As a pastor, one of my main goals is to get people to read the Bible. I LOVE the Bible, and I think God wants to teach us through this text. However, I also realize that there are a lot of challenges/stumblingblocks/obstacles to consistently reading the Bible. After all, the Bible was written in a different time period, in a different language, to a different audience. Therefore, I’ve come up with for tools that will help you to properly interpret God’s Word.
My Toolbox for Biblical Interpretation
Tool #1- The Bible is a collection of stories that form one overarching story; not a set of ethical principles.
How many times do you come across a story in the Bible that is violent? The Old Testament is full of war stories and people behaving badly. Whether its a tent pole through the temple, or the massacre of other nations, the Bible seems awfully graphic at times. It is important to remember that the Bible tells a story of a group of people (the Israelites) as God attempts to mold and form them into God’s people. Sometimes this works well; a lot of times the people fail. In these violent stories, remind yourself that God was still working with these people; they are not a finished product yet. And in fact, the whole story is leading us to a more full expression of God because…
Tool #2- The Bible is not a flat line; its an arrow leading to Jesus. A Jesus shaped view of Scripture is the best interpretation.
The Bible, ultimately, leads us to Jesus. Many times Jesus makes claims such as “You have heard it said (in the Old Testament), but I say to you…” Jesus has the authority to change some laws in the Old Testament because he is bringing the whole story to its ultimate fulfillment. Jesus is the climax of the biblical story; and we need to remember this in our interpretation.
For example, Jesus says “You’ve heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor, and hate your enemy,’ but I say to you, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” Jesus is showing us a clear picture of God. We need to see the whole story in light of Jesus’ teachings. Which leads us to…
Tool #3- The Bible is our window into God’s priorities and into God’s heart. Our responsibility is let the God-breathed nature of Scripture move us in God’s direction.
Something tremendous happens when we read the Bible. You are given a glimpse into what God cares about. Reading the Bible should not be about gaining more head knowledge. Instead, seeing God’s priorities and heart should change the way we act. In essence, the Bible should change our heart so that we move more in God’s direction. There is an action that comes from us reading the Bible. Coincidentally, that’s how we got the Bible in the first place…
Tool #4- The Bible is the eyewitness account of people who were profoundly moved by God. The Holy Spirit uses these accounts to grow the faith of all who read them.
The Bible was written by people who saw God work in the world, and then put into words what they experienced. Every time we read these experiences, God uses them to move us closer to him. Because in the end, that is what it is all about: a closer relationship with our creator.