Saturday, November 17, 2012

Lesson 3.1(cont.) 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 3.1 (cont.):  No Prophecy of Scripture is of Any Private Interpretation

Dr. Lowe continued in the notes given to the class:
But what II Peter 1:20—from which our rule is taken—really means is that no verse or portion of Scripture can be given an interpretation which clearly contradicts the meaning of other Scripture, because all has been given by one Perfect Mind, even the Holy Spirit, and therefore cannot be contradictory.


 Revelation 3:14 …the beginning of the creation of God.

This is interpreted by some (Jehovah Witness sect) that Christ was a created being, the first thing that God created.  This is contradictory to the whole fabric of Scripture.  Christ is not creature, but Creator!  Revelation 3:14 is a title of Christ, showing Him to be Head of all creation as He is the Head of the church.

          At this point in our class on New Testament Interpretation, Dr. Lowe had us open our Bibles to that classic passage on the proper method of Bible Study in the second chapter of I Corinthians.  After reading the entire text, Dr. Lowe would make his comments to the class and then dictate the following notes:
          Examine carefully the method of Bible study outlined in I Corinthians 2:10-16.  While unsaved men do not know and cannot know what God has prepared for those who love Him (verse 9), there is clear revelation that God does impart this knowledge; and, moreover, He tells how He does this imparting:

I Corinthians 2:10 “But God hath revealed…unto us by his Spirit…”

We understand what men tell us because we understand the spirit of men: from man we understand only what man can know.  However, as born-again believers we receive the Holy Spirit, and He is not limited to the wisdom of the world (verse 12).

1 Corinthians 2:13 “…comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”

What is the most spiritual thing in our possession?  The Bible, of course.  It is not a case of comparing what one man says about the Bible with what another man says.  The believer is to compare Scripture with Scripture!
Here a revealing Greek word is used which is translated for us as COMPARING.  The word is sugkrinō , which denotes (a) to join fitly; to combine, in the sense of combining spiritual things with spiritual; (b) to place together; hence, to judge or discriminate by comparison. [Vine]  In the past recent decades the word DISCRIMINATION has been looked upon with disfavor—consequently we have missed the point so far as Bible Discrimination is concerned.  There are those who would have us “be so loving” that we would accept anything anyone said to us, “in the spirit of love”, and never mind how the Lord is offended by our stupidity!  The believer is to be discriminate: he is expected to discern! Here’s what we mean:
            One man, speaking from a glass house on the west coast says some particular verse means thus and thus…another man from the mid-west (so famous for his “divine healing” that he has built a hospital!) says it means something else, quite different…then the “confectioner,” widely known for his radio/TV program (a Pretentious, thoughtless, loose-doctrine, badly mixed up club) shows so little discernment that he seems to put “every wind of doctrine” into a religiosity- blender and bottle feed all his gullible followers this sugar-sweetened, no-spiritual-calories added diet!—but, woe be to that person dares to even question the validity of their teachings!  Surely the Lord is NOT in any of this undiscerning conglomerate of theological hash!
            And, as the late Dr. O.E. Phillips would say, “if that offends you, you come to me and apologize, and I’ll forgive you!”

            Let the believer beware!  It is not what men say about The Word, but what The Word says about The Word!  Sound, evangelical Bible teachers can help us; for this we are grateful.  But, should any teaching, from any source, cross the grain of The Word itself, beware of the “Spiritual splinters” that may peirce your hands!
          1 Corinthians 2:14 “…spiritually discerned”

          The Holy Spirit in the Word, and The Holy Spirit in the believer gives him spiritual discernment, that is, the ability to make the correct “comparing.

          Beloved Dr. Harry Ironside passed a Russellite {now known as a “Jehovah Witness”} holding forth on a street corner in Los Angeles, and Dr. Ironside saw a man whom he knew had just recently been converted listening intently!  Fearing that one so young in the faith might not know about the insidious teachings of this cult, Dr. Ironside was concerned.  Debating on the best way to approach the brother, he saw him walk away, shaking his head.  This new believer could not discern what was wrong, but the Holy Spirit gave him “spiritual discernment” to know that something was wrong!
          While we must be alert to the need of new Christians when they are challenged by the cults, we must also depend upon the Holy Spirit to give them proper “spiritual discernment”.  Too rapid an approach will often be used by Satan to stir up their curiosity for the “forbidden fruit” of the “appetizing” bait; we must wait on the leading of the Holy Spirit in directing us to speak, while at the same time giving the Holy Spirit opportunity to impart the necessary “discernment” by which to know that they must not “play with” false teaching of any kind!  But let’s not be so cautious that we fail to heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and thus fail to respond is He bids us warn of the dangers of such “thin ice” experience!  Dr. Lowe continued his dictation:

1 Corinthians 2:16 “…the mind of Christ”

          It is not that we are equal with Christ, but that Christ, by the Holy Spirit, has made known His will and Word, not to the unsaved, but to us who have spiritual life in common with Him!
          That phrase, “the mind of Christ” implies the counsels and thoughts of God.  The believer is not to be guided by the rationalistic thinking of his fellow-men, but by the Divine Mind, the “intelligence” of Deity, yea, literally, by the “mind of Christ!”
Philippians 2:5 “let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus”

          In writing a work of fiction, the author must “live” the part of his various characters: he must think their thoughts, mimic their actions, pursue their individual motives.  The better he does this, the better the novelist writes; and the easier it is for his reader to identify with the characters.  That’s true in imaginative composition—but we are not writing a novel as we live the Christian life.  We are, instead, LIVING A LIFE—and this life we live must be the life the Lord designs to live out through the believer!
          In present day marriage (not particularly Christian marriage—or--should we say?—definitely not in Christian marriage!) the idea is that both parties continue to live their individual lives, and simply unite their personal properties where it seems convenient.  In Christian marriage, the two become “one flesh”—but more than that, they become “one mind”…”one purpose”…”one concept”.  They live together in the framework of “holy matrimony”—and they grown alike in motives and actions, fellowship and love!  This was vividly brought to the attention of the writer, when, as a young man, (in depression days) he took employment with an undertaker.  The very first funeral was that of an elderly gentleman, in the home in which he had lived for sixty years with one wife.  I was struck with similarity of appearance between the widow at the casket and the clay form in the casket.  On returning home, I remarked on this fact to my mother, who stated:  “Why, David, don’t you know that when two people live together for so many years in harmony, they not only get to act alike and think alike, but they even begin to look alike!” No, I didn’t know that then, but I have since that day taken the opportunity to silently scrutinize the faces of many an elderly couple, and have learned to accurately determined those who have lived together in peace and harmony and to make a separate category for those who have merely dwelt together under the same roof!

            Oh, that I might bear HIS resemblance in my every day walk before fellow men!  Would my dear reader be willing to make that his prayer also? AMEN!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Lesson 3 of Bible Interpretaion

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.

(My text in red)

 Rule 3: No Prophecy of Scripture is of Any Private Interpretation

          We have pictured the seven rules as seven links in a chain, the first of which is anchored firmly to the Word.  Then we came to the two sides of the second rule, and found them interlinked in value, coupling the first and third links.  But now, as we come to the third link, we have a serious problem.  Who is to say what is “private interpretation” or what is not?  We quote directly from Dr. Lowe’s classroom notes.

          This rule is of vital importance, no matter what passage is being considered.  The right of private interpretation is to be distinguished from the rule of private interpretation.

     2 Peter 1:20 “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.”

     What is, theologically considered, PRIVATE INTERPRETATION?

When Peter wrote these words he had a different thought from what the theologians of this era have in mind.  Nevertheless, both ideas have there place.  Consider:
     Dr. W. E. Vine gives the explanation in his highly respected EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY OF NEW TESTAMENT WORDS:

     (Interpretation) 2. EPILUSIS, from epiluō, to loose, solve, explain, denotes a solution, explanation, literally a release (epi, up; luō, to loose),  II Peter 1:20, “(of private)interpretation;” i.e., the writers of Scripture did not put their own construction upon the ‘God-breathed’ words they wrote. 
Now the important point here is the summary:  “the writers of Scripture did not put their own construction upon the ‘God-breathed’ words they wrote.”  The forty or more writers of the Bible books did not inject their own ideas into the writing given to them by the Holy Spirit.  But, at this end, the concern is not about the writings (that is already settled—we have the books as the Holy Spirit dictated, and without inflections of the “stenographers,” for they wrote exactly as they were dictated to.)  Our problem is with our ideas infiltrating into what God has already clearly given.
How can we simply identify this trend, and make it clear in our own minds?  Consider:

The Bible is one complete unity of thought, plan, purpose, and teaching.  It is not a conglomerate of ideas about God or religion!  The Bible does not contradict itself!

Moreover, it is to be remembered that our Lord will never reveal anything which is contrary to His Word!  In the First Epistle of John we have the key:

1 John 2:27 “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.”

The Holy Spirit Himself teaches the believer (the truly born-again child of God, not the mere professing church member) and the same Holy Spirit will never teach anything contrary to the mind and will of God!  What this MIND and WILL of God is, is clearly given in the Word.  Now some sincere people, claiming this anointing, have a tendency to put their own, “The Lord told me” against the facts revealed within the Bible.  The believer can identify that which is of the Holy Spirit and that which is of the will of man  (even the man may claim this anointing and stand on the phrase “and ye need not that any man teach you”) by a simple comparison of what the Word says. 


An earnest Christian woman fell in love with a man who very obviously was not saved.  She insisted on marrying him, declaring that the Lord had told her to do so.  Those who were concerned had to stand sorrowfully on the sidelines and witness this tragic union, powerless to convince her of the “unequal yoke” of 2 Corinthians 6:14.  She had determined that the Lord had given her a special revelation which was contrary to, but not superceded His Written Word!  Such tragedy is repeated again and again. 
      It is one thing for a person who is married—both of them unsaved at the time of marriage—to be saved, and eventually lead the mate to the Lord (and, just as often, to not lead that mate to the Lord) and it is another matter to deliberately step out of the Lord’s direct will by making such an unwarranted alliance!  Oh, that Christian young people would heed the admonitions to avoid even casually dating unsaved persons!  Why can’t they see tragedies that are already within the church assembly?  Every reader of this page knows of the binding circumstances which follow casual affiliations with unsaved persons.  2 Corinthians 6:14 applies to business agreements…to social contacts…to dating…and to mating!  For every case where an unsaved mate was finally won to the Lord, there are a hundred which didn’t end that way---and you know it!
But, back to our main question: How can we protect ourselves from the vanity of giving some passage of the Scripture our own private interpretation?  Is there a danger that we shall “jump to a conclusion” about some interpretation of a passage?  Probably in no other sphere of Christian teaching is this temptation more rampant than in the matter of Bible prophecy.  The following illustration has had it duplicates on many prophecies:                    


During World War II, the writer was pastor of a small country church, and in the congregation was a man who assumed that he himself was quite a student of prophecy.  On reading the book of the REVELATION (he always insisted that the name was in the plural) he read about the three unclean spirits like frogs…and immediately propounded that this unholy trio was Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin!  However, time has proven him to be somewhat erroneous in his deductions and his “private interpretations”  (made public to anyone who would stand still and listen) came to naught!

In John 17 our Lord Jesus Christ prayed for us—even for us, who live at this far end of the Age of Grace!  In verse 17, He prayed that we might be sanctified by His Word—that we might be set apart to his glory through His Word!  Our Lord was concerned that the Word might “have free course, and be glorified within each of us.  The Lord Jesus prayed for us in the matter of “private interpretation.”  (He is even now also interceding for us at the right hand of the Father!)
Paul had a concern for those whom he had the privilege of leading to the Lord in the church established through his ministry.  We have a clear example of this in his letter to the Ephesian believers.  Concerning this, Dr. Lowe continued his dictation:
In Ephesians 1:17 and 19, and in chapter 3: 16-19, we find Paul’s prayer that the saints might have a knowledge of God’s Word.  The Apostle John speaks of the anointing of the Holy Spirit (I John 2:27), by which Spirit we are taught.

Eph. 1:17-19  “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,”

Eph. 3:16 “That he would grant you…to be strengthened with might by His Spirit…”
17 “That Christ ma dwell in your hearts by faith: that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,”
18 “May be able to comprehend…”
19 “And to know…”

Paul prayed that the believers at Ephesus (and by extension, we who are believers at this end of the Age of Grace) might have three vital gifts from the Lord:  (1) WISDOM; (2) REVELATION; and (3)  KNOWLEDGE OF HIM!  With this comes, “the exceeding greatness of His power to us,”  and from chapter three, “strengthened with might by His Spirit” that “Christ might dwell in our hearts by faith,” that we might be “rooted and grounded…and able to comprehend!”

When it comes to the matter of discernment, perhaps we should make this our prayer also.

This lesson will be continued in my next post.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Lesson 2.2 (Part 2) of Bible Interpretation

A counterpart to rule number 2
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.

                                                  (MY WORDS IN RED)

Never take a text out of its context.

          The Bible can be made to teach anything by picking verses that conform to a predetermined motive. 
          This is the “proof-text” method of Bible study.  And, frankly, it is a method in which one is prone to indulge if he does not give proper thought to the hazards involved. 
          Here’s how it works: You have a point you wish to prove.  So, taking a good concordance of the words of the Bible as they appear in our English translations, we first gather together all the verses which have the same word, and then eliminate all which do not conform to our way of thinking.  By this method one can “prove” anything.
          It is for this reason, that the Bible is often excluded from the courtroom.  Jurists are very familiar with this type of logic, and they are aware of the pitfalls involved.
          While we, for the most part (at least), would not resort to stoning as a method of capital punishment, there are certain isolated verses, which, taken by themselves, then assembled together, might lead to condoning the mob psychology for execution in this manner, even in this 20th century.  We know that similar executions took place in colonial days—persons accused of witchcraft were summarily executed without a fair trial.  The Bible neither “proves” nor “approves” of mob psychology!  However, witchcraft is not to be tolerated and the Lord is clear about that.  Exodus 22:18 and Deuteronomy 18:10 are a few telling verses.

          But there is a far greater damage!  That is of our wanting to prove some point so badly that we resort to this “proof-text” method, and build our teaching on it.

          This method can reach ridiculous proportions.  Did you know that the Bible teaches we should commit suicide?  Here’s what it says:
Matthew 27:3 “…Then Judas…went and hanged himself.”
Luke 10:37 “Go, thou, and do likewise”
11 Corinthians 6:2 “…Behold, now is the time…”
John 13:27  “…That thou doest, do quickly”

          Obviously this is NOT in harmony with any of the teaching of the Bible; similarly, beware of taking any subject and searching for verses merely to prove your point.

          Now, let’s be practical.  If your hands should fall on the literature of some cult, the first thing to look for is the use of certain verses or parts of verses to prove their point.  Here is a very obvious illustration:
          The Mormon “missionaries” come to your door.  They seek an opening.  Perhaps they carry a Scofield Refernce Bible under their arm (an old trick, probably they use newer translations today!) Sensing your interest in the Word, they propose that you hear them read the following passage:

Ezerkiel 37:15-17 “The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,
Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.

Now, these “missionaries” will tell you, these two sticks represent the Bible and the Book of Mormon.  One, they claim, is not complete without the other.  Since the advent of Joeseph Smith, these two are now one!
          If such a case should happen to the reader, he need do but one thing.  First, insist that he read the passage for himself out of his own Bible.  But DON’T STOP THERE! Continue to read—at verse 22 the meaning becomes clear and obvious!  Most certainly this passage is not speaking of joining Mormonism with Christianity!  The context is a prophecy of the regathering of all the house of Israel!  By the time you have read the remainder of the chapter aloud, your “guests” will have departed—they cannot abide the open scriptures!
          But such misuse should also caution us to be very careful in our own use of the Scriptures.  Could it be that we might take a thought and basing that thought upon an isolate verse, take that verse out of its context, and propound some new doctrine for ourselves or for the church?  Here is an absurd illustration to show the lengths to which this can be carried:

          We know the commandments to Israel concerning the prohibitions against eating pork.  We also know that we are not under the Law, but under Grace.  Question:  Should a church sponsor a “ham supper” (O, just for fellowship; surely not to raise money!), but to “sanctify” the meat, shal we serve the ham sandwiches on Jewish Rye bread?  Would that make it right?  Oh, we’d never do such a stupid thing—like that! But, how often we do twist the Scriptures to justify some act!

          In the matter of interpretation: The text, the context, all of Scripture, must be kept in balance!