I previously challenged you to use the Bible, God’s word, as the final source of authority and truth for your faith (see Part 1 of Discerning the Truth). I also challenged you to learn to study God’s word so you will not be fooled by false teaching. Paul challenged Timothy to do the same thing:
Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth
-2 Timothy 2:15
Notice that Timothy was challenged to be one who “correctly explains” the Scriptures. Unfortunately, many people incorrectly explain the Scriptures. The Bible, like any other book, can be misquoted, misused, and twisted.
Here’s an extreme example. I can use Bible verses to promote suicide:
Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.
. . . Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
(Matthew 27:5; Luke 10:37)
As you can see, I’ve completely twisted the Scriptures by copying and pasting them. I have taken the words out of their original context. Of course the Bible does not condone suicide! My point is this: you can make any book mean anything you want if you use it improperly. This is a simple illustration of what happens when people take Bible verses and interpret them out of context. In much the same way, many people/religions end up with false beliefs because they copy-and-paste the Bible.
Here are a couple of simple things that you can do to understand what the Bible really means:
1. Read a passage of Scripture in context. When studying a Scripture verse, look it up and read the whole chapter of the Bible where the verse is found. Read before and after the verse. Find out who wrote/spoke this passage and who he was talking to.
I started doing this when I was a teenager with no formal theological training. I found that simply reading a passage in context made things much clearer and exposed the vast majority of false teachings/teachers.
2. Remember that Scripture should interpret Scripture. You can usually find more than one Bible passage about a particular topic. If one passage is not 100% clear, it is wise to look for other passages that explain things more thoroughly. Study and see what the whole Bible teaches about a particular topic.
My next article will deal with some “warning signs” or “red flags” of false beliefs/religions.
See Also: Discerning the Truth Part 3
More from my site