The Bible Is Its Own Interpreter
A ÿsecond principle we shall now examine is the truth that the
Bible is its own interpreter. This truth is of great consequence,
for ÿit ÿunderscores the method by which we are to ÿexamine ÿeach
verse of the Holy Scriptures.
When two Bible teachers disagree on a doctrine, frequently one
will declare, “Well, he has his opinion, his interpretation, ÿand
I have mine. Therefore we don’t see this verse in the same way.’
If ÿthis ÿteacher’s statement is correct, ÿwe ÿcan ÿdo ÿalmost
anything ÿwe wish with the Bible. ÿWe become free to look at ÿthe
Bible and make our own personal judgments as to what God means by
each ÿverse. ÿUnfortunately, ÿthis is the thinking that underlies
the writing of paraphrased Bibles. This also is the thinking that
has influenced some of the newer translations of the Bible.
Such ÿa ÿprocedure makes man the ultimate ÿjudge, ÿÿthe ÿfinal
authority. ÿIt effectively declares that God has written a number
of words and phrases which together we call the Bible, ÿbut which
depend ÿupon ÿour responsibility as a teacher to decide what ÿGod
really ÿmeans. ÿÿThus the reader has the final say as to what ÿis
This ÿkind of “anything goes’ ÿthinking has spawned cults and
the false gospels which prevail so greatly in the world today. By
interpreting verses according to preconceived ideas, ÿthe teacher
tries to show that his gospel is Bible-based.
This condition prevails in many of our churches and ÿcongrega-
tions today. ÿOne of the most puzzling phenomena currently facing
the ÿÿchurch ÿis ÿthe ÿfact ÿthat ÿthe ÿtheologians ÿof ÿÿvarious
denominations ÿremain ÿso far apart in their understanding of ÿso
many doctrines supposedly related to or derived from the Bible. A
result ÿof this is that Lutherans remain Lutheran from generation
to ÿgeneration, ÿBaptists remain Baptists, ÿPresbyterians ÿremain
Presbyterian, Methodists remain Methodist, etc. ÿOne of the basic
reasons ÿfor ÿthe ÿexistence of different denominations ÿis ÿthat
there ÿÿare ÿdifferent ÿconclusions ÿheld ÿby ÿeach ÿdenomination
concerning certain doctrines.
For ÿexample, ÿsome denominations hold the pre-millenial ÿview
from ÿgeneration ÿto ÿgeneration. ÿÿOn ÿthe ÿother ÿhand, ÿÿother
denominations ÿhold ÿthe post-millenial view from ÿgeneration ÿto
generation. ÿÿAnd still others hold the a-millenial view ÿthrough
We must realize that there can be only one true account of the
return of Christ, ÿso at least two of the foregoing views must be
altogether wrong and unbiblical. The return of Christ and the end
of the world simply can not take place in three different ways.
The ÿsame problem exists with many other doctrines. ÿÿFor ÿin-
stance, ÿthere are widespread differences amongst many ÿdenomina-
tions ÿin relationship to such important teachings as the ÿnature
and character of salvation, and the meaning of baptism. One would
certainly think that, ÿas diligent students of the Scriptures who
earnestly love the Lord continue to search the Bible, ÿthey would
come ÿcloser and closer to each other as they all come closer ÿto
the ÿfulness of the truth. ÿIf this were the actual condition ÿin
each denomination, gradually all the denominations would begin to
agree ÿmore ÿand more. ÿYet year follows year, ÿand there ÿis ÿno
rapprochement ÿof any kind. ÿThe Baptist still remains a Baptist,
the Lutheran a Lutheran, the Presbyterian a Presbyterian, etc.
This phenomenon is a result of the fact that the Bible is ÿnot
fully relied upon as the source of absolute truth. ÿThe Bible ÿis
often ÿtreated ÿmerely ÿlike one of the various ÿdisciplines ÿand
philosophies ÿof ÿthe ÿsecular ÿworld. ÿOne ÿcan ÿunderstand ÿthe
proliferation ÿof ÿdifferent schools of thought ÿin ÿthe ÿsecular
world, ÿbecause in such disciplines as music, art, ÿor philosophy
there ÿis ÿno such thing as absolute truth. ÿEach ÿdiscipline ÿis
allowed to exist independently of the others and is accepted just
as it stands.
But when we deal with the Bible, ÿwe are dealing with absolute
truth. ÿTherefore, anything that is taught, ÿany doctrine that is
held, that is not in agreement with truth is false. In short, any
doctrine ÿnot in agreement with absolute truth is a lie. ÿIf ÿany
teacher ÿor pastor declares to his congregation, ÿ”Thus saith the
Lord,’ when the Lord has not said that, he is mouthing doctrines
that ÿare out of man’s mind rather than God’s. ÿÿWe ÿimmediately
sense how reprehensible and awful this is.
So, ÿÿif well meaning, ÿlearned, ÿGod-loving ÿtheologians ÿare
earnestly, seriously teaching three entirely different answers to
the ÿsame ÿquestion, ÿwe are forced to conclude that ÿsomeone ÿis
teaching ÿthat ÿwhich is false. ÿSince no child of God ÿwants ÿto
preach lies, ÿthis becomes an exceedingly serious matter; ÿand it
is a matter that will not go away by itself.
Unfortunately, ÿÿthere is tremendous evidence that these ÿdif-
ferences in understanding of Bible doctrine exist today. ÿWhat is
the ÿproblem? ÿI ÿbelieve we can both understand the problem ÿand
find its solution.
The problem is that theologians and pastors are taught to come
to ÿthe ÿBible ÿfrom the perspective of the ÿalready ÿestablished
theological position of the church or denomination to which ÿthey
belong. ÿThat is, ÿif someone is a Baptist, ÿthen he is taught to
come ÿto the Bible with Baptist presuppositions. ÿIf someone is a
Lutheran, he comes to the Bible with Lutheran presuppositions. If
he ÿis ÿReformed, ÿÿhe comes with a Reformed ÿperspective. ÿÿSuch
theological ÿpresuppositions ÿgovern the way ÿthe ÿBible ÿstudent
interprets ÿand understands the Bible. ÿSince ÿeach ÿdenomination
believes ÿthat its presuppositions correctly reflect Bible truth,
the ÿteachers and pastors in that denomination cling ÿtenaciously
to ÿthem. ÿSimilarly, ÿthey are convinced that perspectives ÿfrom
other ÿdenominations are most likely incorrect and therefore ÿare
not ÿto ÿbe considered or followed. ÿThis is so even though ÿthey
readily acknowledge that each denomination has a right to ÿexist.
Only ÿÿÿbecause ÿÿÿthey ÿÿbelieve ÿÿtheir ÿÿown ÿÿÿdenominations’
presuppositions ÿare the most accurate do they remain with ÿthem.
The ÿconsequence, ÿÿtherefore, ÿÿis that the ÿBaptist ÿremains ÿa
Baptist, the Lutheran remains a Lutheran, etc., etc.
I ÿam afraid that most theologians come to the Bible ÿin ÿmuch
the ÿsame way that students come to such social sciences as ÿart,
music, ÿand philosophy. For example, ÿthere exist many schools of
philosophy. There are the Eleatic school of philosopy, the Ionian
school of philosophy, ÿByzantine philosophy, ÿArabic ÿphilosophy,
and Western philosophy, just to name a few. Each has its original
thinkers, ÿÿand each has its faithful followers. ÿEach ÿhas ÿsome
truth ÿin it. ÿOrdinarily, ÿfollowers of one school of philosophy
are ÿready ÿto ÿaccept the rightful existence ÿof ÿand ÿpotential
contribution of another school. ÿMoreover, ÿno one would be ready
to conclude that the philosophy he follows is absolute truth. ÿHe
just ÿfollows ÿa ÿparticular ÿschool ÿof ÿphilosophy ÿbecause ÿhe
believes that it is more acceptable than any other.
Most theologians approach the Bible in much the same way. They
do ÿnot regard the Bible as the lawbook of absolute truth. ÿIt is
only a book that is to be viewed from their denominations’ school
of ÿthinking. ÿThey effectively contend that there exist ÿvarious
schools ÿof thought (denominational presuppositions) ÿrelating to
how ÿwe ÿare ÿto interpret the Bible. ÿThe school of ÿthought ÿwe
follow will heavily influence the conclusions we derive from ÿthe
Bible. ÿAnd the feeling is that we are being honest as long as we
remain faithful to our particular denominational presuppositions.
Likewise, ÿit is believed that theologians of other denominations
are being faithful to the Word as long as they remain faithful to
their denominations’ ÿpresuppositions. In this way, ÿthe study of
the ÿBible is looked upon as an activity similar to the study ÿof
various social sciences.
But may the Bible be treated like a social science? ÿIsn’t ÿit
the ÿbook ÿof absolute truth? ÿOnly when a student ÿhas ÿcome ÿto
realize ÿit ÿas the absolute truth has he really ÿunderstood ÿthe
Bible. ÿÿMoreover, ÿif he has not come to that ÿrealization, ÿÿin
essence he is still teaching less than the truth – that is, he is
That ÿthe ÿBible ÿteaches ÿabsolute ÿtruth ÿshould ÿbe ÿeasily
recognized by all theologians. ÿIsn’t it true that the conclusion
that all men are sinners is absolute truth? ÿIsn’t this also ÿthe
case ÿin ÿregard to such conclusions as: ÿthe ÿcertainty ÿof ÿthe
death, ÿÿburial ÿand resurrection of Jesus; ÿthe facts ÿthat ÿGod
created the world, that Christ will come to judge the world, that
there ÿwill be a New Heaven and New Earth, ÿand that salvation is
possible only through the atoning work of Jesus Christ?
All of these teachings are absolute truth. ÿAnd they are taken
from the Bible which is the book of absolute truth. Therefore, it
is ÿincumbent upon the pastor and the teacher to study the ÿBible
until he has found absolute truth in regard to each aspect of the
Gospel. Only then can he be sure he is not teaching a lie.
Indeed ÿthe Bible is wholly unrelated to the social ÿsciences,
and cannot be studied in the same manner. ÿIt must be ÿapproached
very analytically, ÿas we would approach an engineering or a ÿlaw
book. ÿÿBut ÿeven ÿthe engineering or law book ÿcannot ÿbegin ÿto
approach ÿthe level of truth that the Bible presents. ÿIt has ÿno
peer. ÿWe must recognize that it is absolutely true in all of its
aspects. We are to carefully, prayerfully, ÿdiligently search out
the truth. As we do so, God Himself will lead us into the truth.
Now we can see what the church has done. Inadvertently, by ap-
proaching ÿthe ÿBible as any social science is ÿapproached, ÿÿthe
church ÿhas ÿplaced ÿitself above the Bible. ÿI ÿÿam ÿaware ÿthat
theologians ÿwithin ÿthese ÿchurches would vigorously ÿdeny ÿthis
assertion. ÿÿThey ÿwould ÿmaintain that the Bible ÿis ÿaltogether
infallible ÿand inerrant and is the only authority on which ÿthey
lean and structure doctrine.
While ÿthis claim might be made confidently, ÿthe sad fact is
that ÿin ÿpractice ÿit is altogether ÿnegated ÿbecause ÿonly ÿtoo
frequently ÿÿeach ÿÿtheologian ÿcomes ÿto ÿthe ÿBible ÿwith ÿÿhis
denomination’s ÿpresuppositions. ÿWith this approach the Bible is
no ÿÿlonger ÿÿthe ÿÿultimate ÿÿauthority: ÿÿÿthe ÿÿdenominational
presuppositions have become the ultimate authority.
Of ÿcourse the argument will be made that each ÿpresupposition
is ÿderived ÿfrom ÿthe ÿBible, ÿand therefore ÿthe ÿBible ÿis ÿin
actuality the ultimate authority. The fact is, however, that, ÿin
practice, ÿÿÿthe ÿpresupposition ÿis ÿnever ÿquestioned ÿby ÿmost
theologians. ÿÿÿIt ÿstands ÿinviolate, ÿÿas ÿbelonging ÿto ÿÿthat
denomination, ÿand must never be tampered with. ÿActually, ÿif we
are ÿto ÿfind truth, ÿthe presuppositions themselves have ÿto ÿbe
examined ÿand critiqued just as vigorously as any other ÿdoctrine
that we claim to have received from the Bible.
The solution to this problem, I believe, is that we must go to
the ÿBible with no prejudices or presuppositions whatsoever. ÿÿWe
must let the Bible alone guide us into truth. ÿWe must ÿrecognize
that we as humans have feet of clay. ÿWe have sin-tainted ÿminds.
Our ÿminds ÿare exceedingly finite as compared with the ÿinfinite
mind of God. Truly we must hold the position: “…let God be true
and every man a liar;…’ (Romans 3:4).
It ÿcould be argued that even these preliminary statements ÿof
solution ÿand principles of Bible interpretation as set forth ÿin
this ÿstudy are in themselves presuppositions with which we ÿview
the ÿBible. ÿÿBut ÿthe ÿquestion at ÿissue ÿis ÿ”Where ÿdo ÿthese
statements come from?’ ÿAre they the teachings of the Bible? Are
they ÿsomething that can be clearly demomstrated ÿas ÿoriginating
from the pages of Holy Writ, ÿor are they just someone’s ÿtheory?
If ÿthey ÿcannot be shown to be actually derived from the ÿBible,
they should be corrected, ÿbecause no presupposition should stand
if it is not in complete harmony with the Bible.
I ÿdo believe that amongst the various denominations there ÿis
the ÿcommon agreement that the Bible is true, ÿthat the Bible ÿis
the ÿinfallible ÿWord of God, ÿand that it is the only ÿrule ÿfor
doctrine ÿand ÿfor ÿpractice. ÿI ÿbelieve there is ÿalso ÿgeneral
agreement ÿthat we cannot trust our minds, ÿbut that we must ÿput
every thought under the searchlight of the Word of God. ÿAt least
this is what the Bible clearly teaches.
If theologians would come to the Bible with no more than these
common presuppositions, ÿhumbly letting the Bible lead them ÿinto
truth, then, there would be more and more agreement amongst those
who are children of God regardless of denominational ÿbackground.
This is so simply because truth is truth. ÿAn incorrect ÿdoctrine
can never agree with the Scriptures. ÿA stubborn holding to wrong
doctrine ÿin ÿthe ÿface ÿof the light of the ÿScriptures ÿis, ÿÿI
believe, the most serious problem facing the church today.
Indeed, ÿÿif ÿwe are truly a child of God, ÿat the ÿmoment ÿof
salvation we receive our resurrected souls in which we never wish
to ÿsin again. ÿThus, ÿeven though our unsaved bodies still ÿlust
after sin, ÿthere is constantly within us an earnest desire to do
the will of God. And as we read and study the Bible we learn more
and ÿmore how we can live in accord with God’s will. ÿBecause ÿwe
have this intense desire to do God’s will, we also become greatly
troubled ÿÿwhenever ÿwe ÿdiscover ÿwe ÿhave ÿbeen ÿholding ÿwrong
doctrine. ÿÿThat ÿis, ÿas we read or study the Bible, ÿif we ÿrun
across a verse that appears to contradict a doctrine we hold, ÿwe
will ÿbecome greatly concerned. ÿOur new nature (our ÿresurrected
soul), has an intense desire to be true to God’s Word. Therefore,
this ÿÿconcern ÿwill ÿnot ÿdisappear ÿuntil ÿwe ÿhave ÿÿcarefully
reexamined ÿthis ÿdoctrine to the point that we ÿare ÿcomfortable
with all that the Bible teaches concerning it.
Of ÿcourse, ÿthe tragic other-side-of-the-coin is that ÿif ÿwe
persist ÿin ÿa ÿsinful practice after reading statements ÿin ÿthe
Bible ÿthat ÿshow ÿthat practice to be sinful, ÿÿthen ÿwe ÿshould
rightly begin to wonder whether or not we are really saved.
Likewise, ÿif we continue holding and teaching wrong ÿdoctrine
after reading Scripture that suggests it is wrong, ÿthen we ÿmust
ask the logical and fair question, ÿ”How can I really be a ÿchild
of ÿGod ÿand blatantly continue holding ÿwrong ÿdoctrine?’ ÿÿThe
seriousness of such a question cannot be overestimated.
It may be that, ÿas we humbly approach the Bible, ÿletting God
lead us into truth, we may find that a doctrine or a whole series
of ÿÿdoctrines ÿÿtaught ÿÿby ÿÿour ÿÿchurch ÿÿas ÿÿdenominational
presuppositions ÿare indeed true to the Word of God. ÿThen we can
be ÿassured ÿthat the church fathers who ÿfirst ÿpresented ÿthese
doctrines ÿhave done their work very well. ÿThe Holy ÿSpirit ÿhas
indeed enlightened their hearts and minds to truth.
If ÿI may give a personal note, ÿI ÿwas brought up in a church
that ÿis ÿReformed in doctrine. ÿWhile I had heard about the ÿso-
called ÿfive points of Calvinism, ÿI ÿhad never been taught ÿwell
enough so that I could go to the Bible to prove any of these five
points that concern themselves with the doctrines of grace. ÿThe
fact is, ÿI ÿcan recall reading learned essays on these doctrines
in ÿmy younger days in some of our church papers, ÿand being very
confused by what I read.
However, ÿÿin my role as host of the Open Forum program ÿwhere
people ask me questions concerning the Bible “live’ ÿon the air,
I have had to face the whole question of the nature of ÿsalvation
with ÿgreat zeal. ÿWhen I was finally able to ferret out all ÿthe
biblical ÿteachings ÿconcerning the nature of salvation, ÿÿto ÿmy
utter ÿdelight I found that the five points of Calvinism were ÿin
agreement ÿwith ÿeverything ÿthat I had found in ÿmy ÿindependent
studies ÿof the Scriptures. ÿThe Reformers of old had done ÿtheir
work very well and very accurately.
On the other hand, in my personal experience I have also found
that ÿother ÿhistorical ÿstatements ÿof the ÿchurch ÿare ÿnot ÿas
biblical. ÿÿFor example, ÿtoday we have the confessions like ÿthe
Heidelberg Catechism, ÿthe Canons of Dort, ÿthe Belgic Confession
and ÿthe Westminster Confession. ÿWhile I have a very high regard
for ÿthese confessions of the church (because in many cases ÿthey
have ÿbeen ÿhammered ÿout ÿin the crucible ÿof ÿa ÿchurch ÿfacing
apostasy ÿor heresy, ÿand because in the main they can be ÿtested
and ÿfound ÿto ÿbe quite accurate insofar as the ÿScriptures ÿare
concerned), ÿnevertheless, ÿthere are statements in some of ÿthem
which I believe can be shown to be incorrect insofar as the Bible
But do we dare to disagree with the confessions? ÿWe must dare
to ÿdisagree ÿif ÿwe ÿcan ÿshow ÿfrom ÿthe ÿScriptures ÿthat ÿthe
confession ÿis incorrect! ÿOtherwise the confession ÿbecomes ÿan
authority higher than the Bible itself.
As long as we are talking about confessions, I think it is ap-
propriate to make this statement: The confessions have served the
church ÿexceedingly well in that they have provided stability ÿat
times ÿwhen theologians might have become careless in their study
of the Scriptures. ÿThey can give a church a lot of security. ÿOn
the other hand, they can also do a great disservice to the church
if ÿthe ÿconfession is looked upon as being inviolate. ÿÿWe ÿmust
realize ÿthat the confession is the work of man, ÿnot the work of
God. Only the Bible is the work of God. I am tremendously pleased
with Article VII of the Belgic Confession, which reads:
THE SUFFICIENCY OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES TO BE
THE ONLY RULE OF FAITH
We ÿbelieve that those Holy Scriptures fully contain the ÿwill
of God, ÿand that whatsoever man ought to believe unto ÿsalvation
is ÿsufficiently taught therein. ÿFor since the whole ÿmanner ÿof
worship which God requires of us is written in them at large, ÿit
is unlawful for any one, ÿthough an apostle, ÿto teach ÿotherwise
than ÿwe are now taught in the Holy Scriptures: ÿ”nay, ÿthough it
were an angel from heaven,’ as the apostle Paul says. ÿFor since
it ÿis forbidden to “add unto or take away anything from the Word
of ÿGod,’ ÿÿit does thereby evidently appear that ÿthe ÿdoctrine
thereof is most perfect and complete in all respects.
Neither ÿmay ÿwe consider any writings of men, ÿÿhowever ÿholy
these men have been, of equal value with those divine Scriptures,
nor ÿought ÿwe to consider custom, ÿor the great ÿmultitude, ÿÿor
antiquity, ÿÿor ÿsuccession of times and persons, ÿÿor ÿcouncils,
decrees ÿor statutes, ÿas of equal value with the truth ÿof ÿGod,
since ÿthe ÿtruth is above all; ÿ”for all men are ÿof ÿthemselves
liars, ÿand more vain than vanity itself.’ ÿTherefore we ÿreject
with ÿall ÿour ÿhearts ÿwhatsoever ÿdoes ÿnot ÿagree ÿwith ÿÿthis
infallible rule, ÿas the apostles have taught us, saying, ÿ”Prove
the spirits, ÿwhether they are of God.’ ÿLikewise: ÿ”If any ÿone
cometh unto you, ÿand bringeth not this teaching, receive him not
into your house.’
This ÿarticle of the Belgic Confession accurately ÿsets ÿforth
the biblical principle that nothing can stand above the Bible. It
reminds us that accurate dealing with the Bible is of ÿphenomenal
importance. ÿAnd this matter of the importance of the Bible being
the ÿultimate authority cannot be swept under the rug. ÿIt cannot
be answered, ÿ”That is your opinion. ÿI ÿhave my opinion.’ ÿÿThe
issue is whether we are going to be true prophets of God or false
prophets of God.
The ÿprophets of Baal on Mount Carmel were ÿutterly ÿconvinced
that they had truth as they cut themselves and cried to their god
to burn the sacrifice on the altar. ÿBut all their zeal and their
sincerity ÿand ÿtheir conviction could not change the ÿfact ÿthat
they ÿwere ÿfalse prophets. ÿThe prophets and ÿthe ÿPharisees ÿof
Jesus’ ÿday, together with Saul of Tarsus, were utterly convinced
that ÿthey had truth as they did everything possible to stop ÿthe
spread of the Gospel as taught by this Rabbi, Jesus. Certainly no
one ÿcould ÿfault ÿthem ÿfor their zeal and ÿsincerity ÿor ÿtheir
conviction. ÿÿBut ÿthey were false prophets, ÿand only ÿthe ÿtrue
followers of Jesus were the true prophets. ÿIf we are going to be
true ÿprophets ÿin ÿour day, ÿit is ÿimperative ÿthat ÿwe ÿhumble
ourselves ÿand approach the Bible with the recognition that ÿonly
God is true, and every man is a liar. That is, we all have within
us the possibility of self-deception.
Even after we are saved, ÿwe still have sin-stained minds. ÿNo
one ÿon this side of the grave is going to know truth ÿperfectly.
Therefore, ÿÿat ÿtimes even the most careful teacher will ÿbe ÿin
error. Each and every time that we teach in error we are actually
teaching a lie. For that reason, every teacher has to come humbly
to ÿthe ÿLord asking forgiveness for that which has ÿbeen ÿtaught
which was not true. We all see through a glass darkly.
But ÿthe ÿteaching of doctrine is analogous to living out ÿour
Christian life. ÿAs we saw earlier, as we study the Bible, ÿif we
find sin in our lives, the earnest desire of our lives is to turn
away from that sin. ÿSo we ask the Lord’s forgiveness, and we ask
Him ÿto strengthen us as we turn away from that sin. ÿThe life of
the ÿbeliever ÿis ÿone of constant learning ÿas ÿhe ÿincreasingly
discovers how to live a more holy life before God.
Even ÿso, ÿÿeach teacher, ÿeach pastor should ÿbe ÿcontinually
learn- ÿing doctrine. ÿHe can never say there is nothing more ÿto
learn. ÿIf he has stopped learning, ÿhe may as well be dead. ÿAnd
just ÿas we repent of sinful practices when we discover ÿthem ÿin
our ÿlives so too, ÿas we continue our study of the Bible, ÿif we
discover ÿthat ÿa doctrine that we have held and ÿtaught ÿis ÿnot
biblical, ÿÿwe should ask the Lord’s forgiveness, ÿand we ÿshould
turn away from that unbiblical teaching.
Obviously, ÿthis is much easier said than done. When we repent
of ÿunbiblical practices, ÿwe usually have the approbation of our
congregation, ÿÿand this serves as encouragement to take this new
path. ÿÿÿHowever, ÿÿÿwhen ÿwe ÿdiscover ÿthat ÿa ÿÿdenominational
presupposition ÿis not as biblical as it should be, ÿor should we
discover ÿthat a doctrine we have held is unbiblical, ÿin turning
away from this we risk the wrath of our colleagues as well as the
wrath of our entire denomination. We may even look like a heretic
in ÿtheir ÿeyes ÿbecause ÿwe ÿno longer ÿhold ÿto ÿthis ÿor ÿthat
denominational ÿpresupposition ÿor doctrine. ÿThe consequence ÿof
this can be that we are actually driven our of our denomination.
This ÿdire consequence seems strict and unwarranted. ÿBut that
is how monolithic denominations are in what they believe. ÿTruly,
it ÿis only God’s grace working in one’s life that enables him to
courageously face the consequences of coming closer to truth.
I can’t help but comment on the fact that churches, ÿto a high
degree, ÿÿhave ÿfigured ÿout ÿhow ÿto ÿhave ÿa ÿvery ÿcomfortable
existence. ÿEverything is agreeable. ÿEverything is happy. ÿÿThis
makes me wonder why Jesus said in Matthew 5:10-12:
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’
sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute
you, ÿÿand ÿshall ÿsay all manner ÿof ÿevil ÿagainst ÿyou
falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward
in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were
Did ÿJesus ÿhave ÿin mind only the kind ÿof ÿpersecution ÿthat
occurs in a Communist country? ÿWas He thinking only of ÿdreadful
bloodlet- tings by political authorities?
Amazingly, the persecution spoken of in the Bible, as the pro-
phets were killed, or as the Christians of the New Testament were
brought into Jerusalem to be cast into prison, was persecution by
the church leaders. ÿThe Bible anticipates that it is the leaders
of ÿthe church who will be the first to denounce those who make a
stand for the truth. Because people do not change, ÿbecause today
they ÿdo not want the truth any more than they have at any ÿother
time ÿin history, ÿwe should also expect that, ÿif we hold to the
truth, ÿÿwe will experience persecution. ÿOf course, ÿin our land
physical ÿbloodletting ÿis not fashionable, ÿbut certainly it ÿis
permissible to scandalize, to vilify, ÿor to speak badly of those
who hold to truth.
The ÿother side of the coin is, ÿif all appears beautiful ÿand
complacent ÿand secure, ÿthen we can rightly wonder “Do we really
have the truth?’ ÿRemember, Jesus said, “Woe unto you, ÿwhen all
men shall speak well of you!’ (Luke 6:26).
This ÿÿis ÿnot ÿto ÿsuggest ÿthat ÿwe ÿshould ÿwillingly ÿseek
persecution. ÿÿIt ÿis ÿonly ÿto remind us of the ÿsad ÿfact ÿthat
persecution ÿis reasonably normative for the true believer. ÿÿAnd
surely, ÿwhen a pastor discovers that a cherished doctrine of his
church ÿis ÿnot as biblical as it should be, ÿhe can expect ÿsome
kind ÿof ÿpersecution as he begins to preach more ÿfaithfully ÿin
accordance with the Word of God.
Again, ÿÿI ÿcannot help but comment at this time upon ÿa ÿvery
significant ÿagreement ÿthat ÿis developing in ÿour ÿday ÿbetween
denominations which historically have been quite adamant in their
“go-it-alone’ understanding of many of the cardinal doctrines of
the Bible. ÿThat growing unity is centered around doctrines ÿthat
can be shown to be quite unbiblical. Increasingly, unity is being
found in connection with doctrines such as divorce and remarriage
after ÿdivorce, ÿthe right of women to rule and speak within ÿthe
congregation, birth control, and the responsibility of the church
to ÿphysically ÿfeed and clothe the hungry masses of ÿthe ÿworld.
Additionally in our day, ÿdoctrines that favor miraculous healing
and additional revelation are finding increasing approval ÿacross
all denominational lines.
This ÿis ÿan amazing phenomenon in view of the fact that ÿthis
latter ÿday unity is based on principles that can be shown to ÿbe
contrary to the Bible. ÿI ÿcannot help but wonder whether this is
the end product of a church age in which the churches have become
careless ÿwith the Bible because of their presuppositions. ÿÿWhen
bringing ÿjudgment, ÿGod first of all blinds theologians so ÿthat
they ÿbegin to rewrite the rules of the Bible. ÿThen, ÿas a final
judgment ÿon the church prior to Judgment Day, ÿHe will allow the
churches ÿto ÿbe overcome by these false gospels that ÿhold ÿthat
there is more to divine revelation than the Bible alone.
But ÿwe have wandered way beyond the scope of our study, ÿÿand
now ÿwe should return to the questions at issue: ÿHow are ÿwe ÿto
under-stand ÿthe ÿBible? ÿHow are we to interpret ÿthe ÿdifficult
passages of the Bible?
God ÿÿgives ÿus ÿthe ÿanswer ÿconcerning ÿthis ÿmatter ÿin ÿÿI
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.
In ÿthis ÿstatement ÿGod ÿis rejecting the idea ÿthat ÿwe ÿcan
interpret ÿthe Scripture in order to make it agree with ÿwhatever
we ÿhold in our own minds or in our denomination’s thinking. ÿOur
thinking, our opinion, our ideas are of no value. Only the Bible,
which is the source book of spiritual truths, ÿcan guide us to ÿa
solution, ÿto a true understanding of the verse in question. ÿAnd
God Himself, ÿin the person of the Holy Spirit, will lead us into
truth ÿas ÿwe humbly look to Him for guidance (John 16:13). ÿÿThe
sword of the Spirit, ÿas He leads us into truth, ÿis the Word ÿof
God which we call the Bible. ÿWe must come to an understanding of
any part of the Bible by searching the rest of the Scriptures for
help in our understanding of that part of the Bible.
True some verses seem to be easily understood, ÿbut there ÿare
so many that are very difficult, ÿyes, even seemingly contrary to
other verses. ÿEven those verses which seem so easily understood,
how can we be sure that we understand them correctly?
For ÿexample, ÿÿwhen ÿwe read Matthew 25:31, ÿÿsurely ÿGod ÿis
speaking ÿof a time when all nations will literally stand ÿbefore
Him. ÿÿAt ÿthat time all those who have done such good ÿworks ÿas
feeding ÿthe hungry, ÿclothing the naked, ÿand visiting the ÿsick
will ÿgo into heaven to be eternally with the Lord Jesus ÿChrist.
Certainly, it seems, ÿthis passage is teaching that our salvation
is based on our good works. As a matter of fact, this passage has
become a convin- cing proof passage for those who wish to believe
that ÿtheir good works make at least a contribution towards their
However, those who have read more widely and more carefully in
the ÿBible immediately become uneasy with the conclusions of ÿour
last ÿparagraph. ÿThey argue, ÿ”But doesn’t the Bible say that we
are ÿsaved ÿby grace and not by works?’ ÿAnd indeed, ÿÿthey ÿare
correct. ÿÿSalvation is by grace alone. ÿOur works are ÿonly ÿthe
proof, ÿÿor evidence, ÿor result of God’s saving power within our
But ÿhow ÿdo ÿwe know that salvation is by grace ÿand ÿnot ÿby
works? ÿÿHow ÿdo ÿwe know that, ÿwhatever ÿMatthew ÿ25:31-46 ÿÿis
teaching, ÿÿit is not teaching that our good works are the ÿbasis
of, or ground for, our salvation? We know this because many other
verses ÿin ÿthe ÿBible ÿemphasize and ÿteach ÿvery ÿclearly ÿthat
salvation ÿis altogether of grace. ÿEphesians 2:8-10 ÿis just one
passage ÿamong many that teaches that salvation is altogether ÿof
grace. There we read:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of
yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto
good works, which God hath before ordained that we should
walk in them.
Many theologians today subscribe to the hermeneutical ÿprinci-
ple ÿthat ÿif the verse in question makes common sense as ÿit ÿis
read, ÿthen we are to seek no other sense. In other words, if the
verse appears to be very straightforward and very clear, and if a
conclusion ÿas ÿto what it is teaching can be immediately ÿfound,
then ÿyou ÿcan be quite sure you are on safe ground ÿin ÿteaching
this forthright conclusion.
But this hermeneutical principle is itself biblically invalid.
Every ÿconclusion, ÿregardless of how solid it appears, ÿmust ÿbe
tested ÿby ÿthe rest of the Bible to determine whether it ÿis ÿin
harmony with the rest of the Bible.
For Example, How Are We to Understand Isaiah 2:4?
Let’s look, ÿfor example, at a verse such as Isaiah 2:4 ÿwhich
And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke
many people: and they shall beat their swords into plow-
shares and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall
not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they
learn war any more.
Certainly it seems that this verse is teaching that there will
be a future time on this present earth when universal peace ÿwill
prevail, ÿwhen warfare between nations will have come to an ÿend.
The ÿbeliever ÿholding ÿthe ÿpre-millennial ÿview ÿsees ÿthis ÿas
occurring during a future 1,000 ÿyear reign of Christ when He ÿis
supposed ÿto rule from Jerusalem. ÿThe ÿpost-millennial ÿbeliever
does ÿnot ÿsee Christ Himself returning to this earth ÿto ÿreign.
Rather, ÿhe sees a future golden age wherein the Christian Gospel
will ÿhave become so all pervasive throughout the world that ÿthe
nations will actually cease from warfare. ÿIn either case, ÿÿthis
conclusion of a future time when war will come to an end seems to
harmonize ÿwell with other conclusions concerning future ÿevents.
Thus it would be easy to conclude that this verse that speaks ÿof
a cessation of warfare is very clear and easy to understand.
But is it really so easy to understand? In Matthew 24:6-8 God
speaks ÿof wars and rumors of wars as the beginning ÿof ÿsorrows.
He ÿthen goes on to describe the final tribulation period as ÿthe
last ÿevent ÿbefore Christ’s return and Judgment Day. ÿÿThus ÿno
possibility ÿis offered in these verses for a time ÿof ÿpolitical
peace on this earth.
Moreover, ÿÿthe heart of man is desperately wicked, ÿas we are
informed in Jeremiah 17:9. ÿBecause of this sad fact we are told
in James 4:1-2:
From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they
not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and
cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, be-
ye ask not.
Truly ÿthe Bible does not allow the conclusion that ÿuniversal
peace ÿwill ÿcome ÿupon this present earth at some ÿfuture ÿtime.
That ÿis an impossible idea in the face of the corrupt nature ÿof
But what then does Isaiah 2:4 teach? ÿThe answer may be found
by ÿlooking ÿat other passages in the Bible that speak of ÿpeace.
For example, we read in Isaiah 40:1-2:
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that
her ÿwarfare ÿis ÿaccomplished, ÿÿthat ÿher ÿiniquity ÿis
pardoned for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double
for all her sins.
In ÿthis revealing passage God shows us that the cessation ÿof
war ÿGod has in view is not between political nations. ÿRather it
is between, ÿon the one hand, ÿthe dominion of Satan to which ÿwe
belong before we are saved, and on the other hand, the kingdom of
God which we have entered into when we became saved. ÿChrist came
as the Prince of Peace. ÿBefore we were saved, as slaves of Satan
we were at war with God. After we became saved, ÿwe were at peace
with ÿGod. ÿÿIsaiah ÿ2:4 ÿis thus speaking of the coming ÿof ÿthe
Messiah ÿto ÿbring spiritual peace to this world. ÿAll of us ÿwho
have ÿbelieved on Him have come into this peace. ÿBefore we ÿwere
saved ÿwe ÿwere ÿa ÿnation at war with the nation ÿwhich ÿis ÿthe
kingdom ÿof God. ÿNow that we are saved we have become a part ÿof
the kingdom of God and, ÿtherefore, are at peace with God. We now
have ÿbecome servants of God, ÿcaring for the spiritual needs ÿof
this ÿworld. ÿÿThis ÿis the import ÿof ÿthe ÿlanguage ÿdescribing
believers as using henceforth plowshares and pruninghooks.
This understanding of Isaiah 2:4 ÿis now in agreement with all
else the Bible teaches. But such an understanding could come only
after ÿrealizing ÿthat ÿeven those verses which ÿwere ÿapparently
quite ÿclear ÿmust be examined in the light of the ÿrest ÿof ÿthe
Bible ÿbefore we are ready to be satisfied with our understanding
of that verse.
We ÿthus see that the hermeneutical principle ÿthat ÿdeclares,
“If the verse in question makes common sense as it is read, ÿthen
seek ÿno ÿother ÿsense,’ ÿÿviolates ÿa ÿfundamental ÿÿscriptural
principle. ÿRegardless of how clear a verse may appear to be, the
doctrinal ÿconclusion ÿwe derive from that verse ÿshould ÿnot ÿbe
taught as Gospel truth until it has been checked against anything
and ÿeverything ÿelse ÿin the Bible that ÿmight ÿrelate ÿto ÿthat
Theologians ÿfrequently ÿfall ÿinto a snare because ÿthey ÿun-
wittingly violate the principle that they must always check their
conclusions concerning one part of the Bible with the rest of the
Bible. That is, they study a particular verse or passage and come
to ÿa ÿconclusion ÿwithout ÿtaking the time to ÿsee ÿif ÿit ÿwill
harmonize ÿwith everything else the Bible teaches concerning ÿthe
subject at hand.
The ÿfact is, ÿthe very structure of theological ÿstudy ÿoften
fosters ÿunbiblical conclusions. ÿOne theologian is an expert ÿin
Greek, ÿanother in Hebrew, ÿone in the Old Testament, ÿanother in
the New Testament. One is considered to have his expertise in the
doctrines of Christ, another in the doctrines of the Holy Spirit,
and ÿstill ÿanother ÿin ÿthe doctrine of ÿthe ÿend ÿtimes. ÿÿEven
theological courses are set up on various subjects so that ÿthere
is a course in soteriology (the doctrine of salvation), ÿÿanother
in ÿChristology (the doctrine of Christ), ÿand still ÿanother ÿin
eschatology (the doctrine of the last things), etc.
While ÿÿthis ÿstructuring ÿof ÿtheological ÿtruth ÿÿdoes ÿÿnot
necessarily ÿneed to result in wrong conclusions, ÿfrequently ÿit
does. ÿÿFor example, ÿit is entirely possible for ÿa ÿtheological
professor ÿto find many verses that deal directly with the nature
and ÿpurpose of the church so that by carefully studying these ÿa
theologian can become an expert in ecclesiology (the doctrine ÿof
the church). ÿAnd the conclusions he may come to and teach others
may ÿappear altogether biblical as he views them in the light ÿof
the ÿverses that speak about the church. ÿHe may have an ÿearnest
desire to be as faithful to the Bible as possible. ÿNo one ÿwould
dare ÿfault ÿhis integrity as he teaches all that he has ÿlearned
from the Bible, as he teaches concerning the church.
But ÿthe ÿfact ÿis, ÿif he has not tested his ÿconclusions ÿto
discover ÿif ÿthey ÿare in complete harmony with ÿall ÿthe ÿBible
teaches concerning the nature of salvation, concerning the nation
of ÿIsrael, ÿconcerning the end time, ÿconcerning the Holy Spirit
and for that matter concerning everything else the Bible teaches,
the ÿlikelihood ÿis that some of his conclusions ÿconcerning ÿthe
church will be invalid.
He could have done theologically what a designer of a building
has ÿdone ÿwho designs some of the beams within the ÿbuilding ÿto
carry ÿcertain ÿstresses ÿand ÿforces ÿbut ÿfails ÿto ÿcheck ÿthe
foundation ÿdesign to see if it is capable of carrying those same
stresses ÿand forces. ÿThis kind of practice would soon result in
the ÿfailure ÿof the building. ÿAny designer knows that ÿhe ÿmust
carefully ÿdesign ÿeach part of the structure to make ÿsure ÿthat
each and every beam, each and every bolt, will be able to sustain
the stresses and forces that are put upon the building. Only then
will the building be safe.
Likewise, ÿÿany ÿconclusion we arrive at based on ÿour ÿunder-
standing of a particular verse or verses must be tested for their
scriptural integrity by everything else in the Bible that relates
to these verses.
We ÿmust look to the Bible itself to interpret Scripture. ÿFor
example, ÿÿwe cannot look at Matthew 25:31-46 ÿand understand ÿit
unless we examine it in the light of anything and everything else
the ÿBible ÿteaches regarding the subject matter found ÿin ÿthese
verses. ÿÿOnly then can we know that these verses are ÿa ÿparable
teaching spiritual truth directly related to salvation.
This ÿmethod ÿof ÿinterpretation is precisely what ÿthe ÿBible
tells us to do, as I Corinthians 2:13 declares:
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.
Since ÿGod is Spirit, ÿsince salvation is God’s spiritual pro-
gram ÿwhereby we who are spiritually dead are reconciled ÿto ÿGod
and become spiritually alive, ÿand since God’s Word is the ÿSword
of the Spirit, ÿwe must realize that to compare spiritual ÿthings
with ÿspiritual is to compare one part of the Bible with anything
and everything else in the Bible. ÿThus we find that we are quite
correct in our conclusion that we are to interpret the Bible with
the ÿBible. ÿWe are to compare each and every thing in the ÿBible
with anything and everything else in the Bible that may relate to
the verse or word being studied. ÿOnly after we have examined the
word, ÿÿphrase, ÿor verse in question in the light of the rest of
the ÿBible ÿ(so that we know we are in agreement with ÿthe ÿwhole
Bible) ÿare we ready to teach the meaning of the verse or word in
This does mean that the student of the Bible must increasingly
become ÿan ÿexpert ÿin the whole Bible. ÿIt means ÿthat ÿhe ÿmust
unceasingly study every aspect of Bible truth. This is a lifelong
endeavor that requires constant diligence and perseverance.
It ÿalso ÿmeans ÿthat ÿthere will be times ÿwhen ÿit ÿwill ÿbe
necessary to set aside previously held conclusions that will ÿnot
stand the scrutiny of the whole Bible. ÿThis requires much ÿgrace
and ÿhumility of spirit. ÿThis is altogether necessary ÿif ÿtruth
will be served.
The Bible is its own Dictionary
If ÿwe ÿcontinue to study every aspect of the whole ÿBible ÿwe
will discover that the Bible is its own dictionary. If we wish to
know ÿthe meaning of a word used in the Bible, ÿwe do not go to a
dictionary ÿof modern Greek or Hebrew (the original languages ÿof
the Bible). To do so would be quite useless. The meaning of words
has ÿchanged to such a degree during the two thousand years since
the ÿBible ÿwas written that it would be a wonder if any ÿof ÿthe
words used in the Bible had the same meaning today.
But ÿwhen we find all of the verses in the Bible in which ÿthe
word ÿin question is found in the original language, ÿwe can ÿsee
how it is used in all of these verses. Based on this information,
we can begin to discern its meaning and thus know how it is ÿused
in the verse in question.
Thus in attempting to discover the meaning of any verse, it is
necessary to do a study of the words and con- ÿcepts in the verse
to see how they are used throughout the Bible. ÿBy this means ÿwe
bring the whole Bible to bear on the verse in question.
Occasionally ÿwe ÿwill find a word in the original ÿHebrew ÿor
Greek which is used only once in the entire Bible. ÿIn this case,
it ÿcannot be compared with its use in other parts of the ÿBible.
However, ÿÿwe can be sure that the context in which this word ÿis
found ÿwill convey a truth which is found in other places in ÿthe
Bible. ÿÿTherefore, ÿÿfrom the Bible we can know ÿthe ÿparameters
prescribing how we are to understand the word in question.
The ÿusage ÿof biblical words in the ancient secular ÿwritings
can ÿbe ÿof ÿsome help in beginning to find the ÿmeaning ÿof ÿthe
biblical ÿword in question. ÿBut the secular record may never ÿbe
considered ÿas trustworthy as the Bible itself. ÿTherefore, ÿÿthe
Bible’s usage of the word in question must be the final authority
in determining its meaning.
Only ÿvery ÿinfrequently ÿis it impossible ÿto ÿdetermine ÿthe
meaning of a Hebrew or Greek word. It is then best to leave it in
its original Hebrew or Greek, ÿtrusting that at some future ÿdate
God ÿmay ÿopen the eyes of some Bible student to ÿunderstand ÿits
meaning and purpose as used in the text.
The Bible is its own Grammar Book
Moreover, ÿÿthe ÿBible is its own grammar book. ÿÿThe ÿcareful
student may begin to understand the tenses, ÿmoods, and voices in
the ÿHebrew and Greek, ÿthe original languages of the Bible, ÿÿby
studying ÿthese languages in the ancient secular accounts. ÿIt is
indeed ÿconventional ÿfor the Bible student to go ÿto ÿa ÿHebrew-
English or a Greek-English dictionary for this purpose. ÿBut ÿno
conclusion ÿbased ÿon the secular evidence can stand until it ÿis
subjected to the scrutiny of the Bible itself.
Ideally, ÿthe rules of grammar and the meaning of words should
be ÿderived entirely from the Bible itself. ÿThis is so ÿbecause
the Bible alone must stand as the final authority in all ÿmatters
about which it speaks. ÿThis must include not only the concepts,
ideas, and truths set forth on its pages, ÿbut also the very form
in which these concepts and truths are presented. The Bible would
be less than the Word of God if this were not so, for the grammar
and ÿthe ÿwords themselves are the means by which Bible truth ÿis
Thus, ÿÿthe serious Bible student should be relentless in ÿhis
study of the Bible. Only as the Bible becomes increasingly a part
of his life will he be able to draw closer and closer to the rich
storehouse of truths, which is the Bible.
Another ÿperil ÿthe ÿBible ÿteacher faces is that ÿhe ÿmay ÿbe
impressed with the fact that a great many theologians agree on ÿa
particular ÿdoctrine. ÿIt is very easy simply to trust ÿthat ÿthe
judgment of so many theologians must be accurate. ÿUnfortunately,
however, ÿÿtheologians frequently build on what other theologians
have ÿsaid rather than checking the Scriptures to make sure ÿthat
previous ÿtheologians have been accurate. ÿWonderfully, ÿGod ÿhas
given ÿus ÿHis ÿWord so that any conclusion, ÿregardless ÿof ÿhow
widely ÿheld it may be, ÿcan be analyzed and checked against ÿthe
When ÿElijah ÿstood on Mount Carmel, ÿhe stood ÿalone ÿagainst
hundreds ÿof ÿother ÿprophets ÿwho were ÿin ÿagreement ÿon ÿtheir
theological ÿthinking. ÿBut Elijah was right and they were wrong.
Concensus is never in itself a basis for truth.
We ÿare beginning to see, ÿtherefore, ÿthat the Bible ÿis ÿthe
revelation ÿof ÿGod’s will to man. ÿGod Himself ÿis ÿthe ÿauthor.
Indeed, ÿÿGod ÿused human authors. ÿThey spoke out of ÿtheir ÿown
experience, ÿtraining, environment, culture, and personality. But
because ÿthey ÿwere used of God to help produce the Bible, ÿÿwhat
they penned–right down to the individual word and letter of ÿthe
word–was ÿthe precise word God desired to use as the ÿrevelation
of His divine will. ÿTherefore, whether Paul or Jesus or Jeremiah
or ÿan unnamed scribe spoke or wrote, ÿwhat was written was God’s
But, before we are going to know the truth taught by any verse
or phrase in the Bible, ÿwe must test the conclusion to which ÿwe
have come against the rest of the Bible. Again, only when we find
that ÿthe ÿconclusion to which we have come is ÿin ÿharmony ÿwith
everything else the Bible teaches, ÿcan we be sure that we are on
the path of truth.
Red Letter Editions of the Bible
Today we are besieged with Bibles that are called “Red ÿLetter
Editions’ ÿof the Bible. In these, ÿall of the words Jesus spoke
are printed in red, ÿwhereas the rest of the Bible is printed ÿin
Whatever ÿthe ÿpurpose ÿof the publishing houses ÿin ÿprinting
these ÿRed ÿLetter Bibles, ÿthe impact upon the reader ÿis ÿquite
devastating. ÿAs he reads, ÿhe cannot help but think that somehow
the ÿwords Jesus spoke are more important than those found in the
rest of the Bible. After all, ÿthey are especially emphasized and
underscored ÿby appearing in red, ÿand are consequently ÿset ÿoff
from the rest of the Bible. Thus, the reader unconsciously adopts
a principle that the Bible has two levels of authority. The first
and most important authority is set forth in the words that Jesus
spoke. ÿThe second level of authority is set forth throughout the
rest of the Bible.
This conclusion, ÿunfortunately, ÿis contrary to the Bible and
effectively ÿundermines ÿthe ÿauthority of the ÿBible. ÿÿWe ÿmust
remember ÿthat the Bible itself declares that all ÿScrip-ture ÿis
given by inspiration of God. ÿTherefore, a word spoken by Paul or
Isaiah ÿor ÿany ÿof the other men of God used ÿto ÿpen ÿthe ÿHoly
Scriptures ÿunder ÿthe inspiration of the Holy Spirit ÿhas ÿequal
authority to a word spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ. ÿÿTherefore,
it ÿis ÿwise ÿto use only Bibles that have all of ÿthe ÿwords ÿin
The Bible Is One Truth
Because ÿGod is the author, ÿthere is a marvelous oneness ÿand
cohesiveness ÿthroughout the Bible that makes it a joy ÿto ÿstudy
and ÿcontemplate. ÿWords and phrases used in one book are ÿto ÿbe
studied in the light of words and phrases used everywhere else in
Thus, for example, the meaning of the Greek word “kamno’ used
by the Holy Spirit in James 5:15 is to be interpreted in light of
its ÿuse in two other New Testament passages, ÿHebrews 12:3 ÿÿand
Revelation 2:3. In both Hebrews 12:3, where the word “kamno’ ÿis
translated ÿ”wearied,’ ÿand Revelation 2:3, ÿwhere “kamno’ ÿÿis
translated “faint,’ the context clearly indicates that this word
is related to spiritual weariness. ÿNo suggestion is offered that
it relates to physical illness. Thus, ÿby this use in the clearer
passages, ÿÿone ÿcan ÿdiscover its meaning in ÿthe ÿmore ÿobscure
passage, James 5:15.
The fact is, ÿwhen we read James 5:15 ÿcarefully, ÿwe discover
that ÿthree ÿblessings have been experienced by the one ÿwho ÿhas
been subject to “kamno,’ all of which relate to salvation: 1) he
has become saved; 2) he has been raised up; and 3) ÿhis sins have
been ÿforgiven. ÿAll three of these phrases relate altogether ÿto
salvation. ÿWhile James 5:14 ÿemploys the Greek word “astheneo,’
which is translated “sick’ ÿin our Bible, ÿwe find by the use of
the ÿword “astheneo’ ÿin other places in the Bible that this can
refer ÿto any kind of spiritual or physical illness. ÿBut because
God used the word “kamno’ ÿin verse 15 ÿin place of “astheneo,’
we ÿknow ÿthat physical healing is not what is in ÿview ÿin ÿthis
passage; rather, the focus is on salvation.
Interpreting ÿScripture ÿwith ÿScripture Helps Us ÿto ÿUnderstand
The statement in Matthew 12:36 ÿcan easily be misunderstood if
we ÿdo ÿnot understand the principle of comparing Scripture ÿwith
Scripture. ÿIn Matthew 12:36 ÿJesus lays down the principle ÿthat
“every ÿidle word that men shall speak, ÿthey shall give ÿaccount
thereof ÿin ÿthe ÿday of judgment.’ ÿDoes this ÿmean ÿthat ÿeven
believers ÿare to give an account before God? ÿBy looking at ÿthe
word “judgment’ in light of everything else the Bible offers, we
can know that believers do not come into judgment. Let us see why
this is so.
The ÿÿGreek ÿword ÿused ÿin ÿMatthew ÿ12:36 ÿÿand ÿÿtranslated
“judgment’ ÿÿin the King James Bible is the word “krisis.’ ÿÿWe
find this same word used in John 5:24, where Christ declares, “He
that ÿheareth ÿMy Word and believeth on Him that sent ÿMe, ÿÿhath
everlasting ÿlife, ÿand shall not come into condemnation; ÿbut is
passed ÿÿfrom ÿÿdeath ÿÿinto ÿÿlife.’ ÿÿÿThe ÿÿword ÿÿtranslated
“condemnation’ is the word “krisis,’ the identical word used in
Matthew 12. ÿThus we are assured that those who have placed their
trust ÿin ÿChrist ÿdo ÿnot give an account ÿbefore ÿthe ÿJudgment
Throne. ÿIf we should expand this thought further, ÿwe would ÿsee
that ÿthe reason we do not come into judgment is that Christ ÿhas
become sin for those who have placed their trust in Him, ÿand ÿHe
has already been judged for those sins. ÿTherefore, believers can
not ÿbe ÿjudged again for the sins that have already ÿbeen ÿtaken
care of by our Savior. ÿEffectively, ÿthe believers have ÿalready
stood before the judgment throne of God to answer for their sins.
They ÿdid ÿso ÿin ÿthe ÿperson of Jesus ÿChrist, ÿÿwho ÿas ÿtheir
substitute ÿwas laden with their sins, ÿwas found guilty of those
sins, ÿand was punished for those sins. ÿThus the demands of ÿthe
law ÿof ÿGod set forth in 2 Corinthians 5:10 ÿhave ÿbeen ÿmet ÿby
Christ on behalf of all who believe on Him. This verse declares:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of
Christ; that every one may receive the things done in
his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be
good or bad.
These ÿare ÿjust ÿa few of the great number of ÿexamples ÿthat
could be offered, indicating that we must examine words carefully
in ÿthe light of their use throughout the whole Bible to discover
their true meaning. Since God is the author of the Bible, ÿwe can
expect ÿthat ÿevery ÿword ÿfound in the ÿBible ÿin ÿthe ÿoriginal
language has been carefully selected by God regardless of whether
Luke, ÿJeremiah, ÿor Moses was the human author. ÿBecause we know
that God is infallible in all that He does, we can place implicit
trust in the Bible.
The Bible Is Infallible
One ÿmust ÿunderstand, ÿÿof course, ÿthat ÿonly ÿthe ÿoriginal
autographs are to be considered absolutely infallible. ÿThey, ÿin
the Hebrew, ÿGreek, and sometimes Aramaic, ÿas originally penned,
are the articulation of the perfect will of God.
Wonderfully, ÿÿthe ÿancient ÿscribes who made ÿcopies ÿof ÿthe
originals ÿfor ÿlater generations had a deep sensitivity ÿto ÿthe
holiness ÿand ÿuniqueness of the Word of God. ÿThus, ÿeven ÿafter
hundreds of years, copies were such faithful reproductions of the
original ÿmanuscripts that one can still consider these copies to
be virtually infallible.
Usually the earlier in time the original was copied, ÿthe more
faithful ÿthe copy is. ÿWonderfully, ÿGod has provided access ÿto
some very ancient copies, ÿsome of which, ÿin the case of the Old
Testament, ÿÿwere ÿmade even prior to the appearance of ÿthe ÿNew
Testament writings. ÿThus, ÿtranslators have a superbly ÿaccurate
Bible from which to work.
The ÿtask ÿof the translator is to translate as faithfully ÿas
possible. Because languages are not exactly parallel in structure
or ÿin ÿmeanings ÿof individual words, ÿit ÿis ÿan ÿexacting ÿand
difficult ÿjob ÿto ÿbe ÿas absolutely true ÿto ÿthe ÿoriginal ÿas
possible. This, however, is the task of the translator.
Actually, ÿÿmost ÿwords ÿin the Bible ÿdo ÿhave ÿfairly ÿexact
equivalents in the language into which they are to be translated.
Most ÿphrases ÿin the original texts lend ÿthemselves ÿto ÿrather
accurate translation without dropping or adding additional words.
To ÿÿthe ÿÿcredit ÿof ÿthe ÿKing ÿJames ÿand ÿAmerican ÿÿStandard
translators, ÿÿin ÿthese versions words which were added to ÿhelp
work out the English translation were italicized. Thus the reader
is ÿwarned that the italicized word was not itself actually found
in the original.
Wonderfully ÿBibles ÿare ÿavailable ÿin ÿmost ÿof ÿthe ÿÿmajor
languages of the world. ÿThese Bibles are so well translated that
we ÿmay consider them to be almost as infallible as the ÿoriginal
texts. Moreover, because Hebrew and Greek texts are available for
study and comparison, ÿstudents of the Word can again examine the
original ÿÿlanguage ÿto ÿcheck ÿthe ÿtranslators’ ÿÿfaithfulness.
Excellent concordances such as Young’s Analytical Concordance and
Strong’s ÿExhaustive ÿConcordance assist even the ÿnon-Greek ÿand
non-Hebrew ÿstudents ÿto study God’s use of individual ÿwords ÿas
found in the original languages. ÿOur Lord has certainly ÿblessed
So ÿmuch, ÿthen, ÿfor a brief summary of what the Bible is and
how ÿit ÿis to be translated. ÿBut now another question ÿmust ÿbe
raised. ÿÿIsn’t the Bible hard to read? ÿIsn’t a paraphrase ÿthat
rewrites ÿdifficult ÿphrases into simple English a real ÿhelp ÿin
understanding the Bible? ÿLet us examine these questions ÿdealing
To Paraphrase or Not to Paraphrase
Many ÿclaim ÿthat among the most valuable tools for ÿeffective
evangelism ÿavailable today are the paraphrased editions ÿof ÿthe
Bible. ÿÿThis ÿconclusion is held by many who ÿbelieve ÿthey ÿcan
testify ÿto ÿits validity by giving examples of this one or ÿthat
one ÿwho ÿbecame a Christian after first ÿreading ÿa ÿparaphrased
But is this conclusion truly valid? ÿHas God indeed guided men
in our day to develop these more readable Bibles so that His work
of ÿsaving people might be greatly assisted in these closing days
of the earth’s existence? Or is it possible that, ultimately, the
paraphrases, ÿinstead of being a wonderful blessing, ÿwill rather
prove to be such a sin that God’s wrath will be poured out on the
church for its audacious use of such books? ÿThese questions must
be ÿexamined carefully and candidly, ÿfor we are currently ÿbeing
besieged by paraphrased editions of the Bible.
God, of course, is infinitely wise. He could very readily have
written ÿthe ÿBible so that it would be so simply worded that ÿno
one ÿcould misunderstand it, ÿor possibly gain the wrong meaning.
But ÿGod did not intend to write the Bible so that it was ÿalways
easily understood. ÿIt is true that some verses do indeed provide
readily ÿunderstood truth. ÿBut many verses which at first ÿblush
appear ÿeasily ÿunderstandable, ÿare actually very ÿdifficult ÿto
grasp in their full meaning. The Bible declares in Proverbs 25:2:
“It ÿis ÿthe glory of God to conceal a thing: ÿbut the honour ÿof
kings is to search out a matter.’
And in Proverbs 1:5-6 God informs us:
A wise man will hear, and will increase learning;
and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise
To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the
words of the wise, and their dark sayings.
These ÿstatements warn us that all in the Bible may not be ÿas
clear ÿas we would sometimes like to think. ÿWe are being advised
in ÿthese verses that we have to search out the truth. ÿThe Bible
points ÿto ÿsuch difficulties as Jesus declares in ÿMark ÿ4:11-12
And he said unto them, Unto you is given the mystery
of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without,
all things are done in parables:
That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hear-
ing they may hear, and not understand; lest haply they
should turn again, and it should be forgiven them.
He adds in Mark 4:34: “And without a parable spake he not unto
them: ÿÿbut ÿprivately ÿto his own ÿdisciples ÿhe ÿexpounded ÿall
things’ (ASV 1901).
This ÿdifficulty ÿof understanding the Word is highlighted ÿby
the ÿmany different teachings found in the evangelical ÿcommunity
concerning such important subjects as God’s sovereignty, election
and ÿpredestination, ÿÿthe ÿtotal depravity of ÿman, ÿÿparticular
atonement versus free will, ÿthe security of believers, ÿbaptism,
the Lord’s Supper, ÿthe final tribulation, ÿthe return of Christ,
rewards, etc. ÿIndeed we could begin to wonder whether anyone can
really find truth from the Bible.
One ÿmust realize that the Word of God is to be accepted first
of all by faith, ÿnot because one understands it. ÿGod’s ÿcommand
given ÿto ÿAbraham ÿto ÿsacrifice his son ÿIsaac ÿmade ÿno ÿsense
whatsoever. ÿÿTo kill his son would contravene every promise ÿGod
had made to Abraham. But Abraham obeyed by blind faith. Likewise,
the ÿBible is to be accepted by faith. ÿOnly then will it be ÿthe
living ÿWord ÿthat leads to salvation. ÿOnly then will it be ÿthe
Sword of the Spirit which He will use to lead into all truth. ÿAs
we humbly trust the Word of God, the Holy Spirit will slowly lead
us to truth by His Word.
Returning ÿto the matter of paraphrased editions, ÿone ÿsenses
the ÿfollowing attitude. ÿThe scribe has been given a message ÿby
the ÿKing. ÿHe is mandated to give this message to the ÿpopulace.
But ÿthis scribe listens to the King’s message and realizes it is
very ÿdifficult ÿto ÿunderstand. ÿHe reasons that a ÿmuch ÿbetter
conveyance of truth would be accomplished if the message were ÿin
simpler language. ÿSo after receiving the message from the ÿKing,
he ÿrewrites ÿit in his own words to give to ÿthe ÿpopulace. ÿÿHe
utterly ÿfails to realize that the King, ÿin his perfect ÿwisdom,
gave ÿhim the message exactly as he did because he had a ÿprecise
purpose in using each word.
One ÿimmediately ÿsenses ÿthe audacity, ÿÿthe ÿtemerity, ÿÿthe
arrogance of this scribe. He is not delivering the King’s message
at ÿall. ÿÿMoreover, ÿhe has made himself more authoritative ÿand
wiser than the King.
I ÿam ÿafraid this is precisely what the ÿtranslators ÿof ÿthe
paraphrases, ÿÿas well as those who use them, ÿhave ÿdone. ÿÿThey
utterly ÿfail to be sensitive to the nature and character of ÿthe
Word ÿthey are communicating. ÿThey have lost their awareness ÿof
the holiness of God’s Word. ÿThey have forgotten that the work of
saving people is God’s work. ÿEvangelists don’t sell the ÿGospel;
they don’t snare people into salvation; ÿthey don’t save ÿpeople.
Rather, the Christian is to witness faithfully from God’s Word as
He has given it. ÿIt is God who applies His Word to the hearts of
those who are being saved. ÿAs the witness brings the Word, there
is ÿa ÿclear ÿline ÿof demarcation ÿbetween ÿthe ÿBible ÿand ÿthe
preaching. ÿThe Bible is infallible; the preaching may be open to
The fact that someone might become convicted of sin by reading
a ÿparaphrase ÿoffers no rationale for its use ÿwhatsoever. ÿÿGod
spoke beautiful truth in the Bible through cursed Balaam (Numbers
23-24) ÿÿand ÿthrough wicked Caiaphas (John 11:49-52). ÿÿHe ÿeven
utilized a donkey to convey His Word (Numbers 22:28-30). But this
did not excuse or cover the sins of these men. So too, ÿtoday God
can ÿuse ÿany statement at all that approximates His Word to ÿget
His work of salvation accomplished. ÿBut this does not excuse the
sins of those who, having lost their sensitivity for the holiness
of ÿGod’s ÿWord, ÿhave in its place substituted the work of ÿman.
Moreover, ÿGod’s elective decrees show that the one who was saved
while ÿreading a paraphrase would equally and even more certainly
have been saved while reading the Bible.
But are not paraphrases helpful in some way? For example, ÿcan
they ÿnot ÿrender ÿa ÿuseful ÿservice when they ÿare ÿused ÿas ÿa
Unfortunately, ÿour minds are not dependable. ÿEven though ÿwe
may ÿÿrealize ÿÿthe ÿparaphrased ÿedition ÿis ÿnot ÿÿthe ÿÿBible,
subconsciously ÿwe will still accept its statements as being ÿthe
Bible. But it is not the Bible. The paraphraser rewrites a phrase
in ÿhis own words according to what he believes is a logical ÿand
proper ÿinterpretation. ÿÿIf his understanding of the ÿphrase ÿis
biblical, he will isolate one particular truth God intended to be
found in the original phrase. By rewriting it, however, ÿthe full
depth of meaning God had intended to make available in the phrase
is set aside. In other words, ÿthe Bible has been emptied of much
of its content. ÿMoreover, ÿif the paraphraser interprets wrongly
as he rewrites, ÿhe has set forth as biblical truth that which is
a lie. ÿAnd because it is in a format purporting to be the Bible,
the ÿreader accepts a falsehood as truth. ÿHe thus ÿclutters ÿhis
mind ÿwith information which at best is only a part of the ÿwhole
truth and at worst is altogether false. What Christian would dare
to become a part of this kind of activity? ÿThe only faithful and
safe way to go is to reject paraphrases without delay.
Unfortunately, ÿÿthe ÿact of rewriting the Bible ÿinto ÿsimple
English (or any other language) will be seen by few today as sin.
Few read the Bible extensively or intensively. ÿFew are ready ÿto
be obedient to what the Word declares. ÿWe are living in the days
prophesied by our Lord in Hosea 4:6:
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge:
because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also re-
ject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing
thou ÿhast ÿforgotten the law of thy God, ÿI ÿÿalso ÿwill
forget thy children.
God’s wrath will surely be visited upon us for this sin.
But now we should seek other principles which must be kept ÿin
mind ÿas ÿwe ÿstudy the Bible. ÿThus far in our ÿstudy ÿof ÿBible
interpretation ÿwe ÿhave ÿseen that the Bible alone ÿand ÿin ÿits
entirety is the Word of God. ÿSecond, ÿwe have seen that we ÿmust
interpret the Scriptures by the Scriptures. ÿCareful study of the
words and phrases as they are used elsewhere in the Bible must be
made. ÿÿThis will include not only their usage in ÿan ÿindividual
sentence ÿbut ÿalso ÿtheir ÿusage in the context ÿin ÿwhich ÿthat
sentence ÿis ÿfound. ÿThe more familiar the student is ÿwith ÿthe
whole Bible, the more he will be helped in his study.
The student must recognize, of course, that the Bible is God’s
Word. ÿIt is the Holy Spirit who leads into truth. Therefore, ÿas
he diligently studies the Bible, he must be praying that God will
open ÿhis ÿspiritual eyes to the truths hidden within ÿthe ÿWord.
Only then will he begin to grow in grace as he studies the Bible.
We ÿshould now look at a third principle that must be kept ÿin
mind ÿas ÿwe study the Bible. ÿThat principle is that ÿthe ÿBible
ordinarily ÿhas ÿmore than one level of meaning. ÿLet us look ÿat
this principle more closely as we continue our study.
Continued in BIBLSTD3.TXT