15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth. (2Tim 2:15, HCSB)

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, 15 and you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2Tim 3:14-17, HCSB)


To discover the meaning of the text, we must take all the good observations we can gather, and we must use them to answer one crucial question:

What did this mean to the original audience???

If we can’t answer that question, we are stuck without a good understanding to the passage. Even if it is a passage that has extra meaning for later readers, like a prophecy about Jesus, that secondary meaning will NEVER violate the original meaning. The key to understanding the passage is always in the original meaning!

How do we get to the original meaning?

We turn our observations into good questions for the text:

  • · Why did he use that word?
  • · Why did the original audience need to know this?
  • · Could this mean ________? (Yes, Maybe, No—that doesn’t fit other parts of the Bible)

Howard Hendricks: Living By the Book videos:

Interpretation Part 1

Interpretation Part 2

Interpretation Part 3


Bible Misinterpretations:

Examples of Misuse: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9ZxKAObpV4

Common Mistakes in Bible Interpretation:

1. Using a story as a template or method for spiritual action, when that’s not why the story was written. For example, many preachers have used Jesus encounter with the woman at the well as a guide for how we are to share our faith. While the encounter can hint at some helpful behaviors when having a faith conversation, it was not written to teach us how to share our faith, it is written to record Jesus’ ministry and reveal His character.

Good: Jesus was willing to cross cultural boundaries and common prejudice to have a faith conversation.

Bad: Jesus (a) sat near a common gathering place, (b) pointed out people’s moral failings, (c) addressed people’s misunderstanding of faith, and (d) immediately compelled people to share new faith with everyone they knew…therefore we should do it too.

2. Take a piece of a passage and use it to make our point as if that was the overall message of the Bible, without representing the author or Bible’s overall attitude or meaning.

Peeing Standing Up https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNCoevpt5TE

Bad: “He will give you the desires of your heart.” – God promised to give me what I want.

Good: “Delight yourself in the Lord, AND He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Bad: “The Bible says that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of sodomy. Homosexuals are going to hell…you’re screwed. Get lost, loser.”

Good: God is willing to take radical action against sin, so that the world does not descend into total chaos…and it says that homosexuality (as well as any other sex outside of marriage) is a major issue that destroys society. But the big message of the Bible is that God forgives our past and wants us to see why He created and established morality: for our own good. Let’s start with Jesus before we address a side issue like sex.

3. Seeing Jesus in everything: the gospel-centered mistake.

God had a LOT more to teach us through the story of David and Goliath than the mistake Matt points out, or his David was Jesus interpretation misleads us to believe.


David and Goliath is

  • · a story showing King Saul who God has anointed as the next king…giving him an opportunity to support God’s plan.
  • · A story showing all of Israel who was their next king, and that Saul was no longer the one with the power of God’s spirit.
  • · A story highlighting the power we have when God’s spirit is working through us to accomplish his purposes, just like it worked through Saul and Sampson.
  • · A story showing that God delivers His people from the hands of enemies.
  • · A story reminding us that God likes to have the odds stacked against Him and His people, so that He can deliver via miracle, not via the strength of a big army, so that humans get the credit.

Eisegesis: Reading our own meaning into the passage.
Our greatest enemy is our own passion and conviction.

  • · We can be too passionate about specific spiritual truth, and over-emphasize it to the determent of other truth that is MORE important or that needs to come first, before less mature believers can understand our meaning. Examples:
    • o Talking about morality from the standpoint of “because God said so” to an audience of non-believers.
    • o Trying to get people who just came to faith to understand the creation/evolution debate.
  • · We can be passionate about a wisdom issue that the Bible does not teach, and try to find a passage of Scripture we can teach it from.
    • o The Bible does not say we must take our spouse on a weekly date. It’s a good idea…its not a command of Scripture. There are other ways to apply a verse like, “Love your wives as Christ loved the church.”
  • · We can struggle with a sin or prejudice issue and get tired of feeling guilty about it, so we change our interpretation of a passage or word to accommodate our sin without guilt.
    • o “Sexuality immorality doesn’t include pornography because…”
    • o “White people are the superior race because the other skin colors are part of the curse God put on Cain”

Good pastors preach bad sermons.

We will all fall to this temptation at times in our lives. Don’t judge a preacher based on a single sermon. Every pastor I have known for long has made a mistake. Personal agendas are hard to see in ourselves at times. Most agendas are born from a passion to do what is good and right, not to manipulate.


Example Sermons to Listen to:

· Judah Smith on Psalm (good)

· Judah Smith on Feeding of Five Thousand (bad)



Tell me about a bad sermon you have heard, and what was wrong with it…

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