Properly Interpreting Scripture

It is no secret that many people interpret Scripture in a way that is totally off base. We wonder how they come to that conclusion, especially when the come back is “What does the Bible say?” We are forced to admit that indeed the Bible may SAY that, but THAT is not what it means. No wonder Christianity is so confusing to those on the outside.

The Bible must be read, understood, interpreted and then it’s teachings applied. The first stop here is an understanding of the type and genre of the passage you are reading.

When interpreting HISTORICAL NARRATIVE, these are some principles to keep in mind:

  1. Context and intent are key.
  2. Characters are not always heroes; authors are not always intending to present moral lessons.
  3. God is the ultimate character of Scripture, and He is active in the lives of real people and in the events of history.
  4. Scripture interprets Scripture.
  5. Historical narrative describes, not prescribes.
  6. Example: Genesis 30:1-6

When interpreting WISDOM LITERATURE, these are some principles to keep in mind:

  1. Proverbs are general truths that are not to be interpreted as true all the time in every situation.
  2. Wisdom literature incorporates poetry and figurative language.
  3. Negative illustrations teach just as much as positive ones.
  4. The psalms should be interpreted within their categories and subheadings.
  5. God is involved even in the nitty-gritty of everyday life.
  6. Example: Proverbs 22:6, 26:4-5, 3:1-3 (balanced with Acts 7:54-60)

When interpreting PROPHECY, these are some principles to keep in mind:

  1. Seek to discover the original message of the prophet in his immediate context.
  2. Expect figurative language.
  3. Be aware of themes in prophecy, such as a call to the covenant, to social justice, and for faithfulness from the remnant of God’s people.
  4. Do not assume that all prophecy has been fulfilled.
  5. Test modern-day prophesies against the truthfulness and coherency of Scripture.
  6. Example: Joel 2:28-32, Deuteronomy 13:1-5, 18:21-22

When interpreting LETTERS, these are some principles to keep in mind:

  1. Seek to discover who wrote the letter.
  2. Seek to discover to whom it was written and why.
  3. Investigate the historical context of the audience of the letter.
  4. Consider the structure, sections, main points, and themes of the letter.
  5. Determine whether the passage is culturally mandated. If so, seek to understand the principles behind the passage, and apply them to your own circumstances.
  6. Example: Galatians 1:1-7, 1 Corinthians 11:6

The great thing is that Jesus does not leave us alone to interpret Scripture for and by ourselves, Luke 24:27 is quite an encouragement. He escorts us along the journey and shows us how to properly interpret the Bible.

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Spiritual Relevance

There is a Christian culture that is complete with its own language and traditions; and most of lost America has no clue how to connect with or understand us. Christianity is some ancient or foreign ritual that has no relevance in modern culture. But the gospel is relevant to every person in any culture, we just have a public relations problem.


Few people articulate a redemptive message using relational terms. We believe in logic, science, lists, and formulas. God’s doesn’t use any of those. — Donald Miller

Our failure to impact contemporary culture is not because we have not been relevant enough, but because we have not been real enough. — Sally Morenthaler

The test of the vitality of a religion is to be seen in its effect on the culture. — Elton Trueblood

Your life is not your own, it belongs to God. To “be yourself” is not just to be anything you want to be. To “be yourself” is to be and do what God wants you to be and do, knowing that God created you for a mission and knows you and your mission better than you do. — Leonard Sweet

Top 10 Ways to Be Spiritually Relevant:

  1. Filter religious jargon from your language.
  2. Do not filter your authentic spirituality.
  3. Be respectful of other people’s convictions.
  4. Do not hide your own convictions.
  5. Tune in to the felt needs of your culture.
  6. Do not limit your spiritual gifts to the church.
  7. Offer advice, not judgment.
  8. Expect God to work miracles in your workplace.
  9. Do not hide your struggles and failures.
  10. Never move in fear; always move in love.

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