Interpreting the Bible
The scripture is not only God breathed, meaning God’s Spirit guided the writers to choose each word and punctuation, but it is also spiritually discerned, meaning God has to give us understanding of what he meant.¹
God promised to give us spiritual understanding if we do specific things. He promised to give grace to the humble, but he resists the proud, so unless we humble ourselves, God will frustrate our efforts.² No amount of study or brain power will help us figure out the life changing truths in the bible, without humility.
God also said he won’t give us more understanding, unless we are striving to obey what we already know.³ Jesus said, if we work on obeying what God tells us, we will get a clearer understanding of what we obeyed.⁴ God created us in his image with his characteristics, so we can understand his anger, love, frustration etc. If we obey God by loving or forgiving, we will experience how hard it is to love and forgive, and we will better understand God’s love and forgiveness. If we don’t obey, we won’t have clear understanding of these basic things. And if we don’t understand the basics, how will we figure out why God does things like, give the Israelites a set of rules that can’t be followed, and then create a sacrificial system to take the punishment for breaking his rules?³
God said, “seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you, ask and it will be given.”⁵ But God won’t teach us wicked things or give us evil desires, so it matters what we seek and why.⁶ God said he’s already drawing us to himself, because he has plans for our life; he wants to give and teach us specific things.⁷ Like Solomon, when God told him he could have anything he asked for, we have to ask for the right things. God said Solomon pleased him, because Solomon didn’t ask for long life, wealth or the death of his enemies, but for wisdom. The bible says we can do nothing apart from God, not even please him.⁸ The reason Solomon pleased God, was because he chose what God had been leading him to choose. God already had a plan for Solomon, and was leading him to seek the right things. If we want God to fulfill his promise to teach us, we have to seek his will, not our will.⁹Jesus said come follow me, not I will come and follow you.¹⁰
Although the bible is Spiritually discerned, it is also logical. God tells us to use our mental skills as we read, like when we study for a test.¹¹ Here are some things I have learned about the structure and logic of the Bible.
The Bible can be used to interpret itself. For instance the New Testament explains the Old testament, like why God gave us the Passover or what the sacrificial system and the laws of Moses meant.¹²
I also noticed that the Bible often implies something, but the explanation is written in other places. It takes time to figure out what some verses mean, because the full explanation is scattered throughout the Bible.¹³ If we want to clearly understand something like forgiveness, we have to read more than one verse about it.
Another key to understand the bible is to know that it all applies to us.God knows all things, and he doesn’t waist anything, so everything in the bible has a purpose.¹⁴ And because the bible was written for believers, everything written has an application for us.¹⁵ For example, everything God did for a believer or those who symbolize believers, such as the Israelites, God will do for believers today.¹⁶ Paul explains how things done for the Israelites under the old covenant apply to us who are gentiles and under the New Covenant.
“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, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.” ¹⁷
This verse shows that even seemingly random verses have applications for our lives. All scripture including the Old Testament is for teaching correcting and training.¹⁵ Everything God did for a believer in the Old Testament, is written for us, so that we will know what God will do for us. God isn’t promising to give us the physical strength of Sampson, or to give us manna in a desert, or to talk audibly with us. God is promising that like Sampson he will give us the physical strength to do whatever he is asking; and like the Israelites, he will provide all our physical needs, when we go where he tells us; and like Moses, God will communicate personally with us.
There is also a way that God speaks to us through the Bible, where he tells us specific answers to prayers, or tells us something for our current circumstances. Some people will categorize this as God’s providence, but I consider it his voice. This is where the Spirit of God puts strong thoughts and feelings in us about what we just read. For example, I was really upset with a relationship I was in, and I had been crying out to God about it. When I opened my Bible, I read a verse about joy comes in the morning. A peace came over me, and I had an internal understanding that this was an answer to my prayer. I received a text the next morning explaining what was upsetting me. Unfortunately Satan can imitate this, so as we learn to distinguish the Holy Spirit from a demonic spirit, we should compare what we are feeling with what we already know about God.¹⁸
In summary, God promised to teach us the spiritual meaning of the Bible if we humble ourselves, obey him, and seek his will. God teaches us both naturally and supernaturally. As we read the bible, God will bring thoughts into our minds and circumstances into our lives, but he wants us to use logic, time and effort, to figure out what he is showing us.
① 2 Timothy 3:16 / 2 Peter 1:20-21 / 1 Corinthians 2:14 ② 1 Peter 5:5 / James 4:6 ③ Matthew 25:29/ Hebrews 5:12-14 / Hebrews 6:1-2 ④ Matthew 7:5 ⑤ Matthew 7:7 ⑥ James 4:3 / Job 34:12 / James 1:13 ⑦ Jeremiah 29:11 / Hosea 11:4 / Revelation 3:20 ⑧ Hebrews 11:6 / John 15:5 ⑨ Proverbs 3:5-6 ⑩ Matthew 10:37 ⑪ Matthew 22:37 ⑫ 1 Corinthians 5:7 / Romans 5:20 / Galatians 3:24 ⑬ Psalm 1:2 ⑭ John 6:12 / John 16:30 ⑮ 2 Timothy 3:16 / Psalm 33:11 / Numbers 23:19 / Isaiah 40:8 ⑯ Romans 9:7-8 / Galatians 6:16 / Psalm 33:11 / Numbers 23:19 / Isaiah 40:8 ⑰ 1 Corinthians 9:9–12, NASB ⑱ 1 John 4:1 / Mark 8:33 / 1 Timothy 4:1
If you click on the verse reference and drag it to the pop-up, then you can scroll down on the pop-up box