Adding to our knowledge about how to study the Bible, we need to make these following observations. Sometimes it can be confusing if we don’t realize what is happening in the Scriptures. Here are some suggestions:
Ask yourself these questions – who is talking, who is listening, what are the circumstances of the conversation, is there a specific goal intended in this discourse? For instance, we should keep in mind that Jesus was a Jew and that he was recognized as a rabbi. Much of what he did and said was in that context. A good example is his discussion with the woman at the well in Samaria. She pointed out that he was a Jewish rabbi and wondered why he was talking to her. Of course, his goal was to see that the people of her town came to recognize him as the Messiah for all cultures. When the disciples came from town with supplies as he directed them, they were amazed to discover this conversation occurring but knew not to interrupt or ask questions about it. Look back to the book of Job. Ask yourself what person was talking because the three artificial comforters gave their own human opinion that was not divinely inspired. To take what they said out of context could be very misleading. In Matthew 24: 3 the disciples asked Jesus three questions. These questions were strictly related to Jewish life in the present and future. Therefore, much of Jesus’ reply answered those Jewish questions. That chapter plus the next chapter are quite often taken out of context. Granted, some of the verses do relate to Gentiles and the future of the world and ultimate coming history. However, before they asked that question in verse two Jesus made a prediction about the overthrow of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple that happened in 70 A.D. at the hand of the Roman general Titus. He repeated himself in verse sixteen by telling them to flee.
Ask yourself what is the design of a revelation that God is giving. Not all Scripture is intended to everyone under every circumstance. Some Scripture is written in what may be called progressive revelation. That means God is telling us information on the installment plan. It is the unfolding of Scripture. When Paul wrote to the Galatian church in 4:4, he shows how this happened by saying, “when the full loss of time was come.” Because people change slowly and within the culture in which they live under their current society, they may not be able to absorb all of the information the God has to give. Mark 4: 33.34 tells us that Jesus spoke parables as they were able to bear it and then later gave information to the disciples expounding what he had said because they could understand. Much of the prophecy in the book of Daniel is progressive revelation. A prime example of this is in the seventh chapter and following that talks about current and coming nations as exemplified by the animals mentioned.
Ask yourself if the Scripture is fulfilled in its own historical context. The law of double reference can answer this question. In Daniel 11: 31 there is a phrase about the “abomination that makes desolation.” Historically speaking this is talking about King Antiochus Epiphanies from Syria who came into the temple for the purpose of defiling the altar by sacrificing a pig on it. That was a prophecy of what was to come immediately. In Matthew 24: 15 Jesus makes a prophecy in a similar fashion and uses that same phrase, “abomination of desolation.” In other words, the words of Daniel had an immediate fulfillment while the words of Jesus is yet to be fulfilled. Therefore, there is a double reference in that the ultimate fulfillment would be done by the Antichrist during the tribulation.
Ask yourself if certain parts of Scripture are congruent with what has come before and after. This may be referred to as the law of parenthetical Scripture. Even today when we talk to each other, we often stay in a conversation then suddenly we talk about something else. We might call that chasing a rabbit. However, when Scripture does this, it is not a worthless set of words. It is used to give additional information for the subject at hand. The book of Revelation does this frequently. In the tenth chapter of Revelation the subject is portrayed of a mighty angel that came down from heaven. In the fourteenth chapter there is a shift of scenery to discuss the 144,000 Jews that were redeemed from the earth.
Ask yourself about scriptures that seem to refer to something that needed to be postponed. This is the law of ultimate fulfillment. A good example was when people wanted to force Jesus to become their king so that he might overthrow the Roman. In addition, Jesus stood before Pilate and denounced an earthly kingdom. Jesus did not come as the Jews expected him. He first had to set up his spiritual kingdom which would include his crucifixion and resurrection. When he was crucified, Pilate had a sign put over his head on the cross that he was the king of the Jews and that was true at the moment, but not as a militant king. Jesus will come in his glory as a ruling King of Kings and Lord of Lords when he returns to this earth. Therefore, what seemed appealing to some in Scripture had to be postponed until God was ready for the ultimate fulfillment of his plans through Christ.
Ask yourself what scriptures are not necessarily meant to be taken literally. This is the law of examples. When Jesus spoke in parables, he did so to drive home a point home by using analogies to do that. Galatians 4: 24 even uses the word allegory and comparing covenants that God made with mankind. What is said is not intended to be stretched so that what is said is absolute. What is said, instead, uses the information as an example to get a point across.
Ask yourself what scriptures are to be used on which to base doctrine. This is a law of true doctrine. God never intended every single word in the Bible to teach doctrine. Many people make the mistake of pointing to certain areas of the Bible as support for their pet ideas. God would not want us to use a parable for doctrine. For instance, the parable of the soil in which the seed falls on various types of ground. Where that parable is mentioned there is also its own interpretation. Matthew 13: 1-9 registers Christ’s story of the soils, but verses 18 – 23 gives the purpose and meaning of this parable. Another portion of Scripture is often confused that is in Matthew 16: 18. The Catholic Church interprets Jesus saying that on the rock he would build his church and they say that means Peter as the first pope. The original Greek in context says that the declaration of faith that Peter made was on which Jesus would build his church. In other words, Jesus had no intention of building his church around a human being as the Pope. He did, however, have every intention and expectation that faith would be the key element of salvation and part of the membership of the church. Likewise, in verse 19 Jesus did not intend to say that the Pope had a superior spiritual authority of binding and loosing. Jesus said that the believer as the means of affecting other people such that they would be encouraged or directed to go to heaven. Those that the Holy Spirit did not impress believers to influence others are those that may not go to heaven. That verse says that the believer has a significant responsibility in witnessing to other people.
These are some examples for you to consider as you study the Scriptures. Hopefully, when you read the Bible, it will make more sense to you and help you to grow spiritually.