People often complain that they cannot understand the Bible, that perhaps it does not even apply to them. They may say that they think they do understand it, but that they find contradictions within. They may say that they understand the Bible, but have come to the conclusion that Jesus is not really God, that salvation comes by works and not grace, or that Jesus is merely one way to God. People may say that they read the Bible and determine that Muhammad is in it. Why do people come to these interpretations? You may ask, Why can’t I understand the Bible?
The Holy Spirit is absolutely essential to biblical interpretation. Now before i begin my thought, I want to point out that proper interpretation is very important. It will protect us from those cult members who like to proof-text. There are those who will misuse the Bible, and who will treat it recklessly, snatching verses from their context, just because they are desperately seeking a way to prove their unbiblical beliefs, or because they are outright charlatans who want to deceive. Proper interpretation can certainly protect from that. We interpret through the historical-literary method. This means we put the text in its’ historical context, we in its’ literary context, and then we interpret it in light of that.
But let’s suppose you do that. You understand the history and the culture and everything that is going on around. You have an absolutely perfect understanding of that aspect. Let’s say that you may as well be a first century Jew from Palestine familiar with the geography, topography, culture, politics, trade, religious customs, everything. Let’s also suppose you understand biblical events in light of their literary context. You understand the dialogue that is happening fully.
Where does that put you? That puts you in the disciples shoes. That is my point. The disciples did not understand a word that Jesus said (Luke 18:34, Mark 9:32, Luke 2:50, John 12:16, ect ect ect). They had the historical-literary context absolutely and still did not understand. You ask, why can’t I understand the Bible? You need the Holy Spirit to interpret this, lest you be like the disciples. You need to be born again. How can I be born again?
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