Accuracy matters. Whether you’re an engineer, airline pilot, surveyor, or surgeon, a lack of precision will produce disastrous consequences. The same truth applies—to an even greater degree—in the realm of theology. Doctrinal accuracy, or the lack thereof, has serious eternal ramifications.
We can’t afford to get fundamental doctrines wrong. To worship the wrong God is idolatry. To preach the wrong gospel is heresy. To believe the wrong gospel is apostasy. That’s why the inerrancy of Scripture is so important. God’s self-disclosure about Himself, and how sinful men can be reconciled to Him, needs to be accurate—the stakes are simply too high for those of us who live under Adam’s curse.
But even the inerrant biblical text still requires accurate interpretation. That’s why John MacArthur says “the most important course in seminary is hermeneutics, the science of interpretation.” In his sermon “How Should We Interpret the Bible?,” John explains:
Hermeneutics is the science of Bible interpretation. And I want you to identify it as a science because it is a science. That is, it operates under fixed rules. It is the crucial science behind all accurate doctrine, all sound doctrine that is faithful to the Word of God. Where you have a deviation from sound doctrine, inevitably you have a failure to stay by the science of hermeneutics.
Every heresy can be traced to a hermeneutical failure—perverting or poorly handling what God has spoken. And there is no middle ground or neutral territory when it comes to the study of Scripture. We all approach the biblical text with some sort of heremeneutic. The critical question always boils down to whether the approach we take is good or bad.
“How Should We Interpret the Bible?” is a great primer for taking personal inventory of our own hermeneutical approach. John’s message shows us what to avoid and what to embrace in the interpretation of God’s Word. We don’t need a seminary level education but we do need to know how to handle biblical texts with accuracy and care. Scripture reminds us to “present [ourselves] approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
In his sermon, John shows us how to go beyond what a Bible verse “means to you” to what it actually means. And he offers tremendous encouragement by reminding us that Scripture speaks with clarity. “It is not oblique, it is not opaque, it is not so alien that it cannot be understood, but it takes effort for it to yield its clear meaning.”
God’s purpose in giving His Word was to communicate clearly with sinful people. He isn’t trying to withhold vital information or cloak His message in riddles. But the sacred nature of the biblical text demands care and precision in the way we handle it. To that end, “How Should We Interpret the Bible?” provides us with invaluable tools for rightly understanding what God is saying to us.