Ever heard someone say, “The Bible is so vague. It could have a thousand meanings.” The reason for this statement is possibly because so many people can come up with so many different meanings from a single verse. For example, Paul tells the churches in Philippi, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) From this people have said God wants them successful, God wants them to succeed at everything they attempt, it is destined for their team to win the Super Bowl, and they can make an “A” on a test even if they have not studied. This leaves us with the question, “How do I know what the Bible really says?” Is it a one-size-fits-all group of fortune cookie quotes?”
The quick answer is, “No.” The slow answer is, “No… it… is… not.” Ha
Here is the first to understanding the Bible. It is one big, inter-connected discourse from God to His Creation. Because of this, it all fits together and no verse should be interpreted without understanding the rest. Also, contained within every section of scripture is an unchanging universal principle (or truth statement) that does not change. The beauty of this is you do not have to do deep word studies and historical deep dives to understand most of these universal truths. All those things can add to the flavor but are not necessary.
Here is an imperfect example. Imagine you are reading a book and come across the statement,
“Jac threw the ball.”
What is the universal truth of this statement? Easy enough, someone threw an object. You can stop right there if you like. There is nothing more you have to know to understand the basic, essential meaning of the text. However, if you are interested you can start studying this context to understand it more fully but it does not change the principle.
Let’s say we decided to study this. The book this statement was found was written in the early 2000s in Kentucky. So, you begin to study the culture and find out that the name “Jac” was used often in that area as a shortened version for Jacquline. So, you know know it was a lady named Jac who threw the ball. Does that change the meaning? No, but it does add flavor. Now we know…
“(A lady named) Jac threw the ball.”
Let’s say we decided to keep studying. We also found out that during that time in Kentucky, the main sport was basketball. So it is reasonable to assume the ball was a basketball. So, now we know…
“(A lady named) Jac threw a (basket)ball.”
Let’s say we decided to keep studying. We also discovered that they would often throw basketballs in a game called dodgeball. Now we know…
“(A lady named” Jac threw a (basket)ball (while playing dodgeball.”
Look at all we know now and all the color added to the statement. However, does it change the universal principle? No. That’s power of studying God’s Word. It adds color but does not change His universal truths to us.