How to Interpret Scripture

by | Jul 9, 2017

There are few things that should be as important to the Christian as understanding Scripture. There is no reliable knowledge of God without a sound understanding of Scripture for it is in and through Scripture that God discloses the truth about himself to his people. As a result, every Christian who handles the Scripture, and that includes every Christian, must equip themselves with a sound interpretive method. It is the task of every Christian to humbly receive what God says in Scripture, in both the Old and the New Testament. This task requires a high degree of energy, focus, discipline, and humility. Western culture wants things to come easy and fast. Biblical interpretation does not always come easy or fast. In many cases, mining the text of Scripture is difficult and slow.

The Scriptures of the Christian Church are unique from the standpoint that they have dual authorship, are of supernatural origin, and have one unifying message. The implications of these basic characteristics of Scripture are far-reaching. For example, McCartney and Clayton tell us, “A false interpretation of a true statement that is a matter of life and death is therefore a great evil.” [McCartney & Clayton, Let the Reader Understand] The apostle Peter said, And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. [2 Peter 3:15-16]

The unity and coherence of the Bible is found in the fact that, even though it was written by more than 40 different men over 1500 years coming from diverse backgrounds and cultures, it has the divine mind as its primary author. God is doing something glorious, something profound with Scripture. Despite the popular piecemeal approach to biblical interpretation by many in modern culture (dispensationalism as an example), the Bible tells one story and its own interpretation is located within itself. That is to say that the Bible is self-interpreting. Scripture interprets Scripture. This idea is expressed in the reformation principles known as the analogy of faith and the analogy of Scripture. The former points to the fact that no doctrine of Scripture contradicts any other doctrine of Scripture and the latter points to the fact that the less clear teachings of Scripture must be understood through the clearer teachings of Scripture.

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