Making sense of the Bible is important because ignorance of the Bible encourages sin. In Psalms 119:11 the writer states, “Your word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
Every Christian must learn as much of what the Bible says as he/she possibly can. A Christian must know what the Bible says before one can understand what the Bible means. The Pharisees knew what the Old Testament said, but it was Jesus who encouraged them to apply it (Matthew 9:13; 12:7). Paul emphasized that after the Christians in Ephesus read the letter of Ephesians, readers would be able to perceive its meaning and his understanding of the mystery (Ephesians 3:4).
The Bible stresses that we need to STUDY the Bible rather than just READING it (2 Timothy 2:15). In 1 Peter 2:2 Peter stressed, that “newborn babes desire the milk of the word, that you may GROW thereby.” Later, in 2 Peter 3:18 they were told that they “need to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Hence, the Bible was designed to be both read and re-read. God wants us to meditate on his word (see his command to the kings in Deuteronomy 17:18-20). Those who would scrutinize the Bible will soon find themselves being scrutinized by the Bible. The Christian should first apply him/herself to the text, and then apply the text to themselves.
Biblical hermeneutics is the study of what the Bible means rather than what it says. It is the study of how the various statements, paragraphs, chapters and books relate to each other. We need to define the words and special expressions; examine the grammatical form; and examine the context of the passage. The context of a particular passage is the book itself; then the paragraph in which the passage resides, then the words themselves. The historical context takes into account the gaps between the Biblical world and the modern world. As we read, we MUST try to think as the early readers thought when the passage was presented to them, and then make the application to the situations in which we find ourselves.
The serious Bible student needs to listen to the issues, questions and problems of the first century, and then apply the meaning to OUR century. The correct interpretation lies in GOD himself, who directed the thoughts and words of the original writer. Hence, Biblical interpretation is a purely reproductive process which involves no originality on the part of the interpreter. When the student has in his/her mind what God had in his mind as he inspired the passage, he/she has reached the correct interpretation. (Some today claim that God inspires them in their interpretation of the text; but what is amazing is that many claim this “gift,” and yet they come up with contradictory interpretations; clouded by preconceived notions of what they think the Bible says. This is exactly what we must guard against).
Some tools that can be used to help us understand of the Bible are reference Bibles and concordances, which contain a list of references on a given subject. Dictionaries and encyclopedias help us in identifying unfamiliar terms and names. Book introductions are books which study the literature of the Bible. They contain those materials which are preliminary to the interpretations of Scripture. Efforts to learn the style, authorship, place and date are not efforts to destroy the Bible, but rather to understand it in its historical setting. Finally, there are commentaries, which is an explanation of a biblical book in a verse by verse format. They help us to understand Scripture grammatically, historically and theologically. But they are also the writings of men as they have understood the Bible and can be wrong.
Beloved, God has given us his word, and he expects Christians to read, study and apply it every day. Do we? Please don’t let the preacher, teaches or others tell us what we need to believe – look in God’s word to KNOW what HE wants you to believe and practice. Do not study the Bible to prove what you already believe! Study to know God’s will!