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How to Interpret the Bible...According to the Bible

Chapter 11 in About God
this chapter by Michael Collum.


How does the Bible tell us to read it?

1) John 16:13

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

Since the Spirit of God is supposed to lead us into all truth, we should seek His guidance first.

2) 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, John 15:12-13

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Truth without Love is not Truth at all. Jesus is Love. Jesus is the Truth . God is Love, God is not of love but is love. Love just is. And Jesus as he walked in this world...is truth. As He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life, none come to the Father except through me." Jesus is Love, and Jesus is the Truth. And truth must be spoken and lived in love, or it is not truth at all.

3) James 2:8-13

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

The point here is when reading the scripture, applying the scripture to others as you would apply it to yourself comes first. And with this is not showing any favoritism. You must ask yourself, “If this is my interpretation, how would this affect those around me if they were to actually follow it, or hear it and have to decide whether it was a good thing to do or not?” According to James, who was speaking to Jews who knew the scriptures from birth and became Christians, they are to be merciful before slamming down the figurative gavel. If you show judgment without mercy, the author of this letter seems to indicate that the lake of fire is waiting for you or something -- the parable of the unmerciful servant comes to mind -- but who wants to be judged "without" mercy? Just judge as you would like to be judged also. Love others as God has loved you first. Remember this premise when reading the scriptures.

4) Galatians 3:1-3

O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you: Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

Since the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth, our application is actually very important in learning from Him . If you get into a culture that tells you that you need to follow the law to get the blessing, Paul has identified this as witchcraft ("who has bewitched you") and "being made complete in the flesh" which is anything but Godly. Anything you discover will come from a wrong premise because God has not taught you this. So take Heed, begin in the Spirit of God, and become mature in the Spirit of God also.

5) John 15:25-27, Psalm 35:19

But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.

Don’t let those who are my enemies wrongfully rejoice over me; neither let those who hated me without a cause wink their eyes.

This passage shows that the psalms are also to be regarded as "law"; as Jesus called the Psalms "law", when He quoted them: “They hated me without a cause” is, itself, from Psalm 35:19.

6) John 15:26

“When the Counselor has come, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will testify about me. You will also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.

This indicates that when the Spirit of God interprets the text, He testifies of Jesus Christ, as it is written in the Revelation, "the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy.”

7) Luke 24:43-45, John 6:64-65, Psalm 119:102

and he took it and ate it in their presence. He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

One of the purposes of the scripture is that what was written about Jesus was in the law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms, so since we are to be like Him in this world. then we too will find what is written of us in these books.

“But there are some of you who don’t believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who didn’t believe, and who it was who would betray him. He said, “For this cause have I said to you that no one can come to me, unless it is given to him by my Father.”

We learn here that God opens our minds so we can understand. Man's methods are not helpful. God's wisdom and our wisdom comes from a different premise. If you are relying on another person's interpretation to teach you how to read the bible, get ready to change your perspective a lot and be frustrated. If you're relying on God to teach you, get ready to change your perspective a lot and actually live the messages He teaches you.

I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught me.

8) Psalm 119:99-100

I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.

So when you live in His most excellent way, and meditate on the way day and night, you too will be experiencing things that people before you haven't. You will have more understanding, because your experience of God exceeds their knowledge of the scripture.

9) Colossians 2:13-23

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities 1 and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

10) Colossians 2:16-19

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

This passage is warning you to not listen to people who claim to have "had a vision" and the punchline is that you need to follow the the dietary laws, feasts, or even have a "biblical" sabbath. Don't listen to them. They are wrong, Paul said; but, if you have a problem with that you can die first, then argue with Paul at the resurrection if you like.

11) Colossians 2:20-23, Matthew 19:18

Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

Pray that God softens your heart so you no longer wish to do things your way, but His, and cut people some slack like He cut you a whole lot of slack, when He paid your debt for you on the cross.

12) James 3:13-16

Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

If someone is pushing an agenda, and is acting out of of bitterness, or envy of someone else's interpretation proliferating that just happens to be different from theirs...their interpretation is automatically wrong...even if it is Scriptural. Paul didn't take help from a demon possessed person promoting the gospel, so we are not to let wolves in sheep's clothing rile up the flock with their agendas.

13) Luke 16:16, Hebrews 8:7-13, Hebrews 9:12-17

The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.

For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. But God found fault with the people and said: "The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.

He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. The old covenant is over . We do not rely on written words in the same capacity as the old covenant . We rely on what God has written in our hearts .

14) Matthew 19:7-12, Matthew 12:1-8, Mark 12:28-34, Mark 12:28-34, Matthew 23:23

They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.

Not all scripture is to be read as though it has equal value. The beginning order seems to surpass the law. My best guess why, is because the law requires the creation to speak its message. Also David, though after the law, surpassed the law in Jesus' eyes, because mercy is more important than sacrifice. And because God is love, God always trumps everything. Jesus was asked a question:

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" “The most important one,” answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

"Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

Today, quite often the answer is "well, what do you mean greatest? all scripture is equally authoritative to each other scripture" yet Jesus didn't teach like that . He also spoke of "weightier matters":

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Take heed to this "hierarchy" . Jesus taught about it and Paul also used the same method of putting the weightier matters first and all else second . Colossians chapter 2 is a good passage to look at regarding this also.

Jesus did not interpret passages contextually. This is your exercise: Go through the gospels, read what Jesus said, then cross reference with the connected prophetic passage or verse from the psalms or law, and tally how many times Jesus quoted in context and how many He didn't. If you're not interested, that's fine, but doing this study will actually reduce your frustration with prooftexting that makes no sense to you. Jesus prooftexted a lot! But go look it up. This is your assignment if you feel up to it.

15) Mark 4:13, Matthew 23:23-26

I recall being told in the past to not "milk" parables for every shade of possible meaning. But the bible says something different. You can "milk" parables. The parables are interconnected in meaning and Jesus in giving explanation demonstrates this in the gospel of Mark .

And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?

Go back and read the parables, and keep in mind what each thing is defined, in the part after the parable where Jesus explains what each part of the parable represents. And keeping all these things in mind, add them together with what is said in other parables: see what comes up . The kingdom belongs to children as Jesus said; so be creative, as your creator has created. The point of the parables is to explain what the kingdom of God is like so you (the kingdom) will generally understand what the kingdom is like...and in your life, recognize what God is doing in you as you become it .

So yeah, milk to your hearts content. I hear from Paul that young believers need lots of milk anyway, and in love I would suggest to remember the above observations when coming to life altering conclusions. It wasn't too long ago...and I remember some of the conclusions I would come to . Remember in picking apart the little parts for shades of meaning...do not miss the point.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides!

So take heed. No matter what you may discover from picking apart each part of the scripture and the parables in scripture, the premise of love must still govern what comes out of it, because God is Love, and God's love toward us is what the bible is all about.

16) Romans 14:23

But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

An interpretation that comes from a premise of doubt, mistrust, or unbelief is already missing the mark because it begins from a wrong premise that Paul identified as "Sin".

17) 1 John 4:7-8, 1 John 4:18

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

There is therefore, no fear in God, but a mature view of God drives out fear. Fear of corruption, fear of being taken advantage of, fear of things going too far -- because mature (the Greek word translated “perfect” means “mature”, check it for yourself) love trusts that God has things under control. Interpretations based on fear of punishment or fear of bad consequences are not yet "perfected" or full to maturity.

It may be said that I don't mind if you do all sorts of evil to me...but I just cannot stand it when you do that to other people! Well, the same thing applies for biblical interpretation. There may come a time, when you need to recognize that "freedom" is not the issue, but protecting another, whether this be going after the one and leaving the ninety-nine, or putting your foot down when you know people are being selfish, or in ignorance not taking into account the rest of the family of faith.

18) Jeremiah 33:3

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.

In God, to our limited eyes, there appear many paradoxes, and though a lot of them over time can seem to be woven together into a coherent tapestry of ideas according to your way of thinking, you must remember, God created many peoples with many varying ways of thinking. If both things in an "either, or" debate have a root in scripture, then from experience I have noticed there is something both sides are both missing and pointing to at the same time. Keep in mind that logical opposites can be true in parallel -- remember that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, and each day had a particular purpose or purposes, and all of them worked together in harmony, and was very pleasing in His eyes in harmony at the end of His work. Leave room for the idea that you will not be able to "get" what God is doing in every situation and let Him do what He does best . I would encourage you when you recognize one of these things, to pray according to Jeremiah 33:3, and then wait.

Jesus said "I am the Truth", so since truth is a body with many parts: Rejoice in all truth, and test everything and lay aside all that is not good. And may the God who saved us continue to complete that good work that He began in us and give us eyes of a God who redeems. Amen.

May God's love bless you and ever surround you.

-Michael Collum, A seeker to the end

© 2010 Michael Collum

Next Page: Chapter 12. The Words of God: How to Choose What to Care About?

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