When two people are discussing a religious topic on which they disagree, one of the individuals will often say to the other person, “Well, that’s just your interpretation!” Or one of them will go as far as to declare: “You interpret the Bible the way you want to, and I’ll interpret it the way I want to.” This erroneous concept that the Word of God can be interpreted however an individual chooses has long been the norm of the average person’s approach to the inspired scripture. Just what does the word interpret mean? Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary gives the following definition of it: “To explain or tell the meaning of; to elucidate.” If we understand a particular passage of scripture, then there is only one correct explanation of it. Any other view of that passage is incorrect and therefore should be rejected. It is possible for two people to disagree on scripture and both be wrong, but there is only one correct interpretation of it.
The Roman Catholic Church believes that it has the sole right to interpret the Bible. Their explanation of the verse at Second Peter 1:20, which says, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” is that an individual cannot understand the scripture without it being interpreted for them by the officials of the Catholic Church. This is an instance in which a passage is taken out of its context. That passage does not refer to those who read the scripture to learn the Heavenly Father’s will for them. It has reference to the Old Testament prophets who wrote the prophecies found therein. Let us now consider verses 20 and 21 together: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” These two verses simply tell us that what the prophets foretold and taught was not their personal concepts, but that which was given unto them by the Holy Spirit.
Each of us is personally responsible to learn what the Lord would have us to do. This principle was stressed by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Philippi. “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phlp. 2:12). Neither those Philippian Christians nor we are given the green light to determine right from wrong religiously separate and apart from the inspired Word. The Philippian letter itself was Paul’s instruction to them in doing the will of God. We are assured by Jesus Christ that the truth is obtainable (Matt. 5:6; John 5:39; John 8:32)