Basic Rules For Understanding The Bible Alike
Several rules are necessary for each bible student to accept in order to arrive at the truth when studying God's word. Here are several. Most of these come from D. R. Dungan's book entitled "Hermeneutics." Printed in 1901, it is a valuable text that the sincere bible student should have in his/her library. It is not an arbitrary listing of man-made rules. Instead, it is a collection of those conclusions which have been drawn from God's word; conclusions that serve us as practical rules for understanding the bible alike. I commend it to your study. Here is what God's word concludes:
1. The bible should be treated and studied like any other book. Whether one studies Chemistry, Zoology, Botany, English or Mathematics, he must study the book to receive the information contained therein. It requires effort (2 Timothy 2:15-16).
2. One needs to recognize that the weakness in understanding the bible lies at the feet of man. He must lay aside ALL preconceived ideas about God's word. Only after doing so can he insure a reasonable understanding of what God's word reveals.
3. God does not inspire the interpretation, only the revelation. Some claim that God gives them a "word of knowledge" about the bible. Such teaching is contrary to God's word. God inspired the writers with the knowledge to write the bible and each writer put it down in his own style. Therefore, man must study it in order to receive the knowledge contained in it.
4. Divine wisdom has adopted the word-method of revelation. God chose to speak in terms that we can understand. We must remember that the "secret things" belong to God but we are given to understand what He has revealed. It simply requires study.
5. Common sense is a major requirement. God has spoken so that we may understand but if we place an unreasonable interpretation upon His revelation, we do it a severe injustice and will miss the mark. Paul told the Thessalonian brethren. "And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie" (2Thessalonians 2:11, KJV). Forcing an interpretation is a sure way to miss the mark and misunderstand God's word.
6. We must accept the bible as the "inspired word" of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The word "inspire" simply means "God breathed." It was the voice of God that the writers heard. And because it contains many sayings of mere men (as in the rebuke of Job by his three friends), one must understand that the revelation is true but not every statement is the truth. Only the context will demonstrate the truth.
7. Spiritual purity is necessary in order to accept what God has to say, especially about righteousness. One cannot live a devil-may-care life and accept the truth. Only if he is willing to live for God can he accept the will of God. One's mind must be attuned to the will of God else he will compromise God's word and fail to understand the truth.
8. A good knowledge of contemporaneous history is helpful. Knowing about the customs of different nations, knowing when and how long biblical nations existed and understanding their effect on those who would serve God in the bible will greatly help one to understand the bible correctly. Understanding biblical geography is also helpful. A good set of biblical maps is also a good investment in bible study.
9. One should never use the bible to prove any preconceived doctrine. Far too often, men have conceived certain teachings in their minds but in an effort to "prove" their doctrine, they wrest the scriptures and do violence to the bible. Only after a careful study of the bible can one determine what IS the doctrine of God.
10. One should never view the bible as a book of mysteries. It is not. Though there are certain books of the bible that use a great deal of metaphorical language or "word pictures" to introduce prophecy, one should never believe that the bible is too difficult to understand. One should always expect to be able to understand the bible.
11. One should never read only favorite passages. Doing so induces one to neglect the remainder. The entire bible is important to us all. One must love, respect and study ALL the word of God in order to accept it properly.
12. One should never study the bible with a personal agenda. This is one of the main reasons for misunderstanding God's word. One must approach the bible from a systematic study, not one of duty but of love. Over the centuries, personal agenda has given way to denominational teachings and the formation of many different sects. It was what certain people wanted rather than what God has wanted that has been uppermost in destroying the "unity" of God's word (Ephesians 4:2-6).
13. One should never study God's word in an effort to make it harmonize with scientific theory. Doing destroys the omnipotence of God. Only after we accept that God is the omnipotent Creator for all that exists, can we fully understand the bible alike. The bible is not a work of science. It is the miraculous revelation of God. It contains those words necessary for deliverance from sin, how to live a righteous life before God (and man) and to insure our deliverance to Heaven after this life (1 Timothy 6:11).
14. Context always regulates the central thought of any passage. It also determines the definition of a word. Some words have a spiritual meaning while other passages may use the same word in a literal or physical way. Only context can determine the definition of such a word.
15. Certain methods of proof are used by God's word. Basically, they are Direct Command, Approved Example, and Necessary Inference. These are the basic methods that good bible scholars recognize and use to determine what God wants us to do today. It is the same method of proof used by the early Christians.
16. Finally, one must understand that any law is dispensational. That is to say, in each of the three dispensations of man, God has given a set of rules for people to live by. From Adam to Moses, man was under the law often referred to as the patriarchal law. From Moses until Pentecost, the Jewish people were under the Law of Moses. All others (Gentiles) remained under the patriarchal law (Romans 2:14). Today, ALL are under the "new covenant;" the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 9:11).
In closing, let me add this. All must realize that the only way to Heaven is that which is found in God's word. Without that valuable information, one cannot be saved nor can he look to a life of rejoicing in the presence of God throughout eternity (Ephesians 4:2-6; Hebrews 11:6).
I bid you all a good study. In Him: Howard Justice