In addition to defining key words in the Bible, scriptural comparison must also be performed in order to obtain an accurate understanding of the Bible. Scriptural comparison is the process of comparing a Bible passage that deals with a particular subject with other passages in the Bible that deals with that same subject. It is an important component of what’s called biblical hermeneutics (the scientific rules of interpretation) and a major tool in assisting in understanding the Bible. Part of biblical hermeneutics is the process of allowing the Bible to interpret itself through proper scriptural comparison. Good students of the Bible must resist the urge of drawing the meaning of a particular passage, or worse, building doctrine based on a single verse from the Bible. But rather, allow the Scriptures to act as it’s own interpreter by comparing the content of the subject of the passage with how that same subject is presented in other passages of the Bible, and how the subject compares to the overall theme of the entire Holy Bible. Only afterwards can the meaning of the passage be properly drawn out and thus accurately understood.
There are two components to scriptural comparison that must be observed. The first is to observe how your interpretation of a particular Bible passage compares to other passages of the Bible that deals with that same subject. What you are looking for is harmony. There must not be any contradictions. The second is to make sure you are comparing two or more passages of the SAME subject and same context. Be very careful to avoid performing what is known in theology as collapsing context. Collapsing context is the process of comparing two or more Bible passages that have similarity in some of the wording or metaphor, but have different subjects, different context, and no commonality other than some of the wording or metaphor.
Let’s take the Berean Approach to examine how to properly compare two or more Bible passages to improve our understanding.
Example: The Passage: “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Matthew 7:1
Many people interpret this passage to mean that we should not judge anyone, or else God will judge us. Chances are that you have heard this or a similar warning at least once in your Christian walk as this is a very common interpretation of this passage. However, close examination of the scriptures reveals that this interpretation is incorrect.
Word Definition: First look-up the word judge in your concordance. You will find that it is Strong’s Reference Number 2919 in Greek and the original word is krino. The Greek word krino means to distinguish, i.e., to decide (mentally or judicially). The word is translated as judge 88 times, determine 7 times, and condemn 5 times in the New Testament. The next step is to cross reference this subject with other passages in the Bible.
Cross Reference #1: After being criticized and threatened by the Jewish leaders for healing a lame man on the Sabbath, Jesus said to them 21“I did one work, and you all marvel. 22Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? 24Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgement.” John 7:21-24
Notice in verse 24 that Jesus instructs the Jewish leaders to “do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgement.” We must now confirm if the word judge that is used in verse 24 has the same meaning as the word Jesus used in Matthew 7:1.
Word Definition: You will find that the word for judge that is used in John 7:24 is the same exact word used in the Matthew 7:1 text (Strong’s Reference Number 2919 - Greek word krino) but with an elaboration on how to judge (“judge with a righteous judgment”).
Notice in this reference Jesus does not warn the people of judging others, but rather corrects them on how to judge. In verse 24 Jesus tells the Jewish leaders that they are to judge according to righteousness, not according to appearance. In this example the righteousness is the greater glory of completely healing a sick individual who has been suffering for 38 years (see verse John 5:1-16) instead of missing the opportunity by allowing the Sabbath to rule over man (see Mark 2:27). Notice in verse 22 Jesus reminds the Jewish leaders that they have routinely broken the Sabbath by performing circumcision if the day of circumcision fell on the Sabbath in order to keep the law of circumcision (Genesis 17:12-14, Leviticus 12:1-3). In John 7:23 Jesus informs the Jewish leaders that completely healing a man on the Sabbath was more important than performing circumcision, but yet they were judging Him unrighteously.
Cross Reference #2: In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, in speaking of spiritual wisdom Paul writes “13These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16For ‘who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.”
Notice that Paul also teaches that we are to judge according to the Spirit. We must now confirm if the word judges that is used in verse 15 has the same meaning as the word Jesus used in Matthew 7:1.
Word Definition: Don’t assume that just because the same word is used in this passage that it has the same meaning. Look up the word judges in your concordance to check. You will find that it is Strong’s Reference Number 350 in Greek and the original word is anakrino. The word anakrino is from the same root word krino that Jesus used in Matthew 7:1 and means to scrutinize, i.e., investigate, interrogate, or determine, and as a verb it means to judge. The word is translated as examine - 6 times, judge - 6 times, ask questions - 2 times, search - 1 time, and discern - 1 time in the New Testament. It carries the same meaning as the word for judge that was used by Jesus in Matthew 7:1.
By allowing the Bible to interpret itself we have learned from this exercise that the statement in Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged” is a warning to those who judge unrighteously and therefore are subject to judgement from God. However, those who judge according to the Spirit, in other words according to the Word of God, judges righteously.
Let these words found in 1 Corinthians 2:10-16 help you understand why and how we are to judge, and let the Holy Spirit be your Guide:
“10But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 13These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”