The Bible is simple to understand—not necessarily easy or without some work, but simple. When we read the words of Scripture—guided by the Spirit of Truth, and taking the right approach to understanding those words —we can then learn, comprehend and apply what the Bible says. If you truly want to correctly understand the Bible, then there is one thing that you absolutely must do that will give you the only biblically correct answer to every single Bible question—every single time.
Unfortunately, we have managed to devise an overabundance of absolutely wrong ways to approach the Bible—ways that we need to be able to readily identify and avoid. First, the general biblical illiteracy that is easily found in today’s Body of Messiah is due in large part to our over-reliance on others to tell us what the Bible means. We tend to rely too heavily on others when we find the Bible difficult to understand, when we think others know the Bible better than we do, when we treat tradition as equivalent with Scripture, and when we’re unwilling to put in the time and effort to understand the Bible for ourselves. But never, under any circumstances, is any person or source of information to be considered a replacement or spokesperson for the Bible. We can trust true teachers, but must still verify what they’re teaching. And we can, because the Scriptures are sufficiently accessible to each one of us.
The other main, absolutely wrong way that we often approach the Bible—the other end of the pendulum swing—is through over-reliance on ourselves and our personal points of view. This often comes in the form of an individualized understanding that is gleaned from three highly problematic areas of unconscious Bible interpretation; namely, spiritualizing, emotionalizing and rationalizing. When we spiritualize something, it means that we take something with a fixed, physical or practical character, and replace it in our minds with something else, such that it now spiritually represents to us something new and different. When we emotionalize, we interpret the Scriptures through the lens of our feelings and emotional sensibilities. And when we rationalize, we try to use our intellect to reason our way around what the Bible says whenever it contradicts what we think or believe. Rationalization, spiritualization and emotionalization, then, all contribute to our biblical illiteracy because they invite us to interpret the text in a way that we find most agreeable and most comfortable. They allow us to make the divinely-inspired, written word of God mean whatever it is we want it to mean.
So all this, then, begs the question: If we’re looking for biblical answers primarily from other people, or we’re spiritualizing, emotionalizing or rationalizing answers for ourselves, then how can we know when we land on the right interpretation? And this brings us to the number one principle for good, reliable Bible interpretation. If you will consistently do this one thing, then you will not only get the biblically correct answer every time, but you will get the only biblically correct answer that there is. You need to answer your Bible question with this:
“What do the Scriptures say?”
That’s all there is to it.
Is Yeshua God? “What do the Scriptures say?” Is there life after death? “What do the Scriptures say?” Which behaviors are sexually immoral? “What do the Scriptures say?” Ask yourself, “What do the Scriptures say,” and then go to the Bible to find out. Don’t ask someone else. Don’t read an article or watch a video. Don’t filter the text through your own thoughts, emotions or spiritual insights.
Just. Read. The word.
The word of God—not that of other people or ourselves—is the only authoritative voice that we should listen to. What the Bible says is the only place where we can legitimately start to seek understanding—it is the only place that has the 100% right answers. Because only the Bible will always be biblically correct every single time.