Tag Archives: Bible

Thoughts on Interpreting Scripture

I am reading through some material that has been sitting on my desk (and floor, for that matter) and interacting with it. I will be doing this more often over the next few weeks. This will give me a way of putting this information on the site and providing a way to search through a lot of material quickly.

I came across this article by R. C. Sproul, Sr., in Tabletalk Magazine. In it Dr. Sproul is looking at how do we interact and interpret the Bible. The following reflections and quotation page numbers are taken from the January 2011 magazine.

Two Principles to Govern Interpretation

1. The Analogy of Faith: This is the idea that scripture is its own interpreter. What this means on a practical level is that a through investigation of what the Bible has to say on a subject should be done before any exploration of other sources.

2. “Sensus literalis“: This does not mean that “every text in the Scriptures is given a “woodenly literal” interpretation, but rather that we must interpret the Bible in the sense in which it is written” (6). What this means is that we do not violate the laws of grammar or genre in order to arrive at an understanding of what the text says. Sproul makes this plainly clear.

“Though the Bible is not like any other book in that is carries with it the authority of divine inspiration, nevertheless, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit over a written text does not turn verbs into nouns or nouns into verbs. No special, secret, arcane, esoteric meaning is pourted into a text simply because it’s divinely inspiried. … No, the Bible is to be interpreted according to the ordinary rules of language.” (6-7)

At the heart of this principle is the idea that we start with what we know and understand and then trying to make sense of those areas that are not as clear. In order to treat the Bible as a cohesive text we have to maintain that sense as we engage it. To do otherwise is to violate the integrity of the message that the bible contains. Sproul provided this clarifying thought. “Though we affirm the basic clarity of the sacred Scripture, we do not at the same time say that all passage are equally clear” (7).

The process of reading, interpreting and ultimately understanding what the Bible says ought to be the greatest priority of the follower of Jesus. These two principles are helpful guides as you study.

Let me know if you agree with Dr. Sproul or not…


Faith is… Standing on the Word of God | “Faith is…” Series, Pt. 11

1Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, KJV)

This is, according to Paul’s own understanding, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the things that I am amazed by is that there are a lot of things “missing” from what we have commonly come to believe the Gospel is. There are many things that we must understand about the Gospel, but these come after we have received this simple message and believed what it says.

There are four key aspects that Paul says must be present in order for the Gospel to be “THE” Gospel. Those four revolve around the resurrection of Jesus.

  1. Christ Died
  2. Christ was Buried
  3. Christ rose again on the third day
  4. All this is was done “according to the scriptures.”

Over the last several months I have been coming back to this simple definition of the Gospel. I think that I have found that many time the message that proclaims the redemption of the human soul is not complicated. It is profound. The heart of the Christian faith is a miracle of unprecedented proportions. The entire Christian faith depends on the resurrection being true. If there is no resurrection there is nothing. Paul tells as much when he explains that if Jesus did not rise from the grave, then we all should be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:12-19). If any point of the resurrection account is questioned the entire thing falls apart.

Let’s take a few moments to look at each of these.

1. Christ Died

There are many who do not believe that Jesus actually died. The mystery of God becoming a man in the person of Jesus of Nazareth has been a point of contention for many people. But, to think that God would allow himself to be subjected to the humiliation and horror of death is not something that many are willing to accept. What we have to realize is that if Jesus did not die, we cannot live! His death had to be real and total.

2. Christ was Buried

The death of Jesus was like every other dead. It was total and complete. There was no life left in Jesus body. If it were not true, then Jesus would not be able to provide for us what we needed. Without a substitutionary death, I would not be able to experience the fullness of Christ’s life in me. The reason I can share in Christ’s righteousness is because he fully, completely and perfectly shared in my death.

3. Christ rose again on the third day

If Jesus did not come out of that grave, there is no hope of heaven and fellowship with our heavenly Father. Jesus comforted the disciples by telling them that he was going to prepare a place for them (John 14:1-3). When was that going to take place? After his death and resurrection! That is why the disciples could not make sense of what Jesus was saying. They wanted to follow Jesus, but Jesus let them know that the path that was laid out for him was not one that they could travel with him.

4. All this is was done “according to the scriptures.”

Of the four aspects of the Gospel that are necessary, this last one stands out. It stands out becuase Paul is essentially saying that God has staked his reputation and his “worthiness” as God on his ability to predict and fulfill the resurrection. Everything that happened to Jesus happened exactly how God said that it would. Everything that the Bible has to say about anything hinges on the Resurrection of Jesus having taken place! That seems like a big risk unless it actually happened.

As we have traveled on this exploration of faith, I have found that many times we do not understand the place of God’s Word in the development of faith. God’s provides his word to us to verify and to support everything that he is doing in, through and around us. Whenever we forgo using the word of God as God designed we will find that what we are trying may not work as well as we have planned.

I am thankful that God has awakened me to a this powerful truth. The Word of God, all of the the scriptures are not only sufficient for all that I need, they were designed to fulfill my every need in preparing me for living a life of faith. Paul tells Timothy to never lose sight of this amazing reality.

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16, ESV)

With each passing day I grow more convinced that the reason the Word of God does not have the effects that it describes is not because it does not work, but because we do not allow it work in us.

Week 2 | The Scripture Is A Lens, Not A Manual

Reading Challenge for this Week:
Read EPHESIANS everyday. All SIX chapters. It will be a challenge. Stretch yourself. Trust God to speak.

I did not get a chance to explain the reason for reading this much in such a short period of time last week. So here it goes.

The reason is, the more familiar you are with the text of Scripture the better chance you have of hearing from God THROUGH the text, not just IN the text. There is a difference here. What we want is to be able to know, for sure, that God is speaking to us. Not in some vague, “I had this feeling that maybe God kinda wants me to do this or that.” This is not how a healthy relationship develops or is sustained. When we speak to God there should be genuine communication, and God should also speak to us.

What I am not saying is that we are looking for information outside of the biblical cannon. Rather, I am saying that what we hear/learn/understand/contemplate should never contradict what the Bible teaches. It is informed by the text. What happens is that we begin to grow in our ability to understand what God is doing in us and through those around us. That is another point to remember. If you are not connected to other people who are reading with you, you will not have the checks and balances that you need to make sure that you are not straying from what the Bible is saying. (Invite someone to join you. You just might be amazed at what you discover!)

We have to learn to hear the God OF the Bible, not merely try to find the God that the Bible describes. The Bible, as wonderful a gift that it is, will never capture the totality that is God. What this means is that we should not use the Bible to give us the greatest picture of who God in God’s self. This is not what the Bible was designed to do. Only God can fully reveal and express himself. The logical question that we should be asking then is this, “What is the purpose of the bible?”

The purpose of the bible is to point
us in the right direction so that we will
not miss God when we encounter him.

Are there commands to be obey? Yes. Are there suggestions for daily living, and wisdom for daily practice? Yes. But, these are secondary purposes. The ultimate purpose of the Bible is to direct us toward God so that He can reveal himself to us.

Too often I have tried to conjure up the God IN the Bible, rather than allow the text of Scripture to serve as the lens that focuses my attention on God when he is moving about in the world, and in my life. The purpose of reading one entire book of the bible at a time is to better grasp the message that is being communicated. When we chop up the letters or gospels or histories we are make one critical mistake:

We are choosing what is important in the story
that God has communicated.

We should never be the ones choosing what is or is not important. We must allow God to direct our minds, affections and direction as we interact with him through allowing the word to me an intermediary. This idea was confirmed as I have been reading Donald Whitney’s book Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health [Paperback | Kindle]. I have provided some quotations from the book to help here. (The references are from the Amazon Kindle edition.)

“…it is through His Word that our experience with God, including our perception of His presence, is mediated.” (Location 515)

“Shouldn’t we expect to experience God’s presence primarily by means of that which He gave explicitly for the purpose of making Himself known to us: His Word?” (Location 580)

“When we seek the presence of God mediated-directly or indirectly-through Scripture, we are not imagining God as we would like Him to be. The basis of our experience with God is God-revealed truth, not our individual, idiosyncratic opinions about God.” (Location 528)

“Without a mediated sense of God’s presence, how can I know I have indeed encountered the God of the Bible? How can I be sure that I haven’t delved into the recesses of a mysterious…” (Location 545)

“Go often to the place where God has revealed Himself most clearly–the Bible.” (Location 577)

“Martyn Lloyd Jones said of God’s Word, “The more we know it and read it, the more it will take us into the presence of God. So if you want to set the Lord always before you, spend much of your time with regular daily reading of the Bible.'” (Location 577)

So how do we avoid becoming the arbiter of God’s truth? We avoid it by reading larger sections of the bible, whole books if possible, and allowing God to speak to us where we are. This is a tremendous act of faith. It is not easy at first, and it can be very disconcerting when you do not hear anything. Give it time. Get familiar with God’s word first. Get used to the ryhthm and timbre of God’s voice.

This new way of reading will lead to a new way of living. Do not forget the goal: Be a disciple of and for Jesus, who makes disciples of and for Jesus.

The Journey Begins

Reading Challenge for this Week:
Read Colossians everyday. All four chapters. It will be a challenge. Stretch yourself. (Tomorrow I will explain why to read this much.)

Any and every journey we take in life begins with one step. The first step is always the most difficult. The reason for this is that we are deciding to go in one direction over all others. Course corrections and adjustments are a part of life, but movement is the most basic requirement to arriving.

I have joked with people that have asked me about how to discern God’s will by getting them to see that without taking a step they will never go anywhere and God has nothing to order. Psalm 37:23 says something very interesting. The ESV and the NLT help us to see the nuance of the text.

The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; (Psalm 37:23, ESV)


The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. (Psalm 37:23, NLT)

Continue reading The Journey Begins