In class this past Sunday I mentioned a good rule for interpreting Scripture – namely that we should interpret the difficult, less clear passages by the more passages in Scripture that are explicit. We should always interpret the implicit by the explicit.
I mentioned that this method of interpretation falls under what is called ‘The Analogy of Faith’ which puts forth the idea that all Scripture should be interpreted by Scripture because there are no contradictions in Scripture. J.I. Packer notes that, “The Word of God is an exceedingly complex unity.”
R.C. Sproul says, “the supreme arbiter in interpreting the meaning of a particular verse in Scripture is the overall teaching of the Bible.” If we come across a word or phrase that seems to contradict what we see plainly tough in other parts of Scripture, then we need to ask ourselves if we’re reading this verse correctly and begin to test our thoughts against what we know is plainly taught in other parts of Scripture.
Lastly, if you are stumped by a passage of Scripture, it is helpful to seek guidance from those who are wiser than you are. This is why Biblical commentaries are written, and why leaders in the church are supposed to help the layperson clearly understand the scripture. This was the even the case in the Old Testament (see Nehemiah 8:8).
More resources on correctly interpreting Scripture:
R.C Sproul’s series (there is also a book) called ‘Knowing Scripture’ (all levels of maturity) Here’s a link to the book.
A longer article by J.I. Packer on interpretation (more advanced)
A few good Bible Commentaries for your own personal study are:
Matthew Henry – good for all levels, though the english is older
Crossway’s Individual Bible Commentaries – good for a serious student
Warren Wiersbe Commentary Set – good for beginners
Believer’s Bible Commentary – good for all levels
John MacArthur’s Commentary Set – good for the serious student
Calvin’s Commentary Set – good for the advanced student