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How to interpret the Bible

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The Bible has been used by many to prosper in life yet others have failed to get any meaningful progress in life using the same Bible.

You probably have heard some saying that everything can be taken away from them and they will still make it in life as long as they have the Word of God.

In this series we want to find out why some are succeeding in life and others are living bitter lives yet they are using the same Bible.

The right understanding and correct application of the Bible makes the difference.

Equipped with the proper methods of interpretation, you will love your Bible and never want to miss it and you will read it everyday and enjoy life.

You have probably encountered someone who disagrees with your interpretation of a passage.

That person may be a cultist, a member of another church or even a member of your own church or family.

While Scripture is God’s Word, some of the interpretations derived from it are not. There are many cults that claim their interpretations are correct. Too often however the interpretations not only differ dramatically but are clearly contradictory.

This does not mean that the Bible is a confusing document. Rather, the problem lies in the methods of interpretation used.

The reason why there are so many different interpretations is because people don’t follow any sensible method.

This naturally leads to inaccurate, inconsistent, illogical and naïve interpretations. With so many different interpretations available, how is anyone supposed to know which is the correct one? This series seeks to address this question.

You would be aware that almost all fake doctrines and cults can be traced to wrong Biblical interpretation. I have listed some principles of Biblical interpretation that will help you.

The list is not exhaustive since this is a wide subject, I encourage those that are persuaded by the Holy Spirit to attend Bible school, theological college or seminary.

Biblical interpretation is more than knowing a set of rules, but it cannot be done without rules. We need to approach the Word of God with care, humility and reason.

Additionally, we need, as best as can be had, the guidance of the Holy Spirit. You should desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to understand the Bible.

1 Corinthians 2:14-15 (King James Version (KJV)), says, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.”

Mishandling the Word of God can be very dangerous and indeed a path to destruction. Peter notes how Paul’s letters and indeed the whole Bible were misinterpreted during his time.

He says in 2 Peter 3:15-16, KJV, “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation, even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you.

As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”

God is not the author of confusion, 1 Cor. 14:33 KJV, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”

We all come to the Bible with preconceived ideas which are sometimes right and sometimes wrong. We should always be ready to have our understanding of the Bible challenged by what it says.

Every verse in the Bible has only one interpretation, although that verse may have many applications.

The one correct interpretation is that which mirrors the intent of the inspired author. The point is that if, for example, Paul, Isaiah or any of the Biblical writers were among your audience, would they agree with your interpretation?

Instead of superimposing a meaning on the Biblical text, the objective interpreter seeks to discover the author’s intended meaning (the only true meaning).

One must recognise that what a passage means is fixed by the author and is not subject to alteration by readers.

“Meaning” is determined by the author, it is discovered by readers. Our goal must be exegesis (drawing the meaning out of the text) and not eisogesis (superimposing a meaning onto the text).

Only by objective methodology can we bridge the gap between our minds and the minds of the Biblical writers.

Indeed, our method of interpreting Scripture is valid or invalid to the extent that it really unfolds the meaning a statement had for the author and the first hearers or readers.

Pastor Erasmus Makarimayi is presiding
pastor at New Gate Chapel

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