When we read the Genesis account of the initial interference by the devil, it is precisely the INTERPRETATION of God’s Word that lures man into sin.
“And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” – Gen. 3:1.
As individuals who truly desire to properly understand and accept that which God has really communicated, we must “lean not unto your own understanding”. In Proverbs, this instruction is prefaced by “Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart” – Pr. 3:5. Only when we are fully committed to God and completely surrendered to His will (by forsaking our own will and preconceptions) does the Holy Spirit guide us into ALL truth [Jn. 16:13].
“In ALL thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” – Pr. 3:5-7.
Many are confused by whether or not we can question God’s Word. That was the devil’s temptation – can God really be trusted? Not only is God’s Word TRUTH; but can we really ever know for certain that our understanding of it is correct?
If the motive behind such questions is to argue against or nullify God’s revealed will or particular perspective, such questions are indeed inappropriate. Rather than drawing us closer to God by receiving a fuller, deeper understanding, they separate us from Him and contribute to a faulty foundation based on our own understanding as more reliable than God’s revealed will.
Conversely, if our questions sincerely seek a better comprehension of God’s true revelation to man, the Holy Spirit responds to such humility and confers knowledge and truth. To be assured that my interpretation of God’s Word is NOT a distortion, but truly God’s intent, I must first make my intentions honest by renouncing ANY & ALL temptations to give heed to the devil’s ploy, and fully surrender my will to the Holy Spirit. I must become completely transparent, absolutely void of any hidden agenda.
In other words, I make my choice to heed ONLY God’s intended revelation BEFORE the devil asks for my choice. I prepare to “In ALL thy ways acknowledge Him” well BEFORE I approach Scripture hoping to receive a proper interpretation.
We must read the scriptures with an completely open heart and mind; We must allow the Word to speak to me. We must never approach the Word with any preconceptions, hoping to find support for them. We must never rely on any single passage as proof of any truth; reliable doctrine is always supported by several passages understood within their proper context.
If we are sincerely trusting completely in God to be true to His promises and His word (and only God and we know if we are indeed really wanting to know the TRUTH), then God bestows upon us the appropriate FAITH to accept as TRUTH the interpretation we receive. When so yielded to the Holy Spirit, He guides us into ALL truth [Jn. 16:13].
We must also be aware that our search for truth and a proper interpretation of scripture will always lead us to be in harmony with other members of the universal Body of Christ.
“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation“ – 2Pt. 1:20.
Most of scripture is universal eternal truth, which means it is applicable to everyone everywhere forever. Doctrines of salvation and the revealed person of God are examples of never changing truth. These universal eternal truths will be confirmed as believers agree in love and expose contrary false doctrines.
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world ” – 1Jn. 4:1.
There are also vast portions of scripture that are NOT universal eternal truth because they are intended for a specific time, a certain location, or a unique cultural application. Such scripture is open to several interpretations, all being equally true and right, but understood from different perspectives.
To elaborate, if several people witness an event, they may all have slightly different ideas about what they see, based upon their individual perspective. One views the event from the south, another from a northern angle, while others see an unobstructed view directly in front. They ALL see the SAME event, but each walks away with a different personal reaction and recollection.
They are ALL right in their understanding (interpretation) even though their accounts vary significantly. The four Gospels are an example of this. They may all share information relative to the same event, but each adds personal information another may omit.
In the end, whether or not anyone holds a proper interpretation of scripture is an intensely PERSONAL matter of FAITH. One’s eternal destiny depends entirely upon their having a right personal relationship with God – KNOWING Him and trusting Him completely.
God places right knowledge within our hearts when we fully accept His plan of salvation, forsaking ALL others, and place our utter and complete hope in His ability to accomplish ALL that He has promised.
The greater our desire to know Him becomes, the more He reveals to us. The more dedication to searching scripture for truth and a deeper understanding of God, the better we KNOW Him.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, RIGHTLY dividing the word of truth” – 2Tim. 2:15.
Ultimately, we shall all stand alone before God to give account of our lives. Our destiny is determined by whether we built upon the solid foundation of God’s revealed truth or built upon false beliefs derived from misinterpretation. Only God can confirm whether or not what we believe is the result of a right interpretation of scripture; it is an extremely PERSONAL matter.
“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. For He received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; where unto you do well that you take heed, as unto a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 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” – 1Pt. 1:16-21.
Although no scripture is of any PRIVATE interpretation, all proper interpretation is PERSONAL. God purposely created each of us as unique individuals. He gave each of us free will. We all choose what to believe and how important truth is to us personally.
There are varying degrees of faith; some have more than others, but if FAITH is rightly interpreted, such FAITH (regardless of degree) results in SAVING FAITH.
Jesus declared, “Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me“ – Jn. 5:39.
Since it is a PERSON (Jesus Christ) that saves, NOT a system, method, nor even a proper ideology, any interpretation of scripture that removes Christ from the central reason and focus is in err. It is KNOWING God personally that really determines one’s ultimate destiny. Jesus declared, “then will I profess unto them, I never KNEW you: depart from me, you that work iniquity” – Mt. 7:23.
Each true believer has a unique and individual personal relationship with God. We are not created as uniform robots or clones. Just as children of the same parents have uniquely different relationships with their parents, so it is with the “house-hold of faith”. We each experience life differently yet ALL share the SAME realities of life on this planet. We develop personal feelings and reactions to life based on our individual experiences.
Our personal relationship with God is equally individual, and so our perspectives and comprehension varies at several levels of interpretation. But that in no way indicates one being better than another.
Paul explained that we are all members of the Body of Christ, yet all have unique functions. One member cannot say to another that they are more or less necessary [1Cor. 12].
Therefore, it must also be true that one believer differs in understanding (interpretation) based upon their individual perspective from their particular PLACEMENT within the body.
We are NOT all called to the SAME specific ministry. While it is true that GENERALLY speaking we are ALL called to “the ministry of reconciliation”, to preach the Gospel. Individually, how each one accomplishes that GENERAL CALL, differs widely.
Each of us has our own unique personal realms of influence and though we share the SAME Gospel, we do so from different perspectives. As mentioned earlier, even scripture includes four Gospel accounts, delivered by four separate individuals, each having their own personal account of what they observed.
When we read all four Gospels, we find some differences in the narration of the same story. Although some of the report varies from another, they do not contradict the overall message. Any seeming contradictions are readily resolved when understood in light of the individual perspectives.
So it is with interpretation. Certain portions of scripture may minister directly to me because of my personal situation, yet not be similarly comprehended by others who have not experienced my specific need. While the entire Word of God is true and complete, not ALL of the Word becomes experiential truth to every believer.
However, since “no scripture is of any PRIVATE interpretation”, we must always be careful NOT to hold fast to PERSONAL revelations that are so unique to our individual experience alone, that they contradict or reject universal eternal truth held by the consensus of other members of the true Body of Christ.
“Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion“ – Ro. 12:16.
Another necessary understanding related to receiving a proper interpretation of scripture is that too many English translations have NOT correctly transliterated from the biblical original languages of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. This due to the fact that many terms used by the original inspired writers simply do not have equal corresponding terms in English.
For example, the Greek words “rhema” and “logos” are both translated into the English term, “word”. While both Greek terms are used throughout the New Testament, the original Greek held a substantial distinction between the two that is not immediately obvious to the untrained reader.
The Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek uses the terms “rhema” and “logos” as equivalents and uses both for the “Word of God”. However, “rhema” at times is called the “spoken word” or “revealed word”, referring to the revelation received when the Holy Spirit “speaks” to us. In this distinction between the two, “logos” refers to the PERSON of Christ, “rhema” being the REVELATION of Christ. “Logos” as the “Word of God” is the PERSON of Jesus Christ, the subject from Genesis to Revelation. “In the beginning was the WORD, and the WORD was with God, and the WORD was God” – Jn. 1:1.
“Rhema” by distinction, is the WRITTEN “Word of God” REVEALED through proper interpretation guided by the Holy Spirit., as an utterance from God to the heart of the receiver. “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you ALL things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” – Jn. 14:26.
In this usage “rhema” refers specifically to “a word that is spoken” when the Holy Spirit delivers a message to the heart as in Romans 10:17: “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word (rhema) of Christ“; and also in Matthew 4:4: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word (rhema) that comes from the mouth of God“.
Many scholars have come to relate to “rhema” as the “quickened” word, as the Word comes ALIVE through the Holy Spirit’s fuller illumination of a particular passage. This is why we can read the same verses over and over and then, SUDDENLY a new and deeper comprehension enters into our spirit.
“In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight” – Lk. 10:21.
When we become “as babes” (spiritually innocent) God reveals the deeper mysteries of faith.
“Jesus called them unto him, and said, ‘Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein‘” – Lk.18:16, 17.
An initial reading of this account may leave one merely with an appreciation of Christ’s willingness to make time for children. One might consider Jesus as gentle and caring, but not until the “rhema” opens this passage to a deeper fuller meaning, does one understand that the little children represent far more than mere kids.
The little children are the image of innocence; they need everything to be provided for them by another, because they are not yet capable of fending for themselves. It is to such “babes” (who depend ABSOLUTELY upon God to supply their needs) that God chooses to reveal deeper spiritual truth. Childlike innocence is a requirement for proper interpretation.
So, interpretations can vary based upon whether or not an individual is understanding a particular passage on the level of the “logos”, (Jesus Christ), or the “rhema” (the written Word revealed).
Sincere seekers must ask themselves, has scripture become a personal experiential knowledge, or is it merely a universal common knowledge shared among those who merely think they know what God expects, yet have NO abiding assurance?
RHEMA allows one to KNOW that they KNOW; to be certain.
Accordingly, interpretations can differ and still be right, the fuller more complete revelation yet to come with greater spiritual maturity. But we must be careful; no legitimate interpretation or revelation will ever contradict or void a former validated truth. The Word of God is properly laid precept upon precept. No new revelation will ever cause an established foundation block to be removed. Every true revelation complements ALL former ones.
God can do anything; He is Omnipotent. It has been asked by critics of Christianity, “Can God create a rock too heavy for Him to lift?” My reply is, “Yes, it is called free-will”.
It is NOT that God cannot interfere with man’s free-will, but rather that He chooses not to. It is NOT a matter of God’s ability, but rather His choice.
So, considering the realm of that which God chooses to do, He may also choose not to “know” (or retain knowledge of) certain things. “And the times of this ignorance God winked at” – Acts 17:30.
This passage might be interpreted to indicate a “wink” of approval as in a nod of acceptance, but it clearly points to ignorance in a negative sense. So the “wink” must refer to a closing of the eye, indicating God purposely turning a “blind eye” to such ignorance. God chooses to ignore it. But such was only temporary, God will not ALWAYS “look the other way”, ignoring sin.
“I, even I, am He that blots out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins“ – Isa. 43:25.
Different interpretations, may all be valid depending upon one’s perspective.
God is God and can do whatever He chooses. He has however, bound Himself to His Word.
He can NEVER lie, because He is TRUTH.
Therefore, our approach to scripture and the things of God must ALWAYS be prefaced upon this promise to which God has bound Himself. THAT WILL NEVER CHANGE.
God is good ALL the time. Whenever our interpretation of anything related to God contradicts THAT ETERNAL TRUTH, we must realize and accept that such an interpretation is WRONG.
There are many disciplines that enhance one’s ability to properly discern an interpretation of scripture. Systematic theology is one that gathers all scriptures relevant to a specific topic and then studies each to produce a concise and thorough creed based upon the collective evidence of scripture. This method also relies on a scholarly research of related history and expert linguistics.
Among theologians a fairly simple, yet reliable formula for proper interpretation regarding scriptural support for sound doctrine is as follows.
- Jesus taught it in ALL the Gospels. The four records must agree that it was a teaching, not merely a parable or prophesy.
- There is evidence in the book of Acts that the early church practiced or reiterated the teaching.
- There is commentary on the teaching within the Epistles.
In conclusion, we all would do well to adopt the proper attitude of humility declared by the great reformer, Martin Luther: “If you can show me in scripture where I err, I shall recant”.