I have discovered one of the leading causes of division in the church. How to interpret scripture.
If folks would remember some simple rules in this area, we would have alot more unity and less division.
Gnosticism states one must have special knowledge to understand scripture. There are different forms of this today. One common one, especially amongst denominationalism is education. Many state that the common man cannot understand scripture unless he goes to college.
This is bogus, I am not sure where I learned the following, it may have been from Watchman Nee. In his book “The Normal Christian Life” he discusses the 2 works of the cross. Not gonna get into it here, but I do wanna say that book may be the greatest christian book written and needed. Not equating or comparing it to scripture, because no book besides the Bible is fully inspired, which is what we are getting to. But I think Nee states that in college the deep courses/classes deal with Romans and the work of the cross. But yet, that knowledge should be the standard of the normal christian. Not the educated elite.
Secondly, many believe certain passages in scripture should not be taken literally. This also is a form of Gnosticism. Who decides what is literal and what is not? Then those who decide such become a type of priest that all the other laity must submit to. This is a form of the doctrine of the Nicolaitins. Turning the church into 2 classes, priests and laity. When the church is really made up of everyone being priests.
When scripture is made into symbolism, then it cannot be used for doctrine, and only used for good vs bad. In other words they become bedtime stories to teach morals to people. If that is so. Then the gospel itself has become a bedtime story.
2 Pet 1:16: For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
If one man can say a certain text is a story, then another man can say the gospel itself is. And I know such men! People who believe that life of Jesus is supposed to inspire us to be good. And that’s it. Bogus!
I am not denying there is symboligy or stories in scripture. But man cannot determine what is and what is not. God does. And we do not need special knowledge for this, whether some elite, or some educated. The Bible itself will.
Mt:13:3: And he spake many things unto them in parables…
Mt:21:33: Hear another parable…
Mt:22:1: And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said,
Mk:3:23: And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables…
Mk:4:2: And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine,
Mk:12:1: And he began to speak unto them by parables…
Lk:5:36: And he spake also a parable unto them…
Lk:6:39: And he spake a parable unto them…
Lk:8:4: … he spake by a parable:
Lk:12:16: And he spake a parable unto them, saying…
Lk:13:6: He spake also this parable…
Lk:14:7: And he put forth a parable…
Lk:15:3: And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
Lk:18:1: And he spake a parable…
Lk:19:11: … he added and spake a parable…
Lk:20:9: Then began he to speak to the people this parable…
Lk:21:29: And he spake to them a parable…
Jn:10:6: This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.
Another example is the book of Revelation. According to Watchman Nee in “Aids to ‘Revelation’ “, there are about 30 symbols, and half of them are explained within it’s own text. Examples include:
Lampstands are churches 1:20
Fire, Horns, & Eyes represent the Holy Spirit 4:5 & 5:6
Incense are prayers 8:3-4
The dragon is satan 12:9
Beast is a king 17:12
and others are explained, that I have not listed here.
But we must also remember this:
2 Tim 3:16: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness
Many many people take certain scriptures and tell me I cannot use them for doctrine. Baloney! All scripture is profitable for doctrine, all. Of coarse we cannot take verses, such as when satan says he will overthrow God, and make it into a doctrine. The balance is scripture itself, not special knowledge, not education. If a doctrine from scripture is countered elsewhere, then we must evaluate our interpretation of that verse. Obviously when we read the Bible we see that satan will not overthrow heaven. It is not consistant with the Bible.
But we must be careful here. Some things are not as obvious. For a long time the people did not know salvation is by grace, and were taught it was by works. While scripture tells us the matter, it isn’t as obvious as satan’s defeat. Or how about the number of New Testament baptisms? That’s even less obvious.
Many truths were lost in the dark ages. and we are still digging more out of the Bible. Just because we don’t know about something, or our church doesn’t recognize it doesn’t mean its not true. That is determined by scripture itself.
To base if a doctrine is true by comparing to whether the church has embraced it is very very poor. Why? Here is why:
8: Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
11: And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12: For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
14: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15: But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
16: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
As long as we have the 5 fold ministry (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers) we have not come into full maturity.
Which brings us to a horrible defense against certain teachings. Many people oppose teaching because the church fathers were silent on a subject. That is absolutely ludicrous! No where does scripture tell us the church ever reached full knowledge. Does not the above scripture tell us we are still learning? Does not Paul tell us elsewhere we see darkly?
1 Cor 13:12: For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
Does he not state that there is only 1 thing he knew for certain?
1 Cor 2: LITV
2 For I decided not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ, and Him having been crucified.
The church lives by faith. Not certainty of doctrines all laid out centuries ago.
That faith comes from the word of God, not writings of church fathers. Or church tenets.
Here are some basic rules to remember:
“About the time of the end, a body of men will be raised up who will turn their attention to the Prophecies, and insist upon their literal interpretation, in the midst of much clamor and opposition.” Sir Isaac Newton 1642-1727
Dr. David L. Cooper, the founder of The Biblical Research Society, was proficient in the Biblical languages. He studied Greek under Dr. A. T. Robertson. Dr. Cooper is known for his “Golden Rule of Interpretation” which is as follows:
When the plain sense of Scripture
makes common sense,
seek no other sense;
Therefore, take every word
at its primary, ordinary,
usual, literal meaning
Unless the facts
of the immediate context,
studied in the light
Of related passages and
axiomatic and fundamental truths
indicate clearly otherwise.
[This rule was published regularly in Dr. Cooper’s monthly magazine, Biblical Research Monthly.]
If God be the originator of language and if the chief purpose of originating it was to convey His message to humanity, then it must follow that He, being all-wise and all-loving, originated sufficient language to convey all that was in His heart to tell mankind. Furthermore, it must also follow that He would use language and expect people to understand it in its literal, normal, and plain sense. The Scriptures, then, cannot be regarded as an illustration of some special use of language so that in the interpretation of these Scriptures some deeper meaning of the words must be sought. [Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), 81.]
The Clarifying Statement on Dispensationalism, published by the New England Bible Conference, says it this way:
The Bible must be interpreted literally which is the way language is normally and naturally understood. We recognize that the Bible writers frequently used figurative language which is a normal and picturesque way of portraying literal truth. The Bible must be understood in the light of the normal use of language, the usage of words, the historical and cultural background, the context of the passage and the overall teaching of the Bible (2 Tim. 2:15). Most importantly, the believer must study the Bible in full dependence upon the SPIRIT OF TRUTH whose ministry is to reveal Christ and illumine the minds and hearts of believers (John 5:39; 16:13-15; 1 Cor. 2:9-16). The natural, unregenerate man cannot understand or interpret correctly the Word of God. The things of God are foolishness to him, he cannot know them (1 Cor. 2:14), and his mind is blinded (Rom. 3:11; 2 Cor. 4:3-4).
I was quickly reminded by someone we must not under-evaluate education. If we didn’t have education, we couldn’t read the Bible, or anything else.
It is true we must have knowledge of the Bible to be balanced in doctrine. Many of us received such through education. I thank my aunt Wendy for teaching me the Bible as a child in Lutheran Sunday school. But my wife learned the Bible on her own. How we get it is not important as long as we do. And God even blessed the protection of learning the Bible by listening:
3: Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
The Bible not only is found in print, but now can be found in audio!
One more addition here. Some people contend that prophecies must not be taken literally. Yet when Jesus came the 1st time, the prophecies were literally fulfilled.