Most Christians, myself included, have been lead to believe that we must INTERPRET scripture in order to understand it. Many times we’ve been told, “The text says this, but it means something else.” Thus men sit in judgment on the inspired word of God! We are told that creeds are most helpful because they are BASED ON SCRIPTURE. The very first heresy was expressed in the garden and THE VERY FIRST CREED BASED ON THE WORD OF GOD was expressed by Eve in Gen.3:2,3. But EVE’S CREED was not a scriptural creed. It was a POWERFUL SPRINGBOARD BETWEEN ORTHODOXY AND APOSTASY! Satan loved it! But when Satan’s temptations to the Lord Jesus were answered by nothing more or less than what was written, Satan could answer nothing and had to leave.
The first APOSTLES’ CREED (apostles’ interpretation of a statement of the Lord Jesus) is found in John 21:23. When Peter had asked Jesus about the disciple whom Jesus loved, “Lord, and what shall this man do?” Jesus said, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me.” The apostolic interpretation of the words of the Lord Jesus was, “That that disciple should not die!” THE FIRST APOSTLES’CREED WAS FALSE DOCTRINE WHICH COULD ONLY BE CORRECTED BY THE ORIGINAL WORDS OF CHRIST! “Yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?”
It is precisely because of the false notion (that scripture needs to be interpreted) that the study of HERMENEUTICS (the science of interpretation of literature) has permeated every theological camp of Christendom. No matter what Bible school, seminary, or divinity school you may attend – you will be instructed in hermeneutics i.e. how to interpret scripture in accordance with the accepted presuppositions of the theology embraced by that school.
This is why there is such disagreement between Roman Catholics and Protestants, between Covenant theologians and Dispensationalists, between Liberals and Fundamentalists. Every theological camp has its own accepted hermeneutics. The hermeneutics of each camp are different from those of all the rest. Why is this, when all claim to be true to scripture?
To answer this question we need to see what scripture has to say about interpretation. A simple word study reveals that interpretation is necessary in three cases:
(1) to understand dreams Gen.40:5-18; 41:8-15; Dan.2:4-45; 4:6-24;5:7-26
(2) to understand proverbs Prov.1:6; Lk.4:23; parables Mk.4:34& figures Heb.9:9; 11:19
3) to make a foreign language intelligible by translating it into the hearers’ own tongue Ezra 4:7; Mt.1:23; Mk.5:41; 15:22,34; John 1:38,41,42; 9:7; Acts 4:36; 9:36; 13:8; I Cor.12:10; 14:26,28
But, scripture never once indicates that scripture in one’s own language ever needs to be interpreted to be understood! When the Holy Spirit records a dream, a proverb, a parable or a figure – the interpretation (if God has deemed that such is necessary) is given IN WORDS OF SCRIPTURE. So today, the only ones who need to interpret scripture are Bible translators involved in translating scripture from one language into another.
So whenever theologians interpret scripture in one language in words which are different from the words the Holy Spirit has chosen, they are always departing from, adding to, or subtracting from the inspired Word of God!
As students of scripture, we must come to the Bible in humility and willingness for the Holy Spirit to teach us His truth in the words which He has chosen. They are pure.Ps.12:6 They are not to be added to. Prov.30:5,6
There are a few words in our English Bible such as “allegory”, “baptism” and “presbytery” etc. which translators failed to translate. They simply transliterated or anglicised a Greek word. The result is a word which has no actual meaning to an English reader except by way of concepts which have come to be attached to it by tradition. Often such traditions have largely obscured the true meaning of the word. For example: what comes to your mind when you see the word “presbyter” or “presbytery”? Does your concept fit the usage of the word in Luke 15:25; John 8:9; Acts 2:17; I Tim.5:2; It simply means an older one whether a man, or a woman.
It is always wise (in such cases as the above it is imperative) to go to scripture to see how:
(1) such words are used.
(2) other forms of the same word are used.
(3) the individual components of compound words are used.
The Holy Spirit’s consistent usage of words is the only reliable indicator of their true meaning. THEREFORE, TO RIGHTLY UNDERSTAND GOD’S WORD, WE MUST:
I.ACKNOWLEDGE THE TRUTH ABOUT THE SCRIPTURES:
A. Its author is God: II Tim.3:16
B. Its theme is Christ:–in the O.T. Luke 24:25-27, –in the Gospels & the Acts Matt.1:1; Mk.1:1; Luke 1:1-4 with Acts 1:1-4; John 1:1, in the Epistles Rom.1:1-7; I Cor.2:2; Gal.1:11,12; Eph.1:1-10; Phil.1:1,2; Col.1:18; I Thess.1:1-10; II Thess.1:1-10; I Tim.1:12-16; II Tim.1:1-13; Titus 2:11-14; Philemon v.1-4; Heb.1:1-13; James 1:1; I Pet.1:1-8; II Pet.1:1-8; I Jn.1:1-3; II Jn.v1,7; III Jn. v.1,7; Jude v.1-4; Rev.1:1,2
C. Its revealer, expositor and teacher is the Holy Spirit: II Pet.1:20,21; I Cor.2:9-12; John 14:26; John 16:13-15
D. By nature it is:
1.Pure: Ps.12:6; Prov.30:5; Ps.119:140
5.True: Ps.119:160; John 17:17
6.Like a fire and a hammer: Jer.23:29
7.Divinely inspired and profitable: II Tim.3:16
E. It is active:
2.Giving light and understanding: Ps.119:105; Ps.119:130
3.Stands forever: Is.40:8; I Pet.1:23-25
F. Some things cannot be done with it:
1.It cannot be broken: John 10:35
2.It cannot be received or known by the natural man: I Cor.2:14
II.RECEIVE SCRIPTURE BY:
A. Reading it: Ex.24:7; Deut.17:19; 31:11; Josh.8:34; Matt.12:3,5; 19:4; 21:16,42; 22:39; Mk.2:25; 12:26; Lk.4:16; 6:3; Acts 8:28-32; Eph.3:4; Col.4:16; I Thess.5:27; Rev.1:3; I Tim.4:12,13
B. Hearing it in order to change our ways: Is.1:10-16; Isa.66:5; Jer.7:2; 9:20; 19:3; 21:11; 34:4; 42:15; 44:24,26; Rom.10:17
C. Meditating upon it: Josh.1:8; Ps.119:15,78,148.
D. Hiding it in our hearts: Ps.119:11
E. Asking, “What saith the scriptures?” Romans 4:3; Gal.4;30; Rom.11:2,4
F. Searching the scriptures daily in order to test and prove the
teachings of even the most respected preachers: Acts 17:11
G. Noting what scripture says: Dan.10:21; Mk.15:28; Jn.7:38,42; 19:37;
H. Knowing what scripture says: Matt.22:29; Mk.12:24; II Tim.3:15
I. Asking for wisdom from God: James 1:5
III.NURTURE RIGHT ATTITUDES TOWARD THE SCRIPTURE:
A. Longing after it: Ps.119:40
B. Trusting in it to have an answer for those who reproach us: Ps.119:42
C. Loving it: Ps.119:127,159.
D. Esteeming it to be right: Ps.119:128
E. Standing in awe of it: Ps.119:161
F. Trembling at it: Is.66:2,5
G. Being willing to obey whatever God may reveal to us: John 7:17
the unwilling can never expect any revelation from God: Mark 11:27-32.)
IV.NURTURE RIGHT ATTITUDES TOWARD OTHER MEMBERS OF THE BODY OF CHRIST:
A. Caring one for another: I Cor.12:21-25
B. Letting nothing (not even studying scripture) be done for vain glory
but rather esteeming others better than ourselves: Phil. 2:1-4
C. Letting the mind of Christ be in us: Phil.2:5-11
D. Doing all things without murmurings and disputings. Phil.2:14
V.RESPOND PROPERLY TO SCRIPTURE BY:
A. Keeping it: Ps.119:4,17,56,63,69,100,101,134.
B. Taking heed to it: Ps.119:9
C. Understanding it, then speaking it: Ps.119:27,104
D. Not forsaking it: Ps.119:87 & Dan.9:5.
E. Not forgetting it: Ps.119:93,16,141.
F. Rejoicing in it: Ps.119:162
G. Speaking it: Ps.119:172
H. Speaking it faithfully: Jer.23:28
I. Speaking it not in the words of men but in the words taught by the Spirit: I Cor.2:13
J. Choosing it: Ps.119:173
K. Not adding to it or taking from it: Prov.30:6; Deut.12:32; Rev.22:18,19
L. Doing whatever God commands one to do: Deut.12:32; James 1:22-25;
“Whatsoever he saith UNTO YOU, do it.” John 2:5
For example:-men obey what God says to men: I Cor.11:4,7,14
-women obey what God says to women: I Cor.11:5,6,15
-husbands obey what God says to husbands: Eph.5:25,28,33
-wives obey what God says to wives: Eph.5:22-24
-fathers obey what God says to fathers: Eph.6:4
-children obey what God says to children: Eph.6:1-3
-masters obey what God says to masters: Eph.6:9
-servants obey what God says to servants: Eph.6:5-8
-Israelites obey what God says to Israelites:
-Gentile believers obey what God says to Gentile believers:
M. Rightly dividing the word of truth: II Tim.2:15
VI.ALLOW THE WORDS OF SCRIPTURE TO JUDGE THE WORDS OF MEN, NOT VICE VERSA:
A. “The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” Psalm 12:6
Since the words of the Lord have been perfectly purified, it is never necessary to seek the definition of any word of scripture outside of scripture.
How are words defined in scripture?
Every time a specific word (in the original languages) is used in scripture it always communicates the same basic idea. It may be used in many different applications and each application may have a different shade of meaning. Therefore to define the meaning of a word by any one of its’ applications alone will produce a definition which will not be consistent with every usage of the word. But careful examination of all the applications will reveal the basic idea which is common to all and may be used as a synonym in every case.
For example: the verb “drive” is used in many applications: one may drive a car, a nail, a herd of animals, one may be driven by a taxi, by lust, by love, by hunger, ambition etc. But the basic idea that is common to all of these is “to impel” or “to cause to move.” *
B. “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” Prov.30:5,6
Every doctrine taught by O.T. prophets, by Christ, or by N.T. apostles and prophets IS STATED IN WORDS OF SCRIPTURE ALONE IN THE ORIGINAL LANGUAGES. I have held and earnestly taught many doctrines which could not be so stated in words of scripture alone. I have had to relinquish those teachings for I found that every one of them was actually contradictory to plain statements of scripture. So now, a red flag always goes up in my mind whenever I hear doctrines defended which cannot be stated in words of scripture.
C. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” I Corinthians 2:12,13
If we, like the apostle Paul, compare spiritual things with spiritual (i.e. words taught by the Holy Ghost with other words taught by the Holy Ghost, or scripture with scripture) we too will be able to speak in words which the Holy Ghost teaches, instead of in words which man’s wisdom teaches!
VII. God is immutable (Mal.3:6 & Heb.13:8) and his word stands forever (Is.40:8 & I Pet.1:25), SO LET US ALLOW THE TRUTH OF GOD TO CHANGE US AND TO MOVE US OUT OF THE BONDAGE WHERE WE ARE INTO THE LIBERTY WHERE HE INTENDS US TO BE.(Ex.3:8 & Heb.13:13)
A. The hermeneutics of each and every theological camp, including those of which I have been a part, are those which bind:
1.They defend traditions we received from our fathers.
2.They demand that we remain unchanged in, and in conformity to the “camp” in which we were born, educated or have enlisted.
3.They bind us as slaves, not to the Master who has bought us, but to masters who have robbed us. Religion, (re – ligare)is “to bind back” or “a return to bondage”! See Webster’s New WorldCollege Dictionary.
Biblical principles for understanding scripture are those which liberate the child of God:
1.They destroy traditions we’ve received from our fathers. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation (behaviour) received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” I Pet.1:18,19
2.They require us to be changed continually (II Cor.3:18 & Rom.12:2) outside our former theological camps. “We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.” Heb.13:10-13
3.They enable us to stand fast in liberty by which Christ has made us free! “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Gal.5:1