The God of the Bible is a God Who speaks – and Who speaks clearly. The Bible is like the sun that shines through the fog of our sinful minds and brings revelation from God to bear on our lives. Sadly though, if you look at how many different interpretations for any passage are available in mainline Christianity, it feels more like the Bible is the fog and God speaks only in obscurity and mystical vagueness. But nothing could be farther from the Truth! God is a God of orderliness, Truth and intends for His Word to be clearly understood.
Here are some basic terms and tips for your personal reading and studying of God’s Word that honours the meaning God intended with His Word.
OBSERVATION vs INTERPRETATION vs. APPLICATION (not the same thing! keep them separate!)
What the text says as it is written.
“the art of awareness”
What the text means in its original context.
What is God intending to communicate?
How the text applies to me.
What action does the text require?
So, next time you read a passage in your “quiet-time”, try the following:
- Observation: write down the who? what? where? when? why? how? of the text. Don’t look for “deeper meaning”, just stick to the text in the passage
- Interpretation: write out one sentence in this format: “[the human author] is writing by inspiration to [the original audience] to …”
- Application: write out how the main point of the interpretation should apply to 1) you, and 2) all other Christians. Try to keep the application as narrow and specific as is possible.
Do not selfishly look for a meaning that you like, or deceptively construct a meaning your prefer. God’s Word must be honoured, not abused. In this way your quiet time is not a mere self-help exercise, but truly a God-spoke-to-me time of devotion.