Monday, April 20, 2009

Private Interpretation

Last week I commented on one of R. C. Sproul's postings on His was the first of its kind I have seen on the web. You can see his original post at . There is always a battle going on in the kingdom of God regarding who has the right and authority to teach God's Word. On the one side are folks who say that only those with appropriate educational and ministry background may teach. For instance, a seminary degree plus X-number of years in the field. Without such credentials, one should not be permitted to teach, to minister, to pastor, to write or comment in on-line forums, much less to blog.

The other side are folks who say that such background is not necessary. All that's needed is the filling of the Holy Spirit according to I 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."

Furthermore, God says in II Peter 1:20 - 2:1a, "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you...."

Hopefully the common link between both parties is the fact that they are indeed saved and filled with the Holy Spirit. Without this, no man can indeed learn or understand the Scriptures. They will be foolishness to him and his teaching will likewise therefore be foolish, just as God says in I Corinthians 2:14, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

So we see in these verses a few credentials necessary for the understanding and teaching of the Word of God. The Holy Spirit must be involved. Discernment must be exercised. Finally, the focus must be on the Scriptures themselves.

Here is the first stopping point for discussion. I find fairly consistently that those who opt on the side of education/ministry for qualification spend far more time quoting and discussing other learned men than they do the Bible. While I have no problem studying the writings of these men (Calvin, Sproul, Luther, Spurgeon, Chambers, Pink, MacArthur, etc.) I rely on none of them for authority regarding the interpretation and teaching of Scripture.

Likewise, I do not consider myself to be any authority. You readers will know when I have to change a position on Scripture. I will tell you plainly. Such things do happen to men because we are still fallible, still susceptible to the old man and the flesh, still liable for a deceitful heart. That is why we must give such great care to teaching. It is no small matter to present God's Word to the Kingdom. And it must be God's Word, not what we or any other man says about God's Word.

The authority to teach and understand God's Word was one of the premier points of the Reformation. After posting his 95 Theses and appearing before the church council, Luther escaped to Wartburg to translate the Bible from Latin to German. In so doing he freed the Scriptures from the shackles of private interpretation and teaching of Rome and put it in the hands of the common man.

But man is not so common when he is filled with the Holy Ghost and walking in a perfect One relationship with God. Consider that the prophets of old who wrote the Scriptures under the illumination and direction of God. Did they do it in any other way than this? Could they have accomplished this while walking in some deliberate disobedience, some willful sin? Lesser so, could they have done it when in a state of known unconfessed sin, when their state with God was not perfect? Would God take the chance that a wicked heart, a lustful flesh, a mere sinner possibly overrule His sovereign work of scribing His most holy Word?

No. God made no such mistake. But in these last days, He has left us in a slightly different state whereby there is no new Scripture, no new prophecy. The canon is complete. So we are somewhat left to ourselves if you will, without the original inspiration of God.

God says in II Timothy 3:16-17, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."

Again, that work of giving Scripture to man is complete. We do not receive the inspiration of God in order to learn, understand, and teach His Word. At least not in the same way as the authors received it. Today we have the Word in order that we may be "perfect, thoroughly furnished...." The good works are those of reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness.

This was not written to some particular group of people, the educated and experienced. It was written to the "man of God". That includes you and me. But as Paul asked rhetorically in I Corinthians 12:29, "Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?" No, not all are teachers. They are a select group, chosen and gifted by God through the Holy Spirit. But teaching is not the exclusive purpose of having God's Word.

You and I have it in order that we may be "perfect, thoroughly furnished" Christians. We have it so we may encourage others to be this same way, in a perfect, One relationship with the Father. That is why He saved us. He saved us from our sins so that we would be One with Him again as we were in the beginning (Adam).

When we are not perfect because of sin, the flesh, or the deceitful heart, likewise the Word of God is not perfect within us. Some reproof, some correction is required. God uses many avenues to accomplish this. That's why we have so many teachers, preachers, and prophets. That's why we have these discussions. But in every avenue, God always uses His Holy Spirit to bring a child back to Himself. God says so in John 16:7-11, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged."

So you see the endless quotation of men can be a problem without the primary delivery of the infallible Word of God. A proper study cannot be without the consideration of both sides of the discussion, each with equal weighting in regards to Scriptural support, the integrity of the teacher, and other such academic prequisites to presenting an acceptable thesis.

From this you can accept the fact that I support the teaching of men and the open discussion of Biblical interpretation. It is with the following requirements that I do so however:

1. The man must be saved
2. The man must acknowledge his state with God at the time of his study and documentation. (As I have told you before, I find it utterly impossible to write this blog when I know there is sin in my life. I have tried. Once or twice I have removed a blog because I should have known better. This blog and my books are written when I am:

a. Dead indeed to sin and alive unto God through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:11)
b. Fully armored (Ephesians 6:10-20)
c. Given a message to write about (Romans 11:36-12:2)

Finally, there is one last thing that I expect and discern from other writers, teachers, pastors, and prophets. The apostle Paul provided a good example in Galatians 1:11-12, "But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ."

Jesus personally taught Paul in the desert of Arabia for seventeen years. You can add this up in Galatians 1:18 and 2:1. Have you been taught in this way? This example is exactly what God is talking about in the verse I began this blog with in I John 2:27. How much time do you spend alone with Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Father, allowing them to personally teach you? No radios, TVs, books, blogs, Internet forums, nothing but the Father, Son, and Spirit and you with them as One at the Throne.

If you are not there, then you are still feeding on the milk and delivering the same to others. There's nothing wrong with that necessarily, particularly if you are just a newborn Christian. (see I Peter 2:2 - "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:") But if you consider yourself a more mature Christian yet have not convened with the Lord in this way, then you may be as God described in Hebrews 5:13-14, "For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." Likewise we are reproved in I Corinthians 3:2-3, "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?" Sadly, this is where most of the man-centered discussions are. Good teaching and writing must abound rather with the Word of God, for of Him and through Him and to Him are all things to the glory of God, Amen.


W McCallum said...

Books, blogs, the minister preaching on Sunday, etc are all good and fine but I strongly believe that we ALL must "study to show ourselves approved unto God" and learn how to handle and interpret the Word of God properly as a result. So many Christians are happy to sit by and let others feed them the Word of God and by doing so, they miss out on so much blessing. There is no better excitement in the world than when the Holy Spirit reveals some little gem in His Word. Studying also increases our prayer life because to study God's Word entails dependance upon the Holy Spirit to interpret it. I liken Prayer and the Word of God to being 'God's sheepdog's' to keep us going in the right direction, out of danger and bring us into a closer relationship with Him.

Fab post.

Lawrence J. Caldwell said...

An excellent points Little One. "ALL" Christians is certainly a key to awakening.