Some Thoughts On


Gary Ray Branscome

    When we speak of allowing Scripture to interpret itself, what we mean is that we let God explain what the Bible says, instead of making up explanations. For example: A comparison of Ephesians 2:8 (“by grace are ye saved”) with Titus 3:5 (“according to his mercy he saved us”) tells us that the word “grace” is a synonym for “mercy.” Because both passages are telling us how we are saved, they explain each other.

    Likewise, I can explain the words of Romans 12:6 (“let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith”), by pointing out that they are saying essentially the same thing as Isaiah 8:20 (“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them”). In other words, both passages are telling us that whenever we are teaching the Word of God [i.e. prophesying], what we say needs to be in agreement with what the Bible says. [The Bible is the standard (i.e. proportion) of our faith.]

    I can also explain Hebrews 10:38 (“Cast not away, therefore, your confidence which hath great recompense of reward”), by pointing out that it is saying essentially the same thing as John 3:15, (“whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life”). In other words, the word “confidence” is a reference to faith, and the word “reward” is a reference to heaven (see Psalm 118:8).

    In the examples given above, I interpreted each passage by pointing out that it was saying essentially the same thing as another passage. And, because both passages were dealing with the same subject, they clarified each other. That approach to Bible interpretation is the only safe approach, because no man-made explanations are involved. In fact, when I interpret a passage that way, even if my interpretation is wrong it is still the Word of God because it consists of what the Bible says, not something that I made up.

    In some cases, even though two passages are not saying exactly the same thing they clarify each other, because what one says relates to what the other says. For example: Ezekiel 13:2 and Isaiah 8:20 clarify 2Peter 1:20 (“no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation”) by telling me that any interpretation that comes out of ones own heart, or is not in accord with what the Bible says, is a private interpretation. [Note: Ezekiel 13:2 says “prophesy against the prophets… that prophesy out of their own hearts.” Isaiah 8:20 says. “If they speak not according to this Word it is because there is no light in them.”]
    A careful comparison of related passages can even be helpful in understanding Hebrew and Greek. For example: Although the Hebrew word “sheol” means “grave,” it is also used as a generic reference to the hereafter. However, you do not have to take my word for it, the Bible reveals that meaning when it refers to the “pains” and “sorrows of sheol,” speaks of “a fire” that “shall burn unto lowest sheol,” and tells us that some who are physically dead “speak…out of the midst of sheol” (2Samuel 22:6, Psalm 18:5, Psalm 116:3, Deuteronomy 32:22, Ezekiel 32:21).

    Whenever you misunderstand a particular statement of Scripture, your misunderstanding is likely to lead to conclusions that contradict something the Bible says elsewhere. When that happens, those conclusions need to be rejected, and the interpretation that produced them needs to be disregarded (Romans 3:4). However, because of the deceitfulness of sin people are far more likely to explain away what the Bible says, than give up their own conclusions.
For example: Those who interpret the words, “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation,” to mean that God does not want everyone to be saved; have jumped to a conclusion. And, we know that their conclusion is wrong because it contradicts the passages that tell us that God takes “no pleasure in the death of the wicked,” and is “not willing that any should perish.” However, they would rather explain away Scripture than admit that they are wrong. [Compare 2Thessalonians 2:13, with 2Peter 3:9 and Ezekiel 33:11.]

    Because it is easy to read ideas into Scripture, it is important for you to be your own worst critic. In other words, you need to be determined to make certain that any meaning you place on the words of Scripture is what the words honestly say, not something that you are reading into them (2Corinthians 1:13).


    The Bible warns us to try the spirits to determine if they are of God, for those who are of God will take what the Apostles and Prophets have written seriously, and will not brush off or explain away what the Bible says (1John 4:1,6, Isaiah 8:20).
    Therefore, since the Bible refers to Christ as “God with us // the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father // the true God, and eternal life [and] God… manifest in the flesh,” we know that those who deny that Christ is God have a spirit of error (Matthew 1:23, Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6, 1John 5:20, 1Timothy 3:16).

    Likewise, because the Bible says of the damned, “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day or night,” we know that those who deny that the damned suffer torment in hell, have a spirit of error (Revelation 14:10-11). If they had a legitimate question as to the meaning of that passage, they would examine it in the light of what the Bible says elsewhere, allowing Scripture to explain itself. For example: Matthew 25 says that the wicked will go into “everlasting fire” and experience “everlasting punishment” (verses 41 and 46). And, Luke 16:23 says that the rich man “in hell… lift up his eyes, being in torments” (Luke 16:23). [See also Mark 9:43-48, Luke 16:28, Isaiah 66:24, Matthew 13:40-42.]

    Finally, because the Bible makes it clear that each person in the Trinity is distinct from the other two, and all three Persons of the Trinity were active at Christ’s baptism [Christ coming out of the water, the Father speaking from heaven, and the Holy Ghost descending], we know that those who deny there are three distinct Persons, have a spirit of error. [Note: Christ prayed to the “Father,” referred to the Holy Ghost as “another comforter,” and is also our “advocate with the Father” (John 14:16, 1 John 2:1, Acts 2:33, John 17:1).]