Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Interpreting Scripture

After our Bible study on Sunday morning... I had a flash of inspiration. I was thinking about interpreting scripture so that I may apply it to my life and it occured to me that it was kind of like putting on moisturizer.

Let's say you are in a hurry one day to get ready. In your haste to apply your moisturizer you grab the bottle and start slathering it all over. A short while later, you look down and see that your have large orange splotches and streaks all over and your palms are also orange. What happened? I'll tell you - you rushed your application! You forgot to read the bottle and only now do you realize that you grabbed your sunless tanner instead of your regular moisturizer.

This can happen when we study the Bible too. If we read a passage of scripture and immediately begin trying to apply it to our lives, we can miss the important part and end up with a problem on our hands.

Take Romans 6:1 for example. If one reads that quickly and without caution, one could end up reasoning that the more sin we have in our life, the more grace we will experience. However, when we take the time to read the verse in context and ask ourselves, "what do these words actually mean?" we realize that Paul is asking the question in verse 1 rhetorically.

I strongly recommend that anyone reading the Bible pay close attention to these six questions from JI Packer: (originally found by me here and reinterpreted by Bruce below)

1. What do these words actually mean?

2. What other Scriptures can help us understand this text? How does this passage fit into the message of the whole Bible?

3. What truths does this passage teach about God, and about man in relation to God?

4. How are these truths related to the saving work of Christ, and what light does the gospel of Christ throw upon them?

5. What experiences do these truths explain, or seek to create or cure? What is the practical purpose of this section of Scripture?

6. How do these truths apply to myself and others in our actual situation? To what present human condition do they speak, and what are they telling us to believe and do?

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