The Bible tells us to, "Study to shew thyself
approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be
ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim
2:15). The big question is, how do we, "rightly
divide the word of truth?" This is very
important for, as Believers, we are to worship the
Father in, "spirit and truth" (John 4:24).
And what is truth, "thy word is truth"
It is important to not only worship the Father, but
to also seek out the truth of His word. The
question is, how do we seek out this truth?
The Apostle Peter helps answer this question.
In 2 Peter 1:20, the Apostle states, "Knowing
this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of
any private interpretation." The
not to be interpreted my way or your way, but God's
way. We are not to interpret the scripture at
all, but rather, let the scripture interpret the
scripture. This begs the question, how do we
let the scripture interpret the scripture? Did God tell us
how to understand His word? Believe it or not,
He did. The Scripture actually tells us how it is
organized and how to study. According to Isaiah 28:9-14
the Scripture is
written in legal code. This should not
surprise us for all law is written in legal code.
Just as the United States Code is the law of this
land so the Bible is the Law of God. And what
is legal code? As Isaiah states in Isaiah
28:10: "For precept must be upon precept, precept
upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a
little, and there a little." The Bible
is a law book, plain and simple.
further understand this concept just compare the
Bible to other forms of law. Let us use the
United States law as an example. Our country
started with the Law of the Land (U.S.
Constitution), added to it are several statutes
(U.S. Code), and finally all the judgments through
the years from our courts. From this, you
derive several Doctrines of Law such as stare
decicis, due process, or burden of proof. This
is the law of the United States. The Bible is
written the same way. The law of God started
with the Law of the Land (10 Commandments inside the
Arc of the Covenant), added to it were over seven
hundred statutes (Supporting Commandments placed
outside of the Arc of the Covenant), finally there
are several judgments decided by Hebrew courts such
as found in the book of Joshua and Judges.
From this come several doctrines to be understood
such as baptism, justification, and sanctification.
None of which could exist apart from God's Law.
The problem for most believers is they study
biblical doctrines without understanding biblical
law. I contend that you cannot understand
these doctrines without first understanding the law
Here is a table to help understand this comparison.
Bible - Kingdom of Heaven
1. Law - U. S. Constitution
Statutes - U. S. Code
- U. S. Court Decisions
4. Doctrines of
Law - stare decicis, due
1. Law - 10 Commandments
Statutes - Supporting Commandments
Judgments - Hebrew Court Decisions
Doctrines of Law - baptism, justification,
With this understanding, we can now better
understand how to study God's word. The first
step in understanding the scripture is to understand
each passage's immediate context. As Isaiah
said in Isaiah 28:10, "For precept must be upon
precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line
upon line." This is an appeal to correct
context. We must study the Bible, "line
upon line" and "precept upon precept".
However, this is just the start. Once we
understand the context of a passage, we must now
understand that this could be only part of the
overall picture the Scripture portrays. The next
part of Isaiah 28:10 is, "here a little, and
there a little." This tells us that
there might be more on this topic, "here" in this
section of scripture, or, "there" in that section of
scripture. Once we understand the context of a
passage we now need to search the rest of the
scripture to see if God said more on the specific
topic. For example, Romans 6:4 is a great
passage to study when trying to understand the
doctrine of baptism, however, there are dozens of other
passages that cover the same doctrine. To
properly understand baptism one must look at every
passage that refers to baptism and try to understand
the context of each one. Once you understand
the context of each passage you must now put all the
passages together to understand the full meaning of
the topic. Another example would be Exodus 23:26. Here we see
that if we follow God's law, He will fulfill the
"number of thy days." But how do we know what
the number of our days are? If we search the
scripture we will find the answer. In Psalm
90:10 the Psalmist says, "The days of our years are
threescore years and ten" (70 years). We can
now determine that practicing God's law will give us
seventy years of life. Any topic is
understandable as long as we code plead the
scripture, or in other words, "Study
to shew [ourselves]
approved unto God." This is how a lawyer would study
law and is referred to as, "code pleading." This
type of study could take some time and effort, which
is why it makes us "approved unto God."
example of this is how modern laws provide
definitions of words. Many times you might
read a statute, but not understand a particular
word. The definition to that word is provided
in a certain place within the statute, usually near
the beginning. You cannot understand the
statute until you understand the meaning of the word
as defined by the statute. The scripture is
the same. For example, throughout the
scripture the word sin is used, but many times we
have the wrong idea of what sin means. If we
search the scripture we will find that God provided
a definition for us to use. In 1 John 3:4 the
Apostle writes, "Whosoever committeth sin
transgresseth also the law: for sin is the
transgression of the law." The scriptural
definition of sin is the transgression of God's law.
We can now use this definition throughout the
scripture when we see the word sin. Another
example of this is the word love (agape). The
definition of love (agape) in the scripture comes
from 1 John 5:3. Here the Apostle says,
"For this is the love of God, that we keep his
commandments." Whenever we see the word
love translated from the Greek word agape, we need
to define this word as, "keeping his commandments."
Understanding the definition of key words in the
scripture is of vital importance when studying.
This is the basics of biblical interpretation.
Once you understand that the Bible is really a law
book and it is written in legal code, you simply
need to, "code plead" the scripture to get the
correct understanding. However,
with all this said, there is still one more point
that we must consider. In Psalm 111:10 the
psalmist states, "a good understanding have all they
that do his commandments." If you want to
understand what God's word means, you have to start
"doing" His word (practicing His Law/commandments).
This is what James meant when he said, "be ye doers
of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your
own selves" (James 1:22). You simply cannot
understand something until you have practical
experience with it. In 2008 my wife and I
decided to start practicing as many of God's Laws as
we could. We continue today to add more and
more of them to our lives. It is now very
clear to us why God gave us His law. Each law
we practice has a benefit that we receive here and
now. I would encourage you to give this a try
and see if God was right all along when He gave us
His Law. Start with the, "least commandments"
(Matt. 5:19) like not wearing mixed fabric (Lev.
19:19) or putting the ten commandments on your gate
and front door (Deut. 6:9). As you start with
these, "least" commandments you will eventually start
understanding how to apply more and more of God's
laws to your lives. It might just lead you to
a blessed life of God.
Here are a few other principles found in
Literal Interpretation -
The Bible is intended to be interpreted
literally and not allegorically.
Interpreting the Bible literally means you are
trying to understand each scripture as the
author intended it. The Bible says what it
means and means what it says. In fact,
many times the New Testament writers, and Jesus
Himself, did not hesitate to base their whole
argument upon one single word or even the
grammar of a word (Matthew 2:15; 4:10; 13:35;
22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 4:8; 20:42, 43; John
8:17; 10:34; 19:37; Acts 23:5; Romans 4:3, 9,
23; 15:9-12; 1 Corinthians 6:16; Galatians 3:8,
10,13; Hebrews 1:7; 2:12; 3:13; 4:7; 12:26;
Galatians 3:16). With this in mind, it
is important to understand that there are many
passages that do have figurative language.
This does not give us the liberty to interpret
as we feel. We need to interpret each
figurative passage with the authors intent in
mind. For example; Psalms 17:8 says "Keep
me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the
shadow of thy wings." This does not
mean that God has an apple for an eye, nor does
God have wings. The intent of the author
is that God loves us and is our protector.
God's love and protection are to be taken
literally. Most figurative passages in the
Bible are obvious and clear, some are not so
obvious. The best way to interpret
scripture is how scripture interprets itself.
Take a look at how the Messiah and the prophets
the Messiah, the Prophets, Apostles and NT writers
New Testament use of the Old Testament - How
the NT writers quote the OT
Old Testament Quotes
Interpretation - Each language has its own set
of rules. It is important to understand
the rules of both Hebrew and Greek to best
understand a passage. Today this is easier
than ever. There are various websites that
offer such tools. Here are a few:
- Each bible word is part of a sentence.
Each sentence is part of a paragraph. Each
paragraph is part of a chapter. Each
chapter is part of a book. To understand
scripture best it is important to look at each
verse in relation to the surrounding verses,
paragraphs, chapters, and book.
- It is important to understand the background
and culture of each passage of scripture.
Common Errors in Biblical Interpretation