Everyone who reads the Bible becomes, consciously or not, an interpreter of Scripture. Even if Bible readers have never heard the word “hermeneutics” (the art and science of biblical interpretation), they are practicing it with every morning devotion.
We read the words and know what they say, even while our minds are quietly assessing what those words mean. It’s our nature to wonder and explore and hunger for understanding. Proverbs 25:2 says, “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.”
If we love the Bible, we will want to understand it so we can live by it and teach it to others. Fortunately, there are principles to guide us as we “search things out.” Allow me to share a few.
The starting point of interpretation for most of us is a bedrock conviction that God has spoken in Scripture. Paul wrote to Timothy to remind him of the following: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
When we are doing the work of interpretation, we are handling the Word of God. The Bible is more than ancient literature. We approach Scripture with the confidence that “Where the Bible speaks, God speaks.”
Closely related to the doctrine of inspiration is the doctrine of inerrancy. In other words, not only has God spoken, he has spoken truthfully. The interpreter can be assured that the Bible is “truth without any mixture of error.” Why is this important? Obviously, volumes could be and have been written on this subject. But for our purposes, permit me to suggest a practical reason why inerrancy matters. We put our faith in Christ based on what Scripture teaches about his death and resurrection (and everything else said about him). Paul, who saw the ascended Lord, reminds us the gospel he preached wasn’t based on his testimony alone, but rather upon the objective truth of the Bible.
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3).
So, inerrancy matters for the most fundamental of reasons: the message we believe originates from the written Word of God. Inerrancy assures us we can trust the grammatical accuracy and historical reliability of the biblical text.
Flowing out of the doctrine of inerrancy is the importance of the words of Scripture themselves. God has revealed himself in history through what he has done and through what he has said. Words matter. Therefore, the interpreter should become extremely familiar with the words of Scripture. Invest in a Bible dictionary, do word studies, find online resources. Use everything at your disposal to become as proficient as possible in the words of the Bible.
Much more could be said about the significance of interpreting Scripture, but I will leave you with this thought. Every time you read the Bible, you are interpreting it. God has already instructed us to do it right.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15).