Bible Study Pt.2- The Bible Is Its Own Interpreter
Written by: Unknown Posted on: 05/06/2003
Category: Bible Studies
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
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