How true it is that without the guidance of the Holy Spirit intellect not only is undependable but also extremely dangerous, because it often confuses the issue of right and wrong. – Watchman Nee
People Read What They Want Out of the Bible
In the last post and a recent comment, I stated that people normally read what they want out of the Bible. Thinking that may confuse some people, I thought I would elaborate. So today’s post is on How to Read the Bible Without Going Astray.
Most of interpretations on what the Bible says are based on how we view God, view ourselves, and view the world. For instance if we think that God is angry in the Old Testament, then that is how we will read it. We will overlook the times God shows mercy and exaggerate those times He seems mad.
This really shouldn’t come as any surprise as Bible verses are constantly used to support people’s outrages claims. The Mormons use the passage of Jesus talking about sheep in another pen (John 10:16) to support their claim that Jesus visited John Smith. People used the Bible verses about slavery to support their claim that blacks were a lessor people group. And don’t forget how hard it was for Europeans to believe that the world was round.
The secret truth about how to interpret the Bible is without the Holy Spirit’s help, you will get it wrong. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:9). He has made foolish the wisdom of the world (1 Corinthians 1:21). This is why we need to renew our minds and take every thought captive (Romans 12:2 & 2 Corinthians 10:5). Jesus even said He hid truths by speaking in parables (Matthew 13:10-11).
Biblical References in the Bible Can Confuse
To add frustration to understanding the Bible, several of the references in the New Testament to Old Testament passages are paraphrased or seemingly unrelated. And since most of the quotes are generally not referenced, researchers are unclear how many are actually made. There is a detailed article about this at the Bible-researcher.com.
At the day of Pentecost, those in the upper room had tongue of fire come on them and they started speaking in other languages. They created such a stir that a crowd gathered, and while amazed at hearing their mother language spoken, the crowd considered the disciples drunk. Peter gets up and quotes Joel to give rationale of what was taken place (Acts 2:16-21). The passage talks about people prophesying, having visions, dreaming dreams, but there is no mention of speaking in other languages or even seeming drunk. We take this is from God because the outcome is Peter than shares the gospel and 3,000 come to know the Lord.
Jesus in the wilderness is confronted with the devil who reminds Jesus of the verse that if He throws Himself down, God will send angels to rescue Him. Jesus uses the verse about not putting God to a test (Matthew 4:6-7). Both use the Bible. Is Jesus’ Bible more correct? No, we need to the Holy Spirit to tell us how and when to use each part.
How to Read the Bible Without Going Astray
There are great tools to help you as you read the Bible. I love inductive Bible studies where you make observation about the text, try to interpret the meanings, and then applying them to your lives. There are also word studies that lead you into deeper understandings of different passages or characteristics. You can also envision yourself in the story to help you feel what those in the story were going through. And yet, while all of these are good disciplines, without the Spirit’s leading, you are prone to going astray. As Christians we have been given the mind of Christ. Let’s give space to listen for His instruction as we come to the Bible.