David Virtue david at
Fri Dec 12 13:31:09 EST 2014


By Ted Schroder,
December 14, 2014

During the season of Advent we read those portions of the Scriptures
that prepare us for the coming of the Messiah. The apostles see the
Scriptures being fulfilled in the birth, life and passion of Christ. The
genealogy that begins Matthew's Gospel traces the lineage of Jesus back
to Abraham, and that of Luke to Adam. On the road to Emmaus, "beginning
with Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus explained to the two disciples
what was said in the Scriptures concerning himself" (Luke 24:27). There
was a plan and purpose of God which the Scriptures reveal to us. There
is nothing random about the coming of Christ. "For everything that was
written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance
and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Romans

If we are to have hope for the future, to believe that God is working
out his purposes in our lives, we need to know the teaching of the
Scriptures. We are inundated with negative information from the media
that discourages us and gives us no hope for the future. We need an
antidote to all this destructive negativity. The writings of the
Scriptures are meant to encourage us in our faith. But for many people
the Bible is difficult to understand. Even St. Peter writes that the
letters of Paul "contain some things that are hard to understand, which
ignorant and unstable people distort as they do the other Scriptures to
their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:16). Let me give you six principles
which John Stott gives to help you to understand the Bible.

First, the Principle of Illumination

The Bible is pre-eminently God's book and must be approached spiritually
if we are gain any benefit from it. We need to seek the enlightenment of
the Holy Spirit who inspired the authors in order to understand its
meaning. "No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We
have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from
God, that we may understand what God has freely given us" (1
Cor.2:11,12). If we wish to hear God speak to us we must approach he
Scriptures prayerfully and humbly ask God to open our eyes so hear his
voice. I pray: "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your
law" (Ps.119:18).

Second, the Principle of Reason

Reading the Bible reverently does not mean abdicating our reason. We are
to use our rational and critical powers to reflect on the relevance of
what we read. St. Paul writes, "I speak to sensible people; judge for
yourselves what I say" (1 Cor.10:15). A serious reading of Holy
Scripture requires the willingness to think through the implications of
what we read. "These things happened to them [Israel] as examples and
were written down as warnings for us on whom the fulfillment of the ages
has come" (1 Cor.10:11). Unless we draw on all our God-given mental and
intellectual capacities our study of the Bible will be superficial and
our lives will reflect our shallowness.

Third, the Principle of Tradition

While the inward witness of the Holy Spirit enables us to learn the
truth of God by ourselves, we benefit from other believers because
Christianity is a historical religion. We belong to a Christian
community in which God has appointed teachers down through the ages to
help us understand his Word. While the apostolic tradition is always
subject to Scripture itself, it provides guidelines to prevent false
teaching, e.g. the Creeds, Councils, and Church Fathers of the early

Fourth, the Principle of Simplicity.

We should look for the natural sense of the passage rather than some
esoteric meaning dictated by our interests or imagination. It is a help
to discover the intention of the author or speaker. We must take
seriously the rules of vocabulary, grammar and style. Each literary
genre must be interpreted as it was intended, e.g. poetry as poetry,
symbolism as symbolism, metaphor as metaphor, hyperbole as hyperbole,
humor as humor, ancient history as ancient history with all its spin or
biases. A major task is to determine what kind of literature you are
reading. That is why we have study Bibles and commentaries to help us.

Fifth, the Principle of History.

We should look for the original sense of what the first hearers or
readers would have understood. This means studying historical background
and literary usage. A failure to do this exegesis, as it is called, can
result in reading into scripture what is not intended, or misapplying
its teaching today. An example of this is to discover the principle
involved in cultural actions so that you can translate them into
contemporary cultural terms. When Jesus set us an example in washing the
feet of the disciples he surely did not intend us to do that literally
every time we celebrated the Lord's Supper. He does intend for us to
find ways in our society to serve one another.

Sixth, the Principle of Harmony

We should look for the general sense of the scripture. From the human
standpoint the Bible is a library of sixty-six books by many authors
over a period of nearly two thousand years. However, from a divine
standpoint, the whole Bible comes from one mind -- the mind of God, and
so has a unity. We are not, therefore, permitted to expound one place of
Scripture to contradict another. Consistency of interpretation is
assisted by the belief that, while God reveals himself to people in
their generation, as they could understand, he does not contradict
himself as he progressively reveals himself and his purpose throughout
biblical history. The disciples could not understand until Jesus opened
their minds. So the Old Testament is not contrary to the New Testament.
In both Testaments everlasting life is offered to all people through
Christ. The Ceremonial Rites and Civil Laws in the Old Testament are no
longer to be observed but the Moral Laws are to be obeyed. The general
sense of scripture is to be found in those teachings which are affirmed
throughout the Bible, and especially in the New Testament, as
universally binding on all people.

All Christians should possess a Bible that is easy to read and to
understand. I recommend the English Standard Version or the New
International Version. Both have very good Study Bibles in those
translations. I also recommend having a copy of Eugene Peterson's
paraphrase, The Message. You also need to have a method of reading the
Bible daily. I have used the Scripture Union method for sixty years.
Encounter With God notes guide me each day. It gives me a manageable
passage to meditate on with helpful notes by international commentators.

If you wish to be encouraged to have hope you will read and study the
Holy Scriptures every day. They are "able to make you wise for salvation
through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is
useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
so that the man and woman of God may be thoroughly equipped for every
good work" (2 Tim.3:15,16). Do you want to be prepared for the coming of
Christ: then read the Scriptures.

Ted's blog is found at SOUL FOOD: DAILY DEVOTIONS
FOR THE HUNGRY, Vol.1, January, February and March is available for
gifts at

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