True Interpretation

grudemRight and Wrong Interpretation of the Bible: Some Suggestions for Pastors and Bible Teachers
by Wayne Grudem

Throughout many years of ministry, Kent Hughes has been known as a faithful and accurate interpreter of the Word of God, both in his pulpit ministry week after week at College Church in Wheaton and in his numerous publications. In fact, I would point to Kent as someone whose ministry models the kind of faithful interpretation of Scripture that I will discuss in this essay.

I write as a friend who worked with Kent for many years on the board of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, who worked with Kent on the translation team for the English Standard Version, and who still serves with Kent on the board of Crossway Books. From many years of friendship, I am quite sure that Kent would agree with much or all of what I am about to say here. In fact, I suspect that he may have taught many of these things to his pastoral interns over the years! But I offer these comments here in Kent’s honor, because I think they represent much of what his life has been about.

My purpose here is to offer some words of advice on right and wrong interpretation of the Bible. I hope these words may help seminary students and pastors and other Bible teachers as they seek to interpret the text rightly and then to teach it week after week to their congregations. Many of the following comments have grown out of twenty-five years of seminary teaching (six years teaching New Testament, then nineteen teaching systematic theology). As I have watched seminary students over the years, they first become excited about all there is to learn about biblical interpretation, then some become discouraged that there is too much to learn, and then a few may even tend to despair, wondering if they can ever know anything about the text when so many different opinions have been written about it over the centuries. The amount of information available, and the number of viewpoints on any passage, can become overwhelming unless we keep them in proper perspective.

To keep students from discouragement, I have tended to tell them over the years that the purpose of seminary training is to help them do better something they already do quite well as mature Christians: understand the meaning of the Bible. That is because I believe God gave us his Word in such a form that ordinary people could, in general, understand it rightly. That is the doctrine of “clarity” of Scripture. “The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple” (Ps.19:7).

So these comments are intended to help people become better interpreters. I have couched my comments as suggestions that may be helpful for pastors and Bible teachers. They include much of what I tell seminary students about how to interpret the Bible, though I hope that others will be helped by these comments as well.

General Principles for Right Interpretation

1) Spend your earliest and best time reading the text of the Bible itself. I’m afraid that too often pastors and scholars can fall into the trap of spending 90 percent of their time reading commentaries about the text and then spend only the last 10 percent of their time reading the text of the Bible itself. But when that happens, people tend only to see problems and disputed meanings in every phrase rather than seeing the clear and strong message of the text itself. I therefore tell students (only partly in jest) that the three most important rules for interpreting the Bible are: (1) Read it. (2) Read it again. (3) Read it again. Continue reading

Fulfilled Prophecy

Nathan Busenitz serves on the pastoral staff of Grace Church and teaches theology at The Master’s Seminary in Los Angeles. He writes:

Fulfilled prophecy is one of the strongest evidences for the truthfulness of the Bible and the authenticity of Jesus Christ.

Numerous Old Testament predictions were fulfilled perfectly in Christ. As the apostle Peter preached: “To Him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name” (Acts 10:43Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

Our Lord Himself, on the road to Emmaus, demonstrated how the Old Testament pointed to Him as the Messiah. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). Jesus’ life, which culminated in His death, burial, and resurrection, was the perfect fulfillment of God’s prior revelation (Matt. 5:17); everything took place “according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3–4).

Though the evidence is overwhelming, unbelieving critics and skeptics raise objections nonetheless. In their unwillingness to embrace the truth, they propose alleged “problems” with biblical prophecy. But how are Christians to answer those kind of critical attacks?

In this post, I’d like to briefly respond to five common objections to biblical prophecy:

* * * * *

Critical Objection 1: Many biblical prophecies were written after the events they predict.

This objection is usually reserved for prophecies that were both predicted and fulfilled during Old Testament times. (After all, it’s impossible to credibly assert that messianic prophecies from the OT post-date the life of Christ.) Continue reading

Defining the Church

Dr. Gonzales’ intro to the video below:

Pastor Greg Nichols recently delivered thirty lectures on the doctrine of the church for Reformed Baptist Seminary. Several of his introductory lectures include a detailed exegesis and analysis of the 113 NT passages where ἐκκλησία (ekklesia) the primary Greek term for the church, occurs. Then he devotes an entire lecture to collating the data of the analysis and developing a definition of the church that is Reformed, Baptist, and (most importantly) biblical.

The Church: A Reformed, Baptist, and Biblical Definition from Robert Gonzales Jr on Vimeo.

The Warning Passages in Hebrews

In the New Testament book of Hebrews there are a number of “severe warning passages.” Many Christians have been perplexed and confused when reading them. How exactly are these passages to be interpreted and understood? Can we in fact be sure of what the passages mean? If, as Scripture teaches elsewhere, Jesus the great Shepherd never loses any of His true sheep (John 10), and as Paul states in Romans “these whom He justified He also glorified” (Romans 8:30) who exactly are these passages aimed at? Is the writer to the Hebrews seeking to teach that true Christians can lose their salvation?

In the video below, Dr. James White gives a very helpful overview of these warning passages. I recommend this study very highly.

Now to the specific texts of Hebrews 6:

Verses 1-3

Verses 4-9

Now, turning to Hewbrews 10: 26 -31 – one of the main sections of Scripture that some have used to teach the erroneous idea that genuine Christians can lose salvation. However, to see this as its interpretation is to misunderstand the passage entirely. It is so important that we rightly interpret these words. With this in mind, I encourage you to listen to these two sermons by Dr. James White:

Sermon 1: If We Go On Sinning Willfully… (Hebrews 10:26-29)

Sermon 2: By Which He Was Sanctified (Hebrews 10:29-31)

The New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith (1833)

This Confession was drawn up by the Rev. John Newton Brown, D. D., of New Hampshire (b. 1803, d. 1868), about 1833, and has been adopted by the New Hampshire Convention, and widely accepted by Baptists, especially in the Northern and Western States, as a clear and concise statement of their faith, in harmony with the doctrines of older confessions, but expressed in milder form. The text is taken from the Baptist Church Manual, published by the American Baptist Publication Society, Philadelphia.

Declaration of Faith

1. Of the Scriptures

We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction;1 that it has God for its author, salvation for its end,2 and truth without any mixture of error for its matter;3 that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us;4 and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union,5 and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried.6

2. Of the True God

We believe that there is one, and only one, living and true God, an infinite, intelligent Spirit, whose name is JEHOVAH, the Maker and Supreme Ruler of Heaven and earth;7 inexpressibly glorious in holiness,8 and worthy of all possible honor, confidence, and love;9 that in the unity of the Godhead there are three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost;10 equal in every divine perfection,11 and executing distinct and harmonious offices in the great work of redemption.12

3. Of the Fall of Man

We believe that man was created in holiness, under the law of his Maker;13 but by voluntary transgression fell from that holy and happy state;14 in consequence of which all mankind are now sinners,15 not by constraint, but choice;16 being by nature utterly void of that holiness required by the law of God, positively inclined to evil; and therefore under just condemnation to eternal ruin,17 without defense or excuse.18

4. Of the Way of Salvation

We believe that the salvation of sinners is wholly of grace,19 through the mediatorial offices of the Son of God;20 who by the appointment of the Father, freely took upon him our nature, yet without sin;21 honored the divine law by his personal obedience,22 and by his death made a full atonement for our sins;23 that having risen from the dead, he is now enthroned in heaven;24 and uniting in his wonderful person the tenderest sympathies with divine perfections, he is every way qualified to be a suitable, a compassionate, and an all- sufficient Saviour.25

5. Of Justification

We believe that the great gospel blessing which Christ26 secures to such as believe in him is Justification;27 that Justification includes the pardon of sin,28 and the promise of eternal life on principles of righteousness;29 that it is bestowed, not in consideration of any works of righteousness which we have done, but solely through faith in the Redeemer’s blood;30 by virtue of which faith his perfect righteousness is freely imputed to us of God;31 that it brings us into a state of most blessed peace and favor with God, and secures every other blessing needful for time and eternity.32 Continue reading

The Athanasian Creed

sproul83by R. C. Sproul:

Quicumque vult – this phrase is the title attributed to what is popularly known as the Athanasian Creed. It was often called the Athanasian Creed because for centuries people attributed its authorship to Athanasius, the great champion of Trinitarian orthodoxy during the crisis of the heresy of Arianism that erupted in the fourth century. That theological crisis focused on the nature of Christ and culminated in the Nicene Creed in 325. Though Athanasius did not write the Nicene Creed, he was its chief champion against the heretics who followed after Arius, who argued that Christ was an exalted creature but that He was less than God.

Athanasius died in 373 AD, and the epithet that appeared on his tombstone is now famous, as it captures the essence of his life and ministry. It read simply, “Athanasius contra mundum,” that is, “Athanasius against the world.” This great Christian leader suffered several exiles during the embittered Arian controversy because of the steadfast profession of faith he maintained in Trinitarian orthodoxy.
Though the name “Athanasius” was given to the creed over the centuries, modern scholars are convinced that the Athanasian Creed was written after the death of Athanasius. Certainly, Athanasius’ theological influence is embedded in the creed, but in all likelihood he was not its author.

The content of the Athanasian Creed stresses the affirmation of the Trinity in which all members of the Godhead are considered uncreated and co-eternal and of the same substance. In the affirmation of the Trinity the dual nature of Christ is given central importance. As the Athanasian Creed in one sense reaffirms the doctrines of the Trinity set forth in the fourth century at Nicea, in like manner the strong affirmations of the fifth-century council at Chalcedon in 451 are also recapitulated therein. As the church fought with the Arian heresy in the fourth century, the fifth century brought forth the heresies of monophysitism, which reduced the person of Christ to one nature, mono physis, a single theanthropic (God-man) nature that was neither purely divine or purely human. At the same time the church battled with the monophysite heresy, she also fought against the opposite view of Nestorianism, which sought not so much to blur and mix the two natures but to separate them, coming to the conclusion that Jesus had two natures and was therefore two persons, one human and one divine. Both the Monophysite heresy and the Nestorian heresy were clearly condemned at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, where the church, reaffirming its Trinitarian orthodoxy, stated their belief that Christ, or the second person of the Trinity was vere homo and vere Deus, truly human and truly God. It further declared that the two natures in their perfect unity coexisted in such a manner as to be without mixture, confusion, separation, or division, wherein each nature retained its own attributes.

The Athanasian Creed reaffirms the distinctions found at Chalcedon, where in the Athanasian statement Christ is called, “perfect God and perfect man.” All three members of the Trinity are deemed to be uncreated and therefore co-eternal. Also following earlier affirmations, the Holy Spirit is declared to have proceeded both from the Father “and the Son.”

Finally, the Athanasian standards examined the incarnation of Jesus and affirmed that in the mystery of the incarnation the divine nature did not mutate or change into a human nature, but rather the immutable divine nature took upon itself a human nature. That is, in the incarnation there was an assumption by the divine nature of a human nature and not the mutation of the divine nature into a human nature.
The Athanasian Creed is considered one of the four authoritative creeds of the Roman Catholic Church, and again, it states in terse terms what is necessary to believe in order to be saved. Though the Athanasian Creed does not get as much publicity in Protestant churches, the orthodox doctrines of the Trinity and the incarnation are affirmed by virtually every historic Protestant church.

Life in the womb (9 months in 4 minutes) HD

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

—Psalm 139:16-19

In January of 1973 the Supreme Court decision of Roe v Wade (taken in conjunction with its companion decision, Doe v Bolton) effectively permitted the legal destruction of the life you see above at any point in the pregnancy, from conception until birth.

Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.

—Proverbs 24:11