Understanding Biblical Truth

Before a boater backs his/her boat into the water, he/she must first check the surroundings. What are the boating conditions? Is there enough gas in the boat? Are there enough life jackets for everyone? Which direction are boats going? Are there warning signs for shallow water? Etc. Then, as he/she continues scanning surroundings, he/she takes stock of the smaller (but still important) details: Is everyone on board? Are they seated? Are the engine and gears working properly? Is it clear to go?

Similarly, there are important things to consider when reading the Bible.

Never Read a Bible Verse

Gregory Koukl, Stand to Reason radio host and author, writes: “The most important thing I could ever teach you is never read a Bible verse . . . . Instead, always read a paragraph (at least) if you want to unlock the meaning of a passage.”

Not that reading or reciting a particular verse is bad, but the trouble comes when the meaning is altered from the given context. Many fine sounding cults and teachers misuse Scripture—inserting (or deleting) a verse here and there. Not only do they tweak the Scriptures’ meaning, but also camouflage false teaching to appear truthful.

Western Vs. Eastern Thinking

Not long ago, I heard a couple of sermons on the general difference of how people think: Westerners versus Easterners, and how that can be problematic when interpreting Scripture. Here’s an example the pastor used:

When we Westerners study a frog, our first tendency is to take it away from its natural setting. After dissecting and categorizing its parts, we seal it up and place it on the shelf. √ Done.

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An Easterner would not remove the frog from the pond, but rather observe the frog in its natural setting.

I first thought his illustration was exaggerated, but I’ve caught myself defaulting to the Westerner’s systematic thinking several times lately!

So how does one avoid misinterpreting Scripture?

Context is Key

Gregory Koukl advises:

  • Consider the bigger picture: Try to ignore the verse numbers and headings at first, then narrow your focus
  • Context of a passage frames the verse, giving it specific meaning; (words have different meanings in different contexts); what idea is being developed?
  • Take into account what type of literature it is—poetry, proverb, history, etc.
  • Meaning always flows from the top down, from larger units to smaller units, not the other way around
  • If a text is confusing, try paraphrasing and see if it fits into the larger context of the passage.
  • Beware of biblical fast food: “By focusing only on pieces of a passage, readers may actually miss the point of the passage” (Never Read a Bible Verse)

Who’s on First?

Kay Arthur, international Bible teacher, advises: Train yourself to ask the “5 W’s and an H”—who, what, when, where, why, and how . . . .  Speaking of how–how did this post get so long? Thanks for persisting through. 🙂 Coming next week: “Bible Study and the Role of the Holy Spirit.”

How do you interpret Scripture? cc3b4fc2f83c41a291a5b0fa380f320d

Related Posts:

Why Is the Bible So Hard to Understand? http://lifereference.wordpress.com/2013/09/25

Tools to Study the Bible, http://www.str.org/articles/tools-to-study-the-bible#.UkHrPT9nGdk

Reasonable Faith, Biblical Interpretation, and “Tipping Point Evidence,” http://www.str.org/blog/reasonable-faith-biblical-interpretation-and-%E2%80%9Ctipping-point%E2%80%9D-evidence#.UkHtlT9nGdk

Understanding Hard Biblical Texts, http://www.str.org/blog/understanding-hard-biblical-texts#.UkHvXT9nGdk

Bible Study Tools and Resources, http://christianity.about.com/od/biblestudyresources

Why Study the Bible?

“If there is one terrible disease in the church of Christ, it is that we do not see God as great as He is. We’re too familiar with God.”  – A.W. Tozer, Worship: The Missing Jewel

Growing up and regularly attending a Bible based church has truly been a blessing. But I confess, there have been times when I allowed my relationship with God to become too casual–viewing Him more as my buddy rather than the infinite, omnipotent King of Kings. A peruse of Job 38-41, however, quickly put things into proper perspective. 🙂


When we apply ourselves to Bible study we grow in knowledge, wisdom and truth (Proverbs 2:6).

The Bible–A Map to Guide Us

God knows we desperately need a map to point us in the right direction. On our own we are lost sinners. His inspired Word provides the guidance we need to acquire His perspective and principles for living (Psalm 119). No wonder King David penned, “you [Lord] have exalted above all things your name and your word”  (Psalm 138:1-2).

Knowing God’s Commands

Matthew 7:1-13 records Jesus scolding the Pharisees for claiming to know God’s will in every detail of life. They created much confusion amongst the people by adding hundreds of their own petty rules and regulations to God’s laws. Jesus said, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men,” (vs. 8).

Engaging Our Minds

Jesus used parables to explain spiritual truth, compelling listeners to think. He doesn’t want us to park our minds in neutral and follow Him in a blind free fall. He calls us to actively engage our minds in His Word (Matthew 22:37; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1; 1 Corinthians 10:15; 1 Peter 3:15).

Other Benefits From Bible Study

  • Knowing Jesus Christ and God the Father: His justice and mercy
  • Understanding how to receive eternal life
  • Knowledge of the beginning and the end (Genesis, Revelation)
  • Training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)
  • Combatting temptation and spiritual warfare (Matthew 4:1-4; Ephesians 6:10-18)
  • Understanding God’s purpose of spiritual gifts and the function of His church
  • Discernment of false teachers

The Take Away

God wants us to not only listen carefully to His instructions, but also obey (Hebrews 2:1; James 1:22-25).

ed81919a606f79fe2cf3cb280c73b462When we seek God through Bible study and prayer, He will come along beside us personally each day and help us carry out His principles. He will also grow our faith and bless our obedience.

Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”  – 1 Timothy 4:16

Are you currently engaged in Bible study? Does a Christian ever reach a point when he/she doesn’t need God’s Word anymore?

Coming next—“Understanding Biblical Truth.”

Related Posts:

The B-I-B-L-E

Today’s Word

Knowing God

The B-i-b-l-e

Thank you to everyone who participated in my poll last week, posted under Back to the Basics. I asked: What do you believe about the Bible? At last check, a whopping 100% of you agreed that the Bible is God’s inspired Word to us.

I don’t want to preach to the choir, but want to follow through with my theme from last week.


The B-i-b-l-e, yes that’s the book for me. I stand alone on the Word of God.

I hope the following summary might be useful to you or someone you know.

What’s so unique about the Bible?

  • Through sixty-six separate books, 1,189 chapters, the Bible is divinely orchestrated and inspired by God—a claim the Bible makes for itself (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:2).
  • Although God’s Word was composed by 40 different authors in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek) over a span of 1,500 years on three different continents (Africa, Asia, and Europe), it is a unit from beginning to end.
  • The Bible shares one extraordinary message: God loves you.
  • The Bible proves God is intimately involved and concerned about people. His unconditional love is shown in the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross. His sacrifice for sin allows anyone to be in a right relationship with God through faith in Jesus’ work.

Interesting Facts

(Source: Study Bible Apologetics for Students, Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission)

  • Hundreds of biblical prophecies have been fulfilled (e.g., Isaiah 13; Daniel 2; Luke 21:5-6).
  • The Bible has been confirmed as being historically, archaeologically, and geographically accurate.
  • The Old Testament is 99% accurate when compared to the Dead Sea Scrolls dating from 200 B.C.
  • The New Testament is 99% accurate when compared to more than 5,600 partial and complete NT manuscripts dating from the first three centuries A.D.

80844cdbbb4f82927197b3b167c6afdbDo you regularly read God’s Word, the Bible?

Coming next . . . . “Why Study the Bible?”

Back to the Basics

401_1 My chicks have flown the coop, temporarily anyway. 393_1

It’s that time of year—back to school.

Whether you have school children or not, I hope you’ve had a great summer!  We have, despite my Jonny breaking his arm  from a rollerblading fall on the second day of vacation. 😦 But it could have been worse.

Yes, it’s back to the basics of learning and applying fundamental academic skills: Phonics, spelling, vocabulary, comprehension, arithmetic, science, history . . . . All these foundational building blocks got me thinking of the following.


Have you ever come across teaching that contained biblical truths, but contradicted another part of the Bible?

I remember being part of a women’s small group. The leader shared some great biblical truths. She was a beautiful, gifted, charismatic teacher who often recited Scripture from memory. If I hadn’t consistently read my Bible, I probably would have believed every word she said. She spoke with conviction.

But the more I listened to her teachings, the more uncomfortable I grew.

One time I asked her for Bible references to verify some of her statements. Instead of giving me a reference, she scolded me. “I’m older than you, and know more. I’ve grown beyond the basics of the Bible. I don’t need to keep studying it because the Holy Spirit is my teacher.”

Hmmm . . . .

Hmmm . . .

Have you had a similar experience?

The working title for my next post is Why the Bible? I thought I would experiment with a poll. I’d appreciate your feedback. Please click on one of the following bubbles and then click vote. Thanks!