A Fellowship In Christ Jesus

A Fellowship in the World, but not of the World

A Ministry of D. Paul Walker

Confirming Defending Bearing the Gospel of Christ Jesus

Seven Precepts to Understanding the Bible

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Neither Add Nor Diminish

Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

Deuteronomy 4:2

On the face of it, this next precept would seem to be a self-evident simple truth, do not add to nor diminish from the word of God. However, men and women, being what we are, are prone to adding and subtracting from the Bible almost subconsciously. Most of us are familiar with the following statements, all of which are not biblically true:

  • God helps those who help themselves
  • Cleanliness is next to godliness
  • Finders keepers, losers weepers
  • The Golden Rule as being love your neighbor

The violation of this precept takes on many forms from blatant out and out lies to feigned subtleties of those who contrive false representations, take out of context and otherwise imitate the truth to form the multitudes of false teachings and doctrines we struggle with today.

2 Peter 2:1-3 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2and many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you:….

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

The precepts discussed in this study, understood and applied, will prevent the student of Scripture from being deceived. Failure to understand is derived from the infraction of the first precept, the lack of diligent study, from which improper conclusions are drawn leading to the formulation of incorrect doctrines, much of which are obtained by adding or diminishing from what the Bible says. Being human we are subject to trusting our faulty reasoning, and becoming fixated; mentally stuck on an erroneous idea or principle.

One error many people make is to learn something the wrong way and stick to it no matter what.

"Secrets of Mind Power"
Harry Lorayne. 1961

We must never be too dogmatic in our attitude toward what we think we know, always be open minded. There is always more to learn and those that have learned it. This is not to be tossed about "with every wind of doctrine," it is self-examination, building upon the truths you have previously biblically discovered. Be firm in the knowledge of God's precepts with strict adherence to the context of God's word. Examine and reexamine everything as you study, growing in knowledge and understanding requires it. You can be well assured that at some point a modification or clarification of a belief or interpretation held will have to be made if you are growing at all.

Ephesians 4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

Be wise in understanding that all men, and the ladies too, are naturally inclined to being slack, puffed up and self-serving rather than diligently searching the Scriptures. We change the Bible, wrest its passages, misquote, misapply and dismiss; that is we add and diminish from the words of the Book. When we ought to be constantly adjusting our attitudes, way of thinking, values, our priorities, so that they conform to the word of God as we obtain greater knowledge and understanding in the Scriptures, we are defiant, self-willed, obstinate. If we have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ we should hold no principles, opinions, or attitudes that we cannot show from the Bible, without adding thereto nor diminishing therefrom, to be correct.

Carefully consider the fact that this precept embodies more than just the addition or removal of words in the Bible. It also includes changing the meaning or the sense of the words, as in not keeping to the context of a passage or the use of proper grammar. These mental changes take place before the words are changed.

Nehemiah 8:4-8 And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood,…5And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people;… 7Also Jeshua, and Bani, …and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place. 8So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.

Simply placing the wrong meaning on a word can lead to a false understanding of the doctrines and precepts of God. It is very important to pick the proper meaning in accordance with its context, subject, and cross-references. All of the words in the Bible have understandable definitions and when held in the context in which they appear all but a very few are easily understood. A good dictionary is always a good investment but the Bible will define words within itself. Beware of anyone who offers their own private or theological definitions. Be especially wary of those who based their definition in the shrouded mist of unrecorded history, of ancient antiquity; context is everything! context, Context, CONTEXT!

Another all too common mistake is to assume a meaning where there is none. It must be remembered that the smallest unit of English grammar, or any other language, that has meaning is the sentence. Anything less than a whole sentence, e.g., a clause, phrase, or any group of words, has no significance outside the context of its sentence. It is an amazing feat of ignorance when one bases their teaching on a mere phrase taken out of the context of its sentence; many have done just that.

2 Peter 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

1 Peter 4:11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God;… to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

Deuteronomy 4:2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

Proverbs 30:6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.

The second precept to understanding the Bible is:

Ye shall not add unto the word
neither shall ye diminish ought from it

The word of God will stand a thousand readings; and he who has gone over it most frequently is the surest of finding new wonders there.

James Hamilton 1814~67
English Clergy

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