I thought I’d share some of my tips for how I read scripture in hopes that it might be helpful to anyone in better understanding things. One central thing I do my best to be careful of when I read scripture is not seeing what I want to see. One should always strive to honestly and humbly seek to understand, teach, and live the Word the way God wants it to be understood, taught, and lived to the best that it can be understood. That especially requires individuals to look and read for themselves, not putting too much stock into what anyone says, but specifically what the Word of God states. This will be the theme of most of my tips, and it’s the way I strive to operate every time I write a blog post on here on a scriptural topic.
1. “Read the words that are actually written on the page and take it for what it says and what it seems to indicate.”
Scripture warns about adding to God’s words in the Old Testament (Proverbs 30:5-6) and in the NT in Revelation (though it seemed to be referring to that particular book). Paul also advocates in (Galatians 1:6-10) to stick to the teachings and the gospel that was taught by the chosen apostles. He was reprimanding the people of Galatia for turning to their own teachings rather than directly what the chosen apostles said. The same thing would seem to apply with Christians today in sticking to the New Testament that was written by the chosen apostles in what it states and what it indicates. (Note: When I say indication, it’s what can seem to be inferred by what’s written on the page. Here’s an example. Just a random verse. (Luke 1:37) “For no word from God will ever fail.” It wouldn’t be a stretch to infer from this verse that all words from God will succeed. So just something to keep in mind in recognizing what the Word appears to indicate to us.
2. “Read all the words that are actually written on the page.”
This means not playing a game of pick and choose a verse and base your whole understanding of what God views of a particular topic/issue on that one verse. One should look at all the verses around a particular verse to make sure they understand that particular verse in its proper context. It’s like when people quote a person in the media, and only focus on a particularly controversial part of what they said, and ignore the larger point they were making. It’s a somewhat similar thing we have to be conscious of here. Just off the top of my head, let’s think about husbands having authority over wives. Yes, there’s a verse that states wives under the authority of husbands (1 Peter 3:1). If our full understanding of marriage conduct was just based on that verse, it would seem like husbands can tell their wives to do whatever they want them to do, but it’s important to look at the rest of the verses to fully understand. When reading down to the rest of the chapter, one can understand further that husbands are supposed to show consideration to their wives and honor them, as they are also on the same level as husbands, as far as salvation wise, as heirs of the gracious gift of life (1 Peter 3:7).
3. “Read all the words everywhere written in Scripture.”
This is a continuous journey of understanding. The example I used of taking the husband’s authority over the wife too much out of context by not reading all the verses around the verse we read, we have to continually look through all the chapters on these things, cause a lot of these things are discussed in more than one set of verses in one chapter. Going back to that example, in a completely different chapter, it says the husband should love his wife like Christ loved the church (Eph 5:25). Now just to make sure you don’t think I’m taking that idea too far, when you read further down in that chapter, you’ll see just how much husbands should love their wives and in that not take their authority too much in the direction of always telling them what to do. One must keep continually conceptualizing their understanding of how one lives life in honor to God by tying all the scripture together to make sure they’re doing their best in following God to the best and closest to His way as they possibly can.
4. “Be open to evolving in your understanding of the Word as you continue to read through it.”
That means one has to crush their pride, crush their egos and be really open to the possibility that they might be misinformed about something in our understanding, and their might be a more scripturally accurate understanding. If one is not at least open to having our scriptural understanding on certain issues challenged, and that means being honest about acknowledging verses that would seem to suggest something otherwise to what we’ve always believed, then that stubbornness reflects an unfortunate pride in one’s own beliefs. It’s important not to hold too strictly to what you’ve always been taught, what you’ve always believed, and what you’ve always accepted as a correct understanding. Christians are also warned about believing something because it feels right or especially just because it feels good (2 Tim 4:3). Christians are always aspiring to truth, and understanding that truth in light of the information and evidence that’s available to them.
5. “Context, context, context.”
Scripture is pretty deep (if you didn’t already know). That’s a testament to how amazing the text is. It’s not always just what’s written on the page. It’s whose being written to, who’s being spoken to, what the purpose of what was said to the hearers of the words being spoken to the people at that time, what the purpose of what was being seen by the readers of those letters that were written to the specific churches at that time, and so forth. It should be considered that not every “you” or situation in the Word may necessarily be directed towards Christians. Even the chosen apostles considered this (Luke 12:41). It wouldn’t seem to be too much of a stretch if the chosen apostles had to consider what exactly is being addressed for who when they were in the presence of Jesus, that this can equally be a crucial tip in one’s understanding of the Word. Many parts of the Word are primarily a narrative. We know Paul was directly addressing a lot of people in the letters to the churches by stating he remembered “them” in his prayers. Does that mean Christians today still can’t learn from every verse in the Bible? Sure you can. We just can’t directly take every verse with “yous” as being directly applied to Christians in general all the time. It just takes a lot of carefully reading the verses, and being aware of specifically directed statements vs statements made in general. It’s just like how you recognize some things are specifically stated of Jesus (Ex: Lord and savior), and therefore not a general statement of all Christians.
Well, those are my tips. As always… thoughts, comments, and questions are welcome. Peace to all those who are in Christ.