Having discussed the fact that we are able to study the Word of God ourselves because we possess the office of believer we continue our discussion of Bible study. We begin with a brief discussion of what the Scriptures are. In the first place, the Scriptures are written by God through human instruments. The Spirit of God so moved the apostles and prophets that they recorded the exact Word of God as God expressed it through their individual personalities and talents. In the second place, the Scriptures are the written record of the Word of God, Christ. From the first words of Genesis to the last words of Revelation, Christ is the content of the Scriptures. I do not mean that He is referred to again and again, though that may be true. I am referring to the truth of Christ as the Savior who died upon the cross to save His elect people and judge the wicked. That truth is the very essence of every passage in the Word of God. That cross constitutes the unity of the Scriptures. It is that unity of Scripture that lies at the foundation of our principles of the interpretation of Scripture.
The most basic rule of all the study of the Word of God is that Scripture Interprets Scripture. All of the messages of Scripture are basically one message of Christ. There is not one part that contradicts another part. Therefore, we must study to learn what a particular passage is saying about Christ in light of the rest of the Scriptures. Perhaps we should first set our normal Bible study habits before our minds before we go into the way we ought to study. I would dare say that most of us, when we do study, exert ourselves to the point of reading the text over a couple of times, either privately or at family devotions, so that we can think about it as we are engaged in other activities. By the time we get to our society we have an idea of what the text says. I certainly admit that this preparation is better than none at all. However, we would not even treat our income tax forms that way. We struggle with all the fine print and even call an accountant if we have a question on our tax forms; but with the Word of God we give it a casual reading. Again, if I am told I’m going to have a tax audit by the I.R.S. I would be very very sure of my arguments before I tried to explain something to them. But, many are the textual arguments I have heard about spiritual truths prior to which little or no homework was even done. And, if you will permit another parallel, when dealing with money and especially taxes it carries no weight if I did something just because “so and so” told me it was legally proper. I had better be able to support my claim by pointing to the actual law or interpretation. Similarly, many are the abstract spiritual arguments in which we engage that pit the interpretation of this Reverend or that Professor or even that Assembly of the Church, against another without going to the source itself, God’s Word. It is, after all, what God says, not what man says, that counts.
We apply that fundamental principle of Scripture interprets Scripture in the following ways:
- We must take each word of the text one by one to see how and why they are used in our text. Oftentimes the most profound truths of God’s Word are set forth in the simplest meanings and sentence structure. Therefore we do well to take the time needed to understand each word in the text.
- We must take our text and study it in the light of the verses and chapters that closely surround it. Seldom does a word or a thought stand alone. Usually it is clarified and developed by its context.
- We must take our text and examine it in the light of all the Scripture. If our text seems to stand in contradiction to another passage or teaching of Scripture we must not plead ignorance or claim that we have discovered an apparent contradiction. We must instead reexamine and reformulate our previous interpretation. The unity of the Scripture demands it of us. In that way the Word of God itself will resolve the problem.