Wednesday, September 8, 2021

IBS-13 The ABC's of Interpretation


Big Idea: Use the acronym ABC to understand the meaning of the Bible.

What could it mean?

The Star Trek: Next Generation episode, “A Matter of Perspective,” (S3E14) has Riker on trial for the murder of a scientist. The courtroom, created on the holodeck, recreates the scene from each person’s perspective. Truth wins based on indisputable evidence at the end.

Today’s culture values relativity. Everyone has a right to their opinion, believing truth is relative to each individual’s point of reference. Everyone experiences life filtered by personal experience. However truth is fixed, not a moving target. It can be determined.

The Word of God expresses truth in cultural and temporal ways but its Biblical truth is timeless unalterable truth. The Holy Spirit with careful Biblical study guides us to truth. The Bible is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16)  who moved humans by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21) to write the words. Start with prayer. Who better to ask than the author?

Interpret a passage more easily using the A-B-C’s.

1. Verify the APPARENT.

a. Simplicity. Usually Biblical truth is easily apparent. God wants us to know Him. He doesn’t fill the Bible with booby traps.

b. Literal. Allegories, parables etc were used by ancient writers but not in every chapter and verse. Consider the literary style of the book. For Poetic, Prophetic and Apocalyptic styles keep literary device in mind. Historical Narrative is usually literal.

c. Stated purpose. Often the Bible identifies why it was written. The author states it clearly or Jesus tells us directly. Look for these statements. 

It seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught. Luke 1:3-4 NASB95

I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God. I Timothy 3:15 NASB95

2. Verify the BIBLE as a whole.

a. Themes throughout the Bible. Many key themes run throughout; love, sin, redemption, light….

b. Cross References. Scripture Interprets Scripture. Cross references show other places that are similar. Often found in the margin in a study Bible or in other resources, follow the trail.

c. Word Study. Through a concordance and other tools, examine the word use in other places.  Check it in the original language for translation and usage. (How to do that is for another blog post)


3. Verify the CONTEXT.

a. Paragraph, chapter, book. Look at the passage comparing paragraphs in the chapter, chapter themes, book themes, etc. What is stated around the verse?

b. Author, audience. Review the writer and who they addressed. Background of author.

c. Timeline, period, circumstance. Familiarize yourself with backdrop of the writing; period world powers, civilizations, lifestyle and culture.


4. Verify with DISCERNMENT.

a. Warning. An obscure verse/passage, especially out of context, cannot create new “truth.” It must line up with the rest of Scripture and the historical church God has led.

b. God focused. Seek God. Keep Jesus primary. Seek the Holy Spirit. Elevate the Bible as writings to us from God. Assume it’s God infused and true.

c. Timeless truth. Ask the meaning to people in Biblical times. Ask what the timeless truth is that transcends time. Ask what that timeless truth is for us today.


This is thirteenth in a series called Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.

Up next: That's Really What it Said!
Previous post: Chapter Theme
Table of Contents 



1. What is a verse you find confusing? Have you tried anything to understand it better?

2. Does this give you a fresh idea to explore the meaning of a passage? We will be unpacking these suggestions over the next several weeks.

3. Pray for God to open your eyes to learn how to find understanding.

I pray that the glorious Father, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know Christ better. Ephesians 1:17 GW

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