Three Rules for Reading Scripture

by Richard Mansel

In school I was asked to read, “The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Text.” One chapter by S.V. McCasland, entitled, “Matthew Twists the Scriptures,” was filled with outlandish statements. McCasland said, “Matthew felt free in changing and distorting the Scriptures.” /1 Someone was indeed “distorting,” but it was not Matthew!

Far too often people read the Bible and miss the truth completely. Strangely, there are atheists and agnostics who call themselves Bible “scholars.” They come to the Scriptures with completely different presuppositions. They lower the Bible down to the level of any other book and presume it is filled with errors.

Peter said of the abuses of the writings of Paul, “that those who are untaught and unstable twist (them) to their destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16, NKJV). As Solomon said, truly “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

We should understand that, when we approach Scripture, we must keep three rules in mind.

First, God is always good (Exodus 34:6). His “goodness endures continually” (Psalm 52:1). He is eternal, all powerful, all knowing, “awesome” and incomparable (Deuteronomy 33:27; Jeremiah 32:17,27; 1 John 3:20; Psalm 66:3; Psalm 86:8).

If we presuppose that God is good, it will help us avoid the pitfalls of blaming God for things he is not responsible for. Many times people leave God because they believe he killed their child, spouse, or parent.

Remembering that God is always good will lead to more thought and study and possibly prevent a soul from being eternally lost. While suffering and death are difficult, complex subjects, we must study them through the lens that says, “God is always good.” The Psalmist said, “As for God, His ways are perfect” (Psalm 18:30). With these backdrops in mind, we can come to conclusions more in line with God’s will.

Second, God is always right (Psalm 18:30). While this second rule may seem redundant, it nonetheless contains a nuanced difference. God’s ways are perfect and will always lead to what is best for us (Romans 8:28).

When we read Scripture and we are given a path by God to take, it will always be the right path. Too often when we face a difficult decision, we assemble various options. We speak to our friends, family, co-workers, the latest self-help guru, and we also pray. We line all these options up as equal, and we pick the one that is most beneficial. The problem is that we are making God’s choice equal with everyone else’s. Instead, we should take God’s way because he is always right.

Third, Scripture is always right (Psalm 19:7,8). We cannot discount how empowering this rule would be to millions of people. To come to the Bible presupposing that it is inspired and perfect (2 Timothy 3:16,17) would prevent so many problems.

People will read two passages and dispense with one because they think it contradicts the other. Rather, they should realize that Scripture is perfect and they just have not figured out how the two passages agree. “The benefit of the doubt is to be given to the document itself, not unjustly assumed by the critic to himself.” /1

For example, some have said that the book of James should not be in the Bible because they could not rationalize Ephesians 2:8,9 with James 2:24. This misinterpretation is the fault of the reader, not the Scriptures. These two passages agree completely.

With these three rules in mind, we will have a happier and healthier study of the word of God.
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1/ Josh McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999), 408-409.

2 thoughts on “Three Rules for Reading Scripture

  1. Thank you, Mike. I am honored to be able to provide edifying articles for you. Thank you for reading Forthright.
    Richard Mansel

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