8. Wrestle with the text. Do not just casually read it and make a decision. Study it intently to make sure it is a proper text for the situation. Do not just “cherry-pick” a verse and apply it.
It is not uncommon to come to the text of Scripture and read something and not understand it. This is normal. Many people do this, even the biblical scholars. They did not understand everything that they understand now about Scripture when they first began. They wrestled with the text and studied it intently. They made decisions and changed their minds about those decisions and some went back to their original decisions. The important thing is they wrestled with the text. They did not just read it and make a decision and go with it.
Too many people these days will read Scripture and say they do not understand it so it must not be understandable. This is arrogance of the highest order. Just because they have read something and can’t understand it does not mean it is not understandable. When we hit this block in our study of Scripture we need to back up and ask what is wrong with me? What is it about me that is not understanding God’s word? God’s word is knowable and meant to be knowable. 2 Timothy 3:16–17 says all Scripture “is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Since it is this, it can be understood. If it is not understood, it is because of something on our side and not God’s.
We must study Scripture intently and with a desire to know God better and to grow spiritually. We do not study it just to be smarter, have more knowledge, or to be able to trump someone in a discussion. We study Scripture so we can present ourselves as “approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed” and one who can “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
If we wrestle with the text and seek to understand it rightly we will be able to better apply it to life and situations. We will not always fully understand every aspect of Scripture because as Peter said about Paul’s writings having “some things hard to understand” and because of this many “untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16). When we don’t understand and say it is not able to be understood or we just take Scriptures and apply them out of context to situations, we are twisting Scripture and abusing it. Let us not do this. Let us wrestle with the text and strive to understand it and apply it faithfully to our lives and situations.