but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:21
Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.
- 1 John 4:1
The Bible is very clear that we are not to rely solely on what our pastors and leaders say. We should be in our word studying this thing out for ourselves. Scholars would call this hermeneutics & exegesis.
Hermeneutics - principles concerning interpretation of books of the Bible
Exegesis - critical study of interpretation/explanation of text especially scripture
Hermeneutics and Exegesis help bridge the gap between the time the Bible was written and right now.
Some would say you can just read the Bible and do what it says but let's remember the two scriptures above are calling us into deeper waters, to not just be content listening to what someone told us about the word of God.
The Bible was originally written in Hebrew(OT) & Greek(NT) translating such complex languages to English some scriptures loose their luster as far as emphasis on specific words and themes.
The Bible was written during a different time for a different culture with different customs. Their world was similar to ours in some ways and very different in others.
All of this is why we should engage in deeper level study to better understand God's word. Now I know we all can't be Bible scholars and the everyday person does not have the time to do this for hours on end so how does this look practically for you?
1 - Study Bible -
Study Bible's usually include a synopsis of each book in the Bible. Things like time period, audience of the book, author and reason for writing help further understanding.
2 - Strong's dictionary:
This is a huge deal, a lot of scripture would not be misinterpreted if we simply looked up words in the Hebrew & Greek.
3 - Commentaries:
Commentaries are important because the Bible scholars do the work for you here, they look up the original words, historical context and etc, then spoon feed it to you.
Do you have to do this every time you open your Bible? Of course not, there is so much more to this I just shared some basic principles. However it is important we take some time to do this. I would also recommend E-SWORD, it is a FREE program you can download to your computer that comes with a free strong's dictionary and you can download commentaries, maps and etc, as adds on for free as well.
My prayer is that you would commit to the Lord not just with your heart and soul but with your mind, that you would have a desire to study God intellectually gaining a deeper understand of who He is through His word.