Last week I began a series of articles about how to understand the Bible. My premise is that while many Christians say, “All we have to do is obey the word of God and then our nation will return to righteousness,” many of those same Christians don’t agree on what the Bible actually says and means.
This creates a major problem. How can a person obey God’s instructions if they don’t understand what God’s instructions are?
With that thought in mind, I’m laying out some basic principles about how to interpret the scripture in this series of articles. Last week, I shared on the principle of covenants. If you missed last week’s article, you can get it here. The Bible speaks of the New and Old Covenants and we must understand the covenant the writer of a particular book was writing under in order to interpret the meaning of their words. When we understand the principle of covenants, it clarifies why God can appear harsh in the Old Testament and merciful in the New Testament. If you would like to learn more about differences between the covenants check out this message.
Today, I want to examine the difference between inspiration and revelation. I introduced this concept a little last week, but I want to go further in this article. 2 Timothy 3:16 says All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. The word inspire means to be divinely breathed. God breathed into people’s hearts and minds and motivated them to write.
God inspired all of the scripture to be written. This means God either directly spoke to or moved on every single person’s heart who wrote part of the Bible. Most people reading this article who are Christians will agree with that as it’s a pretty simple concept.
Here is the more challenging concept. While God inspired every one who wrote the scripture, not everything contained within the scripture carries equal revelation from God. Said another way, while all of the scripture is God breathed, every statement contained within the scripture did not proceed from the mouth of God. What do I mean by that? Did I just utter heresy? No, I didn’t. Keep reading and I’ll show you.
One of the most misunderstood books of the Bible is the book of Job. Job is a great book and contains valuable insight for Christians to apply to their lives, however, many have confused certain aspects of the book and made incorrect assumptions about God. For example, after Satan destroyed Job’s property and killed all of His children, Job fell into despair and made some rash statements. Look at Job 20-1:21.
20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said:“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
I want you to focus on verse 21. It says, “The Lord gives and The Lord takes away.” It also says that Job made this statement, not God. If you study the account, God didn’t have anything to do with what happened to Job. Satan did. Job didn’t realize this and in his state of despair, he uttered the first thing that came into his mind. Have you ever done this? Have you had a really bad day and complained and said, “God hates me, I’m such a loser?” Most likely you have said this or something similar. Now, is that a true statement? Does God really hate you? No! God loves you with an unfailing love, but sometimes in the heat of the moment we say things we don’t mean. If I was recording the history of your life, I would tell this part of your story as something you said and later repented for.
This is essentially what happens in the book of Job. The author of Job recorded this incident because it is what Job said. This event had to be told in order for all of Job’s story to be relevant. The author of Job also included Job 38-42, where God came on the scene and rebuked Job for things he said. Finally in Job 42:3, Job said, “Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”
The book of Job is about 1-2 year history of the life of a man named Job. Many of the statements contained within the pages of the book absolutely disagree with the nature of God and the will of God. These include Job’s statements of complaining about God and the statements of Job’s friends who said Job must have sinned against God and caused God to turn against him. God also rebukes Job’s friends in Job 42.
God inspired the author of the book of Job to record the entire account, which required the author to record statements that characters made that were not inspired by God. These statements are the passages of scripture that are critical of God or imply Job’s sin is what caused his situation. In order to understand Job, we have to look at the entire story as a whole and understand which character is speaking and what true revelation they had from God when they spoke. Most of the time, they spoke from human reasoning and contradicted the nature of God. The only speaker who had perfect revelation of the mind and will of God in the book of Job was God Himself when He spoke in Job 38-42.
When we learn the difference between inspiration and revelation it clarifies a lot of apparent contradictions. For example, look at John 10:10:
10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
Jesus said that the thief came to steal, kill, and destroy, but He came that we would have an abundant life. Until we understand the principle I taught about examining who is doing the speaking and what they understand about God when they spoke, this passage looks like it doesn’t reconcile with Job 1:20-21.
Think about it, Jesus said, He comes to give abundant life and it is the thief who steals, kills, and destroys, but Job said it was the Lord who gives and takes away. That’s an absolute contradiction if both of those verses came directly from God.
Furthermore, if a person thinks God the Father is the one who gives and takes away, they will struggle to embrace the truth of John 10:10 that God is the giver of abundant life and it is Satan that destroys. This is what keeps many people from being able to fully trust that God is good and He only wants good for them. This keeps them from fulling selling out to God and loving Him with all of their heart because they are always going to wonder is God about to kill my kids, give me cancer, or cause me to lose my job. A lack of revelation hinders true intimacy.
The best way to apply the principle I have taught in this article is to be careful about cherry picking individual verses from the Bible to build doctrines. We need to read the whole book a verse is contained in, understand which covenant it was written under, understand the entire context of the story, who the speakers are, what is going on in the story, and what individual is speaking to properly interpret each passage of scripture. This a major key to proper Bible interpretation!
I hope this article has helped you how to understand the Bible better. I also hope has started to answer questions and unlock the truths of scripture as you have been reading. God is a good God and He wants you to understand Him. He’s not hiding Himself from you, He’s revealing Himself to you. Practicing proper bible interpretation principles will increase your clarity as you study and help you gain more a better understanding of you Father.
Last but not least, if you like a better understanding of the book of Job, watch this message. I spoke in more detail about how to understand this book and answered some other questions you may have about it.
Peace and blessings!