How Should We Understand Scripture?

God expects us to learn to properly understand and apply His Word.

The apostle Paul wrote to a fellow minister, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). When Paul wrote these words, the Scriptures he referred to were those we now call the Old Testament. The writings that would eventually be known as the New Testament had not been accepted as Scripture; some of them had not even been written.

God expects us to learn to properly understand and apply His Word.

The Bible itself tells us we are to understand it as a unit; all Scripture is inspired as the divine guide for human conduct. By putting together all the scriptures on a given subject we allow the Bible to interpret itself and give us a complete and coherent view of God's instruction on specific areas of life.

Viewing every passage in a different context renders the Bible little more than a conflicting, contradictory collection of human writings rather than a divine revelation. Paul's instruction in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 shows us the foundational understanding through which we can begin to properly interpret the Bible: All of it is God's inspired revelation.

An opportunity to apply proper biblical interpretation can be found in Genesis 9:3: "Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs." Understanding this passage as part of a complete picture, we recognize it as a general statement about God providing animals for food, just as He has provided plants for human consumption.

Later scriptures show that mankind should not eat every animal, just as we should not eat every plant. The comparison "even as the green herbs" clarifies this. Consider that some species of plants, like certain animals, are highly poisonous and can be fatal if ingested. Still, the animal kingdom provides food for us—the essential point of Genesis 9:3.

Some who adopt an inconsistent, disconnected style of biblical interpretation believe this passage reverses the distinctions between clean and unclean animals spoken of in Genesis 7. This flawed method of biblical interpretation artificially inserts beginning and ending points for God's laws, in effect making them—and their Giver—inconsistent and arbitrary. God simply is not like that; He is both constant and consistent (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17).

God expects us to learn to properly understand and apply His Word (2 Timothy 2:15). The Bible interprets the Bible!

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