Interpretation: discover what it means
While observation leads to an accurate understanding of what the Word of God says, interpretation goes a step further and helps you understand what it means. As you seek to interpret the Bible accurately, the following guidelines will be helpful:
1. Remember that context rules. The word "context" means that which goes with the text. If you lay the solid foundation of observation, you will be prepared to consider each verse in the light of the surrounding verses, the book in which it is found, and the entire Word of God. As you study, ask yourself: Is my interpretation of this passage of Scripture consistent with the theme, purpose, and structure of the book in which it is found? Is it consistent with other Scripture about the same subject? Am I considering the historic and cultural context? Never take a Scripture out of its context to make it say what you want it to say. Discover what the author is saying; don't add to his meaning.
2. Always seek the full counsel of the Word of God.When you know God's Word thoroughly, you will not accept a teaching simply because someone has used one or two isolated verses to support it. Those verses may have been taken out of context or other scriptures overlooked or ignored that would have led to a different understanding. As you read the Bible more extensively, you will be able to discern whether a teaching is biblical or not. Saturate yourself in the Word of God; it is your safeguard against wrong doctrine.
3. Remember that Scripture will never contradict Scripture. The best interpretation of Scripture is Scripture. Remember, all Scripture is inspired by God. It is God breathed. Therefore, Scripture will never contradict itself. Sometimes, however, you may find it difficult to reconcile two seemingly contradictory truths taught in Scripture, such as the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. Don't take a teaching to an extreme that God doesn't. Simply humble your heart in faith and believe what God says, even if you can't fully understand or reconcile it at the moment.
4. Don't base your convictions on an obscure passage of scripture. An obscure passage is one in which the meaning is not easily understood. Because they are difficult to understand they should not be used as a basis for establishing doctrine.
5. Interpret Scripture literally The Bible is not a book of mysticism. God spoke to us that we might know truth. Therefore, take away the Word of God at face value - in it's natural, normal sense. Look first for the clear teaching of Scripture, not a hidden meaning.
6. Look for the single meaning of the passage. Always try to understand what the author had in mind when you interpret a portion of the Bible. Don't twist verses to support a meaning that is not clearly taught. Unless the author indicates that there is another meaning to what he says, let the passage speak for itself.