and desertion; You can never remarry again unless it’s to your original living spouse.
You can download this article here.
You can download a 1 page summary of all 25 Points here.
Hands down, here are two excellent resources for Biblical interpretation.
Please comment on this post right below. Feel free to write and proclaim your leadings in the Spirit in an honorable fashion.
Your friend and brother in fighting the good fight,
Saints, we’re one day closer to Home, and Him! Love Him wholeheartedly!
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You may view our Archives here: RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORD – ARCHIVES; Complete Archives. May our Father richly bless you with His grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord, in order to walk worthy of His name.
Please comment on this post right below. Feel free to write and proclaim your leadings in the Spirit in an honorable fashion.
Marc White, Director, Walk Worthy Ministries, www.WalkWorthy.org