Summary: Pre-requisites for Interpreting the Scriptures
I. Pre-requisites for Interpreting
1. Although God wants to communicate to people about His truths, there are certain pre-requisites for being able to rightly divide the word of truth. We must believe and know that the scripture is God-breathed, inerrant, and that it is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness so that the man of God can be equipped for all good works. (II Tim 3:16,17) Be a person who is open to allowing the Lord to teach, correct, reprove and guide in you in all aspects of life, relationships and ministry. Without a teachable mind, the Lord will have a harder time getting His truth to our inner mind, emotions and personal reality
2. Be observant, analytical, impartial, intense, honest, unprejudiced, and fearless in examining the original meanings, context, and intents of the author. "Study to show yourself approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 tim. 2:15)
3. The believer cannot understand deeper truths of God without experience in righteousness to help him discern between truth and error. ``But solid food is for the mature who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.’’ (Heb. 5:14)
4. The believer must be in fellowship with God in order for him to be in tune with the Spirit’s discernment. (I Cor. 2:14-16) Discernment is given to those who have travelled down the road of obedience in faith, righteousness, and purity. (2 tim. 2:22-24) The carnal person cannot understand the things of the spirit of God for they are not tuned in to the frequency of God’s voice.
5. We must rely on the Holy Spirit, the great interpreter (John l6:13) ``But when He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth....and He will show you things to come.’’ Consistently ask the Lord to speak to you about his word’s meaning as well as its application to your life.
6. The believer must have commitment to obey what is revealed to him. ``Jesus said, ``If any man is willing to do my will, he shall know of the teaching whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself.’’ (Jn 7:17) The more we obey the more God reveals
7. The believer must not have any resentments, bitternesses, or grudges that he is holding. ``If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.’’ (Psa. 66:18; Heb. 12:15)
8. The believer must pray asking God for understanding, illumination, insights, clarity, guidance, wisdom, and applications from the Scriptures! ``If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all men generously and does not withhold.’’ (James 1:5) ``Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.’’ (Psa. 119:19)
9. Spiritual regeneration is essential for interpreting the Bible correctly.
10. Humility is essential for one to be responsive to the life changing truths of the scriptures. ``He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way.’’ (Psa. 25:9)
II. Basic Principles for Understanding the Bible
1. The goal of all Bible study is to determine the author’s original intended meanings (For our understanding, faith, and actions).
2. We must try to understand the historical context -- physical geographical, political, educational, economical, sociological,
agricultural, military, emotional, spiritual, cultural, and ideological context of the writer and the audience to whom he was writing and the literary context (languages in which it was written), denotative and connotative meanings, literary form grammatical & syntactical, and the immediate context of the passage. (Hendricksen, 1979)
For example, understanding the context of I Timothy would include the following:
A. Author - Paul wrote this Pastoral letter to Timothy, his son in the faith to give him instructions in caring for the church in Ephesus.
B. Background and Purpose - During the course of Paul’s fourth missionary journey he instructed Timothy to care for the Ephesus church. After realizing that he would not be able to return to Ephesus, he writes this letter to deal with the difficulties facing Timothy by false teachers. He urges timid Timothy to be bold in refuting the false teachers-mainly the Judaizers and Gnostics (Those insisting that the spirit is entirely good and matter is entirely evil) who were insisting on ascetic practices and keeping of the laws to obtain favor from God. They taught that salvation is the escape from the body, achieved not by faith in Christ by special knowledge. Paul boldly states the goal for all church leaders in I Tim.1:5, ``The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, and a good conscience and a sincere faith.’’
C. Main Teachings -
Paul warned against false teachers, the nature of heresy, the real purpose of the law, and the goal of Biblical instruction. He encouraged Timothy to fulfill the calling which the Lord had given to him fighting the good fight of faith. Paul gave qualifications for leadership, guidelines for public worship and purposes for the church.