by Dr. Randy White | July 16, 2023

Bible study is a personal journey that shapes our connection with God. Yet, the interpretative methods we use can sometimes alter this experience. Let’s examine one popular method, known as the “SPACEPETS” approach.

The Common Interpretative Approach: SPACEPETS

The “SPACEPETS” method encourages deep engagement with biblical texts. It prompts readers to extract personal insights from Scripture, with each letter representing a different focus:

  • S – Sin to confess: Identify areas where one may have gone astray.
  • P – Promise to claim: Acknowledge God’s assurances within the Bible.
  • A – Attitude to change: Seek personal growth and transformation.
  • C – Command to obey: Emphasize obedience to God’s word.
  • E – Example to follow: Draw lessons from biblical figures.
  • P – Prayer to pray: Encourage active communication with God.
  • E – Error to avoid: Learn from the mistakes of others in Scripture.
  • T – Truth to believe: Affirm one’s faith in God and His Word.
  • S – Something for which to praise God: Foster a spirit of gratitude.

This approach is popular, but leads to common errors in interpretation. Here’s how:

  • Proof-texting: Focusing on specific elements like Sin or Error can lead to out-of-context interpretations, as the broader narrative gets overlooked.
  • Allegorical Interpretations: The urge to find symbolic meanings in every Promise or Truth can stretch the original intent of the passage.
  • Moralizing Interpretation: Extracting moral lessons from every biblical story can distort complex narratives and characters.
  • Personalizing Interpretation: The personal application focus of “SPACEPETS” can result in reading the Bible as speaking directly to our situation, overlooking that many passages were written for specific communities in their historical contexts.

How To Read The Bible Differently

So how can we avoid these pitfalls? The key lies in adopting a fresh perspective, informed by the following principles:

  • Only seek spiritual meanings if they are present.
  • Ensure the passage is truly relevant to your circumstances.
  • Always consider the specific historical, cultural, and textual context of a passage.
  • Avoid using later revelations to interpret earlier texts.

When you encounter difficult passages:

  • Allow Scripture to define itself by referencing how words and concepts are used elsewhere.
  • Use simpler, clearer passages to guide your interpretation of complex ones.

Also, acknowledge the unique role and message of the Apostle Paul, who wasn’t called because no other Apostle was sent to Gentiles. Recognize his distinct and new message, as evident in his own claims and in the clear contrast between Pauline and non-Pauline passages.

The Freedom of Rightly Dividing The Word

Embracing this literal-context approach has brought me transformative insights:

  • Accessibility: Interpreting the Bible through the lens of language and historical context has made it more accessible and liberating.
  • Improved Relationship: Acknowledging the specific audiences of biblical messages has alleviated tension in my relationship with God and myself.
  • Practical Faith: Shifting from seeking hidden spiritual meanings to appreciating clear, practical insights has made my faith more applicable to my daily life.
  • Newfound Freedom: Understanding that many warning passages are not about me has relieved me from burdens and fears that weren’t mine to carry. This realization has filled my life with a newfound freedom and rich grace.

By adopting this perspective, we can learn to read the Bible differently and experience a more authentic, rewarding spiritual journey.