If God’s Word Says it, why interpret otherwise?
If God speaks in Scripture, why do believers argue over interpretation? It is surely our duty to get out of the Bible only what God has put in. That’s what interpreting Scripture means. Rightly interpreting Scripture is not the same as just believing what you want to believe. See how to interpret properly under the appropriate headings below.
Remind them of these things, and charge them before God 2 not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,3 a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. 19 But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” 2 Timothy 2:14-19
Rather than “quarrel about words,” or indulge in “irreverent babble,” Christians stand before God, “approved” and “unashamed”, when they “rightly handle” God’s word of truth. “Rightly handling” is literally “cutting right” as distinct from cutting it how we like. The New Living Translation has “correctly explains.” The Contemporary English Version has “teaches only the true message.”
“The Lord knows those who are his.” In the context of 2 Timothy 2:19, those who are “the Lord’s” are those who correctly handle the word of truth. To correctly handle the truth includes correctly interpreting it. Not just interpreting it, but correctly interpreting it. Anything other than this is corrupting God’s word.
However, when we insist on truth, there are those who pour cold water on our efforts by saying something like: “That’s just your interpretation” – as though we were just giving an opinion no better than that of anyone else.
Our Interpretation Must be the Correct Interpretation
Of course, it is our interpretation or explanation, but we believe it is the correct interpretation based on sound rules for interpreting Scripture, and we should insist on such correct interpretation. Why? Because God has said how important this is! What is the use of having God’s word if we do not interpret and explain it correctly?
How can we ever refute false teachers if we can never be sure of our interpretation? What is the point of the following Scripture if we can never be sure we have interpreted God’s word correctly?
so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ Ephesians 4:14-15.
“Speaking the truth in love” is only possible if we interpret correctly.
How to Interpret Correctly
As long as we interpret …
· In total context in the light of the “whole counsel of God,” Acts 20:27; (compare Matthew 4:4);
· “not shrinking from declaring anything profitable,” Acts 20:20, even if it goes against our wants;
· refraining from twisting Scripture to fit preconceived theories, 2 Peter 3:15-18;
· not using one Scripture so as to contradict another Scripture. Matthew 4:5-7; and
· without using denominational traditions as the standard for interpreting. Matthew 15:1-14
If we interpret in these ways, we’re not being arrogant, nor claiming infallibility - but are simply being good Bible students, as would have been Timothy – “a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” Our interpretation of Scripture must equate to “rightly handling the word of truth.” Our aim must be to seek to find only what God has revealed in the Scriptures – nothing more and nothing less. We must be thorough. Matthew 15:1-14; 22:23-33; Luke 24:25; Philippians 1:27-28; 2 Peter 3:16-20. Read all Scriptures quoted.
Divinely Inspired Scripture must be correctly interpreted, otherwise it is useless
The Scripture God has been careful to reveal or release to inspired apostles and prophets, 2 Timothy 3:16, we must be careful to interpret and explain correctly. When you put 2 Timothy 2:15 and 2 Peter 1:20-21 together, you realise that we all have a responsibility to treat God’s inspired word with great respect by accurately interpreting and explaining it in the light of God’s predetermined plan. Isaiah 55:3-11; Habakkuk 2:2-3. The common idea that everyone can have their own interpretation of Scripture, as though what God says is only a matter of personal opinion, is disrespectful and nonsensical. What God revealed without error we must interpret without error. For example, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved,” Mark 16:16, is really very easy to interpret. It says what it says. The only reason many believers misinterpret it as “He who believes is saved and then should be baptized,” is because of their misunderstanding of salvation by faith. They regard baptism as a work of human merit, which therefore cannot save. Thus they twist the meaning of Mark 16:16. This is not smart. 2 Peter 3:15-18
Scripture was not the result of someone’s private interpretation of God’s thoughts
We also need to deal with another Scripture that has led to much confusion: knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation. 2 Peter 1:20, KJV.
This is an unfortunate translation as it seems to be saying that no individual should interpret Scripture, when, it is
actually saying: no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. ESV.
In other words, the passage is speaking about the origin of prophecy, and not the explanation of prophecy. This is all made clear in the context:
And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:19-21
The original word translated “interpretation” is epilusis which has the idea of an unloosing, a releasing or a revelation. A closely related form of the same word is translated ‘revelation’ in Galatians 1:12.
We will “do well to pay attention” to God’s prophetic word because it originated or was revealed – not by the
will of man; nor by someone’s own interpretation of God’s thoughts – but by men who were led by the Holy Spirit to reveal it unerringly. Scripture did not originate from a man’s understanding, but from God Himself!
And so accurate was God’s prophecy that Peter, hundreds of years after the prophecy, said that he personally witnessed what was prophesied:
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honour and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 2 Peter 1:16-18
God doesn’t make mistakes in revelation and so we shouldn’t make mistakes in interpretation.
A healthy attitude toward the Bible, and listening to the right teachers, is a must
Look at the following example of believers with the right attitude:
For you remember, brothers, our labour and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct towards you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. 13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
May those who hear our interpretation of Scripture also say the words of verse 13 above to us!
The Berean Jews had an even more “noble” mind about these matters than the Thessalonians. They checked the Scriptures to see if the apostles had taught things correctly!! Acts 17:1-11.
Oh that our fellow-Christians, as well as sinners being evangelised, would have that noble mind and so check the Scriptures that are taught them! It’s far more noble to listen to God’s word being taught, and then obey it, than to glibly cry: “That’s just your interpretation!” Be a good Bible student. May the words of Jesus motivate our desire to be so: But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” Mark 4:20-25
A good chapter on listening to God and understanding is Isaiah 48. Note especially verse 16. NLT makes it clear.
“Pay attention to what you hear.” Mark 4:24. “Pay attention, therefore, to how you listen.” Luke 8:18. Jesus doesn’t say: “Interpret my words as you want!” Because false teachers are everywhere, Matthew 7:15; 24:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-13, we must differentiate between true and false interpretations. 2 Peter 3:15-18; 1 John 4:1.
Your salvation depends on humbly receiving the word of God correctly interpreted
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth … Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God … receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. James 1:16-21
Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of
the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. Acts 18:8
Why were they baptized? Because Jesus said that baptism and faith are essential to salvation. Mark 16:15-16. The apostles had no problem with this, as is evident throughout the Book of Acts. See also Acts 2:38; 16:30-34 and 22:16. Does this contradict John 3:16? How could it, since God’s words can never contradict? God’s word harmonizes – faith and baptism go together in saving sinners. As does repentance. Luke 13:3. Only those who have wrongly concluded that salvation is by faith only, without baptism, have a problem with this. There is a wide road and a narrow road. Follow the narrow road to life. Matthew 7:13-29. Don’t let the majority sway you from the truth God has revealed. “The truth will set you free.” John 8:24-59. The true believer in Jesus must abide in all that Jesus has taught, and not pick and choose what they will believe. Read John 8:24-59 to see this. Some who initially believe later want to throw stones when they don’t like something Jesus says! Study 2 Timothy 3:13-17