Bruce Collins, Evangelist

The personal website of Bruce Collins

Properly understanding our Manual

2 Timothy 2:15  Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.


Some Things are Hard to Understand

I am convinced that many well-meaning Christians have never been taught how to rightly divide the Word of Truth.  They think that is something that should be taught in seminaries.  But actually each believer should be equipped to do this.  Many translations say that rightly dividing should be translated “rightly handling.”   I personally believe the idea is to properly interpret the word of truth and then rightly apply it to our lives.  It is obvious that there are things that are hard to interpret since Peter says that Paul wrote some things that are hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16).  So how can the person who wants to know and understand God’s will, rightly divide the word of Truth?


Basic Principles of Bible Interpretation

First of all we need to be absolutely certain that the God has providentially preserved for us is the very God breathed or inspired Word of God.  Just because some of it doesn’t make sense to us, doesn’t mean that it is wrong.  The Lord says in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”


Second we need to properly understand the audience that each book or section of the Bible addresses.  The Bible is divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament.  The Old Testament deals with an earthly people with an earthly land and with earthly promises.  The New Testament primarily deals with a spiritual people with a spiritual land and with spiritual promises.   However, some of the Gospel passages are oriented toward the Jews and their earthly promises and prophecies.  We must distinguish what is for the Jew and what is for the believers of our day.   Believers must be careful not to think we are Jews and that we are still living as Jews under the Law of the Old Testament.   Many promises that I see Christians taking courage in today are really principles that apply primarily to the Jews.  


I always try to look for the principles that we believe in the Gospels, for examples of those principles being developed in the Acts of the Apostles, for teaching in the epistles (letters) and for confirming illustrations in the Old Testament.  However, I believe the epistles are the backbone of Bible interpretation for believers today.  The letters written by the New Testament authors explain how the rest of the Bible fits together.  If we find it in an epistle, it is an explanation of Biblical Truth for us today. 


We always interpret in context.  We need to interpret a verse in the context of the chapter, the context of the book and the context of the Bible.  We let the simple explain the difficult and not the other way around.  All interpretation should be consistent with the truth of John 3:16 and with the truth that we are to love God and love our neighbor—truth that is found in the Old Testament and in the New. 


Problems of Interpretation

The Bible is a spiritual book and will never be understood properly by one who is not “born of the spirit.”  The Bible should convict the unsaved of their sin, and it will warn them to flee from the wrath to come.  However, until a person bows to the Truth that they are lost and that only Christ can save them, the Bible will for the most part be a closed book to them.  God is a God of order and if we won’t believe the simple truth of the Gospel, we aren’t going to be able to properly understand truth that was written for a believer.  If we are living a rebellious life as a Christian, we won’t have a clear understanding of Biblical truth.  Since most people want to become experts in the Bible without letting the Holy Spirit teach them precept upon precept as they are ready for the teaching, many turn to religious teachers that are not saved and that are not living in fellowship with the Lord for their teaching.  Some of these teachers are well-educated but they teach the logic of the natural (unregenerated) man rather than the spiritual truth of the Bible.


In order to come to saving faith in the Lord Jesus we have to repent—we need a mind adjustment.  The reason is found in Isaiah 55:8-9 which says,   "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD.  "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”  Just as we needed a mind adjustment in order to trust Christ for salvation, we often need a mind adjustment to understand and apply truth that makes absolutely no sense to the natural person but that makes perfect sense to the spiritual person.  



There is no short-cut to proper Bible interpretation.  It starts with coming to faith in the Lord for salvation.  It requires earnest prayer.  It takes time.  We can get a lot of help from others but ultimately we need to be taught by the Holy Spirit and we need to develop our own convictions.  We also need to remember that letters by the New Testament writers were understood by the recipients without teachers coming along and telling them what the epistles “really meant.”  We need to have confidence that with some help with language and the customs of the day, that we too are intelligent enough to understand the messages found in these letters.  Understanding the letters will help us understand or rightly divide the Word of Truth.


Bruce Collins


Meditation for the week of October 8, 2017

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