While reading or listening to something, our presuppositions influence how we understand what is written or said. Therefore, the presuppositions we have towards the Bible will impact how we understand the Bible. For example, if you think the Bible is without error, then you’ll interpret the meaning of passages in a way that allows harmony between apparently conflicting passages. However, if you think the Bible contains error, then you’ll interpret conflicting passages to be mistaken, even if you are aware of possible interpretations that would harmonize passages. Your presuppositions will drive your interpretation and application one way or another.
For the born-again Christian who desires to rightly understand and apply the Bible, there are fundamental things you should know to rightly interpret and apply the Bible. The understandings stated below form a solid foundation for accurate Bible study interpretation and application.
Understand the Nature of the Bible
The Bible is God-Breathed (2 Tim 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21). It is not ultimately written by men, though God used men’s hands and thoughts. The Bible’s ultimate source is God; so much so, that when you read the Bible or hear it read, you hear God speaking.
2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
2 Peter 1:21
For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Understand the Substance of the Bible
The “substance” of the Bible is that of which it is made up or of which it is composed. The Bible is composed of truth, and it is perfect in thought and teaching (Psalm 19:7, John 17:17). The Bible is true and non-contradictory. There is a consistent way to interpret and understand the Bible so that you won’t arrive at contradictory doctrines or conflicting applications. The Bible is right and correct on all matters it discusses.
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
Understand the Sufficiency of the Bible
The Bible claims for itself to be sufficient for equipping Christians for every good work. Therefore, understanding and applying the Bible is enough to enable Christians to become all and do all the good works God has prepared that they may walk in them
2 Timothy 3:17
17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Understand the Ultimate Aim of Scripture
Ultimately, the Bible is about the person and work of Jesus Christ (John 5:39, 1 Cor 2:2, 2 Cor1:20, Col 1:16-20). Jesus Christ is the God-Man who bled and died and rose again to save all who repent and have faith in Him. The gospel is the good news of salvation that Jesus has accomplished. Therefore, it is appropriate to say the Bible is ultimately about Jesus and the gospel.
39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,
1 Corinthians 2:2
2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
2 Corinthians 1:20
20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.
16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Understand the Ultimate Audience of Scripture
The Bible is ultimately for people (John 17:17, Heb 4:12, Rom 15:4, 1 Cor 10:11). God spoke in words—in language— for a purpose: to communicate to us. God is the perfect communicator. If there is any failure in understanding or application, it is ultimately our fault, and not that God isn’t clear. So the Bible is meant to be understood and applied, and it has been clearly communicated to us, which obligates us to do the work to rightly understand and apply the Bible.
17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
1 Corinthians 10:11
11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.