Understanding the Scriptures (Part 2)

How we interpret Scripture is of immense importance because our words and actions are born out of our beliefs.  A good method of biblical interpretation that is consistently applied will greatly increase our understanding of Scripture.  We will find ourselves in greater agreement with God and less prone to disagree with Him due to our cultural influences, preferences, and whims. Which method should be used?  You have 3 basic choices:

1. Not God’s Word Method – People who follow this method do not believe the Scriptures are God’s Word.  They believe it was written by people apart from God’s inspiration; therefore, the content and teachings of the Bible are not necessarily right.

2. Allegorical Method – The allegorical way of thinking is not new.  It was begun by the Greeks and passed on to the Alexandrian Jews.  The Alexandrian Jews used the story of Abraham as an allegory.  They claimed that Abraham’s journey to Palestine is really the figure of a Stoic philosopher who leaves Chaldea to become enlightened, and to marry Sarah is to marry abstract wisdom.  This school of thought moved its way into the post apostolic Christian church, “and largely dominated exegesis until the Reformation” (See Bernard Ramm’s book Protestant Biblical Interpretation pages 24-28).

3. Literal Method – The literal method takes the Scriptures literally wherever it makes sense to, and then figuratively where the literal does not make sense.  

Here are a couple of simple examples:

Matthew 12:1, “At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them.”  

We can take this to mean exactly what it says.  Having a knowledge of the Old Testament law concerning eating food as you walked through a field and knowing the Biblical regulations for eating this on the Sabbath and Jewish traditions at the time of Jesus are all helpful.  However, the method of a literal interpretation is the foundation for a proper understanding.

John 10:7, “Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.’”

Still using the literal method interpretation we can determine that Jesus is not wood fibers and that four legged fury animals that say “bah” do not walk through him.  Jesus is making known that He is the access point for the abundant life.  The sheep are obviously people.  

Coming to a correct understanding of what Jesus means when He says, “I am the door,” can be consistently applied to similar statements by Jesus like, “I am the bread of life,” or “I am the vine.”  Being consistent in interpreting Scripture is of great value. 

In part 3 we will look at some helpful principles in using the Literal method.


The purpose of seeking to understand the Scriptures is to know clearly what God has said and by that to know Him and His will more intimately.  In this endeavor, we must be very careful concerning our process of interpreting the Scriptures.  Here are some helpful points to keep in mind.

1.  God is the author of Scripture with man as the instrument of the writing.  God allows the writers personality to be maintained in the process; however, the content is His (II Timothy 3:16-17, II Peter 1:12-21).

2.  Since God is the author, His Scriptures do not contradict each other.  Most apparent contradictions are sorted through with a little effort.  If more difficult ones remain for the reader it is not because of the inadequacy of Scripture, but of the inadequacy of the reader’s understanding.

3.  We must strive to keep our culture, preferences, church traditions, and personalities out of our understanding of the text.  We must strive to allow the Scriptures to teach us the truth and then apply that truth to overcome our preferences and personalities, to give us a truthful perspective of cultural issues, and to define/redefine our church traditions.

An example of what not to do would be found in Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting The Last Supper.  He paints the scene according to his European 14th century view of Christianity.  Therefore he gets many things wrong in the painting.  How they were seated, the type of furniture, the type of dinner wear, the clothing, the hair, the time of day etc…are wrong.  Is it important?  Consider that over 500 years later, when we think of what it was like that night, most people have Da Vinci’s painting in mind more so than the biblical and historical picture of what it would have been like to have seen it first hand.  Even if you view the painting’s consequences as a non-issue, you have to agree that method of work can have great consequences on issues of doctrine and morality.  Particularly for those of us who teach from the Word of God, we must take with great weight that our words are painting concepts and beliefs that often have serious consequences for the hearers (James 3:1)

4.  Our method to understanding the Scriptures must be consistent.  We cannot use one method for some texts and then a completely different method for other texts.  We will look at various methods in part 2.

June 1, 2008 – Sunday

Today we had a wonderful time of worship.  Between the Lord’s Supper service, music, and preaching the time was from 10 AM to 1 PM.  As usual it was beautiful and sincere.  During the Lord’s supper service I had the privilege to share the Scriptures.  We talked about the past, present, and future in relation to remembering the Lord’s death and resurrection.  

The past – Jesus filled the Old Testament prophecies concerning His death and resurrection – see Isaiah 53. And we look back to what Jesus did on the cross as the substitute for our sin.  Our Savior the Righteous One who gave His life for sinful people like me and you.

The present – As the Apostle Paul instructs us, we examine our hearts and confess any sin – because sin hinders fellowship with God (I Corinthians 11:17-34).

The future – Our Savior is Risen, and He will return for us, and we will share the Cup with him in the New Kingdom (Matthew 26:26-30).  The certain hope of all true believers is this: Our future is with our King!

Pepe, Judy, and I went to lunch, and we had a good time and a profitable conversation about church life.