(NOTE: This sermon series and devotional series is based on a book by Randy Frazee entitled, “BELIEVE.”
You may choose to download or purchase the book as a supplement to your worship and devotional emails.)
“That’s your own interpretation.”
“This is what God’s Word says!”
How do you know? It’s easy when two people disagree on what the Bible says on a topic or a verse to “agree to disagree” or to cede the point that “it’s a matter of interpretation.” Perhaps you’ve felt this way and been frustrated because you can see another interpretation and don’t know how to know if it’s right or not.
So how can you be certain you are understanding what God is saying in his word and whittle down the “interpretations” to THE interpretation.
Our next two tips give you two key guidelines to do just that.
4. Always pay attention to the context of what you are reading.
Just like the three keys to real estate investing are “location, location, location” the three keys to getting the right interpretation and understanding of a Bible verse is “Context! Context! Context!”
In my class I always use the example of two verses that when taken out of context give a very dark teaching that one could say “comes from the Bible” but is two verses taken out of context and put together when they were never intended to be put together.
Matthew 27:5 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.
Luke 10:37 Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Don’t take words of the Bible out of context! You get bad theology and bad advice! Rather, consider each passage in light of the verses that surround it. Consider the paragraph that it’s in. Consider the book of the Bible that it comes from. As you read ask yourself questions such as, “Who is the speaker in this verse?” “Who is being spoken to?” “What just happened to make the person say this?” “Under what circumstances was this passage written?” “What would these words mean to the people who originally heard them or read them?”
Context helps to whittle down possible interpretations to the right interpretation!
5 Always consider parallel passages and cross references.
Similar to looking at the context of a verse is to look at other verses that deals with that subject. Scripture helps us interpret other portions of Scripture. Here’s an example. Consider the following two passages.
James 2:20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?
Ephesians 2:8,9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.
If someone wanted to find out how we are saved and all that they looked at was James 2:20, they might get the impression that our good works play a part in our salvation. But when you look at the fuller context of James (cf. tip #4 above), you realize he’s addressing a specific problem. People were claiming that if you had faith in Jesus, that gave you a license to sin. When you look at cross references such as Ephesians 2:8,9 — other passages that deal with the relationship between faith and works and salvation — it becomes overwhelmingly clear that our works play no part in our salvation. Allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture further helps to safeguard Bible truths for us.
Obviously this take some time and thought. Much can be gained from a quick read of Scripture…more can be mined when one takes the time to consider the context of the passage and other sections of Scripture that address the topic.
Be patient with yourself. Don’t give up. The more you do it, the easier it will be.
Apply: Try John 3:16. It’s a very familiar passage, “For God so loved the world…etc.” Take time today to read all of John 3. Soak in the context in which Jesus speaks this, to whom he speaks it, why he speaks it. What additional insights to this verse do you gain?
Prayer: Lord thank you for giving us all of Scripture to understand clearly the truths you have given to us to learn, believe, and live by. AMEN.