“To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”-Luke 4:6-7
Is the verse above from the Bible? Is it inspired, accurate, and divinely revealed? Can it be referred to as the word of God? Yes, to all three. With those things being so, should I worship the one who spoke the words? Absolutely not! How do we know the difference? Let’s take a look at how we understand the Bible.
How we interpret the Bible (the fancy word for this is hermeneutics) will determine whether we actually, “do the will of my (Jesus’) Father who is in heaven.”-Matthew 7:21. “Examining the Scriptures daily”-Acts 17:11, will lead us to a better understanding of the mind of God. Using some handy tools will help us build our knowledge. As we approach our Bibles, remember these tips:
- Recognize the Bible as the only authority.
- Begin with prayer.
- Context, context, context.
- Determine if God is telling, showing, or implying something.
- Scripture interprets Scripture.
- Let clear Scripture interpret difficult passages.
- Examine all the Bible has to say about a subject.
Tips 1&2: The first two on this list may seem unnecessary, but they are of prime importance. People have a habit of trusting what their favorite human has to say about a subject and not what the word of God actually says. Commentaries, YouTube videos, and other manmade teaching are of some, limited value. But the Bible is the only source of truth. By approaching God’s word in prayer, we humble ourselves to open our hearts and minds to receive what the Lord has to say. Remove human teaching. Remove my pride. Now we are ready to hear with our ears.
Tip 3: Asking who, what, when, where, why, and how will get us closer to the truth. The problem with the verse from Luke chapter four has to do with “who” says it. We know from earlier in the chapter, it is Satan speaking to Jesus. Our Lord uses Scripture to rebuke the devil and withstand the fiery darts of temptation, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’”-Luke 4:8. This is what is meant by context. Who = Satan, When = before Christ’s death, resurrection and elevation to Lord of the kingdom of heaven, How tempted = pride of life, avoiding the cross. Where = in the wilderness.
To properly understand the Bible, we must recognize the context. Is it written: In the Old Testament or New? Before or after the cross (and/or Pentecost)? Is the person speaking inspired or are the words carnal, but their recording by the Spirit (Matthew 11:19; Mark 8:28; John 9:31). Is the passage literal, historical, poetic, prophetic, or apocalyptic? No passage exists in a vacuum. Know the context. Know your Bible.
Tip 4: As children of God we approach the Bible as the guide in our personal lives and for the faith, worship and practice of the church. Does God tell us what to do (command)? Are we shown how to live and work in Christ’s church (apostolic example)? Or can we imply (necessary inference) God approves of an action because it serves to accomplish what he has told or shown us to do?
Tips 5&6: If you have never studied the Old Testament, you cannot understand the book of Hebrews. Do you know what is meant by God’s Covenant with Israel, promises to Abraham, or the prophecies of Isaiah, Daniel, etc.? We understand Scripture because other Scripture interprets it for us. In the same way; if I am struggling to understand a passage and what I think it says conflicts with the clear meaning of five other passages. The mistake is in my interpretation, not the word of God. Scripture is the best commentary on the Bible.
Tip 7: Never base a significant teaching on one Scripture. Thoroughly study a subject to find all God has to say. A concordance or the search feature on your Bible app can be a great teaching tool, but they are not perfect instruments. John 3:3-7 and Titus 3:5 will not show up in a search of “baptism” but they are central to understanding God’s will for servants of Christ.
There are some things we will never understand on this side of the Lord’s return (Deuteronomy 29:29). But the word of God provides us with a lifetime of learning about our Father and his Son guided by the Spirit. Let us come humbly before our God, not to speak but to listen.