There are necessary rules for reading the Bible. A good student will look at the context of the passage, the type of literature, the place in history and the overall theology. It takes works to get a proper understanding of what the author meant to the people who received the information. Finally, how to take that truth and apply it to our lives today.
Paul told Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 – NIV)”
The call is to properly handle the word of truth that is the Bible.
This is a vital instruction to the people of God. The flip side is found throughout the New Testament. The continual warning of the early Church leaders is to watch out for false teachers. I recently taught through the seven letters from Jesus to the Churches in Revelation (chapters two and three). The believers in those communities were struggling with teachers like the Nicolaitans, the teachings of Balaam and Jezebel and the synagogue of Satan. Each group represents people who claimed some belief in the Bible but distorted it.
1. Some Distort It for Selfish Gain. Christianity is big business. Throughout history, people have misused their Bible to fill their own pockets. Today there are prosperity gospel preachers that teach a false doctrine of giving and receiving while making millions of dollars.
2. Others Misuse It Out of Ignorance. Some people just know enough to be dangerous. They can quote a verse, but it is usually out of context and often abused. Frequently it is misused with good intentions, but it perverts the overall message of the Bible.
3. Many Read Their Own Ideas into It. This is the easiest to do. People used to treat Sunday as equal to the biblical Sabbath. It is clearly not the same thing or even the same day. That is just one example of taking my already decided viewpoint and then applying it to make the Bible say something it doesn’t mean. It is easy to take our cultural setting and apply it to what we read in detrimental ways.
Through the years people have used the Bible in some awful and disturbing ways. The problem was not with the Bible. The problem was with the people who were handling what they found there. Words were molded and shaped to fit an agenda scripture simply did not contain. The word of God is never the difficulty; it is the people who taught improperly.
The Bible is not always easy to understand or interpret. No one said it would be simple. It takes a concerted effort to handle the word of truth properly. The call to the people of God is to do our best to understand Gods’ word so that his will might be proclaimed.