Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A GOOD WAY OF KNOWING THAT WE ARE INTERPRETING SCRIPTURE CORRECTLY





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.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Daniel,

    How would you assess the fruit of Andrew Lincoln, a "leading NT Scholar" who gives insight to his motivations: by writing the following:

    "My views about the truth of the Bible and its relation to faith continue to evolve in response to…factors, such as…church life and its mission of social justice, friendships. Times of radical questioning have been precipitated not by academic study of the Bible but more by crises in my personal life and relationships, by my and the church's failure to be loving…
    So there was immediately a much greater recognition that the Bible's authority was not to be thought of as timeless in some unqualified sense. That deepening recognition was already preparing me to think about questions that confronted me in the first two setting in which I taught–about women's ordained ministry at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and about homosexuality at St. John's College, Nottingham. Although I started off by thinking that traditionalists had the better exegetical case on these matters and that should be decisive, my pastoral experience with women students, who were highly gifted in teaching and preaching, and with gay ordinands, who had prayed and agonized about their sexuality for years and were placed in the invidious position of hoping their future bishops would be those who deliberately turned a blind eye to official teaching, caused me to rethink what the Bible's authority meant in such cases…This involves, as some put it, "improvising"… I (Still) Believe: Leading Bible Scholars Share Their Stories of Faith and Scholarship (Zondervan 2015), 148-149.

    Steve Hays gives this evaluation: "So Lincoln has a social agenda. He doesn't begin with principles, but people. He adapts and changes his view of Biblical authority based on personal experience and personal relationships.

    Given his frank admission, you can see how attacking the historicity of the Virgin Birth (or the historicity of John's Gospel) drives another wedge into the authority of Scripture, thereby making room for his "social justice" concerns."

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  2. Truth, I agree with Hayes’ assessment. Lincoln has placed his feelings, perceptions, and experiences above Scripture.

    Why? We all have experiences… that seem to contradict Scripture. However, we learn that our interpretation of events or experiences must not trump the Word of God. Why not? Because we have learned how fallible we are! In contrast, Lincoln seems to have an unhealthy and prideful regard for his own thoughts and perceptions.

    However, as I mature in Christ, I begin to see how wise and transformative Scripture truly is.

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