Over the years, I’ve had many debates on the various ways we interpret Scripture. I’ve concluded that it is one of those practices that is a good way to sharpen our thinking and understanding of how to apply the truth of the Word in our lives. It does not mean, however, that because we disagree on matters of Biblical interpretation we should lose fellowship over it. I’ve always seen healthy debate as a means to solidify healthy practices toward understanding God's Word.
So, with that preamble, I would like to tell you about the following five areas that I have found to be areas of correction in pursuing the best practices of Biblical interpretation:
1. The Bible is Jewish. It has a Jewish narrative. Jesus did not come to start a new religion, He was a Jew living out Torah and the law. He came to fulfill the Old Testament promises giving the law and prophets permanent status in Him. Remember, the law and the prophets were not removed … we are living them out through Jesus. One basic principle, God does not remove what He has written … He fulfills it.
2. The Bible does not arbitrarily remove anything written by God. For example, when people say there are no longer prophets or apostles today because we now have the written Word, so, therefore, prophets or apostles are no longer necessary. This just isn’t true. Nothing in the Word of God tells us that they have been replaced. In order to support this replacement idea, you would have to insert an interpretation that is not found in the Bible … which is unfortunately what some people do. The Bible does not teach this, yet much of the evangelical community believes it. Ephesians 4:11-13 teaches that the five ministry gifts are ‘designed to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.’ These verses teach us that these gifts are designed to equip the Body of Christ until we have fulfilled the work of the ministry. Helping people to do ministry is an ongoing experience and will continue until Christ returns, so you don’t remove two of those giftings. The prophet’s role is to correct the abuse of Scripture and to realign the church back to a Biblical emphasis. The apostle is sent to organize and start churches all around the world. These two gifts have not ceased in function, yet this is taught in many churches today. It is a wrong emphasis.
3. The Bible does not give us specific answers about things that strictly belong to faith. The controversy over the various views on the return of Jesus seems to violate Scripture itself. Jesus said no man knows the hour or the day, yet we have elaborate attempts trying to prove when He will return. The argument for the various positions can only be made for each of these views, but none of them know for sure the plan of God. When Jesus said that no man knows the day or the hour … He meant it. Our view on His return is ‘watch and pray’ because that is all He has told us to do. Jesus never told us to figure out the eschatological pattern and identify the exact day or hour He will return. Be ready and prepared, stay in right relationship with Him, and do the work of the evangelist as long as you can. That's the emphasis. We spend too much time telling people about things we are convinced will take place, yet these are things that only belong to God.
4. The Old Testament is not necessary, or in the words of a well-known pastor, "we can unhitch from it." No, we can't. It is the history of God’s relationship with His people and it is the credibility for the teachings in the New Testament. The Old Testament has been completed in the New Testament and is as much a part of God’s Word as the New Testament. In other words, it is one Book, and it is God’s story. It cannot be broken up into two Books with the emphasis on the Old Testament being less important than the New Testament. As I said earlier, nothing God has written has ever been replaced. Don’t let people say, “Well, that’s the law which is no longer necessary because of Jesus.” The law is still in force, and we are living it out in Jesus … it still is relevant to us in Him.
5. Biblical doctrine developed by historical scholars must be carefully analyzed. Not all teaching that comes out from antiquity is correct. The Scriptures must vet everything we take in to grow our lives in Christ. We need to read and understand the thread of truth throughout the entire Bible … not just a select Verse or two. Many doctrines have been based upon an interpretation of a Scripture, which may not have the support of other Scriptures. Calvinism is a case in point. There are elements of Calvinism that can be refuted by Scripture. To me, that is a red flag as to the reliability of Calvinism as solid truth. John Calvin, like many of the church fathers, had a lot of good things to say, but many of them had biases and the pressures of reforming the church. The search for truth shouldn't stop with the writing of some scholarly ideas from many centuries ago … it is an ongoing process of our dependence on the Holy Spirit to lead us to the truth. I have cautioned many believers not to use the teachings of a doctrine like Calvinism to interpret the Scripture because it has a bias. That is true in almost every denomination as well. There is a lens that Baptists use, so the product will be an interpretation of what Baptists believe. Lutherans do it, Pentecostals do it, Catholics do it. It is this bias you need to always question and know that it exists as you study God’s Word.
I have learned to question everything. That is what the Apostle Paul tells us to do:
1 Thessalonians 5:21 but, test everything; hold fast what is good.
The Apostle John told us to test the spirits to see if it is from God:
1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
I have found that some false teaching isn’t done deliberately … it is done in ignorance. I realize false teaching is false teaching, but those doing it can be corrected and challenged to review their interpretation and, as a result, change.
As I said in my opening statement, we are to employ the best practices of Scripture … what is the truth, and what is the best way to interpret the Word to maximize our understanding of the God we serve. One of the ways that we get introduced to concepts that may not be based upon a Biblical view is by popular authors who write about intriguing ideas and concepts but may be veering off course. That little variation may not be serious at first until there is another variation from another author. In time we have all these variations that could put us seriously off course from Biblical truth. Remember, Satan appears as an angel of light, and that might mean He is an author, a filmmaker, a Bible commentator, or even a scholar.
Don't take your Bible for granted. It contains the Words of life. Studying it will bring great rewards, primarily in how you discern what is true and what is not.
Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler