“And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. – 2 Peter 1:19-20 (Emphasis mine)
The above passages can refer to the words of the Prophet of God not being of his own invention, or that the interpretation of Scripture is not just a matter of one’s own imaginings. These words are also not saying individuals aren’t to read and study the Bible for themselves but instead rely on an special ‘Church’ body to tell them what it means. We are all exhorted to ‘study to show ourselves approved’ (2 Tim 2:15)
I clearly remember a time when we frequently attended small group Bible studies in which we all sat around the table or living room, read scripture and then shared what each of us thought the passages meant, as if each one of us had great personal insight. Rather than carefully study the Bible for what it actually was saying in the context in which it was written and the context of the Bible itself, we would congratulate ourselves for whatever the little voices in our heads was telling us.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with reading and studying the Bible for ourselves. When we engage in personal Bible study however, we need to follow certain rules of proper interpretation, the first three of which are context, context, CONTEXT.
At the same time, we can also avail ourselves of what other men have thought and written over time. It’s not that the minds of other men are always spot on about everything, but they can be quite useful as we strive to know God more fully.
Food for thought on a Saturday morning. A certain preacher once said:
“Give yourself unto reading. The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. You need to read.” – Charles Spurgeon
So study on my friends, knowing the Holy Spirit is our ultimate teacher, and that ‘old dead men’ (tribute to my friend Ed) also have a lot to say to us!