How do we know when we have the right interpretation of Scripture? There are many ways. I will just talk at one of these ways.
A correct interpretation of God's Word bears good fruit, according to the Book of James:
· “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:17-18; ESV)
Our good fruit also shows off the wisdom of God to the world. When our interpretation of Scripture guides us to live wisely and morally in the eyes of the world, this is a good indication that we are properly understanding God's Word.
Israel's godly influence upon their neighbors was a demonstration of the wisdom of God in their lives. Moses taught Israel that they would show off God's wisdom as they'd live according to His laws:
· “See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:5-8)
By living out God's truths as He had intended them to be understood, Israel would be a light to the nations.
This same principle also pertains to us today. When we accurately interpret and apply His Words, our conduct will show forth His wisdom and put our oppressors to shame:
· “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation...For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” (1 Peter 2:12, 15; Titus 2:5-10)
These teachings reflect the fact that non-Christians also have the moral laws of God written on their hearts (Romans 2:14-15). They also know the good. Even if they walk in the darkness of evil, they still know what is morally right. Therefore, even if they hate the light of God's wisdom, they can only deny it with great difficulty.
However, if our understanding of Scripture allows them to readily dismiss our faith, it might be that we have failed to show forth God's wisdom in the way we conduct our lives.
Here's one example of this. Many Christians have misinterpreted Jesus' teaching to "turn the other cheek" by not reporting a burglary or even a rape.
How do we know that this interpretation is wrong? Because it would bring disrepute upon the faith. Here's how. If my sister is raped and I know the identity of the rapist but don't bring charges against him because I think that "turning the other cheek" requires that I don't, I will bring disrepute on the faith.
How? When my neighbor's wife is raped by the same man and my neighbor learns that I had refused to bring charges, he will have a justifiable contempt for my faith.
This should teach us an essential lesson. If our interpretation of Scripture fails to reveal the wisdom of God, it is likely that we have the wrong interpretation.
However, if we speak and act according to God's wise teachings, we have the opportunity of being a blessing:
· “Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself, but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded. The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death. Good sense wins favor.” (Proverbs 13:13-15)
When this happens, it is likely that we are correctly interpreting and walking in the truth of His Word.