by Rayola Kelley
Q: I am confused by the various interpretations of Scripture that come from different camps of beliefs and schools of religious thought. How can I know which one is right?
A: One of the reasons you can hear various interpretations of Scriptural truths is because people are at different places in their lives. It is important to remember that each of us have our own particular course we must walk and our own cross to bear. Depending on their challenges and point of spiritual growth, each person is having their own personal experiences in their relationship with God. In such cases, experiences may be applicable or they may be something to put on the shelf for future reference. However, the truth of a matter must always be properly received and applied, because spiritual truths are not only applicable, but living.
It is vital that you discern where you are and what will best benefit your personal growth at the present. Keep in mind, the real teacher is the Holy Spirit. You must also remember that it is not the vessel that must be properly tested, but the message to see if it is in line with the intent and complete counsel of the Word of God. You also must discern the preacher/teacher’s approach towards the Word of God. There are various approaches that will lead to different results. You must discern the extent of the type of striving you need to make in your spiritual growth. To determine the goal of your spiritual progress will determine how you will approach the Word. Following are some of the ways that people approach God’s Word.
Out of duty: Some people approach God’s Word as a duty. Duty points to discipline, however, reading and studying the Bible is not a matter of discipline alone, but a necessity that ensures spiritual growth and maintenance. Granted, we need to discipline ourselves to establish healthy attitudes and habits towards the Word, but we must do so because we understand that we live by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. His Words are our milk to grow on, our bread that establishes us, our meat that brings us to maturity, and water that washes, cleanses, and revives. People who approach God’s Word as simply a duty often become bored, resentful, or rigid about it.
As an informational book: There are those who approach the Bible to get the facts. Granted, the Bible is full of facts, but facts alone are like pieces of a puzzle. If you do not connect the different pieces of facts with Spirit and truth, you will never see the full picture. You might prove to be literal about what you know, but there will be no real depth or life to it. People who get stuck in the literal rut of the Bible can become bigoted and dogmatic about what they do know and closed to liberating truths that do not fit into their biased understanding.
A doctrinal discourse: The Bible talks about the pure milk of doctrine. Correct doctrine must be established to ensure a correct foundation, but as Hebrews 5:11-6:2 states that we must graduate from the milk of the doctrine and go on to perfection by developing the necessary teeth to chew the meat of the Word (righteousness). The Bible is not simply about doctrine, but about establishing the life of Christ in us. This means being established in our Christian walk according to the righteous disposition, attitude, examples, and instructions of Christ. This is the way in which the very life of Christ is worked in, through, and out of us. The problem with staying at the doctrinal plateau is that people have a tendency to become self-righteous.
A matter of principles: Principles are based on the law we subject ourselves to. There is the law of sin and death and the law of Spirit and life in Christ Jesus. The principles we walk in will reveal what law we are under. For instance, if you are under the law of sin and death you will be walking according to the principles of iniquity. If you are under the law of the Spirit, you will be walking according to the principles of godliness. The principle we are walking according to will manifest itself in two ways, the fruits that come forth in our lives and the spiritual growth (Spirit) or consequences (fleshly) that follow us. Subsequently, the principles of godliness are to lead us to greater revelations of Christ. It is as we walk according to revelations that are unveiled to us by the Spirit that the truths of Christ will become our presiding reality. If people fail to walk out principles to receive greater revelations of Christ, such principles can become causes that are unfairly used to judge and compare self with others.
Approach to believe: The only way we can effectively approach the Bible to get the most out of it is to believe it is true (Romans 10:17). As we approach it to believe it, the Spirit will lead us to all truth, making the revelation of Christ our reality.
Through the years I have approached the Bible from all of these premises. God has used each one to teach me, but as I look back it was where I was in my spiritual growth. Each premise can prove to prepare us to be established at the next place of spiritual development. You must discern where you are and proceed to the next level of growth, while avoiding the pitfalls that can plague each stage of spiritual advancement.
If you would like to know more about this subject, my book, My Words are Spirit and Life,in my first volume, will give a greater explanation about these approaches and what it means to properly handle the Word of God.