I had to read it several times to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me. Once I concluded that I’d indeed read what I thought I had, my head drooped in disappointment. To help prepare for my own class, I had purchased a Bible study aid from one of the world’s most well-loved and well-followed Bible teachers. I had previously benefitted from their work and looked forward to gaining their insight for my current series.
However, very early in this particular book, the author had asked the readers what they thought a particular phrase in the Bible meant. I have no problem with that question, for asking students what they think something means is a great way to gauge the class’ understanding of the material. So, it certainly wasn’t the question that was of concern – it was what followed that made my heart drop.
After asking the question, and encouraging readers to write down their own thoughts, the teacher stated, “Of course, there is no right or wrong answer.” Please understand that I respect this teacher a great deal, and I’m willing to give them the benefit of a doubt that an error had occurred on their part or an editor’s part. Or, perhaps they were just having a bad day.
Either way, it presents an opportunity to remind ourselves that if God’s Word is inspired, as it claims, then God inspired each writer to select each word with care and purpose. Both the human and the divine writers meant something when they wrote. Meaning there is a right and wrong answer to the question, “What does this verse or passage mean?” Now, that doesn’t imply we’ll always understand or like what it means, but at least we must start with the agreement that God intended something!
If we don’t understand what the Word means, then we have little chance of correctly applying it to our lives. When attempting to accurately break down Scripture, it is important to ask these basic questions – What does it say? What does it mean? How does it apply to my life? The last relies completely on the first two. Without it, the cart can become unhitched from the horse, careen ahead, and cause great harm. So, make sure what you apply is based on God’s Word, and not the opinion of any man – including me! –Dave
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17)
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