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There is a lot at stake when it comes to reading the Bible. If you read it correctly, we believe God can show you His holiness and the universal problem of sin. He can use His word to reveal the way of salvation through Jesus Christ to you, and He can show you how to live in a way that is pleasing to Him. 
But, if you read the Bible incorrectly, you may actually be led even further astray. You may become more entrenched in your own man-made religious beliefs. You may fall into the trap that has claimed so many cults and false teachers. You may become self-righteous and hypocritical, emphasizing a form of godliness without having the power of God in your life (2 Timothy 3:5 ESV). 
This is a frightening thought because reading the Bible incorrectly has moral implications. If you submit to how God wants it to be read, then you will be rewarded, but if you reject His word, you will be condemned. Paul made this very clear when he wrote the following inspired words, “Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” (1 Thessalonians 4:8) 
So how can we make sure we are reading the Bible correctly? It all starts with an attitude of submitting to God. It starts by opening the Bible and saying, “I am ready to hear and obey.” This cuts directly against the human tendency to read our own interpretation into what we see and hear. If we humble ourselves and recognize that the Bible is a supernatural record of God’s thoughts and actions in human history, then we will be ready to let the original author’s message impact our lives the way God intended. 
One reason I wanted to write about this is because I am going through a men’s Bible study on hermeneutics. Hermeneutics teaches believers how to study Scripture correctly. We are using a class developed by Dr. Abner Chou for the Institute for Church Leadership. He gives four reasons why we need to care about how we read the Bible. 
The first reason is this, “Hermeneutics drives the entire theological enterprise.” How we interpret the Bible is one of the most foundational aspects of understanding God’s word. If we make the mistake of reading our own thoughts into the passage or of creating an allegorical meaning out of every Old Testament passage, then the end result will be skewed. If we care about understanding God correctly, then we have to care about interpreting the Bible correctly. 
Dr. Abner Chou’s second reason for studying hermeneutics is because of how easy it is to interpret the Bible incorrectly. He gives many examples of people taking verses out of context and using a false interpretation for their own personal gain. Dr. Chou makes the sobering claim that the uninformed reader of the Bible will most likely come to the wrong interpretation! This is one reason why finding trustworthy teachers is such an important part of studying the Bible. You might spend years sitting under someone’s teaching, but if they have not been taught correctly, then you are probably wasting your time!
The third reason given for studying hermeneutics is because Christians need to live with conviction. How can a pastor say, “Thus says the Lord” if he doubts that he is reading the Bible correctly? Unfortunately, it is becoming more rare to find people who are committed to not only studying Scripture, but to studying it the way God intended. 
The last reason for learning how to read Scripture is because God cares about how Scripture is read. Deuteronomy 18:18 says this, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.” Not only does God care about those who speak God’s word. He also cares about those who hear it. His word tells us he will hold those who listen accountable as well! 
The judgment of God should be discussed when teaching hermeneutics because if people study the Bible incorrectly, they will not be saved from their sin. The Bible makes it clear that those who reject Christ as Lord will be condemned before a holy God. This is what Paul had in mind when he wrote the following warning to Timothy, “Charge them before God not to war against words, which does not good, but only destroys the hearers.” (2 Timothy 2:14; Authors translation) Paul warned Timothy that spiritual destruction was inevitable if leaders allowed the church to war against the clear teaching of God’s word. 
This is a sobering message that Christians need to hear. Instead of defining hermeneutics as an academic issue for biblical scholars to quarrel over, we need to realize God has equipped each of us to be theologians who can study God’s word on our own. Not only are Christians equipped to study God’s word correctly, but we have a moral obligation to understand it and submit our lives to it. We need to have the words of God ringing in our ears, “But be doers of the word and no hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22) May God give us the strength, stamina, and dedication to meditate on God’s word and put it into practice.

Pastor Tim Dinkins is attending Grace Bible Church in Hanford. You can reach him at timothydinkins@gmail.com.

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