How To Study – Rule 5

Rule 5: Scripture must be its own expositor, since it is a rule of itself. If I depend on a teacher to expound to me, and he should guess at its meaning, or desire to have it so on account of his sectarian creed, or to be thought wise, then his guessing, desire, creed, or wisdom, is my rule, and not the Bible.

MILLER’S PROOFS (texts which demonstrate the Bible principles in support of this rule)

Psalms 19:7-11 “7 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. 8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. 9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. 11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.”

Psalms 119:97-105 “97 MEM. O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day. 98 Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts. 101 I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word. 102 I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught me. 103 How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way. 105 NUN. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

Matthew 23:8-10 “8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. 9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.”

1 Corinthians 2:12-16 “12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”

Ezekiel 34:18-19 “18 Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures? and to have drunk of the deep waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet? 19 And as for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet; and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet.”

Luke 11:52 “Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.”

Malachi 2:7-8 “For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. 8 But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of hosts.”

My Comments

This rule is pretty profound to me. To summarize it, the Bible is self-explaining. Why is this important? That means the Bible transcends changes in time, language, and culture. Because God designed His Word to explain itself, I don’t have to worry that it gives me a message using symbols common to a historical culture and language, such as swords, scrolls, battle armor, or chariots. If I use this rule correctly I should be able to find  any Bible topic defined within the scripture itself.

While this concept may seem simple, putting it into practice may be harder than it looks. It requires a lot of prayer, deeper study, and spiritual discernment to affirm the right conclusion from the scriptures. Some concepts are on the surface of scripture, but other concepts are buried more deeply. There is a right way and a wrong way to bring scriptures together, and all the other rules must be applied carefully and correctly in conjunction with this rule, otherwise it could lead to a crazy conclusion.

Spirit of Prophecy Support

Scripture must be its own expositor…

“…5. Scripture must be its own expositor, since it is a rule of itself. If I depend on a teacher to expound to me, and he should guess at its meaning, or desire to have it so on account of his sectarian creed, or to be thought wise, then his guessing, desire, creed, or wisdom is my rule, and not the Bible.”

The above is a portion of these rules; and in our study of the Bible we shall all do well to heed the principles set forth.”

– The Review and Herald {RH, November 25, 1884 par. 24-25}

Explaining scripture by scripture,–this is the work that should be done by all our ministers who are fully awake to the times in which we live. The Lord will guide his ministering servants.”

– The Review and Herald {RH, February 14, 1907 par. 13}

“The work of explaining the Bible by the Bible itself is the work that should be done by all our ministers who are fully awake to the times in which we live (letter 376, 1906).”

– Lift Him Up, p. 115 par. 7 {LHU 115.7}

“He [William Miller] saw that one portion of Scripture explains another, and when one passage was closed to his understanding, he found in another part of the Word that which explained it. He regarded the sacred Word of God with joy and with the deepest respect and awe.”

– Early Writings, p. 229 par. 1 {EW 229.1}

“The Bible is its own expositor. One passage will prove to be a key that will unlock other passages, and in this way light will be shed upon the hidden meaning of the word. …”

Many think that they must consult commentaries on the Scriptures in order to understand the meaning of the word of God, and we would not take the position that commentaries should not be studied; but it will take much discernment to discover the truth of God under the mass of the words of men. …”

– Christian Education, p. 85 par. 1-2{CE 85.1-85.2}

“The Bible is its own interpreter. With beautiful simplicity, one portion connects itself with the truth of another portion, until the whole Bible is blended in one harmonious whole. Light flashes forth from one text to illuminate some portion of the Word that has seemed more obscure.”

– Manuscript Releases Volume 2, p. 89 par. 6 {2MR 89.6}

“The Bible is the key that unlocks the mysteries which it is essential for human beings to understand in order to gain eternal life. The Bible is its own expositor. Its bright beams are to shine into all parts of the world, that sin may be revealed. The Bible is a chart, pointing out the waymarks of truth. Those who are acquainted with this chart will be enabled to tread with certainty the path of duty, wherever they may be called to go.”

– The Signs of the Times {ST, March 21, 1906 par. 7}

“Unaccustomed to accept God’s Word exactly as it reads, or to allow it to be its own interpreter, they [the priests and instructors of the people] read it in the light of their maxims and traditions. So long had they neglected to study and contemplate the Bible, that its pages were to them a mystery. They turned with aversion from the truth of God to the traditions of men. . . .”

– Manuscript Releases Volume 3, p. 431 par. 1 {3MR 431.1}

“All who handle the word of God are engaged in a most solemn and sacred work; for in their research they are to receive light and a correct knowledge, that they may give to those who are ignorant. Education is the inculcation of ideas which are light and truth. Everyone who diligently and patiently searches the Scriptures that he may educate others, entering upon the work correctly and with an honest heart, laying his preconceived ideas, whatever they may have been, and his hereditary prejudices at the door of investigation, will gain true knowledge. But it is very easy to put a false interpretation on Scripture, placing stress on passages, and assigning to them a meaning, which, at the first investigation, may appear true, but which on further search, will be seen to be false. If the seeker after truth will compare scripture with scripture, he will find the key that unlocks the treasure house and gives him a true understanding of the word of God. Then he will see that his first impressions would not bear investigation, and that continuing to believe them would be mixing falsehood with truth.”–Ms 4, 1896, pp. 1, 2. (Untitled, Feb. 4, 1896.)”

– Manuscript Releases Volume 3, p. 430 par. 2 {3MR 430.2}

“To search means to look diligently for something which has been lost. Search yourself for the hidden treasure. Do not leave this work to the minister. You cannot afford to be ignorant of the Word of God. Study the difficult passages, comparing verse with verse, and you will find that Scripture is the key which unlocks Scripture. Those who prayerfully study the Scriptures go from their study wiser than when they opened the Bible.–Manuscript 12, Feb. 7, 1901, “The Living Water.””

– The Upward Look, p. 52 par. 5 {UL 52.5}

“Zwingli … submitted himself to the Bible as the word of God, the only sufficient, infallible rule. He saw that it must be its own interpreter. He dared not attempt to explain Scripture to sustain a preconceived theory or doctrine, but held it his duty to learn what is its direct and obvious teaching. He sought to avail himself of every help to obtain a full and correct understanding of its meaning, and he invoked the aid of the Holy Spirit, which would, he declared, reveal it to all who sought it in sincerity and with prayer.

“The Scriptures,” said Zwingli, “come from God, not from man, and even that God who enlightens will give thee to understand that the speech comes from God. The word of God . . . cannot fail; it is bright, it teaches itself, it discloses itself, it illumines the soul with all salvation and grace, comforts it in God, humbles it, so that it loses and even forfeits itself, and embraces God.” The truth of these words Zwingli himself had proved. Speaking of his experience at this time, he afterward wrote: “When . . . I began to give myself wholly up to the Holy Scriptures, philosophy and theology (scholastic) would always keep suggesting quarrels to me. At last I came to this, that I thought, `Thou must let all that lie, and learn the meaning of God purely out of His own simple word.’ Then I began to ask God for His light, and the Scriptures began to be much easier to me.”–Ibid., b. 8, ch. 6.”

– The Great Controversy, p. 173-174 {GC 173.2 – 174.1}

“…It is according to the character of the matter with which the mind becomes familiar that it is dwarfed or enlarged. If the mind is not raised up to make vigorous and persistent effort in seeking to comprehend truth by comparing scripture with scripture, it will surely become contracted and lose its tone. We should set our minds to the task of searching for truths that do not lie directly upon the surface.

– The Review and Herald {RH, September 28, 1897 par. 7}

If I rely on a teacher to expound…

Many think that they must consult commentaries on the Scriptures in order to understand the meaning of the word of God, and we would not take the position that commentaries should not be studied; but it will take much discernment to discover the truth of God under the mass of the words of men. How little has been done by the church as a body professing to believe the Bible, to gather up the scattered jewels of God’s word into one perfect chain of truth? The jewels of truth do not lie upon the surface, as many suppose. The master mind in the confederacy of evil is ever at work to keep the truth out of sight, and to bring into full view the opinions of great men. The enemy is doing all in his power to obscure heaven’s light through educational processes; for he does not mean that men shall hear the voice of the Lord, saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” [Isaiah 30:21.]

The jewels of truth lie scattered over the field of revelation; but they have been buried beneath human traditions, beneath the sayings and commandments of men, and the wisdom from heaven has been practically ignored; for Satan has succeeded in making the world believe that the words and achievements of men are of great consequence. The Lord God, the Creator of the worlds, at infinite cost has given the gospel to the world. Through this divine agent, glad, refreshing springs of heavenly comfort and abiding consolation have been opened for those who will come to the fountain of life. There are veins of truth yet to be discovered; but spiritual things are spiritually discerned. Minds beclouded with evil cannot appreciate the value of the truth as it is in Jesus. When iniquity is cherished, men do not feel the necessity of making diligent effort, with prayer and reflection, to understand what they must know or lose heaven. The have so long been under the shadow of the enemy, that they view truth as men behold objects through a smoked and imperfect glass; for all things are dark and perverted in their eyes. Their spiritual vision is feeble and untrustworthy; for they look upon the shadow, and turn away from the light.”

– Christian Education, p. 85-86 {CE 85.2 – 86.1}

“We must study the truth for ourselves; no living man should be relied upon to think for us, no matter who he may be or in what position he may be placed. We are not to look upon any man as a perfect criterion for us. We are to counsel together, and be subject one to another, but at the same time we are to exercise the ability God has given us to learn what is truth. Each one of us must look to God for divine enlightenment, that we may individually develop a character that will stand the test in the day of God.”

– The Signs of the Times {ST, February 6, 1893 par. 7}

“God has given men reasoning minds and He will not hold them guiltless if they trust in man or make flesh their arm. He wants you individually to come to Him, to draw from Him, to use the ability God gives to understand the living oracles. If one man can see light in examining the Scriptures, so may every true Christian have the right to read, to examine, to search the Scriptures with unabated interest, and gather light therefrom.

If they fail to do this they will not be using the ability God has given them, that they may grow up to the full stature of men and women in Christ Jesus. Then let every man read, study, and search the Scriptures for himself and take nothing as infallible but the Word that you can see for yourself, after much prayer and searching in an humble, teachable spirit. God has given no man a right to set himself up as a standard of doctrine.”

– 1888 Materials, p. 834-835 {1888 834.3 – 835.1}

“Jesus is the fountain head of knowledge, the treasure-house of truth, and he longed to open before his disciples treasures of infinite value, that they in turn might open them to others. But because of their blindness he could not unfold to them the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. He said to them, “I have many things to say unto you; but ye cannot bear them now.” The minds of the disciples were to a great degree influenced by the traditions and maxims of the Pharisees, who placed the commandments of God on a level with their own inventions and doctrines. The scribes and Pharisees did not receive or teach the Scriptures in their original purity, but interpreted the language of the Bible in such a way as to make it express sentiments and injunctions that God had never given. They put a mystical construction upon the writing of the Old Testament, and made indistinct that which the infinite God had made clear and plain. These learned men placed before the people their own ideas, and made patriarchs and prophets responsible for things they never uttered. These false teachers buried up the precious jewels of truth beneath the rubbish of their own interpretations and maxims, and covered up the plainest specifications of prophecy regarding Christ. They made the keeping of the commandments of God appear to be a rigorous round of ceremonies, so needless and foolish that the force of God’s law was destroyed. They heaped exactions upon the commands of God that could never be met, and thereby lessened respect for God.

When the Author of truth came to our world, and was the living interpreter of his own laws, the Scriptures were opened to men like a new revelation; for he taught as one having authority, as one who knew whereof he was speaking. The minds of men were confused with false teaching to such an extent that they could not fully grasp the meaning of divine truth, and yet they were attracted to the great Teacher, and said, ‘Never man spake like this man?’”

– The Signs of the Times {ST, September 11, 1893 par. 7-8}

…on account of his sectarian creed…

(Note: my own preconceived ideas or creed can also be faulty human wisdom: man interpreting instead of allowing scripture to interpret itself)…

“Let the seeker for truth who accepts the Bible as the inspired Word of God, lay aside every previous idea, and take that Word in its simplicity. He should renounce every sinful practice, and enter the holy of holies with heart softened and subdued, ready to listen to what God says.

Do not carry your creed to the Bible, and read the Scriptures in the light of that creed. If you find that your opinions are opposed to a plain “Thus saith the Lord,” or to any command or prohibition He has given, give heed to the Word of God rather than to the sayings of men. Let every controversy or dispute be settled by ‘It is written.’”

– Manuscript Releases Volume 2, p. 89 par. 2-3 {2MR 89.2 – 89.3}

“If professed Christians would but carefully and prayerfully compare their views with the Scriptures, laying aside all pride of opinion and desire for the supremacy, a flood of light would be shed upon the churches now wandering in the darkness of error. …”

– The Spirit of Prophecy Volume 4, p. 186 par. 1 {4SP 186.1}

“Be careful how you interpret Scripture. Read it with a heart opened to the entrance of God’s Word, and it will express heaven’s light, giving understanding unto the simple. This does not mean the weak-minded, but those who do not stretch themselves beyond their measure and ability in trying to be original and independent in reaching after knowledge above that which constitutes true knowledge.

All who handle the Word of God are engaged in a most solemn and sacred work; for in their research they are to receive light and a correct knowledge, that they may give to those who are ignorant. Education is the inculcation of ideas which are light and truth. Everyone who diligently and patiently searches the Scriptures that he may educate others, entering upon the work correctly and with an honest heart, laying aside his preconceived ideas, whatever they may have been, and his hereditary prejudices at the door of investigation, will gain true knowledge. But it is easy to put a false interpretation on Scripture, placing stress on passages, and assigning to them a meaning, which, at the first investigation, may appear true, but which by further search, will be seen to be false. If the seeker after truth will compare Scripture with Scripture, he will find the key that unlocks the treasure house and gives him a true understanding of the Word of God. Then he will see that his first impressions would not bear investigation, and that continuing to believe them would be mixing falsehood with truth.”

– This Day With God, p. 43 par. 2-3 {TDG 43.2 – 43.3}

“”Search the Scriptures.” Study, pray, and believe. Take up the Bible without prejudice, and in a humble, teachable spirit, and, with the understanding open to the impressions of the Spirit of God, let its convincing power mould the life and conscience. …”

– The Bible Echo {BEcho, September 2, 1895 par. 10}

References

Bible, King James Version

Quotes taken from the Ellen G. White Writings, Comprehensive Research Edition 2008 CD

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