Hermeneutics are the basic principles on how we interpret and study the Bible. These hermeneutics are foundational to understanding the texts of the Scripture in a cohesive and intelligent way. The problem numerous Christians get into when studying the Bible is they don’t have an understanding of the clear rules that apply to Bible study and start making up interpretations based upon their own thoughts and preconceived ideas. If we don’t have a general understanding of how Bible study works we can end up with very strange theology that has nothing to do with the true meaning of the texts.
When studying the Bible we should allow the simplest and most straightforward view of the text be our guide. Jesus tells Peter, “Feed my lambs.” New Christians should be able to study and understand the Bible as well as us old gray beards. We get into trouble when we start reinterpreting the plain word of God into something that it never intended. For example, when we read a text like John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life,” we should accept it for what it says and not start reinterpreting it based on our denominational or personal views. The text says that if you believe in Him you will have eternal life, nothing more and nothing less.
The basic truth of Scripture is that it glorifies Jesus and leads us to Him. In John 5:39 Jesus said, “They are they which testify of me.” In 1 Corinthians 2:2 Paul writes, “For I have decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Also in 1 Corinthians he states, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” 1:22, 33 In John 14:6 Jesus couldn’t have made it any plainer when He told the disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
When we study about Jesus we are introduced to His sinless life lived on our behalf, His death on Calvary’s cross that we may have eternal life as well as His resurrection and ascension. We discover the work of His priestly ministry, the reality of His second coming and ultimate restoration to the garden from, which Adam lost access.
The principle of hermeneutics that a careful student of the Bible should keep in mind is that no teaching or doctrine should be developed upon one verse. In Scripture we have numerous writers and texts that tell us about the second coming of Christ, His atoning sacrifice, His love for and a wide host of other Biblical truths. We get into trouble when we try to build a theology or belief system around one text.
The Bible should be read in context of the surrounding verses and the sister verses in other chapters to give a clearer understanding of the meaning of the text. Once again there are a set of rules governing on how to study a text and if you look up on the Internet under the heading of Exegesis you will find numerous articles on the basics of interpreting verses.
The last hermeneutic I want to mention today is that the Bible should be the final say on what we believe. Of course a Christian should make use of Commentaries, Concordances, etc., but we should under no circumstances depend upon any outside source to develop our theology. Churches such as the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) use outside writing’s extensively to build their theology, and no matter how well intentioned or sincere a person may be, the Bible and the Bible alone must be our guide for our faith. God has provided all we need in the Bible to understand and love Him as well as accept His love and sacrifice for us.
When we depend upon some of these outside writers we can easily be led into side issues that lead us away from Jesus the centrality of Scripture. We will never go wrong trusting the Bible as our source for accepting the grace of God and living the Christian life.
Remember, hermeneutics are simply the tools the Holy Spirit uses in helping us rightly handle the Bible. Prayer and a deep desire to know and understand the Bible are essential in our study. When either prayer, our desire to learn, the Holy Spirit or good hermeneutics is missing we are stunted in our learning.