Interpreting Scripture
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How to understand the Bible



When dealing with scripture, 1st you must take a stand. Do you believe it to be inspired fully or not? It's an all or nothing thing. Anything else causes the Gospel & Bible to become a nice Bed Time story.
 
2 Pet 1:16: For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

I discuss why scripture is to be trusted fully here:

 How can you be sure what method is correct in finding God?  

We must also realize this truth:

2 Tim 3:16: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness

So all scripture is useable for doctrine. However, if we take the view scripture is inspired and that God is Holy, we then can know that there will not be any contradictions. If we see a contradiction then it is our understanding that must be changed. We also must realize the differences between the Old Testament and the New. While the Old is still profitable for doctrine, we must realize the New says the Old is a shadow.

Heb 8:5: Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.

Heb 10:1: For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.

Nevertheless, even the New Testament can be hard to understand:

1 Cor 13:12: For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.  

1 Cor 2:14: 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.

From that last verse we see that we need the Holy Spirit to teach us and open our eyes to scripture. He is capable of teaching us:

1 John 2:27: But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

We can therefore trust the Holy Spirit because He testifies of Christ who is the Word of God:

John 1:
1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  
2: The same was in the beginning with God.  

John 15:26: But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:

Now there are 2 workings of the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer, the 1st when he believes and he is then sealed:

2 Cor 1: MKJV  
22 And He has sealed us and having given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.  

Eph 1: MKJV  
13 in whom also you, hearing the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation, in whom also believing, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,  

and a 2nd time when & if we are baptized in the Holy Spirit.

This is a separate act from water baptism and separate from the born again experience:   

Acts 10: NKJV  
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. 45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, 47 "Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord...  

Acts 19: MKJV  
1 ¶ And it happened in the time Apollos was at Corinth, Paul was passing through the higher parts to Ephesus. And finding certain disciples,  
2 he said to them, Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed? And they said to him, We did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit is.  
3 And he said to them, Then to what were you baptized? And they said, To John's baptism.  
4 And Paul said, John truly baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe into Him coming after him, that is, into Jesus Christ.  
5 And hearing, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  
6 And as Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.  

I go into more depth of these 2 works of the Holy Spirit here:

The 2 Anointings

I discuss in more detail the baptism of the Holy Spirit here:

 The Doctrine of Baptisms  

I know many people refuse to believe this. They think it is the same thing. But we know that God is NOT a respector of persons:

Acts:10:34: ... Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:

Romans 2:11  For there is no respect of persons with God.

Ephesians 6:9  ... knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.

Colossians 3:25 ... and there is no respect of persons.

1 Peter 1:17  ... the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth ...

Then we can see that God did the same with His disciples:

John 20: MKJV  
20 And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.  
21 Then Jesus said to them again, Peace to you. As My Father has sent Me, even so I send you.  
22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit.  

This is after Jesus died was raised. He gave them the Holy Spirit and they were born again. But yet this happened:   

Luke 24: NKJV  
49  Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high."   

Acts 1: MKJV  
4 And having met with them , He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to await the promise of the Father which you heard from Me.  
5 For John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days from now.  
8 But you shall receive power, the Holy Spirit coming upon you. And you shall be witnesses to Me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and to the end of the earth.  

Acts 2: NKJV  
1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.   

So the disciples received 2 separate infillings of the Holy Spirit. One regenerates, the other empowers. There are examples where these seem to happen simultaneously, where someone believes and then begins speaking in tongues immediately or prophesying. Sometimes people speak in tongues after water baptism. In such cases, the person gets both infillings; separately but one after the other.

Now God even says there are some who have this 2nd work of the Holy Spirit and thus have the hidden manna (the understanding of God's Word), while others do not:

Rev 2:17: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna...

Therefore to understand the deep things of God, we need both of these works of the Holy Spirit. In Heb 6 where the great debate about once saved always saved takes place we see this:

Heb 6:
 4: For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
5: And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come

We can see being enlightened is the 1st step and thus one has some knowledge of scripture but yet it says "have tasted the good word of God" near the end of these requirements and that after they "were made partakers of the Holy Ghost". Thus we see 2 works of the Holy Spirit there as well.

If you wish to eat the hidden manna or taste the good word of God you will need this. But there are other things that are important:

"About the time of the end, a body of men will be raised up who will turn their attention to the Prophecies, and insist upon their literal interpretation, in the midst of much clamor and opposition." Sir Isaac Newton 1642-1727  

Newton prophesied this very debate. He said there would be 2 groups of people:

1. a body of men will be raised up who will turn their attention to the Prophecies, and insist upon their literal interpretation

2. the midst of much clamor and opposition

So which of these 2 groups, which do exist, do you tend to be? Remember he prophesied these 2 groups hundreds of years ago! Newton was a scientist who studied prophecy. He knew that the truth of the end times would continue to unfold the closer we got to the real deal. But this truth is not upon prophecy alone but is on ALL scripture.

Scripture must be taken literally or else it is not divinely inspired. It's an all or nothing thing. This does not mean there are not parts that are not literal. In such cases the Bible tells us, such as this:

Mt:13:3: And he spake many things unto them in parables...
Mt:21:33: Hear another parable...
Mt:22:1: And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said,
Mk:3:23: And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables...
Mk:4:2: And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine,
Mk:12:1: And he began to speak unto them by parables...
Lk:5:36: And he spake also a parable unto them...
Lk:6:39: And he spake a parable unto them...
Lk:8:4: ... he spake by a parable:
Lk:12:16: And he spake a parable unto them, saying...
Lk:13:6: He spake also this parable...
Lk:14:7: And he put forth a parable...
Lk:15:3: And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
Lk:18:1: And he spake a parable...
Lk:19:11: ... he added and spake a parable...
Lk:20:9: Then began he to speak to the people this parable...
Lk:21:29: And he spake to them a parable...
Jn:10:6: This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.


Another example is the book of Revelation. According to Watchman Nee in "Aids to 'Revelation' ", there are about 30 symbols, and half of them are explained within it's own text. Examples include:

Lampstands are churches 1:20
Fire, Horns, & Eyes represent the Holy Spirit 4:5 & 5:6
Incense are prayers 8:3-4
The dragon is satan 12:9
Beast is a king 17:12

and others are explained, that I have not listed here.

Another factor in understanding scripture is man is caught up in religion, we must throw down any preconceived ideas, denominational ties, group mentality and put God 1st, to have understanding of scripture. This is why the Bible says man is not to have a head other than Jesus.

1 Cor 11:
3: But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
4: Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.

Or a lack or "religion" is another problem, rationalization for excuse of a liberal or sinful agenda does not bypass God, He knows the hearts.

Heb 4:
12: For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
13: Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

So those with the Hidden Manna can at times see the error of those without it because the Word separates the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Having a head other than what God gives causes traditional problems.

Mark 7: Geneva Bible  
13 Making the word of God of none authority, by your tradition which ye have ordained: and ye do many such like things.  

What He is saying is, that traditions nullify the Word of God. Traditions will water down the Bible, make it less potent. Jesus turned water into wine, and some religious people want to take God's Word and water it down to zero potency. Paul spoke of these folks when he said:  

2 Timothy 3:5: Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.  

God's Word is the ultimate authority. God has even placed it above His own name:

Numbers 23:19:  
"God is not a man, that He should lie, neither the Son of man, that He should feel repentance or compunction (for what He has promised). Has He said, and shall He not do it? Or has He spoken and shall He not make it good?"  

Psalms 119:89-91:  
"Forever, O Lord, Your Word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations; You established the earth, and it stands. They stand this day according to Your ordinances, for all things are Your servants."  

Most of us know how the name of Jesus is supposed to be very high, even nonchristians will curse in the name of Jesus in anger. Maybe you are familiar with:  

Philippians 2:10:  
"That at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow..."  

Well did you know that God has put His Word above His Name?  

Psalms 138:2:  
"...for thou has magnified thy word above all thy name."  

So it is also through the scriptures that we also interpret scriptures. Since the Word of God is highest in authority, we use it on itself, as well as the Holy Spirit.

The atheists absolutely detest the idea of using the Bible to prove itself, because they use scientific reasoning. This reasoning is not always accurate, especially when one does not understand authority. But Jesus said He needed no testimony:

John 5:
36: But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.
39: Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
 
(Since Jesus is the Word of God, the Word testifies of Itself)

John 8:
18: I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.

I also recommend 1 John 5:6-12.

But we can use these 3 things to testify the scripture's truth and authority:

1. Do the word in doctrine and witness truth in your life-  

John 7:16-17:   
"...'My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself.' "   

2. The Holy Spirit will bear witness of Christ (Jesus is the Word of God - John chapter 1)-  

John 15:26:   
" 'When the Comforter is come, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me.' "   

3. Confirming signs-  

Mark 16:20:   
"And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the Word by the signs that followed."  
 

Other principles of understanding, similar to Newton:

(some of the following is from: http://www.middletownbiblechurch.org/dispen/literal.htm )
 

"Scripture interprets Scripture."
--John Calvin

--

Dr. David L. Cooper, the founder of The Biblical Research Society, was proficient in the Biblical languages. He studied Greek under Dr. A. T. Robertson.  Dr. Cooper is known for his “Golden Rule of Interpretation” which is as follows:

When the plain sense of Scripture

        makes common sense,

        seek no other sense;

Therefore, take every word

        at its primary, ordinary,  

        usual, literal meaning

Unless the facts  

        of the immediate context,

        studied in the light  

Of related passages and

        axiomatic and fundamental truths

        indicate clearly otherwise.

[This rule was published regularly in Dr. Cooper's monthly magazine, Biblical Research Monthly.]

--

If God be the originator of language and if the chief purpose of originating it was to convey His message to humanity, then it must follow that He, being all-wise and all-loving, originated sufficient language to convey all that was in His heart to tell mankind.  Furthermore, it must also follow that He would use language and expect people to understand it in its literal, normal, and plain sense.  The Scriptures, then, cannot be regarded as an illustration of some special use of language so that in the interpretation of these Scriptures some deeper meaning of the words must be sought.  [Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), 81.]

--

The Clarifying Statement on Dispensationalism, published by the New England Bible Conference, says it this way:  

The Bible must be interpreted literally which is the way language is normally and naturally understood. We recognize that the Bible writers frequently used figurative language which is a normal and picturesque way of portraying literal truth. The Bible must be understood in the light of the normal use of language, the usage of words, the historical and cultural background, the context of the passage and the overall teaching of the Bible (2 Tim. 2:15). Most importantly, the believer must study the Bible in full dependence upon the SPIRIT OF TRUTH whose ministry is to reveal Christ and illumine the minds and hearts of believers (John 5:39; 16:13-15; 1 Cor. 2:9-16). The natural, unregenerate man cannot understand or interpret correctly the Word of God. The things of God are foolishness to him, he cannot know them (1 Cor. 2:14), and his mind is blinded (Rom. 3:11; 2 Cor. 4:3-4).


Now the question to ask is, do you have an ear to hear what God is speaking?

 Rev 2:17: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna... 
  

Long after writing this article, I wrote on the subject on my blog as well. Here is some of that article as well (but edited and updated):

A Major Source of Division – How to understand scripture - click here to see the original article on my blog

I have discovered one of the leading causes of division in the church: How to interpret scripture.

If folks would remember some simple rules in this area, we would have a lot more unity and less division.

Gnosticism.

Gnosticism states one must have special knowledge to understand scripture. There are different forms of this today. One common one, especially amongst denominationalism is education. Many state that the common man cannot understand scripture unless he goes to college.

This is bogus, I am not sure where I learned the following, it may have been from Watchman Nee. In his book “The Normal Christian Life” where he discusses the 2 works of the cross. Not gonna get into it here, but I do wanna say that book may be the greatest christian book written and needed. Not equating or comparing it to scripture, because no book besides the Bible is fully inspired, which is what we are getting to. But I think Nee states that in college the deep courses/classes deal with Romans and the work of the cross. But yet, that knowledge should be the standard of the normal christian. Not the educated elite.

Secondly, many believe certain passages in scripture should not be taken literally. This also is a form of Gnosticism. Who decides what is literal and what is not? Then those who decide such become a type of priest that all the other laity must submit to. This is a form of the doctrine of the Nicolaitins. Turning the church into 2 classes, priests and laity. When the church is really made up of everyone being priests.

1 Peter 2:
5: Ye also... are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood... acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.


Peter is declaring that all believers in Christ and are priests to God. Peter's priesthood is no greater than any other follower of Christ. Because the priesthood is Christ within us. If you read that verse it says "acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." Lets consider the priesthood, what does the Bible say about priests?

Heb 7:
12: For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
19: For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.
22: By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.

We are not running in an Old Testament priesthood any more, every believer is a priest and has entrance to God. The term laity is unbiblical and wrong. Its not a church with laity and ministers, we are all priests. This is why Jesus warned the church about the laity train of thought.

Rev 2:
6: But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
15: So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.

The word laity is found in the Greek word Nicolaitans. I suggest this page from an elder brother of mine in the Lord, which speaks more of this:

THE DOCTRINE OF THE NICOLAITANES

The best part of his article is this:

“Nicolaitanes” means “Victorious over the people; a follower of Nicolaus, a heretic”. It comes from the familiar word “nike”, which is popular in our day. The meaning can be better seen in the phrase: “to conquer the laity” (from “nikos - to conquer”; and “laos” - where our word “laity” comes from). Laity means “the people, or the public”. 

For those not educated in "religion", many churches are separated into 2 groups of people: ministers (or priests) and laity (regular people). I also go into a more indepth discussion on these types of churches here:

The 2 & a Half Tribes that didn't Cross Over

Now back to the subject of literalism veres symbolism, when scripture is made into symbolism, then it cannot be used for doctrine, and only used for an example of good vs bad. In other words they become bedtime stories to teach morals to people. If that is so. Then the gospel itself has become a bedtime story.

If one man can say a certain text is a story, then another man can say the gospel itself is. And I know such men! People who believe that life of Jesus is supposed to inspire us to be good. And that’s all it is for! Bogus!

I am not denying there is symbolism or stories in scripture. But man cannot determine what is and what is not. God does. And we do not need special knowledge for this, whether some elite, or some educated. The Bible itself will.

Mt:13:3: And he spake many things unto them in parables…
(this list is seen above)

But we must also remember this:

2 Tim 3:16: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness

Many many people take certain scriptures and tell me I cannot use them for doctrine. Baloney! All scripture is profitable for doctrine, all. Of coarse we cannot take verses, such as when satan says he will overthrow God, and make it into a doctrine. The balance is scripture itself, not special knowledge, not education. If a doctrine from scripture is countered elsewhere, then we must evaluate our interpretation of that verse. Obviously when we read the Bible we see that satan will not overthrow heaven. It is not consistent with the Bible.

But we must be careful here. Some things are not as obvious. For a long time the people did not know salvation is by grace, and were taught it was by works. While scripture tells us the matter, it isn’t as obvious as satan’s defeat. Or how about the number of New Testament baptisms? That’s even less obvious.

Many truths were lost in the dark ages and we are still digging more out of the Bible. Just because we don’t know about something, or our church doesn’t recognize it doesn’t mean its not true. That is determined by scripture itself.

To base if a doctrine is true by comparing to whether the church has embraced it is very very poor. Why? Here is why:

Eph 4:8: Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
11: And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12: For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
14: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15: But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
16: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

As long as we have the 5 fold ministry (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers) we have not come into full maturity. So for pastors and churches to claim they have full knowledge is wrong, simply by the fact pastors and ministers still exist! And for them to say any different or new revelation is wrong, is a prideful sin of their part.

Which brings us to a horrible defense against certain teachings. Many people oppose teaching because the church fathers were silent on a subject. That is absolutely ludicrous! No where does scripture tell us the church ever reached full knowledge. Does not the above scripture tell us we are still learning? Does not Paul tell us elsewhere we see darkly?

1 Cor 13:12: For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Does he not state that there is only 1 thing he knew for certain?

1 Cor 2: LITV
2 For I decided not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ, and Him having been crucified.

The church lives by faith. Not certainty of doctrines all laid out centuries ago. That faith comes from the word of God, not writings of church fathers. Or church tenets.

I also discuss how Catholics have error in their interpreting scripture here (particularly with symbolism):

Click Here

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Dealing with supposed Bible Discrepancies or Contradictions:
 
 Alleged Discrepancies - Choose which book of the Bible to find a supposed "discrepancy"
 Bible Difficulties
 Countering Biblical Contradictions
 Christian Think-tank
 Hallway of Questions
 Objections
 On Bible Errors and Contradictions
 RESURRECTION OF JESUS PUZZLE



Links of interest:

 
The Word of God  

 
What is the highest standard to find God with?  

 
The Protected & Inspired Word of God  

 
Believing vs. Being Born Again  

 
The Doctrine of Baptisms  

Listen to the Bible free, right here on this page:


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