Understanding the Bible
To gain an understanding of the Bible the first thing you need to know is that it interprets itself and is not subject to any private interpretation. I know that may sound a little far-fetched, but it must be accepted. The Bible came to us through holy men of God as they were led by God’s spirit. God inspired them what to write, they did not come up with the words on their own. We must avoid reading a passage then pondering what it means to us. Since it did not come by way of any private, one’s own, interpretation we would be in error to be our own interpretation on it.
There are several ways that the Bible interprets itself. One of those is right in the verse where it is written. Another is in the context of the chapter or the surrounding verses. A seemingly difficult verse can be understood by researching where the words have been used before, called scripture buildup. You may even have to look at the remote context of several chapters.
Much misunderstanding has been caused by the failure to understand “to whom it is written.” You may derive some value out of a letter to me by a mutual friend, but you are not bound by what it says, because it is not written to you. According to 1st Corintians 10:32 their are three divisions of people in the Bible; Jews, Gentiles and those of the Church of God. Whenever a Jew or Gentile makes Jesus his or her Lord and believes that God raised him (Jesus) from the dead that individual goes into the Church of God group. They become a new creation in Christ Jesus. This caused no end of legalism from the first century to this day, for Jews. Many had a difficult time accepting salvation by grace as opposed to that by works through the Law of Moses.
All of the Old Testament including the four gospels is written to the Jews. Yes, we can learn a ton from it yet are not bound by anything in it, alone. The Acts of the Apostles serves as a transition period between Law and Grace. There are many great examples of this transition that Christians can learn a lot from, but the first doctrinal book of the Bible written directly to Christians is the Book of Romans. Paul the apostle, who wrote it, was not even a Christian until many years after the Day of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church of God. He went on to write what are known as the seven Church Epistles, or letters. There were no Christians before Pentecost, so it stand to reason and logic that there could not have been anything doctrinally written to them there.
In the previous paragraph I ended the second sentence with the word “alone.” What I mean by this is anything written in the Old Testament that coincides with the Church epistles is applicable to Christians. “Thou shalt not murder, steal, commit adultery” and the like are still applicable. What is not applicable is keeping any one day more holy than every other day. Abstaining from certain kinds of meat is not applicable. Or the direction you pray, sacrifices for sin, or anything that demonstrates working for your salvation.
Another important thing to understand is that there was no punctuation in the original Scriptures; no periods, commas, capital letters, chapter divisions, verse numbering, etc. These were all added by translators who did their best to put them where they thought they should go. As it applies to the Church of God, one of the best examples of capitalization is in regards to holy spirit. When these words are preceded by the article “the” they should be capitalized as Holy Spirit. When they are not preceded by that article they should be rendered as small “h” holy and small “s” spirit, which refers to God’s gift to all who believe. No end of confusion has occurred by not distinguishing the difference between the “Giver” and His “gift.” An example of a punctuation error is the placement of a “,” comma before, “today” in the statement Jesus made to one of the malefactors on the cross. With the comma before “today” one could assume he and Jesus went to Paradise that day. With the comma after “today” Jesus is saying that whenever I will be in Paradise you will be there with me. We know Jesus spent the following three day and three nights in the grave, so it could not have meant “that day.”
Finally, the majority of clear verses on a subject must not be compromised because of a minority of unclear ones. The unclear or more difficult to understand verses must somehow fit or be in alignment with the clear ones. Many times this can be due to how the words were translated in the verse. For example, some verses say Christ was crucified on a tree while others say a cross. When you look up the word “cross” you will find that the Greek word actually means a tree trunk, the straight, upright, lower part of a tree, like a stake.
Anyone having a desire to gain a better understanding of The Word of God must have a Concordance, an Interlinear and a Greek Lexicon. The best resource, if you can afford it, is a computer Bible program which includes these three resources as well as many more.
The Source of the River Jordan and the shrine of the god of Pan, where Jesus said to Peter, “upon this rock I will build my church..,” not upon Peter himself.