Tips for Reading and Interpreting Scripture

As many of you know, we’ve been going through the letter of 2 Timothy on Sunday mornings. Last week, we came to the well-known verse of Timothy 2:15… “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” So, we’re told to “rightly handle the word of truth.” The question is how we do that. How do we make sure that we understand the Bible correctly? Let me give you a few keys to ensuring we do that.

1. Observation: What does the Bible text say?

  • Let the text interpret itself. In other words, try not to come to a text with a preconceived idea. Come to the Bible objectively to let it speak.
  • Understand the context of the text. Perhaps the greatest way that we could incorrectly handle God’s Word is by taking it out of context. Ask yourself what the circumstances of the verse, chapter and book are. When taken out of context, the Bible can be used, misused, and abused to teach most anything.
  • Ask questions of the text:
    • Who—Who wrote it? Who said it? Who were the major characters? To whom was it written?
    • When—When was it written? What events were taking place then?
    • What—What are the main events occurring at the time of writing? What are the main ideas of the text, and the circumstances around the writing of the text?
    • Where-Where did this occur? Where was it written? Where will it happen?
    • Why—Why was it written?
    • How—How is it done? How did it happen? How is truth illustrated?

Read and re-read the text. It’s amazing how God illuminates His Word when we meditate upon it…when we read it, re-read it, and meditate/think on it.

2. Interpretation: What does the Bible text mean now?

Some principles/rules of Bible study:

  • The Bible interprets itself (Do cross-reference checks. In other words, read other passages that are similar and teach similar things. A good study Bible will help in this.)
  • Understand words and verses in light of their context.
  • Understand the genre (type of literature) of the passage
    • Is it poetic? (ex: Psalms, Ecclesiastes)
    • Is it proverbial? (ex: Proverbs)
    • Is it prophetic? (ex: Revelation)
    • Is it historical? (ex: Genesis, Acts)
    • Is it biographical? (ex: Gospels)
    • Is it an epistle? (ex: letters)
  • Understand the Old Testament in light of the New Testament
  • Understand unclear passages in light of clear passages
  • Understand historical passages in light of doctrinal passages
  • Understand personal experience in light of Scripture

3. Application: How do I follow the text and apply it to my life?

Ask how the biblical passage APPLIES to you:

A—Is there an ATTITUDE to change?
P—Is there a PROMISE to claim?
P—Is there a PRINCIPLE to live by?
L—Is there a LIFE EXAMPLE to follow?
I—Is there an INSTRUCTION to obey?
E—Is there an ERROR to avoid?
S—Is there a SIN to confess?

May you be blessed as you correctly handle the word of truth!

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