When I study Scripture, I do my best to apply some rules and follow some patterns so that I may ”correctly divide the word of truth”. Most of these are things I’ve picked up through life from other teachers, and although I don’t believe there’s any specific verses that directly affirm any of the methodologies, I still find them to be logically sound and correct.
Getting the obvious one out of the way, any study or reading should always be accompanied with prayer. I don’t necessarily think every time you read the Bible you have to “formally” ask the Spirit to reveal things to you, as a Christian I think this is just what He does for us (super)naturally in our walk with Him. However, I do think it is important to actively loop the Lord in when you do, asking questions or talking out loud, and just generally acknowledging the fact that even if you applied all the other study tools perfectly, at the end of the day, any spiritual revelation and understanding ultimately comes from Him.
As humans we can easily pride ourselves in our ability to study and comprehend texts on our own, only to fall into a rabbit hole of human logic and wisdom, far from the truths of God. The Pharisees fell into this trap, and then began adding more to what their own Scriptures even had at the time. True wisdom only comes from Him.
Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him or give thanks to Him as God, but became futile in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools. They changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man, birds, four-footed beasts, and creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their own bodies among themselves. They turned the truth of God into a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
Romans 1:21-25 (MEV)
🚨 That being said, when it comes to teachers of the Word, do take precautions. Beautiful prayers mean nothing if the heart behind it is not in the right place. Let’s not forget the important words of Christ:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
Matt. 7:21-23 (MEV)
Note that these speakers were doing wonders in God’s name, actual miracles, and yet, that wasn’t proof of their hearts being where it should. A good speaker may move the masses with their words or wonders, but a true teacher is not judged by his prayers or miracles. He is judged by the doctrine he teaches.
Although if we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel to you than the one we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so I say now again: If anyone preaches any other gospel to you than the one you have received, let him be accursed.
Gal. 1:8-9 (MEV)
For such are false apostles and deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
2 Cor. 11:13-15 (MEV)
I’ve covered the topic of exegesis in the first post of my Hell series, but I think it bears repeating. A common saying for exegesis is “let Scripture speak for Scripture”, that is to say, that we should allow the texts of Scripture to speak for themselves, and see what conclusions we can draw from there. This is exegesis: leading out (a conclusion) from the text. This is in stark contrast to eisegesis, where you begin to derive conclusions from stuff you have literally injected yourself or based off your own presumptions. A correct exegetical reading of a portion of Scripture should adhere to some form of the following guidelines:
Establish the context
If the verse is taken completely out of its context, perhaps because of some juicy “keyword” that fits the narrative of the speaker, this is not exegesis, it’s usually proof texting. Proper contextual reading should look at the verse, then surrounding verses or whole chapter, and then the book as a whole.
Look at the verse and what it actually says, busting out the interlinear if necessary (and sometimes it is), rereading what comes before and after as contextual guides in case something isn’t understood.
Once you’ve grasped what the verse is saying directly, you can then check for the possibility (it will not always be the case, especially with historical records or geneologies) of anything that may be implied or symbolical. Parables, for example, are literally read as a straight-forward story, with characters and elements, but always have a spiritual truth that it tries to facilitate comprehension of. That is simply the nature of a parable.
🚨 In all of this, another fair rule of thumb is to allow clear verses to define what is not clear. You will often find that false doctrines are dependent on vague or ambiguous verses, usually taken in isolation of their context. Creating a doctrine on the foundation of a verse like this, perhaps with a specific word or verse that also has multiple meanings or interpretations (which the false teacher disregards in favor of the single possibility that supports their doctrine), is a very dangerous thing to do.
The Bible was originally written in Hebrew/Aramaic (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament). As such, our English translations occasionally don’t relay the wording of a verse as well as it could. This isn’t an issue of fallibility, mind you, especially since the texts have been preserved unlike any other book in history! Rather, these difficulties simply may give an incomplete understanding of the text.
As an example, depending on your translations, you may find what appears to be a contradiction in scripture when comparing Christ’s words in Matthew 5:17:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets… (ESV)
and then Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:14-15:
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one … by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances… (ESV)
In the former Christ says he hasn’t come to abolish the law, yet Paul says he did! How can we explain that? Simply put, we look at the original words for both. In this case, the Greek word used in Matthew is
καταλύω or “katalyo” which is most commonly translated as “destroy” in the KJV. It means “to loosen down (disintegrate), i.e. (by implication) to demolish (literally or figuratively)“. This is in contrast to the Ephesians usage which is the word
καταργέω or “katargeo” which, although it can also be translated as “destroy” has a different connotation to it in that it means “to be (render) entirely idle (useless), literally or figuratively.” The KJV translates the Matthew verse with “destroy”, while the NET translates the Ephesians verse with “nullify”. Ultimately, the “destruction of the law” and the “nullification” or 2 very distinct states, and although not incorrectly translated, digging into the original certainly helps clarify things for us!
🚨 One thing to always remind yourself during word studies is that you are (probably) not a scholar. Although you can do fairly well through self-study, we should avoid the pride of “linguistic mastery”, especially if you have never received formal training of either of the biblical languages. Even if you have, pride would certainly be something you’d want to be wary of sneaking into your study.
As an example, the Passion translation is primarily “translated” by a Dr. Brian Simmons, a supposed linguist according to the Passion’s own FAQ page. That being said, Simmons does not have any actual degrees in linguistics (his doctorate is in “practical ministry”) and you can see how his translation effectively stems from and continues to be promoted through the false teachines of the NAR. A pastor named Mike Winger has a great video breaking all of this down.
Remember, when it comes to teaching that which you study, you are placing upon yourself a dangerous burden:
My brothers, not many of you should become teachers, knowing that we shall receive the greater judgment.
James 3:1 (MEV)
Let our studies always be done humbly, in submission to what the Spirit teaches, that it may edify believers and non-believers because of the accurate truth and revelation given by the wisdom of God, and not our own humanly understanding.