by Greg Koukl |

As an ambassador for Christ, how can you be clear-thinking and confident if you’re not sure whether or not you’re misinterpreting a Bible passage?

I want to show you a trick to help you weed out bad Bible interpretations, the kind that don’t fit the context or the flow of thought of a passage. I call it the “paraphrase principle.”

Here’s a quick example of how this works to help you get the idea.

Worship leaders often cite Jesus’ statement, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (Jn. 12:32). Then they apply the insight by inviting the church to sing heartily, taking “lifted up” to be synonymous with “exalted in worship.” Sometimes that’s exactly what it means. But is that what Jesus meant in this passage? Let’s see.

Using the paraphrase principle, when we insert the alleged synonym into the larger passage (v. 32–33), it reads: “‘And I, if I am exalted in worship, will draw all men to Myself.’ But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.”

Oops. Our worship is going to kill Jesus? You see the problem. Clearly, “lifted up” in this case does not mean to praise but to crucify. Inserting the correct synonym into the passage now makes perfect sense: “And I, if I am crucified, will draw all men to Myself.”

Getting an accurate understanding of Scripture is critical for your growth as a Christian ambassador. The paraphrase principle is simply another tool in your toolbox to help you do that more effectively.