The Necessity of Scriptural Interpretation
NCW 29, Special Edition II (January 1996):
Answering the Third Rebellion
Q. We do not need leaders to interpret the Scriptures for us. We have the Holy Spirit to do that for us.
This is a half-truth. Yes, the Holy Spirit interprets but only after we have invested effort into trying to understand for ourselves. But reading the Scriptures by themselves is not enough.
There was once an Ethiopian who was a Jewish convert who was on his way to Jerusalem to worship. He was studying the Book of Isaiah and having great difficulty understanding it. How did the Lord open his mind? By sending the apostle Philip to him to explain what the words meant (Ac.8:26-39).
(1) Often we must check to see if the translations we have are correct or not for most translations have a doctrinal bias, meaning that interpretation of several possible meanings is usually given out of the translator's own background. The English-speaking world is especially blessed to have many translations to compare unlike many countries which have only one or two. In Norway, for instance, Bible translations are heavily tainted by Lutheran doctrine.
(2) We need to know the historical background of the scriptures to avoid the pitfall of interpreting words from our own cultural and linguistic background. How did the writers think when they received the Word of God? What were their religious and philosophical assumptions? How much science did they know? Are we to take every world literally or are we rather to see pictures of God's message? How have the meanings of words changed? (Even in 50 years there are enormous changes in the meaning of words).
(3) We need to be able to discern between different types of revelation. How much of the scripture is literal, how much symbolic, how much conceptual, etc.? How much is general and how much specific to local conditions and controversies? What were the heresies that were often discussed? For they often colour the responses given by the apostles.
(4) We need to have the assurance of the presence of the Holy Spirit not just because we "feel good" but because of the experiences of life which have confirmed God's Word and perhaps modified our view of it.
(5) We need to clearly understand what our motives are when we search. How honest are we? What limits are we placing on God? Do we understand our relationship to God? Is it just personal (one-to-one) or does it in fact involve the whole Body? Are we able to see from different points-of-view or do we have tunnel vision?
That is not to say the Lord could not have explained the words directly to the Ethiopian. Of course He could. But he chose to explain through an interpreter. Like it or not the vast majority of souls come to Christ not through private study but through the Spirit of God in men. I really should not need to quote any passages to you in the New Testament supporting this position because they are legion but I will quote one. Paul said:
"God...at His appointed season...brought His Word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Saviour" (Titus 1:3, NIV).
Whether you like it or not God has ordained a method of salvation, namely, "through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe" (1 Cor.1:21, NIV). God uses fools like myself and others to preach in order to demonstrate that His Spirit can fill humble vessels of clay and cause tongues to speak celestial truth and convert souls. This is a sign of His presence.
Every human being is an interpreter, but some interpret more accurately than others. How so? Because God has ordained it that way, giving some the gift of interpretation (1 Cor.12:10; 14:26). That is one of the calls of the apostles.
In conclusion, let us be clear about one thing: "No prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation; for prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you" (2 Pet.1:21-2:1, NIV).
The prophets and prophetesses of the New Covenant Church of God have brought forth many prophecies. Many have been literally fulfilled, some are being fulfilled now, and some will yet be fulfilled. The present schism is the result of a prophecy received independently by two prophets in the Church given about three months ago, with one prophecy being given in vision and another in words, the vision explaining how the rebellion leading to the present schism would take place. Furthermore, prophecies given earlier about those who have left us coming back are even now being fulfilled. But the schismatics have been blinded by their own rebellion and refuse to see until God humbles them by means we do not yet know.
The schismatics have had their own "revelations" and "prophecies" which will come to nothing, because they are from their own inner delusions. Our counsel to the saints is: "Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit" for "every plant that My Heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots" (Matt.15:14,13, NIV).
We have now explained in great detail the errors of the schismatics in several publications but they choose not to see but rather be led by their own hearts. They have symbolised this willful blindness by sending back to the Church every piece of literature they have received from it. They may subconsciously fear that the interpretation we give may be true. They even fear to step in our homes claiming revelation from God not to do so.
I am reminded of a lady to whom I gave a gift of a new translation of the Bible. The Church she belonged acknowledged that the translation was correct but because it was published by a rival Church she believed it was "cursed" and would not touch it or admit it to her house in case she became "corrupted". I have never forgotten that for it has taught me the great danger of fanaticism, which I see repeating itself in the present schism. They wish to separate people from the divine process especially when those people are God's messengers who bring them a commandment to repent from all dead works (Heb 6:1). Instead they would prefer to trust in their own counsel so as not to be troubled by their sins.
Our only consolation is that after their brief honeymoon and their long desert wandering they will come out spiritually and intellectually stronger and know the truth for themselves. In that we bless them, waiting patiently for that day of light and for the fulfillment of God's prophecy, in Jesus' Name. Amen.
When the "prophecies" and "revelations" of the schismatics failed to be fulfilled, many abandoned belief in any kind of supernatural activity. Meanwhile, the prophecies of the Church against the schismatics were fulfilled to the minutest detail (980508).
This page was created on 8 May 1998
Last updated on 8 May 1998
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