“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.” 2 Peter 1:20–21

Cults are built upon erroneous interpretations of the Bible. Many disciples have been duped to follow charisma and showmanship.

In the days of the apostles, God assigned a special gift to some of the early saints in order to assist in keeping fidelity and vigilance to God’s truth. It was called the gift of discernment (1 Corinthians 12:10). It was one of the sign gifts that were necessary until the canon of Scripture was completed at the close of the Apostolic Age.

How is a believer supposed to protect himself from misuse and disuse of God’s Word? Every saint needs to be a student of the Word. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The tentmaker’s term to “cut straight” is implying accuracy and precision, something that the practiced hand learns to do. Nothing less is fitting for the “Word of truth!”

The Bible is God’s Word. It is not mine or yours. Though it is a gift of God’s love revealed to His creatures, it is to be revered and not tampered with. God’s purpose is to reveal Himself and His two great works: creation and redemption (John 5:39). Through the special revelation of His Word, truths that would otherwise be hidden to us and not discernable through natural revelation found in creation (Romans 1) have been manifested and expounded. Sadly, even those who rightly believe in the inerrancy of the Bible may be guilty of twisting the Scriptures instead of being faithful in interpretation.

In order to accurately interpret Scripture you must diligently labor to study the Word. No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation therefore you must first “clear the deck” before you go about the task of interpreting the Word of God. Integrity, humility, and teachability are hallmarks of a good student. These qualities absolutely require the miracle of being born again since only then is the natural man equipped to grasp spiritual truth in its intent and application by the illumining work of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10). God’s Spirit will open your eyes to your errors, convict you, and produce the fruit necessary in your life so that you may approach the Word with integrity of heart, and He will work to free you from bias.

Bible interpretation is, essentially, the practice of seeking to discover what God is communicating to you on your pilgrimage through life. Each believer is to examine the Bible with the utmost care, to search (1 Peter 1:11). If you are like me, you find yourself often looking for something you inadvertently misplaced. These kinds of searches require diligence, thought, logic, and concentration, while anticipating the joy of discovery. Searching in order to interpret the Word is really no different.

When you seek to interpret any Scripture there are certain things you need to keep in mind. First, rely on the Holy Spirit for direction in understanding God’s Word; 2 Timothy 3:16 declares, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Note: the Word is not given “about” the man of God, but “for” the man of God. It is not a manual for self-diagnosis or for self-satisfaction, rather it is an instruction manual for obedience. Our Tutor is the Holy Spirit.

Second, remember the big picture of each text you study. The Bible is written by one Author using the services of many writers (their experiences, vocabulary, and personality) to record exactly what He stated in the original manuscripts of the Word. Our text explains that there was no private interpretation, meaning that no individual hobby horses crept in to the Word, and no individual input that would corrupt the Word as the writers wrote. By the same token, no believer should yank a portion of Scripture from its context or make an interpretation private to the reader alone. The Word is about the infinite mind of God, not man. Every passage is a part of the broad sweep of the Scripture, it is a part of the unfolding revelation of God to mankind (therefore Scripture is progressive in its revelation). And yet, every passage has a historical context and an intended primary audience leading to primary and secondary meanings (therefore Scripture requires a student to distinguish interpretation from application).

Third, research the text in light of other passages found in the Word of God line upon line, precept upon precept (Isaiah 28:13—let Scripture explain itself). There may be reference words in a text, a theme, a quote, a doctrine to study. Truth, by its very nature, involves structure, it cannot escape it. Sloppy interpretation occurs when rules and distinctions are discarded. Meaning is derived from both the large and small context, including every word and every letter.

The last three steps in interpretation are directed toward the work of the heart (application). Fourth, restate for yourself the plain and obvious meaning of the passage. Fifth, recognize the revelation God has granted concerning Himself and His work. Finally, reflect on how the Scriptural insight instructs, informs, initiates, or ignites you to worship and serve Him: 2 Corinthians 2:17 states, “For we are not, as so many, peddling the Word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.” Trust and obey.