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Paul the apostle was accused of watering down the message of God’s Word by some in the Corinthian church. Influenced by a group of false teachers, the church had turned against their founding pastor by saying he was covering up the law, diminishing its importance, and dismissing it as irrelevant by teaching its fulfillment in Jesus. The accusations were untrue. Paul was teaching honestly and accurately the doctrine of grace. He taught them the Word, and he trusted that it would speak to the inner man, transforming them from the inside out by faith! Paul lived a life filled with integrity and reminded the believers that he didn’t use the Bible deceitfully.

“Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:1-2 (NKJV)

This brings up an important question. How can you know if someone is handling the Word of God correctly or misusing it deceitfully or craftily for gain? We know that many do literally steal from God’s people. False teachers and false believers love to take advantage of someone’s desire to honestly and sincerely follow Jesus. Most of so-called Christian television is filled with this sort of nonsense.

“Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre , but of a ready mind.” 1 Peter 5:2 (KJV) 

“Care for the flock of God entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.” 1 Peter 5:2 (NLT) 

Since anyone can quote a Scripture and use it any way they want, how can we tell if the Bible is being used correctly? It’s not just preachers who do that, but also politicians, friends, family, and popular media personalities. Many seem to know what the Bible actually says, but they have no idea what it means!

In order to help us know if the Bible is being used correctly by others and to help us use it correctly ourselves, it’s important that we follow five rules of interpretation. What follows is a quick lesson in Biblical Hermeneutics, the art and science of Biblical interpretation.

1. Always interpret the text in light of its context. It’s important to pay attention to what comes before and after a passage in order to understand its true and accurate meaning. Ignoring the context will lead a person to use the Bible with a pretext, completely out of context.

2. Always interpret the text in light of the meaning of the words themselves. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew (and a little Aramaic), and the New Testament was written in Greek. When using the Bible, it’s important to find out what the words themselves mean. What did they mean in the time they were used? What is the fullness of meaning in the context they are used? These are important questions to ask and answer.

3. Always interpret the text in light of the grammar of the sentence. Not only do words have meanings, but so does the grammar used in a particular sentence. You can’t just make a sentence mean whatever you want it to mean.

4. Always interpret the text according to the historical background in the time in which it was written. It’s important to pay attention to what was going on during that time period. What were the local customs? What were some of the idioms and figures of speech of the day? We can’t read 2016 meanings and understandings into the first century or other centuries previous to that. First, we find out what it meant to them; then we can begin to see how it may apply to us today.

5. Always interpret the text in light of the unity of the Bible as a whole. Another way of saying this is that the Bible does not ever contradict itself. If you’ve come up with an interpretation that contradicts another part of the Bible, it’s incorrect. If you’ve come up with something that is contrary to the revealed heart and character of God, you’re incorrect.

Handling the Bible correctly is very important today. It’s not as hard as it might sound. For starters – and to learn these truths in a deeper way – I suggest you pick up the book, “How To Study the Bible and Enjoy It,” by Pastor Skip Heitzig. Another great tool to consider on your Bible study journey is

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV)

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