"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). Here, Paul tells Timothy how important it is to study God's word. This leads to an understanding of what God wants from us so we can be approved in his sight. The following is a list of rules that should be followed when studying the Bible so that we can divide the word of truth correctly.
1. Be objective -- seek the truth.
If we read the bible with preconceived ideas, or with the purpose of proving our own beliefs, we will not find the truth. The purpose of our study, therefore, must be to seek the truth.
2. Reach a conclusion only after you have studied what the entire Bible says about the subject.
Much error has been taught concerning salvation because people have failed to follow this rule.
3. Determine who is speaking.
Inspired men wrote the Bible, but they sometimes quoted uninspired men.
5. Determine to whom it is spoken.
God's command to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on an altar (Genesis 22:2) is obviously not binding upon us today. Let us make sure that God is talking to us.
6. Interpret each passage in the light of its context.
For example, in 1 Corinthians 7:7, Paul says, "For I would that all men are even as myself" (i.e. unmarried). Does Paul command that we should be unmarried? A reading of the surrounding verses explains why he made such a statement. In verse 26, he says, "I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress." The present distress was the severe persecution that existed then. So, if we just read the context we will avoid many misunderstandings.
7. Never interpret a passage so as to contradict another passage.
If your interpretation of a passage contradicts another, then you know that your interpretation is wrong.
8. Use standard helps in understanding the Bible.
The following things will help:
• A good English dictionary will help us understand the meaning of words today.
• A good Bible dictionary will help us understand the meaning of Bible words.
• A concordance is helpful in looking up passages on the same topic.
• Another translation will help. Comparing the King James Version with the American Standard or the Revised Standard translation helps our understanding.