I’ve noticed a real error of many Christians, a habit of when they come to a portion of scripture they do not like, they decide they can ignore and trivialize that teaching of God by saying it is not literal, not for today or simply proclaim in their self expertise that it is an allegory.
This of course gives them complete freedom from obeying it and they can create a new meaning that fits their fancy. No one does this with the newspaper, but they probably should, since many are being proved to lie and spew out political and social propaganda.
But God’s Word is historic revelation from the all knowing God, and He demands that you accept it as literal fact. Paul warns Christians to take the Bible seriously. “Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved [tested by trial], a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing—rightly handling and skillfully teaching—the Word of Truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 Amplified Bible
The Bible is God’s Word. Not an interpretation of what some zealous men think God says, but His very Words! The Bible is not a religious piece of literature, but a direct revelation from the mouth of the Living God. It is a supernatural book!
The Scripture itself claims this in 2 Tim. 3:16: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…”
The only God is all powerful and able to communicate with man. He not only is able, He has through His written Word, the Holy Bible. To understand the Bible is to understand what God wants man to know at this time. To understand the Bible is to comprehend God’s will and direction for the purpose of becoming a faithful friend and child of God.
Therefore, it is imperative that we read the Bible the same way we read a newspaper, history book or a math book. This is the only valid way to understand God and His Word. We must study it at face value, literally accepting all the natural and normal sense of the text.
Obviously we must analyze it to discover what it’s expressions and terms meant to the original audience. For example, in Matthew 6:12 Jesus says “forgive us our debts” which today we would think means “Forget about our financial debts.” But He means sin.
Discover the Authors Intended Meaning
“The main thing to keep in mind here is that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of private opinion. And why? Because it’s not something concocted in the human heart. Prophecy resulted when the Holy Spirit prompted men and women to speak God’s Word.” [2 Peter 1:20-21 (MSG)]
This must be clear, the Bible has only one meaning, but many applications. The meaning is not up to our interpretations, of what we each think it means to us. The author, God, had a specific meaning the moment He inspired human authors to pen the words and our duty is to discover that interpretation. Never substitute what you think it should say!
Instead, investigate the context of every scripture and make sure you do not masquerade your pet theology as truth or develop your spiritual whims by replacing the obvious literal meaning with supposed deeper hidden meaning, as all cults and false teachers do by using their books to explain away what God says.
And you cannot turn the Bible into an allegory and therefore release yourself from the literal commands and statements of the Bible to make the Word say anything you want. You must understand the ancient cultural context in many cases to understand what is written. But, you cannot bind it to the culture of those ancient days it was written and therefore free yourself to disobey its “archaic moral values or commands.” God is timeless.
Be clear on one more thing, the Bible does not have contradictions. If a contradiction appears to you, continue to analyze all possibilities using other portions of scripture to help you understand God’s Word.
Remember the Bible is written in Hebrew and Greek, not English or any other modern language. There are not direct equivalent words for every ancient Greek or Hebrew text. Bias and choices are made by the Bible translators and to find the answers you will need a good concordance.
You will find supposed contradictions melt away with a deeper search to understand the Word. Psalm 119:160 warns, “The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.” Find the sum of all the passages that deal with an issue before you claim to understand what God is saying.
Always Allow Scripture to Interpret Itself
In our day, we have found that media can manipulate anyone’s words with small sound bites. Just a few words out of its context can make an enemy sound like a real idiot. But, when further inspection is done to really find out what the person said in the full speech or written article a whole new light of meaning emerges. It is the same with scripture.
Always allow God to define what he means, the Bible is a great dictionary of itself. You must find the meaning of words and ideas inside it. Always compare the portion you are trying to understand with other passages of similar content or themes.
“A text without a context is no more than a pretext” is a famous axiom. Context demands finding the point and direction of the entire book of the Bible being studied. Then, focusing on the context of the specific portion being examined with knowing who is being spoken to, the historical backdrop, and the immediate circumstances will help you see the true meaning of what God is teaching.
Proof texting builds an interpretation on the superficial reading of the passage and then taken out of context to an absurd conclusion never intended by God.
Define Figures of Speech
According to the book, Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student, a figure of speech is “any deviation either in thought or expression, from the ordinary and simple method of speaking…” and it is a “form of speech artfully varied from common usage.” [Instit. Orat. IX, I. 11, cited by Edward P. J. Corbett, Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student (New York: Oxford Press, 1971), page 640] Such an expression whether it is a simile, metaphor or an idiom is always used to artfully visualize a thought or idea.
A simile is easy to recognize and very useful. Rev. 1:14 is a simple example: “His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;…” The comparison of simile helps John describe what he really saw, “white like wool, as white as snow” but His hair was not really wool; “His eyes like…fire” but not really a flame but very bright and glowing which helps all his readers understand the glorious appearance of the Lord Jesus.
The metaphor also compares, but with an implication, not using connecting words [like, as]. A good example is Rev. 12:4 “His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.” A physical dragon did not stand before Mary when she gave birth to Jesus in Bethlehem.
The context must be used to find the figure of speech’s meaning. Or a comparison of other scriptures. We find the definition given in verse 9, “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Satan tried to devour the child, through Herod who sent soldiers to kill every baby in town, the literal fact behind this metaphor.
Idioms are used even today as expressions of comparison but distorting the literal words to intensify the point. When Jesus confronted Paul for the first time, found in Acts 26:14, Paul describes the incident like this, “And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ “ Notice the words Christ used were not literal, but an expression of Paul’s resistance to God’s will, like an ox kicking against the prodding of a farmer when using the beast to plow a field.
Another type of Biblical figure of speech is a substitution, where a writer replaces the normal word for a meaningful substitute to increase the impact of the statement. The Jews thought God so sacred to mistakenly even speak His name was sinful. Therefore, they would substitute the word heaven for God. They meant God, but said heaven.
The Bible also uses a form of parallelism to amplify and clarify its message. This is common in poetic forms such as Psalms and Proverbs. Psalm 2:4 states:
“He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
The Lord shall hold them in derision.”
As you think about it, both lines say the same thought, and both amplify and expand that idea for greater impact. Like a poem, the Hebrew lines tend to have a flow not translatable into foreign languages.
God Wrote The Bible For Everyone to Understand
God wrote the Bible for everyone to understand, not just scholars and preachers. This is why face value, basic reading is the only way an average Christian would understand God’s will.
For example, Biblical leaders and authors never gave any reason to think a secret, hidden meaning exists that only the Watchtower Society, or The Mormon Movement, or The Roman Catholic Institution would have the real answers exclusive to their secret knowledge.
Give the Bible to a person who does not know God, put them on a deserted island, and they will be able to understand God’s plan for mankind, God’s opinion on man’s sinful rebellion, and God’s solution and salvation for mankind. And I guarantee you, he will not believe any of these exclusive, separate religious ideas preached by cults or practices privately kept by some religious denominations.
Instead the plain and simple reading of the Bible leads to plain and supernatural salvation through the sacrifice and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:6 “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”
Mark 13:22 “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”
Seek the Lord to turn from your sin, receive forgiveness and follow Jesus. “Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things.” 2 Timothy 2:7 (NLT)