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In this article you will learn how to understand the Bible by interpreting what it says and know exactly what it means. You will learn that the Bible interprets itself in:
- 5 Unique Ways to
- 3 Distinct Groups of people through
- 7 Different Administrations
When reading the bible we are faced with the need to properly interpret what it is saying. We believe the Bible to be perfect and complete in its communication.
If we are to know the truth of God's Word we must read it and study it so that we understand exactly what God is telling us. And this is vitally important because God has given us all things that pertain unto life and Godliness (II Peter 1:3)
II Peter 1:20 “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.”
“Private” means “one’s own”. We are not supposed to read it and try to figure out what we think it says, or ask around what other people think; or worse yet, try to twist it into what we want it to say. It means what the author (God) meant it to mean. He says what He means and He means what He says.
Note: Private interpretation and failure to do as commanded II Tim 2:15, “Study to show ourselves approved … rightly dividing (understanding) the word of truth” is why we have so many different denominations and splits in the church.
Private interpretation is why there is much confusion and controversy regarding a some very important subjects such as the relationship between God and Christ and the manifestations of the holy spirit.
How the Bible Interprets Itself -
Rightly Dividing (Interpreting) the Bible
Since the bible is perfect in its communication, then it cannot contradict itself. Any apparent contradiction is due to a translational error and/or lack of our own understanding in the ways the bible interprets itself.
The bible will interpret (to bring out the meaning of) itself
in one of five ways:
- In the Verse.
- In its Context through Narrative Development; that which is written immediately before of after the verse. Context can also be the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event or situation.
- Where it is Was Used Before. Verses must be in harmony with other verses on the same subject.
- The Time in Which it Was Written. This can also include figures of speech common during the time but either not in use now or misunderstood. According to Futurist Eschatology there are 7 different administrations spanning over 6,000 years each having a unique set of rules.
- To Whom it Was Written. (Closely related to the time it was written.)
Translations of the Bible
There is something we must recognize as workman of God's Word. No translation or version of the Bible can be accurately called The Original Word of God. The Word of God is that which holy men of God spoke and/or wrote as they were moved by God. (II Peter 1:21)
There are no original manuscripts or scrolls in existence today. The best we have are copies. The earliest fragments of the New Testament we have available today are dated around 125 A.D. and the earliest full copies date back to around 400 A.D. The Dead Sea Scrolls are the oldest fragments of Old Testament books that are dated from 150 B.C. to about 70 A.D. Keep in mind that any translation or reworking of a translation then becomes a version. We use the original King James Version written in 1611 because, although it’s a little outdated by its Shakespearian language, it is still the most accurate version we have available today in the English language.
When understanding the bible to know the Word of God we must also recognize the meanings of words and phrases in light of when they were translated. The meanings of words and phrases evolve over time. For instance is the phrase, "I trow not." Luke 17:9 “Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.” "I trow not" means "I believe not” or "I don't think so."
One more is the specific Old English meaning of the word "prevent." I Thessalonians 4:15 “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.” This is an archaic form of the word “precede” meaning come before. The dead in Christ shall rise first; those that are alive will not precede them that are asleep.
#1: In the Verse:
Most of the Word of God interprets itself in the verse and/or the context. Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” This verse needs no explanation, in the beginning God created the heaven and earth.
Example of getting it wrong: It says in the bible that there is no God. I’ll take you there. Psalms 14:1 – It says that there is no God. That would contradict the entire Bible. But that would be an error in verse and context because just before that it says “the fool hath said in his heart there is no God”.
#2: In the Context through Narrative Development
We must examine the scripture surrounding the verse(s) we are reading. Sometimes we cannot just read one verse and immediately understand its meaning; we must pay attention to the context. Meaning, that which is written before of after the verse along with understanding the circumstances or facts that surround a particular event or situation.
Here is an example: Matthew 13:24 “Another parable put he (Christ) forth unto them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:” Since this is a parable, the good seed figuratively represents something else.
Can you tell what the good seed is from just this one verse? No. Let’s continue reading.
13:25 “But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares [weeds] among the wheat, and went his way.” Do we know what the tares represent yet? No.
13:26 “But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. “Have we found out what the good seed and the tares are yet? No.And it goes on. Fortunately, Christ soon explains the parable to his disciples.
13:36 “Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, ‘Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field”. They knew better than to guess.
13:37 “He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; [there, now we know] The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.”
As in this case sometimes we must read further to understand the meaning. Always look before and after the verse(s) you are studying.
Advanced Narrative Development (In the Context)
This is also called “scripture build up” a full picture of the story develops as we continue reading; either in the chapter (context) or book wide (development) as in the four Gospels represent the 4 aspects of Christ (as a man, a king, a high priest and as the Son of God), and in I & II Samuel, I & II Kings (mans point of view) and I & II Chronicles (God’s point of view). We have to not only read the verse, but also the verses that precede it and come after it and sometimes the books before and after.
#3: Where it Was Used Before
God will define His Word in the first use and subsequent uses will elaborate on it. Get yourself a good Concordance to help you with this. A good example of checking the previous usage of a word or phrase would be the subject of Paul's thorn in the flesh.
II Corinthians 12:7 “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.”
It is not clear what the "thorn in the flesh" was, it is not literal but figurative, and it is a messenger of Satan to buffet (hinder; to contend against; physical battle w/ contact) Paul. We also recognize that it is from Satan and not God. "Messenger" is the Greek word angelos which is translated angel and messenger in the KJV. This always refers to individuals. It has been said that Paul's thorn in the flesh was a certain sickness that he had. It doesn't say that here. We must look at the Word to see if this phrase is more clearly defined elsewhere.
We must understand Paul's "thorn in the flesh," the phrase is not used again in the New Testament but similar phrases are seen in the Old Testament. Let us look at the first use.
Numbers 33:55 “But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell.”
The people in the land are pricks in the eyes of the Children of Israel and thorns in their sides which mean they will vex you in the land that they dwell. If you had a thorn in your side is it in your flesh? It is people that is their "thorn in the flesh" and they will vex Israel.
Paul's thorn in the flesh was not sin or sickness! People were Paul's thorn in the flesh. When some say Paul had a thorn in the flesh, a sickness that he had to bear, then they need to do a little more research.
Paul's thorn in the flesh is defined when God first used the figure of speech in Numbers 33:55. The Word of God is clear. In II Corinthians 12:7 the messenger from Satan which was sent to buffet Paul was the people who had the intention of hindering the movement of God's Word.
#4: The Time in Which it Was Written
According to Futurist Eschatology there are 7 different administrations spanning over 6,000 years each having a unique set of rules. This can also include figures of speech common during these times but either not in use now or simply misunderstood.
- Original Paradise
- Patriarchal Administration
- Law Administration
- Christ Administration
- Church of Grace
- Appearing Administration
- Final Paradise AKA Glory Administration
Original Paradise encompasses the time from creation until Genesis 3:24 when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, which resulted in their losing their holy spirit connection with God and God banishing them from the Garden.
The Patriarchal Administration is the rest of Adam & Eve's life, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Israel and through the captivity in Egypt until the law was given to Moses. At this time there was no written law, the Patriarchs taught their children who God was and what He would do for them and that they were to look for a messiah.
The Law Administration spans the time from the receiving of the law by Moses to the presence of Jesus Christ. Once the law was given to Israel they were required to keep it. Jesus Christ came to fulfill the law and prepare us for the next administration.
The Christ Administration is the time when Jesus Christ was personally on earth fulfilling the law. It is the Gospel period. The law was still in effect during this time, but in a state of transition.
The Grace Administration is the time from Christ’s ascension to present. We live in the Grace Administration. This administration will remain in affect until Christ returns; that will surely change things.
Appearing Administration, as revealed in the Book of Revelation, when Christ will return, appear, and gather us together, and later, the rest will be resurrected and judged. This administration has two phases, 1) Christ coming to gather together his church, those who have believed on him and 2) Christ coming back again, this time with his church to execute judgment. This event is referred to as “The Day of the Lord”.
The Final Paradise or Glory Administration begins where the Book of Revelation ends in the victory over the adversary.
#5: To Whom the Word is Written
Another very important, I would say critical, biblical research key to understanding the Bible would be to know to whom the Word is written. When we start reading the Word of God we must understand to whom that book or section is written to. Otherwise, the scriptures could appear to be contradictory and confusing.
Types of People in the Administrations (To Whom it is Written)
In the Bible, according to God, all people fall into one of three categories: 1) Jews: those who are of the lineage of Israel, 2) Gentiles: those who are not descendants of Israel (strangers & foreigners) and 3) the Church of God, which we learn in the Epistles, are those that are born-again of God's Spirit, Believers and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, a good question to ask yourself is, "Who am I?" We here in fellowship are of the Church of God, born again believers. Everyone else is either Jew or Gentile. So, regardless of which group of people you are in, the next question to ask yourself is, “How do I treat sections of the Word of God that are not written directly to me?”
If you are of the Church of God then this verse applies to you- Romans 15:4 “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” So the Old Testament, including the Gospels are for our education, learning and understanding. In the Gospels the law is still in effect, Jesus Christ came to fulfill the law.
Can we learn from the records in the Old Testament? Oh yes! There is tremendous knowledge there on believing and walking by the spirit. There are great records about the power of God in people's lives. There is also much to learn from the Old Testament but we must remember to whom it is written. Consequently the law is not written to us. We are free from the law (Romans 8:2). The 10 Commandments are not written to us. Can we learn from them? Yes. If we truly love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength then we simply will not break any of the first 10 Commandments.
Understanding to whom the Word is written can mean the difference between truth and error, between rightly dividing the Word of Truth or not having the Word of Truth.
What is written to the Church of God?
Look to the verse and context. The Book of Acts and all the Pauline Epistles in the New Testament are letters written to the Church of God. Example: I Corinthians 1:2 “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints…” Later in this book Paul goes on the talk about the gift of holy spirit, which we will be covering in greater detail very soon.
Ephesians 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus” Ephesians is written to the saints, who are the saints? The saints are the born-again ones, the Church of God. Ephesians is written to the Church of God.
Knowing which administration a passage or a whole book in the Bible is written to is very important in rightly dividing the Word of Truth. When understanding to whom the Word is written we must also pay close attention the administration it is referring to.
Okay, so now you know how to study the Bible and understand exactly what it means. You have learned that the Bible interprets itself in 5 ways and that there are 3 distinct groups of people within 7 different administrations spanning over 6,000 years. Any apparent contradiction is due to a translational error and/or lack of our own understanding stemming from NOT doing diligent research and studying incorrectly.
So what are you going to do now? Do the Word! II Tim 2:15, “Study to show ourselves approved … rightly dividing (understanding) the word of truth.
God bless you!
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Understanding the Bible
How to Interpret What the Bible Says and Know Exactly What it Means
Knowing which way the bible interprets itself to what group in which administration and time period is crucial to your growth and understanding in God’s Word. You will gain a deeper understanding, an enlightened view and a wider perspective of the scriptures. This Audio CD demystifies the bible and opens your eyes in order for you to correctly understand and rightly divide the Word of Truth.
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About the Teacher: Daniel Sweet is the founder and President of God's Word First International and is a leading expert on the Gift of Holy Spirit. As an ordained minister, biblical scholar, humble follower and faithful teacher, he and his wife Debbra Sweet have been instrumental in helping many people come to the knowledge and truth of God’s Word. Daniel Sweet is also a published author on the subject of Leadership, an investor and an entrepreneur owning several small businesses.