There are several questions the bible student must ask about each passage as he reads and studies the bible These questions must be asked in order to get the passage in its proper context or misuse and misunderstanding will result.
First ask: who is speaking and to whom is that person speaking. Does the person speaking have the authority to speak for God? Is the person speaking (or writing) Jesus or one inspired by the Holy Spirit and, thus is speaking the words of God? An important example of this is found in John 14:16 and John 14:25, 26 when Jesus, who is speaking promises that He will send the comforter which will bring the things Jesus taught to remembrance and also “teach you all things.”
So, Jesus has the authority to speak for God, but we must ask ourselves who is he saying these words to. Is he promising the comforter to everyone (as some wrongly believe) or is he promising it to someone or some group specifically.
To find out we must see who He is speaking these words to. We have to go back to the previous chapter, verse one, to find that Jesus was eating the Passover supper with His disciples (who later became the Apostles) and He spoke many things to them including the promise of the comforter (Holy Spirit) and some things He spoke were meant for them alone. Jesus was not promising the Holy Spirit to everyone here, but specifically to the Apostles who would later establish His church as found in the book of Acts and had the promise of the comforter fulfilled in Acts 2.
Some, recklessly interpret this passage as a promise to everyone who believes when clearly, keeping it in context, it was meant for the Apostles who had been with Jesus throughout His ministry. The comforter would bring all things Jesus taught to the Apostles memory and teach them all things, which they then revealed to us through their writings and in the book of Acts.
Another question we must ask when we study the bible is: what is the overall context (it may be historical or cultural) of the passage? An example of this is what Jesus says to the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:23. He tells them that they tithe, which was a system of giving that God required of the children of Israel under the old, Mosaic law and He was not condemning them for that.
So, does that mean that we are to tithe under this old system today or was Jesus referring to it since it existed and was in full effect during His time on earth. Jesus was not telling us today that we must follow the old law and tithe today, but rather, seen in its historical context, He was speaking to those who were still under the Mosaic law, which has been done away with under the new covenant we have through Christ (Hebrews 8:13; Jeremiah 31:31-33).
Therefore tithing is not required by Christians today (10 percent is not required) but we are told instead to give as we are prospered by God in 1 Corinthians 16:2 and to give as we purpose in our heart in 2 Corinthians 9:7.
Another question we must ask is what is being taught and how does it apply to me today. Jesus said in John 14:15; “If you love me, keep my commandments.” While, as we have seen, Jesus is speaking to the Apostles here, we can safely conclude that this applies to us as Christians today since it is a general statement. If we love Jesus today we are to keep His commandments and obey Him in all things.
This is shown in many other passages of the New testament as well, so we know it applies to all of us. We are told to love the Lord our God with all of hearts, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37) and this applies to Jesus as well since He is God also. We should love Jesus, at any rate, for all that He has done for us in giving His life on the cross for all mankind, not to mention the wonderful things He has taught us as the Word of God and that He was the one through all things in creation were made (John 1).
So we can see what is being taught in our example and how it applies to us today. We must ask this of every passage we read in the scriptures today.We also must ask what the passage means in light of other scripture. We must let the scriptures interpret the scriptures, so to speak.
Do other passages expound or make more clear the one we are studying. A concordance or commentaries on the scriptures often help us in this, but we must be careful that the human writer of the commentary could be wrong as he is not inspired by the Holy Spirit. We must interpret commentary on what the scriptures really do say and not interpret scripture based solely on commentary or any other humanly devised writings.
Finally, we must ask ourselves: how do we apply what is being taught to our own lives. In the previous example we can see that we are to keep the commandments of Jesus. This means that we are to do the things we find in scripture (not only those lessons taught during His ministry) but all things God would have us do as taught by Jesus, the word of God.
To keep the commandments of Jesus is to keep the commandments of God, the two are inseparable. So, this passage is motivating to us. As we learn to love God and His Son, we are motivated to keep Christ’s commandments and thus live as God would have us live.
So, every passage of scripture (whether old or new testament) we must ask how it can be applied to our lives to make us better and more acceptable in God’s eyes. After all, this is our goal: to be accepted to live with God and all the heavenly host in heaven at the end of time; to be judged acceptable come the judgment day.
Consequently, the bible must be our guide and we must live by its principles in living the godly life. Remember to ask these four questions when you study the scriptures, as they will go a long way in helping you to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
May God bless and keep you until next time.