January 20, 2017
What you think about the Bible has a huge impact on what you think about God. I believe that the Bible is the absolute complete word about God. Every word written is inspired by the Holy Spirit and placed with purpose for us to learn who God is and who we should be. If God is truly all powerful then He is able to watch over His word and make sure it contains absolute truth. Because of this, we can trust what His word says. Because of God’s divine hand in the Bible, we can be sure the words we read are directly from His heart.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Since the Bible is the Word of God, it is very important that we use guidelines to make sure we are interpreting it correctly. Here are a few such guidelines that I keep in mind when studying the Bible.
- Scripture must be interpreted within its context and place in time.
- Look into apparent contradictions instead of ignoring them.
- Realize that scripture determines doctrine, not the other way around.
Scripture must be interpreted within its context and place in time.
We dislike it when our words are taken out of context and misinterpreted by others. God is no different. You may be surprised to know that there are verses in the Bible that if just listed by themselves would create a very different view of God than who He really is.
When we come across a piece of scripture that seems contrary to the heart of God, the first thing we should do is read the verses around that verse. That will give us a sense of the context of the verse. Take this verse from Ecclesiastes…
Ecclesiastes 10:19 – A feast is made for laughter, wine makes life merry, and money is the answer for everything.
This verse seems to say that we should eat, drink, be merry, and desire money. Not really the heart of God. When we read the entire book of Ecclesiastes, we can see that it is a collection of writings by a man searching for the meaning of life. At the end of the book he finally has his conclusion…
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 – Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
The verse 10:19 above was written while the writer of Ecclesiastes was still searching for the meaning of life. Isn’t our God amazing in that He will include such searchings in His word to show us that it is ok to search for Him and life’s meaning?
This example from Ecclesiastes is a fairly easy representation of the importance of context when looking at scripture. Sometimes just looking at the context of a scripture doesn’t clear up all questions about what God is trying to say in a verse or passage. More complex situations can be cleared up by applying the next guideline.
Look into apparent contradictions instead of ignoring them.
There are many people that refuse to believe in the Bible because they say that it is riddled with contradictions. I can understand their hesitancy to believe in something that doesn’t agree with itself, however I do not think this applies to the Bible. The Bible may have problem areas or confusing elements, but contradictions… I don’t think so. I read somewhere once that all apparent Biblical contradictions fall away in honest, unbiased study. I personally have found this to be true.
God is big enough to hold up to scrutiny. He is big enough to uphold His word. He is big enough to show us how everything in His word fits together in perfect harmony.
Psalm 12:6 – And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times.
Psalm 119:160 – All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.
Perhaps the first thing to do when looking into apparent contradictions in the Bible is to gather all the verses that are talking about that subject. Many times scripture will interpret scripture and looking at all of the scriptures about a certain subject will reveal a theme or purpose to that subject where all the pieces will fit together.
You may also find it helpful to ask a trusted friend or pastor about their thoughts about the passage of scripture you are struggling with. Many times someone else’s view of a topic will bring to light things that you hadn’t considered and that will clear up all confusion and doubts.
The most important advice I can give for those that are struggling with a passage or concept in scripture is to pray about it. Ask God to open up His word to you and show you His heart. God loves it when we seek Him and His word. He will always reward our seeking by showing us the truth of His word.
Hebrews 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
1 Corinthians 2:10 – Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. (HCSB)
Then determine to be unbiased about what God might say about that part of scripture. Being unbiased is so important and so difficult and it brings us to the third guideline…
Realize that scripture determines doctrine, not the other way around.
So often we want scripture to line up with our thoughts about God. We want to decide how we think God should be and then we go searching for the Bible verses to prove it. The crazy thing about the Bible is that since it is so vast, often we can find scriptures (taken out of context of course) that will seem to back up our misguided view about God.
Our world right now is full of different denominations and beliefs about God, some of which seem completely contradictory. Yet, the people who hold the contradictory beliefs say that their source of their belief is the Bible. Many hold fast to their belief and the scriptures that they have to support it, not letting any doubt seep in or entertaining contradictory passage of scripture. Some will try to explain away anything that may not line up with their view point. Others will go so far to handle all opposition by saying that they are just taking their belief on “faith”.
I’m sure that all our bickering and fighting about scripture and our position on it breaks the heart of God. If our beliefs about God are true, they will hold up under scrutiny and seemingly contradictory scriptures. We do not need to be defensive about our stance on scripture. We do not need to try to impress our own viewpoint on everyone we meet. Instead we should be open minded and searching, like the Bereans…
Acts 17:11-12 – Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.
I determined a long time ago that finding and believing truth was more important to me than being right. My beliefs about God and scripture are changing and morphing over time…hopefully coming to a more complete view about God and His character.
The biggest change that I’ve noticed in my beliefs through the years is that my “or’s” have changed to “and’s”. For instance instead of our lives being predestined by God OR our lives being determined by free will, I now believe that our lives are predestined by God and we are given free will. It’s a mystery that I believe works together in perfect harmony in light of who God is and His design for our lives.
All of this to say, be open to what scripture says about God. Don’t let fear that you may find something contrary to your beliefs keep you from searching the word of God. You may find that God is bigger than you ever thought possible. That the seemingly contradictions make complete sense when seeing them in the light of our BIG God.