How to Interpret the Bible

  • We are a Church that believes in the Bible. Hermeneutics: How to Interpret the Bible.
  • Because we believe in the Bible, we use it as the central text for our faith and practice within and outside the Church. We must apply it CORRECTLY to our lives and practice.
  • Bad hermeneutics- Bad Theology, practice, faith. You should have assurance and HOPE, life everlasting, peace and joy. Increasing in knowledge and fear of the Lord. 
  • Its hard to understand the Bible! Take a verse out of context and you can get squiggly 
  • God is love, but also hates (1 John 4:7/Amos 5:21), Jesus is the Lion and the Lamb (Rev 5:5/John 1:29), Prince of Peace and Man of War (Isa 9:6, Ex 15:3), God is Merciful and Righteous Judge (Ex 34:6, 2 Tim 4:8) Christ is Wisdom and Foolishness (1 Cor 1:24-25), The Lord Smites and Heals (Ez 7:9, Ex 15:26) the Lord will turn the hearts of Fathers back to their children, but he also divides households (Luke 1:17, Luke 12:53) His word will not return void and we can make the word of God of none effect (Isa 55:11, Mark 7:13), Behold the Goodness and Severity of God (Rom 11:22), The Lord makes Poor and Rich (1 Sam 2:7), We have assurance of salvation and we Can fall away (Heb 7:25, Eph 4:30, Heb 3:12, Matt 24:10) The Lord brings low and lifts up (1 Sam 2:7). We are saved by grace through faith not of works, but faith without works is dead (Eph 2:8-9, Jas 2:17) We must Stand and we must run our race (Eph 6:13-14, Heb 12:1), We must be still and know that he is God and fight the good fight of faith (Ps 46:10, 1 Tim 6:12) Don’t Covet but earnestly covet the gifts (Ex 20:17, 1 Cor 12:31) Work out your own salvation but it is a common salvation (Phil 2:12, Jude 1:3) Women should remain silent in church and prophesy publicly in church ( 1 Tim 2:12, 1 Cor 11 and 14)Encourage yourself, but encourage others (1 Sam 30:6, Heb 3:13) Wise as serpents, but gentle as doves (Matt 10:16) Judge ourselves and judge all things, but be careful not to judge (1 Cor 4:5, 1 Cor 11:3, 2:15, Matt 7:1) Promised persecution and affliction yet given all things to enjoy (John 16:33, Rom 8:32)Love our enemies, but have no fellowship with divisive people (Matt 5:44, Rom 16:17) Bear our own burdens but bear each others burdens (Gal 6:2, 6:5) Not to be servants of men, but serve one another (1 Cot 7:23, Gal 5:13) Honor father and mother but also to hate father and mother for the sake of Gospel (Ex 20:12, Luke 14:26) We gain our life by losing it (Matt 16:25) We live by dying  (Gal 2:20) Don’t get drunk on wine and use a little wine for your stomach (1 tim 5:23 Eph 5:18) Paul wishes ‘all would speak in tongues’ and in the same book says ‘tongues will cease’ (I Cor 14:5, 13:8)
  • And on and on and on and on. If you don’t know hermeneutics, you can’t interpret it right
  • some quotes from prominent theologians 1-4AD on proper interpretation of scripture
  • Origen (184-253 AD): “In interpreting the Scriptures, we should not adhere to our own opinions, but rather cling to what is handed down by the Fathers of the Church.”
  • Irenaeus of Lyons (130-202 AD): “The Scriptures are like a mosaic, with each piece contributing to the larger picture of God’s plan for salvation. We must therefore interpret them in light of the whole story of redemption.”
  • Tertullian (155-240 AD): “We must interpret Scripture according to its own context and purpose, and not read into it our own preconceptions or biases.”
  • Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD): “We must approach the Scriptures with a humble and teachable spirit, seeking to understand their spiritual meaning rather than simply their literal sense.”
  • Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD): “The true meaning of Scripture is found in its intention, which is to teach us how to love God and our neighbor.”
  1. Foundational presuppositions. 
  • Before you begin to interpret it, you must agree to a few presuppositions
  • You must agree and admit that you are part of a religion called Christianity that was founded in 33 AD by the Disciples of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Christianity did not start with you, you joined it and are now a part of it. It is historical, fragmented and large. (not cath- protestant)
  • You have to agree that there are many Christian denominations over the past 2000 years. There are divisions. Call them distinctions and convictions. Some things are central to our faith, undebatable and what make you a Christian. Some things are preference, tradition, and nuance. 
  • You have to agree that we you are not part of a larger denomination. We are an independent non-denominational Christian Church. We believe and incorporate a lot of different traditions and convictions from different SHOW CHART (Raised Lutheran, saved UMC, 4Sq, non denom)
  • You have to understand that your Pastor has convictions- This is the Lord’s Church, but he birthed it in my heart when I was 16. I am smarter now. BA, MA, Reading, learning etc. 
  • Most of what Christians argue about today with theology are the same things that divided us as a Church in the First century and the 15th Century. You are never going to solve these issues before Christs return because people believe what they believe 
  • Like me- You will never convince me that God decided who was going to go to Hell before they were born and that they are powerless to change their trajectory. If I believed that I wouldn’t preach. I believe the gifts are for today. Full baptism, Forgiveness, Women in ministry etc etc. 
  • you must agree that Your pastor, and the Elders who lead this church are in agreement on what we teach, have distinctives, convictions and traditions and are not going to change.
  • If you’re going to attend this church, You are welcome here if you disagree and agree to worship with us, but it’s ungodly to go around and sow seeds of discord within the brethren about what comes out of this pulpit. We’ve been doing it for 20 years and we believe what we believe. 
  • You Must agree that we are using a Bible someone else interpreted for us and we are building off. They have their personal and theological bends to their commentary and translation
  1. Foundations against heresy
  • What’s Core to God? What’s Core to the Church? What’s Core to me? What do we HAVE to agree on, and what is NOT CLEAR and discussable. What is essential for Faith and practice?
  • Some stuff is so central you can’t argue about it or you’re not a Christian:
  • Jesus is God and Saves. Trinity. Bible. Baptism. Communion. Sin. Forgiveness. Church. Worship. Prayer. Eternal life. Everything else is just details. We’re doing those as we’re waiting to die. 
  • There is such a thing as heresy that have been around since the beginning. BEWARE OF IT
  • Marcionism the God of the OT was different from the God of the NT (Don’t do this) 
  • Gnosticism limited salvation through secret knowledge or “gnosis” rejected material world as evil and believe that the spiritual realm is only true reality (you are not the only gnosis)
  • Antinomianism is the belief that Christians are free from the moral law and can live as they please without fear of judgment or consequences. (Don’t justify living in sin)
  • Arianism deny the full divinity of Jesus Christ. Jesus not equal to God (Don’t deny Jesus)
  • Pelagianism denies the doctrine of original sin, teaches that humans can achieve salvation through their own efforts, without the need for divine grace. (You cannot earn your salvation)
  • All the early church councils condemned these beliefs as aberrant and heretical. There are current denominations/churches that still believe this even if not in definition but by practice
  1. A Tool for Hermenuetics
  • Talk to different people and they have different approaches to hermeneutics. Some people apply them to some areas of scripture and not others. Some twist their distinctives into a hermeneutic. Some people are plain hypocritical and dishonest with themselves about it. 
  • Number one- Understand God has 4 necessary properties: immutability (unchanging) omniscience (all-knowing), omnipotence (all-powerful), and omnibenevolence (supremely good).  He Does not change, knows everything, has the power to do anything, and is perfectly good. God does not work outside of his character. Its in Every scripture. 
  • Number two- CONTEXT Take the Bible as a whole- There is an overall theme and intent to what the Bible is intended to do an produce and the application for what it means. WHOLE ARC
  • Finding one or two scriptures to negate the entirety of the story is poor belief and practice
  • This Bible is a record of a Loving and Holy God who created, they fell, he called an individual Abraham, Built a nation with laws that rebelled, that he promised a savior to redeem, that showed up, that built a church on the Holy Spirit that he’s coming back for. That He inspired 35 Authors to write down, protect and pass down to us to make it to heaven to be with him forever
  • Remember that- It impacts every last part of the scriptures and how you interpret them. 
  • consider the wider context of the passage or book of the Bible being studied, such as how it relates to other parts of the Bible and how it fits into the overall biblical narrative.
  • Matthew 5:17 I have not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them
  • Number three Scripture interprets scripture- Often scripture interprets itself, another Biblical writer interprets another biblical passage. Let the text speak. Don’t shove into a theology. 
  • We use scripture against scripture with scripture to understand scripture (Paul Romans 10-11)
  • Moses said “in the mouth of 2-3 witnesses let it be established) Look for that. Good guide. 
  • Matthew 5:38-39, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” Jesus references Exodus 21:23-25 and Leviticus 24:19-20,
  • Number Four-The Clear interprets the Obscure- 
  • No verse of scripture should be interpreted to contradict the overall message of scripture. 
  • When faced with an obscure verse, we find a clear verse to help interpret it. 
  • Remember- You are the fallen person living in a different time for which this Bible was not written. You have to admit that you may not know or understand and that’s OK
  • Its clear that God is holy and love. It is not clear that we should baptize the dead (1 cor 15:29) The Bible is never wrong. Your inability to understand, interpret, and or apply a scripture does not negate its truth. Rest on your fallibility, inability and limited discernment, understanding, and knowledge be the reason why a scripture may not be clear to you. 
  • Number Five – Frequency Matters
  • How many times a word or theme appears influences the theme of the text. 
  • Lord 7-8K, God 4k, Man 3k, Israel 3k, People 2k, are the most commonly used. “if” 1500
  • Theme frequency matters- Sin and consequence, Faith and Obedience, Blessings, 
  • Intent interprets scripture- All scripture has an intended meaning to it. It Is true that scripture has one correct interpretation, while it may have many correct applications. 
  • Number six- Historical context: Understand the historical background of the passage or book of the Bible being studied. This includes the culture, political climate, and social norms of the time period in which the text was written. This is the who what where moment. 
  • Luke 2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world
  • sets the historical context for the birth of Jesus, providing important background information for understanding the events that take place in the Gospel of Luke. 
  • The Bible doesn’t explain this- you need to study the history outside the Bible
  • Number seven- Literary context: 
  • Every book of the Bible is not the same type of literature. 
  • Understand the literary genre of the passage or book of the Bible being studied.
  • Is it poetry, narrative, prophecy, or wisdom literature? Is it a Letter to a Church or individual?
  • Also includes analyzing the structure of the text, such as identifying themes, motifs, and literary devices used.
  • Because you probably don’t have a firm understanding of ancient languages, you must study study study to understand. Again- Paul had different scribes who wrote different ways
  • How people wrote stories, and made arguments and recorded events was not the same as us
  • Jer 29:11 “Behold the plans I have for you”
  • God was not talking to you- God was talking to Jeremiah.  understanding the literary context of the conversation helps us understand the meaning of this verse for us. 
  • Number eight- Grammatical analysis: 
  • involves analyzing the grammar and syntax of the original language of the text. 
  • Hebrew writers wrote in the language they spoke “geet” v “did you eat” how to understand?
  • This includes understanding the meaning of words and how they are used in the sentence structure. 
  • John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” 
  • understanding the original Greek of the text helps us understand the precise meaning of the phrase “the Word was God.”- the “logos” I was sharing with you last week. 
  • Number Nine Cultural context: 
  • understanding the cultural background of the text, such as the customs, traditions, and beliefs of the people who wrote the text and those who would have originally read it. 
  • Cultural context: Luke 14: 8 “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; 
  • This verse reflects the cultural norms of the time in which it was written, and understanding the cultural context is important for interpreting what the passage meant to its original audience.
  • This was an honor-shame society- where people thought that interacting with people took honor or gave honor as a limited quantity. Helps understand how transformative it was for Jesus to talk to sinners, women, tax collectors etc etc. (Script writ today- trans, internet, politics)
  • Number ten- Exegetical analysis: 
  • Analyze the text in its original language consider the nuances of the language, such as idioms and figures of speech. (ancient not same as modern- authenteo)
  • John 21:15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”
  • understanding the original Greek of the text helps us understand the nuances of the word “love” and how it relates to the overall message of the passage.
  1. Final thoughts
  • Remember the chart of denominations from the beginning. There are many differing views and applications some are probably wrong and right. Shellfish, sabbaths, women, divorce, music etc
  • Some things are not up for discussion based on agreed truths- Virgin birth, cross, salvation, eternity. READ YOUR BIBLE. Give your Pastor/Chruch grace. Don’t be divisive. Love JC and others
  • Have some grace for yourself and others and embrace the mystery and pilgrimage. Jettison your own demand to understand and know all things and trust in what you know to be true 
  • Use these ten tools help scripture come alive, read all you can on it, and then have faith. 

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