How to Interpret the Bible
If the Bible is clear, then why are there so many disagreements about what it means?
The answer, simply put, is that people often stumble into missteps when reading it. Here are eight reasons we may fail to clearly understand and interpret the Bible.
The Bible tells us that living with sin that we are not sorry over, nor willing to forsake, can cloud our understanding of God’s Word (Romans 12:2; 1 John 1:9).
When we fear people more than we fear God, sometimes we are afraid of what a right interpretation could cost us. So, we hold to a certain view on the Bible because we fear that if we don’t, we will be disliked or persecuted by others (Proverbs 9:10).
Some people don’t see the Bible as their authority. Instead, they favor their own personal or cultural preferences over what the Bible says. Or, they prefer another source of authority that is contrary to God’s Word (e.g., non-Christian leader or another religious book). They are not willing to have the Bible correct them (Psalm 94:12; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Bible reading requires genuine faith in God to properly understand his Word (Hebrews 3:15). Some people, though they read the Bible, are not willing or prepared to believe what it says (John 7:17).
Simply put, we all make mistakes! To err is human. Even if a passage is clear, we are capable of misunderstanding it.
People read the Bible alone. But no person is a theological island. Interpreting the Bible is meant to be exercised corporately in the Body of Christ, not in isolation from people God has given the Church to help understand it properly (e.g., pastors, teachers, fellow Christians).
Productive Bible study takes time, hard work, and commitment (Psalm 111:2). Often, we may misunderstand a passage because we aren’t willing to invest the effort to really think about and study it.
We don’t know enough of the Bible to know how to interpret individual parts of the Bible. How can we claim to understand a book we spent little time reading and studying?
Recognizing these stumbling blocks will go a long way to helping you properly read God’s Word. However, there’s one more thing you need to know in order to interpret the Bible correctly.
You must pray. Ask God to help you understand his Word. This is the best guard against misinterpretation. We need God’s help to understand God’s Word, and he is glad to give it (Proverbs 2:6).