In this day and age the Bible isn’t held to the same “truth standard” that it was in generations and days past. Bizarre interpretations are accepted because people believe they have the right to decide for themselves what a passage means, or blatantly remove text from its intended context and twist it against itself or twist it to mean what they want for it to mean at that particular time or for that certain circumstance. In other words, many today approach Scripture with the idea that the meaning is in the eye of the beholder.
This ideology flies in the face of Christ’s example. In fact, Jesus routinely rebuked those who twisted the words of Scripture or misapplied them. The Bible is God’s message to man, and because of that we can have perfect confidence that God is capable of accurately relaying His Word to us, His creation, in a way that we can understand.
But… it is crucial that we do our part and we learn how to interpret Scripture properly so that we can determine the original author’s intended meaning rather than forcing our own ideas into the text.
Hermeneutics, which comes from the Greek word hermeneuo, means to explain or interpret. Hermeneutics is the branch of theology that focuses on identifying and applying sound principles of Biblical interpretation. While the Bible is generally plain in its meaning, proper interpretation requires careful study and is not always an easy task.
Did you know that the Bible was written over a period of roughly 2,000 years by 40 or more authors using three languages?
The Holy Spirit moved each of these writers to produce His inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word!
2 Timothy 3:16 says,
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
2 Peter 1:19–21 says,
And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
So… how do we as “modern day Believers” properly interpret Scripture? Sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming to start into a new method of reading the Word of God and interpreting such powerful words and meanings. Below I will demonstrate how I go about interpreting Scripture in my daily reading by identifying themes and how they build off each other to display the Gospel.
Let’s begin with the book of Colossians. This book is a mini-ethics course, addressing every area of Christian life, and perhaps one of the most Christ centered books in the Bible. Although Paul addresses many areas, the basic application for us today is the total and complete sufficiency of Christ in our lives, both for our salvation and our sanctification. Paul progresses from the individual life to the home and family, from work to the way we should treat others. This book centers on the Head of the Church, which is Jesus Christ. The two major themes in this book are “the supremacy of Christ” in Chapters one and two and “the submission to Christ” in Chapters three and four. There is an overarching Gospel theme in this book that runs throughout as well, it is the sufficiency of our Lord, Jesus Christ in meeting our needs in every area.
The Gospel in Colossians is broken down and explained in several themes throughout this book which all expand upon each other. I will break down the Gospel themes, explain, and provide backing verses below. Let’s think together.
- The Supremacy of Christ (Chapters 1-2)
: the quality or state of having more power, authority, or status than anyone else : the state of being supreme
The first theme or display of the Gospel that Paul demonstrates or provides in Colossians is the supremacy of Christ over all. The reason this is of importance to the Gospel is that recognizing this is recognizing who holds the authority over all, and who we must serve. There is no way to Heaven except through Christ and the work of Christ, and as much as the world would like to tell us otherwise we cannot do it without His work.
Colossians 1:15-16 says,
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 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. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
Colossians 2:8-15 says,
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
- The Submission to Christ (Chapters 3-4)
: the state of being obedient : the act of accepting the authority or control of someone else
The second theme found in Colossians after the recognition of the supremacy of Christ is what our response should be… a response of submissiveness. Paul offers up many examples of what it is to live as Christ, and all of these examples are completely unnatural for a human to do apart from Christ. All that we are called to do is to die to our old worldly selves, be raised with Christ, and submit to what He has called us to do. Full submission is necessary if we are pursuing holiness.
Colossians 3:1-3 says,
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Colossians 3:5-10 says,
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Colossians 3:12-15 says,
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Colossians 4:1-2 says,
Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven. Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
Colossians 4:5-6 says,
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
- The Sufficiency of Christ (1-4)
: meaning to meet one’s needs
Paul also laces a single theme throughout the entire book of Colossians. That theme is: the sufficiency of Christ. As believers we can have hope in the fact that Christ is more than sufficient to meet all of our needs according to His will. His will may not always be ours, but it is always for His glory and in that we can take part and have hope.
Colossians 1:21-22 says,
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.
Colossians 3:23-25 says,
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
Overwhelmed? It isn’t as hard as we make it out to be… we just have to be willing to devote ourselves and our time to proper interpretation of God’s Word.
Tim Chaffey once said,
God is capable of accurately relaying His Word to us in a way that we can understand. It is crucial that we interpret properly to determine the intended meaning rather than forcing ideas into the text.
A person can spend his or her entire life and still never come close to mining the depths of Scripture. The Bible is written in such a marvelous way that a child can understand the basic message, and yet the most educated theologians continue to learn new things from the Bible as they study it. There is always so much more to learn, so we must humbly approach the Word of God.