Saturday, October 27, 2012

Lesson 2.2 (Part 1) of Bible Interpretation

This lesson is borrowed from the booklet “Seven rules for Bible Interpretation”, written by REV. M. L. LOWE, D.D. with supplemental material by David W. Holden.

Rule number two is composed of two parts, both equally important.  Here, for the sake of clarity, we shall examine each separately, and in detail.  For this second link is not by chance intertwined with rule number one and rule number three; verily, it is the link which binds the two together, and makes the entire seven links so dependable.
Apparently, one of the favorite tricks of The Evil One is to cause people to take a verse here and there to prove their point.  Such a procedure is not only wrong, but unethical.  We see examples of this in everyday life.  In a political campaign, the favorite trick of the politician is to take a statement made by his opponent, quote it out of context, and from that build up an entirely different inflection from what was plainly stated originally.  Pity the voter who bases his decision on the connivering of such a rabble-rouser—he’ll never see proper legislation enacted by that man.
Or, take the case of tampering with tape recordings.  Suppose the original message says, “I am not going down town.”  All that is required is to snip out the word “not” and splice the two ends together—that crucial adverb has now been deleted.  In a murder trial the jury is persuaded that the perpetrator of the crime was never at the scene. 
From these two illustrations we can easily comprehend how Satan would stir our minds to forge evil intentions by taking a verse from the Word and making it a proof “text” for some spiritually- illegitimate action.  But let’s look at this more thoroughly:  Brother Lowe dictated the following to that class in Bible school: 
There are two outstanding examples in the Bible that illustrate this rule well:
1 John 3:9 “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
1 John 3:9, taken by itself, would teach a sinless perfection; but the context (the entire epistle) clearly shows the truth of this verse is referring to the spiritual seed (which cannot sin) now abiding in this physical body (which, being flesh, does sin).
Of whose “seed” is this speaking? If it is merely the seed of the believer, yes, then there is a problem.  However, carefully look at the text in light of its context:
1 John 3:8—immediately preceeding the text:  “The Son of God was manifested” for the express purpose of taking away our sins.  In place of the “seed” of Satan, we have the “seed of the Son” and His seed cannot sin!  Satan’s seed can do nothing but sin!
1 John 3:6—the third verse preceeding the text:  How can we keep from sinning?  Simply by abiding!  We know from previous experience that we get into sin when we step out of the abiding presence of the Lord.  This is the same truth as expressed in John 15:1-7, where fruitbearing is emphasized.  Abiding bears fruit; abiding prevents sin!
1 John 3:5—the fourth verse preceeding our text:  concludes with this statement:
“…and in Him is no sin.”
So, the seed—His life—is without sin, it cannot sin; this seed abides within the believer—it is a spiritual seed; there is no possible taint of sin in Him or His seed!  Therefore, the spiritual seed of Christ Himself within the individual believer cannot sin.  He is the sinlessly perfect One; His seed abiding in us should be our greatest incentive NOT to sin!
This text does not teach a doctrine of sinless perfection; it does teach that our Saviour is sinless, and it does teach us that we must abide in Him to keep from allowing sin to rule us. 
Another example:
1 Corinthians 15:2 “By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.”

1 Corinthians 15:2, taken by itself, places salvation as dependent upon the memory of man, at the threat of having “believed in vain.  The whole chapter, however, tests the professed believer.
The concern about such a teaching as this reaches greater magnitude as we get older, and memory tends to fail.  Consider a typical case:  Here is a child of God, one who has lived for the Lord for many years—could he now lose his salvation he is not as mentally alert through the natural degeneration of his memory?  Most certainly not!  Every other passage within The Book contradicts such a conclusion.  Once a sound basis for the assurance of salvation has been given, we rely (if such a case should arise) on this:
2 Timothy 2:13  If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.
Even if memory should fail, He would not fail!  If confidence languishes, His faithfulness to His Word abides forever—not only for all eternity, but for any time lapse between our last lucid comprehension and that moment when we are with Him!  The true believer does not rely on his faulty, failing memory, but on the unchanging Lord!  He will never let His child down! 

Now, before leaving this text, consider this:  We always think of 1 Corinthians 15 as “The Resurrection Chapter”—and that is the logical name to append to it!  But 1 Corinthians 15 should also serve another equally important purpose.  It is a chapter on testing—testing the relationship of anyone, whether he is truly born from above, or merely a professor of religion (even, the Christian religion!) 
The believer sheds his tears at the open grave of a loved one, it is true, but we witness that he…

1 Thessalonians “…sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.”

because his hope is in the Christ of the resurrection.  Although this is an established truth, Satan would have the mere professing Christian, along with the liberal, the denier of the integrity of the Scriptures, all dote on the familiar Bible quotations about death and resurrection. The minister’s “little black book” takes these out of context, and arranges them to be read at all funerals—even for the most unrepentant sinners, such as…

…Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the life…
…Let not your heart be troubled…
…The Lord is my Shepherd…

along with the familiar passages of 1 Corinthians 15!  However, if the unsaved would read these Scriptures for themselves, they would not try to comfort their hearts with false hope!  1 Corinthians 15 is designed to separate the true believer from the pagan unbeliever, and from all who cherish false hopes!

It would be well at this point for each of us to look again at the Resurrection Chapter regarding the Lord’s discrimination between those who truly are born again and those who are mere professors!  Could it be that this time should fall into the hands of a reader who will one day fulfill…

Matthew 7:22-23 “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

Yea, it could be so!—and what a tragedy!  A word of advice:

2 Corinthians 13:5 “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves…”

Let it be settled, therefore, in the reader’s mind and heart: A text MUST be interpreted in the light of its context! No exceptions!  The next post will be the counterpart for rule number two in Bible interpretation.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lesson 2.1 Bible Interpretation

This lesson is borrowed from the booklet “Seven rules for Bible Interpretation”, written by REV. M. L. LOWE, D.D. with supplemental material by David W. Holden.  Rev. Lowe graduated from the Practical Bible Training School in Bible School Park, NY, in 1928.  He then went on to be an instructor in this school in New Testament Interpretation.

Rule number 1: Interpretation Is One; Application May Be Many

Like seven links to a chain, any one of these seven rules is of little value without the other six.  However, if we have a seven-link chain, there must be a link which fastens to something solid – and we have both ends of this chain solidly linked: one end to the Word of God, and the other to the understanding of that Word.  Think, then, of this first rule as being the link which is firmly fastened and which will withstand all that the chain may be called upon to bear.  This is our “anchor point!”

There can be but one interpretation of any passage of Scripture; there may be a number of applications made.  The application never becomes the interpretation.

Immediately we are aware that there are numerous false doctrines which are founded on an application of some truth in brazen disregard of the specific interpretation!  But this tendency is not confined those who would purposely mislead by teaching a false doctrine.  Every pastor, every Sunday school teacher, every believer, ever in his personal witness contact, must be alert on this point.  It is too easy to be “carried away” with the enthusiasm we have for the application – we may imply, or even promote the idea, that the application is the one interpretation.  There are numerous illustrations of how this is often done.  Dr. Lowe dictated the following…

            Ezekiel 37:1-14.  The Vision of the Valley of the Dry Bones.  The interpretation is of a time yet to come; it is a prophecy of the nation of Israel (now dry bones, no organization until 1949), come to life (their national regeneration at the return of their Messiah). The key is Ezekiel 37:11 “…these bones are the whole house of Israel…”  An application may be made (among others) to the unsaved man (pictured as dry bones, without life; Eph. 2:1, “…dead in trespasses and sins”) receiving the new life in Christ. 
Or, on the other side, it could be likened to a committee, each member of which is powerless in himself to take action, but together, under good leadership, can develop a purpose and generate a workable unity, “putting flesh on each bone thus joined together,” and producing a desired result.

But, whatever the application, it NEVER takes the place of the one predetermined-by-God interpretation!

            Matthew 25: 1-13.  The Parable of the Ten Virgins.  This may be applied to the present day church: it is filled with many professing members, only a few of which really possess the oil of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9, “…if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His!”)  The true interpretation is of Israel, picturing her condition after the rapture of the true church.

Among the many applications made, perhaps the most frequent is that of drawing a lesson from the situation in the present day church.  The church is always a “mixes multitude” – many professing members, and among them, some who are “just along for the ride.”  Out of the whole number in a church, only a few (relatively speaking) really possess the oil of the Holy Spirit.  All may listen to the sermons…everyone may take part in the Sunday School discussion time; but the truth is clear only to those who have been truly born again by the Holy Spirit, actually saved.  For the others, there is this very solemn warning:

Romans 8:9 “…Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.”

            Many an application is good – even though not the BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION.  This  application may be far different from the interpretation – but it shouldn’t be.  Emphasis should always be placed on the one true Biblical INTERPRETATION!  The application is only incidental by comparison.
            In the parable of the ten virgins, the interpretation is of the condition of the nation of Israel after the rapture of the true church.  Thinking that “…because unto them were committed the oracles of God.” (Rom. 3:2)  They verily had the lamps, but now it is plainly evident they have no oil for their lamps, and those lamps have gone out. 
            Always distinguish both the interpretation and the application: Do not allow the application, no matter how effective, to change the interpretation!

            Thus we have the first rule, and it is anchored deeply into the solid rock of the Word itself.  We are not to refuse the application of the Word – it is definitely to be applied – but we must be ever alert lest we make an application take the place of the divine interpretation!

            As we read the Word, meditating upon its precepts, we must keep ever before us this first rule of BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION:
There can be but one interpretation of any passage of Scripture; there may be a number of applications made.  The application never becomes the interpretation.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Bible, God's Holy Word (cont.)

   The Bible commands the believer to study the Scriptures (II Timothy 2:15)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

The Bible states clearly that believers need to study the Word of God and in the verse above, God commands his children to study His Word.  His Word needs to be studied so that we will know whether we are being taught the truth or not.  It is not wise to completely agree with your pastor, simply because he is your pastor and has been studying God’s Word.  God commands US to study his Word, not to let other people study it for us and tell us what’s in it.  God’s Word can never be exhausted and simply studying His Word will prepare us for the days battle.  There are numerous places in the Bible that remind us of the Glorious reasons we need to read God’s Word.  Through reading God’s Word, believers come to a know God in a deeper and richer way.  In Colossian 3:16, Paul writes that we are to “let the Word of Christ dwell” and this is also a command.  In the previous book, Paul shares his life’s goal with his readers.  In Philippians 3:10, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;  Paul did not write this just to share something from his life, but this is divinely inspired scripture and it needs to be the goal of all of God’s children.  The scriptures, themselves testify of who Christ is.  It was just mentioned that believers are commanded to “Let the Word of Christ dwell…” and there is no way to do that, but to read the scriptures that are all about Christ.  Jesus said in Luke 24:44 “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 fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
The scriptures will also prevent us from being deceived by false teachings.  In 1 Timothy 4:15-16, it says “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.  Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.  If we are studying God’s word and know what it says, there is no way that we will be influenced by the false teachers that are out there.  We will also have more wisdom and discernment from reading the Bible.  Psalm 19:7 states “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” Also, Hebrews 4:12,  For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The Word of God is the tool that God uses to grow us up Spiritually and transforms us into the image of His dear Son. 1 Peter 2:2 states “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
Finally, The Word of God is all we need for life and Godliness.  2 Peter 1:3 tells believers that “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
The last phrase of 2 Timothy 2:15, “…rightly dividing the word of truth” tells us that there is a right way to interpreting scripture.  The next posts will be addressing the right way needed to interpret God’s infallible Word.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Bible, God's Holy Word (continued)

The Bible or Word of God divides “soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

This verse states clearly that the Word of God discerns the soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and thoughts and intents of our hearts.  In this blog, I will only be addressing the thoughts and intents of our hearts.

In comparison to Jeremiah 17:9 and multiple verses in Proverbs, the Bible states in a lot of places that we, in and of ourselves, can not direct our own ways or thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8 states “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  The divinely inspired verse in Hebrews reminds believers that there is a way to direct our hearts and thoughts, His Word.  We are God’s creation and so it is only logical to conclude that we can not think or direct our own ways and scripture reminds us of this over and over.

It is human nature to entertain a worldly, lustful, and insidious thought life.  The good news is God made us a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17) at the moment of salvation.  Therefore, we have all the ability we need to have a wonderful thought life.  In Philippians 4:8, Paul writes “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.  It is also logical to conclude that Paul wrote this verse because it is very unlikely otherwise to have a pure, true, etc. thought life. Other verses that address the thought life are found in Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 10:5.  Both of these verses contain great, Biblical advice regarding our thought life.   In Romans, we are commanded to renew our minds.  The act of renewing our mind is exercised simply by reading God’s Word.  In Ephesians chapter 6, God tells us that the whole spiritual warfare is in our minds and that we need “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth” (Ephesians 6:14) and arm ourselves with “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17) 
On the opposite side of the spectrum and because God knows the human nature and knows that if left to ourselves, believers will entertain that worldly, lustful, and insidious thought life, one thing we NEED to do is found in 2 Cor. 10:5, Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ  This verse highly recommends that believers control their thought life by casting down every thought that is against the knowledge of Christ.  Paul’s goal in life was that he would know Christ.  A great way to get to know God and His Word is simply to think about the things that you read in His Word, or the Spiritual conversation you had with a friend at church.  The verses in scripture are ever insightful and will never be exhausted in our life time.  It truly is a blessing to ponder the things of God!