This is the third of three articles on Bible interpretation principles. Read Part One here and Part Two here. Understanding some basic Bible interpretation principles will help anyone who is teaching the Bible (to any age group) or simply desiring to have a better understanding of the Bible in general. The Bible is a book of true revelation from a real God who wants us to understand His words. These principles will help you hear what God is really saying through His Word as you study the Bible and listen for His voice.
The Principle of Context
All communication has context. Even a single word, such as fire, can communicate different ideas depending on the context. When you’re camping, cold, and hungry, the word fire communicates a positive meaning. When you’re awakened in the middle of the night by a neighbor shouting the word, it will communicate something entirely different. All Bible texts need to be studied and interpreted in light of their context. The context for any particular text will include those verses before and after it, the message of the book, the relevant customs and language of the time, etc. The context will help us understand the author’s motive(s), purpose(s), language, passions, etc. All of these things are helpful in determining what the author intended.
The Principle of Receptivity
We mustn’t forget that while the Bible is an objective, written book, it is also the revelation of a living and spiritual God. It is unlike any other book; it is both static (unchanging) and dynamic (changing) at the same time. God’s Spirit continues to reveal Christ to us in a mystical and supernatural way through the Bible. Because that’s the case, we must keep our hearts and minds open and receptive to the revelation of God’s Spirit. Proper biblical interpretation isn’t merely the result of hard work and adherence to the rules of interpretation. The Author (upper case “A”) is still alive and speaking to us through the Holy Spirit. By keeping our hearts receptive, we are more likely to find our minds and hearts freed to receive the guidance and promptings of the Lord in our study. Without this, our study will be cold and dead.
Author, Speaker, Bible Teacher
See a list of other articles by Rick Edwards.