If you had to give a presentation on Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, how would you prepare? Would you study the work of scholars to absorb as much pertinent information and insight as you could? Or would you simply mull the few facts and details you already know, hoping for the shreds of disparate information to coalesce into a useful outline?
Obviously the second method is a path to embarrassment, misinformation, and failure. But why then do we tolerate similar patterns when it comes to studying and teaching God’s Word?
We’ve been identifying some key pitfalls in the area of Bible interpretation, and the next one is simple: avoid superficial study. Good, accurate Bible study is hard work. As we have seen already, discerning what God is saying to us through His Word cannot be done by flipping through quickly and looking for messages wherever our eyes happen to settle. Nor is understanding the Bible a matter of personal opinion (“To me it means…”).
Careful and accurate handling of God’s Word requires diligence. If we are diligent, we can arrive at a correct interpretation of the major truths of Scripture and the general thrust of particular passages. God has not hid His truth from us.
But neither is the meaning of His Word always instantly clear. Sometimes the real meaning of a passage is revealed in an understanding of the culture to which it was addressed. Sometimes it is made clear by a simple nuance in the original language. That’s why we cannot get by with the haphazard ad-libbing and flippant freewheeling that is so popular in some churches today. Some differences of interpretation may never be resolved in this life, but that does not negate our responsibility to study carefully and diligently.