1st Peter 1:19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 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.
One of the main reasons why we currently see so many different Christian denominations and evangelical groups is because of private interpretations of the Bible, where the scripture is made to mean what various groups think it should mean. Interpreting the word of God subjectively leads to multitudinous errors and accompanying evils that serve to destroy not only the unity and coherence of the Bible, but also the oneness and harmony that Jesus clearly stated should be a hallmark of His Kingdom.
For instance, one group of professed Christians believe that a true worship service should include poisonous vipers, while another thinks that the practice of snake handling during religious services is sacrilege and should be avoided like the plague. Another set of professed believers believe that God's law of ten commandments was nailed to the cross, while others believe it is still valid and binding upon men. Yet another set of Christians believe that the Sabbath day was changed from the seventh day of the week to the first day, Sunday, while another set of believers hold that the original Sabbath has never been changed by God, and will never ever be. And still another set of Christian groups believe that speaking in tongues is a necessary manifestation of having the Holy Spirit, while others believe that church services should be conducted in an orderly manner, and that tongues are languages that should always have interpreters present.
How is it that as Christians there is so much dis-unity on what the Bible says and means, and how can sincere seekers for truth avoid being mired in confusion and doubt on account of multiple interpretations and variations of the same scripture? As always we turn to the Bible for the answers to our most perplexing questions.
There are certain rules that should be followed when interpreting the Bible, and these guidelines cannot be disregarded except to the peril of our souls. The first, and one of the most important requirements is the right attitude. If the Bible is used to certify our preconceived ideas, with no regard for what is being taught in its proper context, then the inevitable result will be private interpretations. On the other hand if we approach the study of the Word as a humble learner, willing to be taught by its sacred utterances, then we will certainly come to a knowledge of the truth, for this is a promise that God makes to every honest seeker for truth. Let's read:
John 7:16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. 17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
Another pointer that is of critical importance is the understanding that all of the Bible is inspired. Some Christian groups believe only in the New Testament, while others believe that the new testament cannot be correctly interpreted without the old, for they do compliment and explain each other. Let's read:
2nd Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
Yet another very important point to note when studying the Bible is the fact that the scripture explains itself, and the methodology to be employed in the correct exegesis of the scriptures is also clearly outlined in the Bible. Let's read:
Isaiah 28:9 Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. .10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.
1st Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
One of the most common mistakes made in the interpretation of scripture is the habit of taking one verse of scripture isolated from its context, and building a doctrine on that one verse, without reference to the other verses written about the very same issue. A very notable example of this is the scripture that is commonly used to justify the consumption of swine, lobsters, oysters, and other flesh foods that have been expressly forbidden in the scriptures. Let's read:
1st Timothy 4:3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: 5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
If this scripture literally meant "Every creature", then we would conclude that the Bible was endorsing cannibalism, for human beings are also "creatures" of the Most High. Let's read:
kMar 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
The passage of scripture must then of necessity mean something quite different, and the only correct way to find out is by using "line upon line and precept upon precept". The "creatures" therefore that are to be received with thanksgiving are listed in Leviticus chapter eleven, which stipulates those that can be eaten and those that are prohibited for human consumption. Let's take a few examples:
Leviticus 11:2 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth. 3 Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat. 7 And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you. 8 Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you. Etc.
As we endeavor to learn more and more of God's ideal will for our lives, let's remember that there is no private interpretation of the Bible, for the Lord did not leave an open door for any and everyone to put their own spin on what we think the scriptures should mean. We therefore end with a text and a promise to all who with humble hearts, study God's word with an attitude of willing obedience and surrender to its sacred teachings. Let's read:
Psalms 119:1 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. 2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. 3 They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways. 6 Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. 9 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. 11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
May this scripture be the theme of our song as we study the scriptures to learn and do God's will as he empowers us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. "Good night" and God bless!