2 Timothy 2:15
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
God didn’t just make up rules. God’s laws actually flow from His own character. They express His will that we be like Him. We might not understand if He just sent instructions and gave us examples of Bible characters. He Himself came to show us what the Father is like (John 14:7-11; Hebrews 1:1-3). The exciting thing is this: Jesus in person is our standard for life. He is the supreme revelation of God’s will.
God’s revelation is not merely truth about the unseen world, given to satisfy our curiosity. Revelation shows us what God wants us to be and do. The Holy Spirit enables us to become like Jesus; He is God’s standard for the Christian. Seeing how far we fall short of reaching that standard can be discouraging, but if we don’t first see our need, we’ll never attempt to meet it!
Even with our map for living we will make wrong turns. But God always provides a way back! A serious disciple of Christ has at least two reasons to obey:
- We want to know what will bring joy to the one we love . We want to please Him by doing what He wants. “You are my friends,” Jesus said, “if you do what I command you” (John 15 :14). Love makes obedience to God’s rules a joy because the result is fellowship with Jesus.
- Obedience is practical. I need direction for my life. Only on the tracks laid out by divine wisdom will I find the fulfillment of life’s purpose. As the Psalmist said, “ Oh, how I love your law!” (Ps . 119 :97).
Interpretation – determining the meaning the author intended – is the next step in knowing the will of God. And that is crucial for living life in the Spirit . Has any truth become clear or especially important to you, perhaps demanding some response on your part? If so, you may wish to enter it in your journal for today.
To understand God’s character and His will we need to understand and interpret the Bible. What do we mean when we say we need to interpret the Bible? How does depending on the Spirit affect interpretation? What about those passages that we find confusing or controversial? Interpretation must be the most abused word in discussing the Bible. Many people believe that everyone’s “interpretation” is valid, no matter how outrageously it twists the meaning of the Scripture. Curiously, the popular view of “interpretation,” as if no objective truth exists, is most often used of the Bible. Can you imagine two engineers debating if two times two equals four? Interpretation always begins by determining what the author intended to communicate. Interpretation does not mean justifying my view of an issue by twisting the passage into a new shape. When we assume that the Bible communicates specific meanings, some people call our approach “literalistic.” I want to ask them, “Do you mean literalistic like literalistic news, history, or law?” As we approach any written communication, we assume that the author intended to say something. The writer may have used literal or figurative language, but the task is to understand the intended meaning, not impose our own “interpretation” on the written material.
We all struggle with some issues in the Bible. Some passages in the Bible I still don’t understand. When we read the Scriptures, our assumptions condition how we understand what we read. Our culture, life experiences, understandings of words and ideas come with us . Sometimes what we bring with us can lead us astray. We must always be willing to challenge our own thinking to allow the Spirit to lead us into His truth. Interpretation means working diligently to make sure exactly what the author intended to say. Bible scholars call the study of Scripture hermeneutics – the science of determining the meaning of a text and applying it authentically to life . Good interpretation follows principles to separate the message of the Bible from my own thoughts, opinions, and ideas.
If our goal in Bible study is to find out what the Holy Spirit wants to say to us, we must treat the Book as both human and divine, not going to one extreme or the other. As we study, we may become confused or discouraged, so I have good news for you. We have more than a Book, we have a Guide! The Holy Spirit comes alongside to guide us in understanding the Book.
Years ago, friends said I should get on the information super-highway so I could send and receive electronic mail. They said things like, “You could send letters to Zimbabwe free of charge! Instantly!” But I was intimidated. I’d used a computer for years but had never read one of the manuals on my shelf. They might as well have been written in a foreign language. If I hit a snag, instead of picking up a manual, I’d call an expert.
Some people approach Bible study the same way. The Bible sits on the shelf, so intimidating. How could I ever understand it? I’ll just give the expert a call; I’ll just wait to hear what the preacher says. But the Bible was given to us to use. It’s so much more important than a computer manual. But like the manual, it takes effort to comprehend its message. How committed are you to understanding God’s Word? It takes effort and time. Regular systematic reading and study. Can you commit to understanding God’s Word and in it God’s intention for your life? Why not stop and pray, committing anew to the Guide and the Book!