Dr. Mark Allison was the minister of Malvern FPC, PA until 2014. He currently serves as President of Geneva Reformed Seminary, Greenville SC. We interviewed him to get some helpful tips to understanding the Word of God.
What are the key proofs for the Bible’s inspiration?
The Bible claims inspiration for itself. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we read, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” The Greek word for inspiration means “God-breathed.” This term indicates that God breathed out an inspired book that is profitable to the believer and sufficient for his spiritual needs (v. 17). In 2 Peter 1:21, Peter writes, “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” The word “moved” has the idea of being born along. God moved upon the writers of Scripture producing a unique and inspired book. God used the personalities of the writers while at the same time delivered to His people a perfect and infallible book. David wrote, “The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and His word was in my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2). “It is not merely that God elevated men’s minds, but that He directed their thoughts. It is not simply that He communicated concepts to them, but that He dictated the very words used” (A. W. Pink).
What does inspiration mean in real terms to the reader and the church?
The inspiration of the Bible means that it has the authority of God on it. The Bible takes precedence over every other book. It gives to mankind a revelation with the stamp of heaven upon it. Closely associated with this authority is the Scripture’s accuracy. The Bible gives exactly what God’s will is. It is because of its authority and accuracy that a believer’s life, or even a congregation’s life, can know God’s desire for them both as to their eternal salvation and how they are to live in this life.
How should we read and study this inspired book?
We should look to God for His help in the study of His Word. In Psalm 119:18, we read, “Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law.” It is God’s Spirit that gives the anointing or unction necessary to properly interpret the Scriptures (1 John 2:20-27). In our study we must also study the Word in its context and at the same time compare Scripture with Scripture. Isaiah wrote, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (8:20). Like the Bereans of old, we should “receive the word with all readiness of mind, and search the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). We must also look for Christ and our salvation in the Word of God. Christ said, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39).
What is the first principle of interpretation of the inspired Bible?
We must take the Word of God as literal as the context demands. There are some contexts that are poetic or have figurative language that must be interpreted as such. For instance, Christ is said to have seven horns and seven eyes (Revelation 5:6). That would mean the sovereign Christ has perfect power and perfect knowledge. Apart from these figurative portions, the Bible was written to be understood literally and the believer must resist the twisting of Scripture by the devil or his emissaries.
Do we depend on the grammar of the Bible to search out its meaning?
The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Through the labour of God’s servants, we possess in the Authorized Version a translation that is very accurate, readable, and dignified. Our translation is in English, so a working knowledge of English grammar is of value in our study. Still, without violating English grammar, we remain in darkness and prejudice because of our sinful nature. We must rely on the help and leading of God’s Spirit in studying the book He has written. Thankfully, believers have the author of the Bible as their indwelling teacher (1 John 2:27).
What is the biggest failure in Bible Study?
We are not to add to, take away from, nor deliberately twist the Scriptures. Most of God’s people would readily agree to that assertion. But perhaps the biggest problem with the study of the Bible is, after seeing Christ and His salvation, we fail to make application to our life. This failure of application destroyed many in the wilderness. “The word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it” (Hebrews 4:2). We must be “doers of the Word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). Thomas Manton wrote, “It will not answer our duty to have a naked notion of truths, unless we embrace and pursue them.”