If a boy is stepping up to the plate in a baseball game, his ability to hit the ball is going to depend a lot on his mindset. If he is not confident in his ability to track a pitch, he may not swing at anything. If he is over confident, he may swing at everything. If he is scared of getting hit by the ball, he may flinch every time the ball is headed to the plate. He may get a hit every now and then, but every coach wants their players to have the right attitude and mindset because they are going to be much more successful. In a similar way, if we all had the right mindset in our approach to the Bible we would have greater success in understanding it.
Let’s say one person reads the Bible because they believe it is a good book but not a book from God. Another person reads the Bible and they think that the thoughts are from God but not the individual words. Then another person reads who believes that every word in the Bible is the word of God. Isn’t it easy to see how those three people are going to draw different conclusions? The first is going to immediately reject the Genesis account of creation as a legend. The second person is going to believe that God created the world, but the specifics are open for interpretation. The third person is going to believe the Genesis account of creation took place just like it said.
Mindsets are going to affect the way we make applications as well. For instance, there are clearly defined roles of men and women in the worship of the church. One example can be found in 1 Timothy 2:12, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet”.
Why do more and more churches allow women preachers? Because people read the bible looking for the “thought” that God wants us to understand rather than to obey the actual words. People will say a woman can serve in a preaching role as long as the submission principle hasn’t been violated.
The person who believes that every word is inspired of God is going to take the Bible for what it says, because God had intention behind every word. They will realize that the principle of “not exercising authority” over a man is in addition to what was said about preaching. This bible student will realize that in all aspects of worship, a woman shouldn’t take a role of authority. Therefore, there will not be women leading public prayers, acting as a song leader, and so on.
The person who looks for the principle will read the worship instructions of Jesus in John 4:24, “They that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth” and disregard the meaning of those specific words. They will identify that God wants us to be sincere in our worship. Operating under that principle, this person is able to make worship to be anything that they want it to be, caring only of sincerity.
The person who believes that every word is inspired will read that same verse and pay attention to the words “spirit and truth” because Jesus said true worshippers “must” worship that way. They will look up what truth is in the bible and realize that in John 17:17 Jesus said, “Sanctify them in truth, thy word is truth”. Applying that definition to truth in John 4:24 they will see that they need to worship God in the way that the New Testament teaches. Then they will look for the acts of worship that can be identified in the New Testament and do those and only those. So they will have preaching, giving, praying, the Lord’s Supper, and acapella congregational singing.
The question is, what mindset should we have towards the Bible? Thought for thought of word for word?
Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3 when he was being tempted of the Devil and said “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”. Please notice the emphasis for us in “every word”. Compare that to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-18 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (18) For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”. An iota or dot would be comparable to us saying “cross your t’s and dot your i’s”. In other words, Jesus is not only affirming every word is inspired, but even the individual pen strokes were.
Paul said in 2 Tim 3:16 that all scripture is inspired by God. That word “inspired” literally means “God-breathed”. This breath of God came from the Holy Spirit, “…but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:21). Paul will point out that the word’s we have in the New Testament are given in the same way (1 Cor 2:13), and that the word’s we have are “the commandment of the Lord” (1 Cor 14:37). It is no wonder then that God gives such vivid warnings of adding, removing, and altering his word (Deut 4:2, 12:32, Gal 1:6-9, Rev 22:19)
Not only will this correct approach allow us to understand the Bible alike, but it will allow us to understand it correctly (2 Tim 2:15)