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Bible Study Pt 1.- Biblical Interpretation

Written by: Unknown    Posted on: 05/06/2003

Category: Bible Studies

Source: CCN


                        TABLE OF CONTENTS



              The Bible Alone and in its Entirety is the Word               of God                Is All of the Bible the Word of God?                The Bible is to Be Obeyed                Is the Bible Alone the Word of God?                What about Direct Quotations from the Bible               Coming to Us?                What about Praying in a Tongue?                The Authority Which is Regarded as Divine               Establishes the Kind of Gospel Being Offered                Every Religion Has an Authority                Does the Bible Contain the Word of God?                The Authority of the Bible is Narrowed by               Some Who Claim the Whole Bible is God's               Word   


              The Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures to be the               Only Rule of Faith                For Example, How are We to Understand               Isaiah 2:4?                The Bible is its Own Dictionary                The Bible is its Own Grammar Book                Red Letter Editions of the Bible                The Bible is One Truth                            Interpreting Scripture with Scripture Helps Us               to Understand Matthew 12:36                  The Bible is Infallible                To Paraphrase or Not to Paraphrase 


              The Bible is Absolutely Accurate in its Record               of Historical Events                The Bible Teaches Moral and Spiritual Values                The Bible is the Gospel of Grace                God Speaks Directly to the Matter of Salvation                The Gospel of Grace is Frequently Hidden                  The Ceremonial Laws Pointed to Aspects of               God's Salvation Program                The Gospel in the Raising of Lazarus                The Gospel in the Book of Ruth                Nehemiah, the Cupbearer of the King                  Abram, a Figure of Christ                We and the Thieves on the Cross                Put Coals of Fire on Your Enemies                Don't Plow with an Ox and an Ass Together 




.    The deep and constant concern of the child of God who dearly loves his Lord is to know and to do the will of God. He recognizes that the Bible is the source book of Truth. It is the only authority that discloses the will of God for his life. .    But the Bible is often difficult to understand. How can I, as a student of the Word, reach into the treasures of truth that comprise the Bible? So many verses seem irrelevant; so many seem impossible to understand. .    Not only that, learned theologians frequently come to great differences of opinion concerning what the Bible teaches. How can I determine which teacher, which preacher, which theologian is leading me correctly? Must I be limited to blindly following a teacher I trust, knowing full well he is only a fallible human and therefore subject to error? .    And what about the problem that arises from there being so many different translations of the Bible? How can I know which ones are trustworthy? Do I dare trust paraphrases, which seem to make the Bible so much easier to understand? .    This booklet has been written to answer such questions and set forth a few basic principles we should keep in mind as we study the Bible. May it be that we might have a fresh appreciation of the wonderful Word that God has given to us. This Word is the Bible.

                            CHAPTER I

                    Biblical Interpretation

.    The science of biblical interpretation is called hermeneutics. Many learned and scholarly books have been written regarding the principles of hermeneutics. Every believer should be concerned about the subject, because it relates to the process by which we can derive spiritual truth from the Scriptures. .    It is our desire that by means of this study the earnest student of the Scriptures might understand more clearly a few basic principles that must be kept in view for proper biblical interpretation. These principles are taken from the Bible. The Bible itself requires that we keep these in mind. They are as follows, and will be examined more carefully as we proceed in our study: 

      l. We must remember that the Bible, in its entirety, is       the    Holy Word of God.  Every word, every phrase is God-       breathed. "Holy Men spake as they were moved by the Holy       Spirit" (II Peter 1:21).  It is imperative that we       remember that the    Old Testament is just as holy and       important and uniquely    the Word of God as the New       Testament.                     

.    The Bible is not just any book. It has no peer. God moved holy men of old to write as He guided them. Thus, the Bible in its original autographs (that is, in the original document which was written) is exactly the message that God intended for man. Each book, each paragraph, each sentence, each word, as well as each letter of each word is exactly as God intended it to be. The inquisitive student of the Bible who desires to know the truth must, therefore, approach the Bible with holy awe.  This is God's message to man. .    Because the Bible is God's book, only God can open the stu- dent's eyes to see the truths set forth in its pages. Sometimes those truths are very clearly seen. Sometimes they are revealed only by the most diligent searching of the Bible. But sometimes they remain hidden, regardless of the desire of the student to know everything God has revealed in the Bible. Because God reveals truth, the student must go very humbly to the Scriptures. Moreover, he must beseech the Lord that truth might be revealed to him, for it is God, the Holy Spirit, who leads us into truth, through the Bible. .    Furthermore, the student who wishes to know the truths of the Bible must approach the Bible with an earnest desire to be obedient to the precepts and rules set forth in the Scriptures. In all matters of doctrine and practice he should be ready to be obedient to anything and everything he reads in the Bible.

2. The Bible is its own interpreter. We compare spiritual things with spiritual (I Corinthians 2). To understand a word or a phrase or concept in any part of the Bible, we must see how that same word or phrase or concept is used everywhere else in the Bible. Thus the Bible becomes its own dictionary; it becomes its own commentary. While such diligent comparison requires much work on the part of the student of the Bible, it is the only sure way to come to a true understanding of the biblical message. A concordance such as Young's Analytical Concordance or Strong's Exhaustive Concordance helps immeasurably in this respect, because it shows where words used in the original languages are found in our English King James Bible. .    Because the Bible is its own interpreter, the student must leave no stone unturned in becoming acquainted with the Bible. There is no short-cut. He must spend much time reading the Bible. To try to learn its truths in greater and greater detail without being exposed to all that God has written in the Bible is foolishness. The Bible must be read and re-read. Moreover, any conclusion the student of the Word comes to from his reading of a particular verse or passage must be tested for its validity by checking that conclusion against anything and everything the Bible offers concerning the sub-ject in question. Only when the conclusion is found to be in harmony with all that the Bible teaches can the student know that he is on the path of truth.

3. Additionally, as we allow God's Word to guide us in for-mulating principles of Bible interpretation, we find that the Bible provides different levels of meaning. When we study a verse in the Bible, we must remember that while it may have only one level of meaning, it may also have as many as three. .    The first level is historical. It is true that when Jesus taught using parables, He was not describing events that took place in history. But with a few exceptions, such as these parables, we must understand that the Bible gives us an exquisitely accurate account of events and conversations which actually did occur in history. .    The second level of meaning frequently found in the Bible concerns moral and spiritual teachings. When a particular historical event is viewed in the light of the commandments of God as they are found throughout the Scriptures, we may look upon this event as an example of an application of God's laws.  .    The third level of meaning is related to the Gospel of salva- tion. This is the dominant and most important message of the Bible. The whole Bible is, in fact, the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible reveals God's wonderful message of salvation. .    We see, therefore, that there are at least three basic principles that must be kept in mind as we study the Bible. These may be summarized as follows:

1. The Bible alone and in its entirety is the Word of God. 2. The Bible is its own interpreter. 3. The Bible normally displays more than one level of meaning or significance.

.    Our purpose in this study is to look at these three principles in greater detail. By thoroughly understanding them we will be better prepared to receive from the Bible the rich and wonderful truths that are hidden within it.

The Bible Alone and in Its Entirety is the Word of God   

.  The first principle we wish to examine in greater detail is that the Bible alone and in its entirety is the Word of God. In examining this principle let us ask the question: "What is the true Gospel?' As we answer this question we will be able to see that the Bible alone and in its entirety is the Word of God. It alone and in its entirety is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. .  What is the true Gospel? Surely no evangelical believer needs to struggle for an answer to this question. The true Gospel has everything to do with the Lord Jesus Christ. If we recognize Him as Lord and Savior, we have the true Gospel. The Bible declares that:

Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:

And ÿevery spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh   is not of God: and this is that spirit  of antichrist, . . . (I John 4:2,3)

.    Moreover, doesn't God say through the apostle Paul in I Corin-thians 15:1-4:             

      Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel . . . .       . . ÿhow ÿthat Christ died for our sins ÿaccording ÿto the              scriptures;

      And ÿthat he was buried, ÿand that he rose again the third            day. . . ?

.  Doesn't it follow then, that anyone who holds these truths must be a follower of the Gospel and is to be accepted as a brother in Christ? Must not we recognize as followers of the true Gospel any church or denomination which is ready to make these principles a part of its statement of faith? .  Unfortunately, the question is not quite that simple. What are we to do with the fact that Satan and the demons admit very candidly that all these things are true of Christ? For instance, the demon in Mark 1:24 declared of Jesus in the flesh: "I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.' And in Luke 4:41 God informs us:         And devils also came out of many, crying out, and         saying, ÿThou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking         them suf-fered them not to speak: ÿfor they knew that he         was Christ.

.  Surely these devils are not saved, neither are they to become saved: and yet, in their declaration, they apparently satisfy the criteria set forth in I John 4:2-3 for those who are of the Spirit of God. .  Furthermore, Jesus speaks of false prophets in Matthew 7:15-23. In verses 22-23 He says of them:

        Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not         pro-phesied ÿin thy name? ÿand in thy name have cast out         devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

        And ÿthen will I profess unto them, ÿI ÿnever knew ÿyou:         depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

.  These false prophets also appear to satisfy the criteria set forth in I John 4:2-3. We can see therefore, that although someone may use the name of Christ, doing his work in the name of Christ, and thus appearing to identify with the Christ of the Bible, he is not necessarily a follower of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. .  This line of thinking leaves us in a shambles. How are we to recognize the true Gospel if we can't trust those who preach Christ and who do their work in the name of Christ? Does this mean that we can't trust anyone at all? You see, the question, "What is the true Gospel?' is not as easy to answer as we may have thought. .  But we must find an answer to this question! How dreadful it would be if we were following a false prophet who is bringing a false gospel, while we were trusting that it was the true Gospel. We could end up in hell while being altogether confident that we were saved, because we had placed implicit confidence in something other than the true Gospel. We must therefore find an answer to this question concerning the nature of the true Gospel. .  In seeking for an answer to this most important question, we might also ask the questions, "How do we know about Christ? Where do we learn of Him?' .  Immediately and correctly the answer one would give is, "Of course, we learn about Christ from the Bible. It, as the Word of God, is our source of information concerning Jesus and the salva-tion He offers.' .  How true this answer is! The Bible is the only authority by which we can know what to believe concerning Christ. This princi- ple is clearly set forth in the Bible itself. Remember, we read about the nature of the Gospel in I Corinthians 15:1-4. Let's look again at verses 3 and 4:

        For I delivered unto you first of all that which I ÿalso          received ÿhow that Christ died for our sins according to          the scriptures;

        And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third            day according to the scriptures:     

.  Notice the emphasis on the phrase "according to the scriptures.' God is declaring that the Bible is the authority under which the Gospel is set forth. .  In Luke 24:13-48 Jesus is discussing His resurrection with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Significantly, He indicates to them that the authority for His actions is the Scriptures. In verses 44-46 we read:         And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake            unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must                    be ÿfulfilled, ÿwhich were written in the law of ÿMoses,         and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.

        Then ÿopened ÿhe their understanding, ÿthat ÿthey ÿmight         understand the scriptures,

        And ÿsaid ÿunto them, ÿThus it is written, ÿand thus ÿit         behoved Christ to suffer, ÿand to rise from the dead the         third day:

.  This principle of the ultimate authority of the scriptures can also be seen in the temptation of Christ by Satan. Again and again, as Satan tempts Jesus, our Savior replies, "it is written"  (Luke 4:4,8,10). .    We thus see that the Bible is the authority that tells us about the Gospel.  It is the source book of truth. Whatever knowledge we have concerning Christ or God's plan of salvation must be firmly based on the Bible.

Is All of The Bible The Word of God?   

.  Having established the principle that the Bible is the authority which sets forth the Gospel of salvation, we must ask ourselves the next obvious question: "How much of the Bible must we trust in order to know that we are following the true Gospel?' Restating the question in a more specific way, we might ask: "Based on what we read in I Corinthians 15:1-4 and I John 4:2-3, if we believe Christ has come in the flesh and trust in His death and resurrection, can we be sure we are following the true Gospel? Can we have the true Gospel regardless of what we believe concerning such matters as creation, the end of the world, hell, predestination, etc.?' .  The answer to these questions is found in II Timothy 3:16. There we read:

        All ÿscripture is given by inspiration of God, ÿÿand ÿis              profitable ÿfor doctrine, ÿfor reproof, ÿfor correction,            for instruction in righteousness:     

.  By this statement God is indicating that the whole Bible is the Word of God. Therefore, it gives us, in its entirety, information concerning the Gospel. The whole Bible is the Word of God. It, in its entirety, is the revelation of God's will for man. Therefore, every doctrine taught in it is an essential part of the revelation of the Gospel. .  Thus, the Old Testament is just as important as the New Testament. When Jesus declared in Luke 24:46 or in Luke 4:4, "it is written,' He was using that part of the Bible that we today call the Old Testament as His authority. When God states in II Timothy 3:16 that "All scripture is given by inspiration, . . . and is profitable for doctrine, . . .' He is speaking especially of the Old Testament because it was the only Bible available to the church at that time. .  The great importance of the Old Testament to the New Testa-ment church is further underscored by the language of I Peter 1:10-12.

        Of ÿwhich ÿsalvation ÿthe ÿprophets ÿhave ÿenquired ÿand                  searched ÿdiligently, ÿwho prophesied of the grace ÿthat         should come you:

        Searching ÿwhat, ÿÿor what manner of time the Spirit ÿof                Christ which was in them did signify, ÿwhen it testified         beforehand the sufferings of Christ, ÿand the glory that         should follow.

        Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but            unto ÿus ÿthey did minister the things, ÿwhich ÿare ÿnow                      reported unto you by them that have preached the ÿgospel         unto ÿyou ÿwith ÿthe Holy Ghost sent down ÿfrom ÿheaven;         which things the angels desire to look into.

.  In this significant statement, God is emphasizing and underscoring the principle that the Old Testament was written to be fully as important to us today as it was to Old Testament Israel. Note in verse 12 the words: "not unto themselves,' (meaning, the Old Testament believers) "but unto us they did minister . . .' (that is, to believers even in this present day). Truly, we must read and study the Old Testament as carefully as the New Testament. .  We have learned from verses like II Timothy 3:16 and I Peter 1:10-12 that the whole Bible is the Word of God. We therefore must not countenance the idea that we are to follow only the New Testament. Every word in the entire Bible is the Word of God.

The Bible Is To Be Obeyed?   

.  Because the Bible is God's revelation, it is to be obeyed. God emphasizes this principle in I John 2:3-4, where we read:

        And ÿhereby we do know that we know him, ÿif we keep ÿhis         commandments.

        He that saith, ÿI know him, ÿand keepeth not his command-         ments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

.  The Bible is the law book or rule book that sets forth the com-mandments which are to be obeyed. This is the reason that the devils can believe and acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ who has come in the flesh, and yet still be subject to eternal damnation. They are correct concerning the doctrines of Christ but by no means are they ready to be obedient to anything and everything that is in the Bible. .  In I John 4:2 we read: "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: . . . .' .  The key word of I John 4:2 that must be clearly understood is the word "confess.' We commonly use this word in the sense of simple open admission of a truth, but the Bible's use implies not only admission of the truth in question, but also implies identification with that truth. Therefore, only a child of God, a person born of the Holy Spirit, in actuality confesses the truths of I John 4:2-3, for only he is ready and willing to be altogether obedient to everything contained in the Gospel. .  Remember, when we looked at the false prophets of Matthew 7:15-23, we saw that even though they claimed to identify very closely with the Christ of the Bible, they were still unsaved. In that context (v. 24) Jesus declared:

        Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter            into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of          my Father which is in heaven.

.  Notice the emphasis on doing "the will of My Father'. These false prophets did not do the will of God, and therefore, we know their Gospel could not be trusted. God is teaching that the true Gospel is intimately associated with obedience to the Bible, for the Bible is the record of God's will. .  We may therefore set forth firmly and safely, two principles:

        1) The whole Bible is the Word of God. It is the ultimate         authority which sets forth the Word of God.         2) A follower of ÿthe true Gospel is ready to be obedient         to ÿanything ÿand ÿeverything in the Bible. ÿÿIt ÿis ÿthe         authority to which we are to submit.

.  God summarizes these principles in Revelation 22:19 where He warns:

        And if any man shall take away from the words of the book         of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the            book ÿof ÿlife, ÿand out of the holy city, ÿand from ÿthe              things which are written in this book.

Is the Bible Alone the Word of God?                         

.  But now we must face another question: "Is the Bible alone the Word of God? Doesn't the Holy Spirit lead men to truth by means other than the Bible? For example, isn't it possible for God the Holy Spirit to speak to me in a dream or by means of a vision?' .    As we examine this very critical question, we surely must be guided by the biblical account of the experiences of the early New Testament church. Their Bible was the part of our Bible which we now call the Old Testament. From time to time individuals received additional revelations of the will of God by such means as dreams or visions or angel visitations. For instance, Peter received a vision concerning the proclamation of the Gospel to the Roman centurion, Cornelius. By being obedient to this vision Peter, effectively added to the written Word the information given in the vision. In other words, the vision provided him with a more complete knowledge of the will of God. .  Likewise, the Apostle and the Apostle John received infor- mation by means of visions. These visions, too, provided addi- tional help in knowing the will of God.                      .    Interestingly, in the church at Corinth there were those who received additional information regarding the will of God by means of a phenomenon called "tongues.' Those who received the gift of tongues spoke in an unknown language "mysteries' in the spirit (I Corinthians 14:2). What they received from God could have been in the form of a praise, a prayer, or an additional revelation. When this happened in the assembly, they were commanded to seek interpretation of the message from God.  Thus the whole congregation could be edified. They were edified because this information was an additional declaration of the will of God that could be considered to be an addition to the written Word. The combination of the written Word and the Word received in the "tongue' gave them more complete knowledge of the will of God, to which they were to be obedient. .  Therefore, the question that faces us is: "Can it still be possible today that God is supplying additional revelations of His will by such means as tongues, visions, or dreams?' We must find an answer to our question in the Bible.                          .  We have seen that, while the Bible was being written, additions were being made to it as holy men spoke being moved of the Holy Spirit (cf. II Peter 1:21). But then God completed the written Word. And when He came to the last chapter of the last book of the Bible, He declared in Revelation 22:18:       

        For ÿI testify unto every man that heareth the ÿwords ÿof         the ÿprophecy ÿof this book, ÿIf any man shall ÿadd ÿunto         these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are         written in this book.                   

.  With this declaration God effectively ended the possibility of any further revelation from Himself. With the completion of the New Testament we have been given a much more extensive revela- tion than that enjoyed by the church at Corinth, for with the writing of the book of Revelation we have the whole New Testa- ment, as well as the Old Testament. But to this Old and New Testa- ment there is to be nothing added. Never again would God give divine information by means of a dream, a vision, a tongue, or an angel visitation. God had given the complete account of His will. .  Thus we may set forth another principle concerning the nature of the true Gospel. The Bible alone is the authority under which the Gospel stands. The true Gospel is circumscribed by the Bible. There is no other source of divinely articulated or verbalized truth.  .  We therefore may combine the foregoing principles into one statement. The Bible alone and its entirety is the Word of God. The true Gospel is completely identified with and has as its authority the Bible alone and in its entirety. .  Some might argue, "But Revelation 22:18 speaks of `this book.' This book must refer to the book of Revelation. Therefore, this verse is not ending further additions to the Bible. Rather, it is limiting further expansion only of the book of Revelation.' .  A bit of reflection will show the failure of this line of reasoning. Even

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