Say What? [Spiritual Cutlery: Interpretation]


My 20-month old little man is exploding with attempts at communication. 

Some are simple to understand like "wuf" (I see a dog), "dada Acco" (daddy's at work), and "ma" (more), while others require more skill in the interpretive department. 

At mealtimes, he often makes a panting sound like that of a desperately dehydrated out-of-shape person exercising. I've had people look at me strangely, back to the little panting one, and then ask, "Is he okay?" 

I laugh and nod. "That means he wants a drink of water." 

Likewise, when studying Scripture, some passages can be a bit more straightforward when it comes to interpreting. For example, at first glance, "Be kind to one another," (Eph. 4:32) seems simpler to interpret than why 70,000 men died because King David ordered a census (2 Sam. 24:1-25). 

Once we comprehend what Scripture says, we move to interpret what it means. 

Without spending time with my little man, or having an interpreter close by, you wouldn't be able to interpret all of the Eli-isms without asking questions.

Thankfully, Jesus invites us to ask, seek and knock, and has told us that the Holy Spirit will be our teacher and guide.   


When we begin a conversation, we normally greet the other person and studying Scripture is no different. Begin your time with God by greeting Him before you open your Bible:

Good Morning Lord. Would you be my teacher this morning? Would you open my mind so I can understand Scripture? 

This conversation continues as we read a passage then ask Him, "What does it say?" 

When reading through John 1:1-18 from a "bird's eye view," I made these observations as I asked, what does it say?

  • In the beginning was the WORD
  • LIFE was in Him (the Word)
  • He was the LIGHT of men
  • SO THAT all might believe 
  • The WORD became FLESH and took up residence among us
  • The One and Only Son from the Father was full of GRACE and TRUTH

I've learned to expect a great deal of variety among what many people observe from the same passage. The Holy Spirit seems to illuminate different things to different people. How God's Word is alive and active is beautiful and mysterious to me (Heb. 4:12).

Once we've comprehended what the passage says, we shift from the big picture to the small and take on the "worm perspective," as we dig through Scripture to answer, "What does it mean?"

The golden rule of interpretation is let Scripture interpret Scripture.

Rather than being pulled into, "Well I think that...," let God's Word have the final say. Embrace the process.

Be willing to bring God and godly people your questions.

Journey with the Word:

This week, go back through John 1:1-18 and ask, "What does it mean?"

Here a few questions you may ask when interpreting John 1:1-18: 

  • Who wrote the book, who is it written to, and why did they write it? (study Bible notes encouraged!)
  • How does it fit into the verses before and after?
  • What reason might the Holy Spirit have included this passage in the book? 
  • What is he intending to communicate? 
  • What does the author mean by "the Word became flesh," light, darkness, believe, receive, and "to be full of grace and truth?"

Take notes about what it means or questions you have from this "worms perspective." And remember, Just because you don't know now, doesn't mean you won't know later.

Only by grace,

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    What is one thing you observed/comprehended from John 1:1-18 that you have a comment or question about?