The first quality of a good interpreter is that they have already submitted to the truth of God in the gospel. They have accepted Christ as their savior. Having submitted to Him, they are ready to begin a life long commitment to Christ expressed in intelligent, daily submission to Him in His word. The person who has personally trusted in Christ possesses the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9) and is, therefore, able to see how the truth he finds in Scripture relates to his own life as well as the lives of others. He knows that he can depend on the Spirit to enable him to study the Bible profitably and to guide him in the application (i.e. discipleship) process. These are challenging days facing the church and only those who stay close to the Lord according to his word will live godly, responsible, and holy lives.
The good interpreter consistently maintains an attitude of humility. This is because he is in a relationship with God and knows that God reveals his truth to those who are humble and willing to receive (James 1:18-21). Further, when we are honest with ourselves, others, and with God, we must confess a profound ignorance of Scripture and even greater ignorance of God. Again, the Spirit is with us, and lives in us; there is no place for despair. Therefore, clothe yourself with humility for it is one of the most significant character traits of the good interpreter of the Bible.
We have discussed “stick-to-it-ness” above so we will not go into great detail again. Nonetheless, I mention it once more because it is perhaps the number one problem I have noticed among Bible students: they quit too easily. God doesn’t reveal his deepest secrets to the passers-by. And Satan loves to defeat you in this area. So, be prepared for a fight! Ask God for the strength and the discipline to follow a regular schedule of Bible study. Happiness is not how you feel at the moment (a great mistake inherited from the Enlightenment) it is the result of a life well lived. You will be happy if you live life well. Sticking to your goal of studying the Bible faithfully, and applying it to your life, will lead to genuine and permanent happiness (i.e., blessedness). Eugene Peterson, in his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, comments lamentably about the character of today’s generation: “Everyone is in a hurry. The persons whom I lead in worship, among whom I counsel, visit, pray, preach, and teach, want short cuts … They are impatient for results …The Christian life cannot mature under such conditions and in such ways.”2 Prepare yourself for the long haul.
This is where the attitude of “stick-to-it-ness” comes into play. If you really want to understand the Bible then you will have to begin reading the Bible regularly, studying it, and reading and studying Bible backgrounds as well. There are lots of studies at the BSF website ( www.//bible.org ) to help you accomplish this. Apart from the website, you are encouraged to get some good books on Bible backgrounds, customs, languages, and cultures. These will greatly help you enter the world of the Bible and comprehend its message in a clearer way. Commentaries will also provide background information. The tools we are going to discuss in the following section will also help you.
2 Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1980), 11-12.