by Rick Warren — June 26, 2023
From 40 Days in the Word
“No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”
1 Corinthians 2:11 (NIV)
There are right ways and wrong ways to interpret Scripture. There are some methods for interpreting the Bible that will always give you the wrong interpretation. But there are others that are likely to lead you in the right direction.
Here are six principles of Bible interpretation that you can rely on:
You need faith and the Holy Spirit to interpret Scripture. The Bible doesn’t make sense to non-believers. It is God’s love letter to believers. The Bible is a spiritual book that must be understood by spiritual people. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 2:11, “No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (NIV).
The Bible is its own best commentary. Scripture interprets Scripture. Practice this principle by getting a Bible with cross-references in the margin. By looking up cross-references, you’ll get a clearer picture of what God has said in all of his Word, not just that one context.
Read the Old Testament with the New Testament in mind, and read the New Testament with the Old Testament in mind. The New Testament is hidden in the Old Testament. The Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament.
Always interpret unclear passages in the light of clear passages. Look at the full counsel of God in Scripture to get a clear understanding when you find a passage that seems contradictory or confusing. For example, when you’re reading an obscure passage about baptism, let clear passages about salvation and baptism interpret the unclear one, not vice versa.
Don’t form a doctrine based solely on a historical event. Take historical passages of the Bible for what they’re meant to be: good lessons. Don’t build your doctrine upon them. In Mark 1, Jesus got up before dawn to go somewhere and pray by himself, but that doesn’t mean you have to do the same. When you’re learning doctrine, look to doctrinal passages. Use narrative passages to learn lessons.
Never interpret Scripture based on your own experiences. The point of Bible study is not to shape Scripture to agree with your subjective opinions or your experiences. Feelings lie. Emotions lie. Instead, discover God’s timeless truth, and let it shape your life. Study the Bible with an open heart, and invite God to conform you to his will.
God doesn’t want to leave you in the dark when you study Scripture. Following these basic principles of Bible study can help you read the Word from God’s perspective.