In part 1 of our series on biblical interpretation, I stated the goal of biblical interpretation is to study the text to discern the author’s intent, and to think responsibly about practical application of the text.
The biblical author communicated an intended meaning that he wanted his audience to understand. The reader must labor in the text with careful study, as he relies upon the Spirit to discern the author’s intent. Readers must then think carefully about how the author’s intent applies into the 21st century.
In part 2, I discussed interpretative biases. These biases can help or hinder readers when seeking to understand the author’s intent. But the reader can discover the author’s intent. I also suggested we can have our blind spots exposed if we read diverse ethnic voices.
In this piece, before I get into some specifics of some practical ways to study the bible, I want to answer the question why? Why should Christians from different tongues and tribes and peoples and nations give themselves to faithful bible study with the time, resources, and skills God has given to them? My answer is because the bible is the living, breathing, inspired, perfect, and authoritative word of God!
The Protestant Christian bible is God’s breathed out word he communicated to real people and whom, under the inspiration of the Spirit, God inspired and guided to write his word exactly as he desired. The bible requires careful study because it is God’s inspired, perfect, and authoritative word to us. And his word is sufficient for everything pertaining to eternal life and godliness.
We call this verbal plenary inspiration: all scripture from Genesis to Revelation is God-breathed. This results in a reliable, trustworthy, authoritative bible written by God-inspired men for God’s people.
The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (BFM 2000), the confessional statement of faith from my denomination (Southern Baptist), says this about the bible:
“The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation” (Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 4:1-2; 17:19; Joshua 8:34; Psalms 19:7-10; 119:11,89,105,140; Isaiah 34:16; 40:8; Jeremiah 15:16; 36:1-32; Matthew 5:17-18; 22:29; Luke 21:33; 24:44-46; John 5:39; 16:13-15; 17:17; Acts 2:16ff.; 17:11; Romans 15:4; 16:25-26; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-2; 4:12; 1 Peter 1:25; 2 Peter 1:19-21).
- You can trust the bible is sufficient for everything pertaining to eternal life and godliness.
- When you read the bible, realize God is speaking to you.
- When you read the bible, approach it with delight and with joy.
- When you read the bible, rely upon the Spirit.
- When you read the bible, listen, think, and reflect carefully about what it’s saying.
- When you read the bible, ask God to show you how to obey it and then obey.