STUDIES IN BIBLE HERMENEUTICS
Or, Basic Laws Of Bible Interpretation

By Davis W. Huckabee, Pastor,
Heritage Baptist Church,
Salem, Ohio, 44460

Hermeneutics is defined as "the science of interpretation; especially, the branch of theology dealing with the principles of exegesis," Webster’s New World Dictionary. Having the correct method of interpretation of the Word of God means the difference in correctly understanding it, and in being heretical in belief and behavior. In spiritual matters it is of very great importance that we have sound principles of Biblical interpretation, else we shall go astray through a perverted understanding of God’s Revelation to mankind. Every heresy that has ever blighted the human race came about because someone misinterpreted the Word of God somewhere along the line, or else, as is less common, acted in knowing opposition to the Truth.

The importance of correct Bible interpretation is to be seen in the exhortation of II Tim. 2:15. "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." "Study" in Modern English is more restricted than the ancient meaning in English and the Greek word (spoudazo), which of its eleven appearances is most commonly rendered "give diligence." This word, while including the mental process of study (in the modern sense) includes much more. Not only so, but the Greek for "rightly dividing" (orthotomos) was used in ancient Greek for making a straight line or plowing a straight furrow.

"Theodoret explains it to mean ploughing a straight furrow. Parry argues that the metaphor is the stone mason cutting the stones straight since temno and orthos are so used. Since Paul was a tent-maker and knew how to cut straight the rough camel-hair cloth, why not let that be the metaphor? Certainly plenty of exegesis is crooked enough (crazy-quilt patterns) to call for careful cutting to set it straight."—A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol. IV, pp. 619-620. It is a tragic truth too well known to be denied by any that much of the interpre-tations that have been forced upon the Scriptures have been of the nature of a crazy-quilt, and many persons are guilty of interpreting Scripture in a zig-zag line in order to harmonize them with their own personal prejudices. But if we are to be accepted of the Lord when we stand before Him in judgment, then we are going to have to interpret the Word of God in a straight line all the way through it even when it cuts diagonally across our pet theories and beliefs. It is the utmost inconsistency to interpret Scripture in one way when we are argu-ing one thing, then turn around and interpret it another way when we are arguing another point just so we can maintain our own theory. The Word is likened to a two-edged sword, Heb. 4:12, and one part of this similitude is that the Word cuts two ways. If we use it to cut down an opponent’s interpretation, let us not forget that it has the other edge aimed in our direction to cut down our method of interpretation also if it is contrary to Scripture.

Consistency in our method of Bible interpretation is a precious jewel to be earn-estly sought by all Christians, not just by preachers alone, although preachers will do much greater harm if they have a zig-zag method of Bible interpretation. B. H. Carroll has such excellent remarks upon II Tim. 2:15 that we cannot do better than quote them for the reader’s benefit. He says.

"The idea is that of a farmer plowing a straight furrow, not crooked, curved, or zig-zag. I have seen in a great field men plowing a straight line for a mile—straight as an arrow. So, when we come to the discussion of the truth, we should plow a straight furrow, divide it right, handle it right. We should not zig-zag around among words as if we were trying to flush something, but go straight to the mark, hew to the line, and if we are tested as a minister of God we can do that. Here is one way by which we may know that we are plowing a straight furrow: If we put on some passage an interpretation which in the next book will run up against a wall, or strike it, that furrow won’t go clear through the Bible and we have the wrong idea about it. If we have the right idea it will be a straight furrow from Genesis to Revelation. It will be according to the canon, or rule of the truth."—An Interpretation of the English Bible, Vol. 16, p. 143ff. Every Christian ought to be a person of the Book, and Baptists in particular have long been known as "A people of the Book," which is what every Christian should be. But everyone needs to take heed to how he reads and interprets Scripture, for even the agnostic and infidel read and interpret the Scriptures, yet they do so for the purpose of overthrowing its claims and disparaging its teachings. Thus, it is obvious that reading and interpreting the Scriptures mean nothing unless right principles are employed in doing so.

There have been a number of books written on Bible Hermeneutics, but this writer has not had the privilege of reading most of them, but in his over forty years ministry he has observed the following things to be basic laws in the right interpretation of Scripture. And He trusts that the use of these will help others to be better Bible students. If these "Laws" were universally used, they would bring all Bible students into a more nearly harmonious view of Bible doctrines.

    1. THE LAW OF REVELATION.

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      The correct interpretation of the Bible must begin with the basic truth that God has given a revelation of Himself and His will. Without this, man would be at sea without stars or a compass, and all his thoughts of what is God’s will would be nothing but the imagin-ation of his own depraved heart and mind. By nature no one understands Divine truth for it is in a realm that is foreign to man’s thinking. So we read in I Cor. 2:14. Sin has so perverted human thinking that man does not think as God thinks, Isa. 55:7-9. Hence the truth of Jer. 10:23.

      The opening verses of the Bible, Gen. 1:1-6, suggest this Self-revelation by God, for while V3-5 relates to literal light, yet it is certain that there is a symbolism there that is explained later to have to do with spiritual enlightenment, II Cor. 4:3-6. Note here V6 in particular: "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, (referring to Gen. 1:3-5) hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." Here is God’s revelation of Himself, and it was done most fully and finally by the coming of the Son of God into a human nature, as we read in John 1:18. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." Often in Scripture literal things are shown to have a sym-bolic or typical meaning that is not at first apparent.

      This first and most important Law of Bible Interpretation—The Law Of Revelation —is such that if one is not sound on this, he cannot be sound on anything else, however sincere or zealous or learned he may otherwise be. This is shown in Isa. 8:20. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." That is clear enough, isn’t it? All spiritual light = truth—will correspond to God’s Law and Testimony.

      This Law is that God has revealed all that anyone needs to know about all things spiritual. He has not spoken extensively in realms of science, mathematics, genetics, and many other realms, but where He has spoken in these areas He has spoken truly. We read in Deut. 29:29 of human duty in regard to God’s revelation of spiritual matters. "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law." God has reserved many secret things unto Himself, and man has neither capacity to know them, nor any business in searching into them, but he is duty bound to know and to do what has been revealed. And he is naturally under the curse for his failure to do so, Gal. 3:10.

      This Law of Revelation will relate to four basic truths, the first being The Revelation of God Himself, of which we have already spoken briefly. Though the very creation itself testifies of God’s existence, Ps. 19:1-4 leaving all mankind without excuse for not submitting to Him, Rom. 1:18-20, yet there are many things about God that man could not know except for His revelation of them in Scripture.

      The first verse in the Bible is a testimony to the Triune nature of the Godhead, for "God" translates the Hebrew noun Elohim. The root word "Eloh" means literally "the strong One," and this is evidenced in that this One created the world, and all that is therein, so that it all belongs to Him by right of creation, I Cor. 10:26. This truth indicts every human being that is not living in submission to the will of God. The ending "-im" is the plural ending of Hebrew words. And here an explanation is needed. In English we have nouns in the singular, referring to one, and in the plural, referring to two or more. But the Hebrew language is different, for it has three numbers, singular—one, dual—two, and plural—three or more. Hence, the plural ending of this noun refers to God—the strong One—as a uniplural Being consisting in three or more Personalities. The rest of Scripture limits this plurality to only three Persons, the Father, the Son and the Spirit. But contrary to so-called Unitarians (Trinitarians are more truly Unitarians, for we believe in the Unity of God, which is not inconsistent with Trinitarianism, which we also hold), Scripture opens with a testimony to the doctrine of the Trinity, which is explained later in the Bible.

      Immediately upon the opening of Scripture we see God’s sovereignty, His triune per-sonality, His ownership of, and Lordship over, all creation, His benevolence, and many other things. Later Elohim is revealed as Jehovah, which is His personal name, and it implies that He is the covenant-keeping God Who is concerned for His people.

      All of God’s subsequent dealings with men manifest His immaculate holiness, and consequently His unimpeachable justice that must and will punish all violations of His holy will. "For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing [lies—referring to those that contradict His revel-ation]: the Lord will abhor the bloody and deceitful man," Ps. 5:4-6.

      God’s revelation of Himself not only reveals that He is Creator and Lord, and that therefore all men owe allegiance and worship to Him, but it also reveals His providential direction of all things to the good of the creature when he submits to God’s will. Man’s failure to do so is what constitutes human depravity, and consequently man’s lost condition, and assures all that do so that they will one day be judged and condemned. No text so reveals God’s providential workings for the good of His highest creation as Rom. 8:28. "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

      If there were no other factors, this alone would forever condemn man to eternal perdition, were there not a redemption made for him, for his unbelief is in spite of, and contrary to, God’s continuing goodness to him. That the Triune God that keeps the covenant that He has made for His people, has accomplished a redemption for them is one of, if not indeed the, foremost points of emphasis in Scripture. The first intimation of this was given while fallen man was yet in the Garden of Eden when God foretold the defeat of the seed of the serpent by the Seed of the woman, Gen. 3:15. This was the declared purpose of the incarnation of the Son of God. "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS (from the Hebrew Jehoshua meaning Jehovah is Saviour): for [because] He shall save His people from their sins," Matt. 1:21. "Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many," Matt. 20:28.

      All these things reveal the gracious personality of God, and must be recognized as God’s Self-revelation, else one cannot rightly interpret the Word of God. But there is another thing that is part of the revelation that God has given, and that is, second, the revelation of godlessness, or human depravity. This is the clear teaching of Scripture of man’s natural state from the moment of birth. The first man, who was representative of all that would ever descend from him, sinned, and so brought a natural state of sinfulness on all, Rom. 5:12. Hence, the truth of Rom. 3:23: "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." This is undeniable, for everyone continually proves it, as the Psalmist was moved to write in Ps. 10:4-11. V4 of this passage explains man’s universal aversion to God until he has been graciously converted. "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts." Here is, incidentally, God’s definition of wickedness. Not necessarily immorality, but simply an innate aversion to God that moves the natural man to have as little to do with God as possible. Therefore, no one can rightly interpret Scripture so long as he denies the total depravity of man.

      Though man continually denies his ungodliness, and tries to justify it, yet his life is a living proof of it. A Christian layman once said that for people to claim not to believe in total depravity, they sure practice it a lot. But whether man acknowledges it or not, Scripture continually reveals man’s sinfulness. The natural man loves what God hates, and hates what God loves, and wants nothing to do with God, and this is due in large part to the fact that God reveals what man is unwilling, in his utter selfishness, to acknowl-edge—his innate godlessness. Tragically, many teachers condone sinners in their sins by trying to interpret the doctrine of total depravity out of the Bible.

      One of the most fundamental truths is that human godlessness consists in man’s refusal to conform to God’s Truth. I John 3:4f declares that "Sin is the transgression of the Law." The Law of God—and this encompasses a great deal more than the Ten Command-ments, for it actually includes all Scripture—is the standard of all right and wrong. This is made clear by the statements of Rom. 4:15f: "Where no law is there is no transgression," and Rom. 5:13f: "Sin is not imputed when there is no law." This makes it very clear. Sin is only imputed or charged against a person if he has violated Divine Law and if he has not done so, whatever else he may have done, sin is not charged against him. The standard for what is right and what is wrong is the Word of God, an objective standard (outside of man), and not a person’s own ideas of what is right and wrong, a subjective standard (inside man), as so many falsely interpret it today. Sin is sin whether the sinner thinks it is or not. And what sinners think is good is not good unless it passes God’s muster as set forth in Scripture. This is both a tremendously freeing truth, for it eliminates all false guilt, and a wonderfully God-honoring truth, for it reveals the necessity of a full knowledge of, and conformity to, Scripture as the only determining factor in this matter.

      Many unsound preachers violate Rom. 4:15 and 5:13 by laying false guilt upon the people to which they minister by legalistic preaching. That is, they formulate church laws to regulate the members’ creed and conduct when those laws have no basis in the Word of God. This type of preaching is very popular, even with the masses, for it caters to the pride of the flesh to think that one has kept certain religious laws, and thereby has earned God’s approval. But it is based upon wrong principles of Bible interpretation. And this legalistic preaching generally either ignores the teaching that one is accepted wholly by grace, or else it misinterprets it. But this is all wholly contrary to the grace system that teaches that if we are not accepted wholly by grace, we are not at accepted before God at all.

      Then again, thirdly, God’s revelation is of grace as the only principle upon which a sinner can come before God without being condemned. It is on this basis alone that man can have any hope, for without God’s grace one is without hope and is headed for endless perdition. Scripture reveals the following about grace. (1) It is from God alone, I Pet. 5:10. (2) It is wholly apart from any human works, Rom. 11:6. They cannot be mixed, and the trust in the one automatically eliminates the other. (3) It was brought to man by the Lord’s incarnation, John 1:14. (4) It all began in eternity, having been deposited in Christ Jesus for all of the elect, II Tim. 1:9-10; Eph. 1:3-6, and it is sufficient to cover all time in its application. (5) It both saves and sanctifies, Tit. 2:11-12, so that from the time that God begins to apply it, the recipient of it is never out from under its overcoming power, Rom. 5:20-21. (6) It actually enters into every area of human life, II Cor. 9:8, with the exception of the final judgment. There will be no grace there, but only pure damning justice. We need to learn to look for, and praise the grace that is everywhere evident in our lives. (7) The victories of triumphant grace will be replayed throughout all eternity as every saint’s lifestyle is shown to all others to the praise of God’s glorious grace, Eph. 2:7; 1:3-6. No one can be a sound teacher and rightly interpret the Word of God unless he rightly understands God’s grace.

      We see God’s revelation of grace in that He has made faith to be the only means of pleasing Him, Heb. 11:6, yet faith always is a manifestation of operational grace, as we are told in Rom. 4:16. Where genuine faith is, we see an evidence of grace, for we only believe by grace, Acts 18:27f. Faith is declared to be, not a natural ability in anyone, but rather that which is obtained from God, Eph. 2:8-9, being one of the many things that pertain to life and godliness that God has given to His people, II Pet. 1:1-4. In every place where the new birth and faith are mentioned together, the tenses of the Greek verbs show that the new birth, which is God’s work alone, precedes faith, and is actually the cause of it, John 1:12-13; I Pet. 1:21-23; I John 5:1, et al. And this is logical as well as Biblical, for logically life must precede the activities of life. A dead man, whether physically or spiritually dead, can do only one thing, and that is become more corrupt.

      Because grace is not naturally in man but is a Divine gift, God must reveal it to man before he will see and understand it. God’s grace being His unmerited and unmeritable favor, it is a truth that is diametrically opposed to man’s innate pride and self-sufficiency, and for this reason he will resist this truth until grace crucifies the flesh. Scripture often shows that God’s gracious redemption leaves no room for glorying in the flesh, Rom. 3:27; Eph. 2:9, but it gives all glory to God, Eph. 1:6-7.

      Therefore no one can rightly interpret the Word of God unless he understands the principle of grace upon which all of God’s goodness to man is based. He will rather mislead those over whom he has any spiritual influence, which is why it is so important to rightly understand and interpret God’s grace.

      Which leads us to yet another revelation that God has given, which is, fourth, the revelation of God’s goodness to men. All of God’s dealing with man until man forfeits it by rebellion is characterized by goodness. All creation is geared to goodness for mankind, and only because man has thrown so many monkey wrenches into God’s works do we experience bad things. Nothing bad comes from God except that which human sinfulness and rebellion compels God to send.

      The earliest evidence of God’s spiritual goodness to man will be totally misunder-stood because of man’s spiritual blindness that sin has wrought in him. "The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance," Rom. 2:4, but man misinterprets this as God’s attempt to take away life’s enjoyments, and make him miserable. When man rejects this, then the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness, V4-6, for it is a willing blindness to the universal evidences of God’s goodness, Rom. 1:18-20.

      Scripture often emphasizes the goodness of God that is all about us, Ps. 33:5: "The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord," Ps. 52:1: "The goodness of God endureth contin-ually." Nor is all this goodness set forth as something that is frustratingly out of our reach, or forbidden to our enjoyment, for God "giveth us richly all things to enjoy," I Tim. 6:17. It is a devilish parody of God that He is a great cosmic killjoy that is doing all in His power to make man as miserable as possible. Yea, sometimes ignorant preachers by their legalistic preaching give the same impression. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is nothing truly good that the world enjoys that God has not permitted to His people to also enjoy, provided they do so within the Divine safeguards that He has placed around them. God only forbids that which is spiritually deadly, which only an utter fool would desire.

      God has revealed His goodness to His creation so that we might see His worthiness of our love, worship and praise. Alas, we are often like greedy animals that snarl at their masters even while they partake of the food that their masters give them. Even as God pours out His goodness in such abundance, many people, including some professed saints, snarl at Him, and criticize Him that they do not have more and better. Thanklessness is an evidence of depravity, Rom. 1:21-22: "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts were darkened, professing themselves to be wise, they became fools."

      God has revealed many things in His Word, and these are revealed "that we may do all the words of this law," Deut. 29:29. Then God’s Word is law, not a mere opinion or suggestion, and no one can rightly interpret Scripture if he does not begin with a recognit-ion of, and submission to, God’s Word which is both complete and inerrant.

    3. THE LAW OF SUBMISSION.

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      It is a true fact that no one can come to a true understanding of the Word of God so long as he holds to a preconceived idea about the meaning of a given passage. Often he is motivated in this by self-interest. Such is a mental block that effectually resists the truth. We observe this numerous times in the life of Christ, for many of the Jews came to Him upon hearing of the great miracles that He performed. Yet when He would not allow Himself to be forced into the mold of their preconceived ideas as to what the Messiah should be, they went away disgruntled and angry, and were finally the ones that cried out "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" So far may pride, prejudice and preconceived ideas lead a person.

      If man is a fallen and depraved creature, and Scripture abundantly declares this fact, then the will of the flesh must never be allowed to exalt itself over the revealed will of God. Inasmuch as the Spirit of God is the Author of the Scripture, as well as the Interpreter of it, He alone must be looked to for the right interpretation of this Book. "For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God," I Cor. 2:11.

      In order to come to the right interpretation of the Scriptures, man must be submiss-ive to the Spirit of God for there are other "spirits" that will certainly lead him astray if the leadership of the Spirit is not sought. In I Cor. 2:11-12 three distinct spirits are mentioned that may influence man’s reactions. There is: (1) The human spirit, (2) The Holy Spirit, and (3) Hell’s spirit, which is Satan in his role as the "god of this world," II Cor. 2:4. Because he is not omnipresent as the Spirit of God is, he has many "seducing spirits"—demons—that assist him in his deceptions, I Tim. 4:1, and these are the cause of all false doctrines.

      That this needed submission is generally found in truly born again person, but only in them, is implied in the statement of I Cor. 2:12-14. "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spirit. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritual discerned." The difference in these two different classes lies in the Christian’s submission to God.

      This need for submission was what Jesus referred to when He said: "If anyone willeth to do his will, he will know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from of God, or whether I speak from myself," John 7:17 (literal rendering). This same duty was set forth in the Old Testament, Hosea 6:3: "Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord." Nothing helps to come to a right interpretation of Scripture like having a meek and submissive will to do God’s will, and nothing so quickly causes a perversion of the truth like an unwillingness to do what God has revealed as His will. This Law, therefore, is of great importance, and must be secondary only to the fact that a revelation has been made of God’s will. No attitude of the student of the Bible is so important as this.

      "As the Bible was given us for practical purposes, bearing upon character, conduct and destiny, our study of it, to be profitable, must be in a line with these purposes. The very heart of every lesson, therefore, will be its doctrine on these points, and this doctrine must be so received by faith and assimi-lated by obedience as to become experimental knowledge. ‘Whosoever willeth to do the will of God shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God.’ Continual confirmation and increased assurance that we are rightly inter-preting the Divine Word can come to only those who can say: ‘Then shall we know if we follow on to know the Lord,’ in the same experimental way which brings its own blessings with every forward step. ‘But he that looketh into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth but a doer that worketh, this man shall be blessed in his doing.’"—B. H. Carroll, An Interpretation of the English Bible, Vol I, p. 9.

      The truth of John 7:17 is easily seen when we consider that every militant atheist studies the Scriptures yet never comes to a knowledge of the truth. Why is this, but that he studies for the purpose of refuting and overthrowing the teachings of the Word of God, and for this reason, he is unable to come to a true understanding of its meaning. His attitude is wrong, for he is set in his opposition to God, and God therefore will not give him the insight to rightly understand spiritual truth.

      "In this declaration our Lord laid down a principle of supreme practical importance. He informs us how certainty may be arrived at in connection with the things of God. He tells us how spiritual discernment and assurance are to be obtained. The fundamental condition for obtaining spiritual know-ledge is a genuine heart-desire to carry out the revealed will of God in our lives. Wherever the heart is right God gives the capacity to apprehend His truth."—A. W. Pink, The Gospel of John, Vol. I, p. 385.

      It is a common mistake for men to suppose that they are able to understand spiritual things solely by the exercise of their unaided natural mental faculties. But this is denied in many places in Scripture, for spiritual things proceed upon spiritual laws, and are only understood when these spiritual laws are recognized and one submits to the Divine Author of Scripture. "But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: that the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? And to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, for Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them," John 12:37-40. This same text in Isa. 6:9-10 is quoted in at least three other places in the New Testament in the same context. "What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded," Rom. 11:7. "But their minds were hardened: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in Christ," II Cor. 3:14.

      It is alone through the illuminating power of the Spirit of God that any person can understand the spiritual truths of the Bible. And it is often true that those with more human learning, because they trust in this rather than in being led by the Spirit, come to a less full understanding of the truth than the less educated person who is conscious of a need to be instructed by the Spirit of God. It was the Lord’s own promise that "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come," John 16:13. Observe that the Spirit will guide into all truth, and therefore when any person comes to a knowledge of the truth, it is through the work of the Holy Spirit and not otherwise. From these facts it becomes obvious that any time any person rejects the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and trusts to unaided human reasoning to understand the Word of God, he immediately sets himself up for frustration and confusion. He is not in submission to the Author and Interpreter of Scripture. In the nature of the case it cannot be otherwise. Only where there is a willing submission to the teaching and leading of the Author of the Scriptures will there be given an insight into the true meaning of them.

    5. THE LAW OF COMMON MEANING.

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      By this is meant that where a certain word is used in Scripture, it must be taken in its most commonly accepted meaning in every case where it is possible to do so. A moment’s reflection will reveal the reason for this Law. If God intended to give a revelation of Himself to mankind, it is to be expected that He would give it in words that man could understand easily, and not veil the meaning in mysterious or unknown terms. God’s Word is called a "revelation" (Greek apokalupse), because it reveals His will and way to man. If His word was meant to conceal His will and way to man, it would have been called an apocrypha—something hidden—which it never is. As noted before, Deut. 29:29 is clear that "Secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." And the Lord bears witness to His determination to reveal His truth in other places. "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets," Amos 3:7. These two passages thus show that what God reveals to man is very pertinent to him, and what is kept hidden from him has no relevance to him, nor is he responsible for it. Purposeful obscurity is unthinkable in a revelation.

      But if these things be so, then it is obvious that in giving a revelation of His will to man, God would not purposefully obscure the meaning of it, but would set it forth in the clearest terms necessary for man’s understanding of it. If it were otherwise man could not be held accountable for knowing it, for even human law recognizes the principle, and states that no hopelessly obscure law has any binding force. If we believe that the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself and His will to man, then we must also believe that it will be couched in terms that man can understand. And this is certainly implied in the hundreds of instances where Scripture says "And God spake these words," or "The word of the Lord came," and other similar statements that all imply that what is delivered is understandable to those to whom it is spoken.

      For this reason we are not at liberty to take any word in any sense except its most natural and commonly accepted meaning except in rare exceptions, which we will consider later on in this study. Some one has well said that "If the usual sense of a word makes good sense, then seek no other sense." The folly of doing otherwise has been shown in the early days of Christian history, for to this very day, many people’s understanding of Scrip-ture has been blighted by the wild interpretations put upon it by certain early Bible com-mentators. Origin (c. 185-254) of Alexandria, one of the so-called "Church Fathers," made popular the spiritualizing of even the plainest of texts and teaching that they always had some mysterious, hidden meaning that was not evident to the common believer. His method of explaining away even the clearest of teachings has been followed by some in every generation. Of course, it is very flattering to the preacher’s ego if he can claim to find in plain texts what is not evident to anyone else, and this explains, in large part, the popularity of such unscriptural means of dealing with the Bible. A proud desire for self glory is always a temptation to anyone, including preachers. Having said this, it must be acknowledged that there are portions of Scripture that have symbolic or typical meanings, for the Lord Himself, and His inspired writers sometimes show this. But one must be careful not to invent such interpretations, and especially to never pursue such a way of interpretation to the disparagement of the literal sense of the text.

      Too often the only reason for not wanting to take a word or text in its commonly accepted sense is that it conflicts with personal prejudice. We may take as a prime example of this the controversy that has raged for the last four or five hundred years over the Greek words that are translated "baptize" and "baptism," in most versions of the New Testament. For the first thirteen hundred years or more of this era no one questioned the fact that the Greek words meant the act of immersing, or immersion. This always had to do with the putting of someone or something into some penetrable solution or material. It was a self-evident truth. But beginning in the fourteenth century many churches began to depart from immersion as the mode of the Christian ordinance of initiation into Christian ranks. And when they were challenged on this by the Baptists of the day, they attempted to justify their departure by calling in question the common meanings of the words, and this practice has continued to this day among the disobedient.

      Yet very few religious scholars of any reputation will endanger their reputation by denying the basic meaning of immerse, dip, plunge, or submerge to these words. When this writer was preparing his textbook on "Studies On Church Truth" some years ago, he searched out literally hundreds of testimonies from Greek Lexicons, Greek scholars, Bible Commentators, Seminary teachers, and others in regard to this matter. He found that prior to the last hundred years or so, only two prominent names denied this to be the most common meaning of baptizo and baptisma. One of these was a noted theologian that was admittedly not an expert in languages. The other was the renowned Liddell and Scott Greek Lexicon. But they received so much criticism from all areas of Christianity for giving "sprinkle" as a possible meaning, that in their next edition, they took this out completely and made no reference to it. Honest scholars are compelled to admit immersion to be the primary meaning of these words.

      Many modern preachers, in their endeavor to justify their unscriptural practice of sprinkling or pouring and calling it baptism, have tried to fall back on the secondary and metaphorical meaning of these Greek words, which may be "to overwhelm." But even this does not give them any real comfort or help, for the metaphorical meaning is still based on the literal meaning of the word and cannot be opposite in meaning to it. In no case that we know of is the common meaning of a word better established, or the folly attendant upon departing from the common meaning more evident than in the case of the ordinance of baptism. Thus, it illustrates the great importance in Biblical interpretation of hewing to the primary meaning of Biblical words.

      Nor is baptism the only example of the violation of this principle, for the Greek word that is rendered "church" (ekklesia) has likewise suffered much abuse, resulting in what is almost a world-wide false teaching. This Greek word is derived from ek, out of, and kaleo, to call. As a verb it means to call out, and was commonly used in this way in Greek. As a noun, it refers to "a called out assembly," and is never used in the New Testament or in the Greek version of the Old Testament, nor in the Apocrypha in any other sense. The idea of a universal, visible church never was put forth until two or three hundred years after Christ, and when it was, it came from proud, ambitious men that desired to be overlords over more than local assemblies. And more inconsistent yet, the idea of a universal, invis-ible church is of very recent vintage, being invented in the days of the Reformation. Yet a Christian today will be ostracized as a rank heretic if he only expresses doubt about the "Church" being universal. This is dealt with extensively in Volume One of the author’s work mentioned above.

      But we said that in rare cases it would be justifiable to depart from the primary meaning of a word and to accept a secondary meaning. Under what circumstances would this be so? Only if the primary meaning of a word, if accepted, would violently clash with some other doctrine or interpretation. But this will be a very rare occurrence. Much more commonly, when this seems to be the case, it will be found to be a manufactured conflict, done in order to justify leaving the primary meaning, or else it will make evident that one or the other of the two seemingly conflicting interpretations is erroneous.

      And as we said, such an instance when one is justified in leaving the primary meaning for a secondary meaning will be very rare. However on rare occasions this does occur, but even then, such will never negate the primary meaning, nor will it be the opposite of it unless the word has a prefix or an adversative particle to it that negates it, which is commonly done. But that establishes the primary meaning of a word rather than justifying departing from it.

      It has often been assumed that the Bible is written in such technical language that the common people cannot understand it, and consequently that the only reliable expon-ents of Biblical truth are those with doctoral degrees. In reality, almost the opposite is true, for the common people, if they have been born again and are indwelt by the Spirit of God, will generally take the words of Scripture at face value, and hence not seek beyond the common meaning of the terms. On the other hand, those that are "doctors of the law" (and we are not condemning education or degrees per se) have a tendency to be dissatisfied with the basic meaning of a word, but want to get deeper than the surface meaning, with the result that they tend to ignore the ordinary meaning. Education is good, and every Christian ought to strive to get as much as he can. But the tragedy is that in many religious circles, it is mistakenly thought that the possession of a degree or two automatically means that a person is a spiritual man, and such is not the case. The religious world is filled with unsaved religionists that have multiple high-ranking degrees, but they have no insight into spiritual truth. Regardless of how many degrees the natural man has, he won’t understand spiritual truth, I Cor. 2:14.

      Sometimes pride enters in to the ignoring or questioning of the common meaning of a word in Scripture, and this has led to some of the greatest debates and word battles of all time. And it is interesting that the Greek logomacheo from whence we derive our English word "logomachy" (word battle) is found in the immediate context of Paul’s admonition to Timothy. "Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God," etc., for it is written, "Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers," II Tim. 2:14. Indeed Paul several times warns against strifes about words, II Tim. 2:23; Tit. 3:9. And he declares that these strifes about words spring from pride and ignorance. "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself," I Tim. 6:3-5.

      And we do not wish to be misunderstood here, as if we were against education, or study into the original languages or the deeper meanings of Biblical words, for these are all good things, and ought to be sought. But it should be evident to all that the words of God’s revelation should be suitable to the unwise rather than the wise, when consider that "…not many wise men after the flesh…are called," I Cor. 1:26. For in calling out His people from among the unwise, the weak, the ignoble, God must necessarily word the call in simple terms and easy to be understood. It was for this reason that Paul played down the speaking in foreign languages among the Corinthians, because it was not profitable to them unless words easy of understanding were employed. "So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? For ye shall speak into the air," I Cor. 14:9.

      In interpreting Scripture, we must first recognize that they are a revelation of God’s Person and will to man, and therefore are couched in common human terminology. We must not needlessly complicate their message by putting uncommon meanings upon their words. It may exalt the pride of the exponent of the Word to make it appear that he is able to draw out many mysterious truths from an apparently simple and open Scripture. Yet it shall not be for the spiritual edification of the common hearers, which is the most important thing. Let the bitter fruits of Origin’s method of spiritualizing even the most simple of Scripture texts warn us against such practices.

    7. THE LAW OF COMMON USAGE.

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      This relates to the foregoing, yet it is not the same thing, for we may learn more about the meaning of a word by observing how it is commonly used. Often by observing all of the appearances of a given word in the New Testament, we find both negatively and positively what it deals with and the fullness of its meaning. To cite an illustration: the Greek word kosmos has the basic meaning of order, arrangement, ornament or adornment. It is rendered "world," in all its 188 appearances except I Pet. 3:3 where it is literally rendered "adorning." Many people have erroneously assumed that it always and without exception refers to all mankind, yet such is not the case, for a careful examination of all of its appearances shows that it has at least thirteen different applications. Hence, no one can rightly interpret any text using kosmos if he does not take this into account and carefully study the context to determine to what it is Biblically applied. It is to be feared that much false doctrine has been promoted by failure to do this.

      Or to cite another example: Though not as common today as it was a couple of gen-erations ago, it used to be the practice of many preachers to get into debates on religious subjects. These were justified because it was reasoned that though neither of the debaters might be affected or swayed from his position, yet those who listened and observed the proceedings might learn doctrine, and some, perhaps, even be converted thereby. This sounds reasonable and good.

      But when we consider all the appearances of the Greek word translated "debate" (eris), we find that it is never used in a good sense. Conversely, Paul denominates it a work of the flesh, which is condemned. "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, vari-ance (Greek eris = debate)," etc., Gal. 5:19-20. And in Rom. 1:29 Paul describes the men whom God has given over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient, as being "filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, malicious-ness; full of envy, murder, debate (eris), deceit, malignity," etc. Again, he asks in I Cor. 3:3: "For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife (eris = debate), and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?"

      Certainly we cannot visualize as being good anything that travels in such bad comp-any as does this word, and we find it impossible to see any good arising out of that which the Word of God pronounces to be a mark of carnality. This only shows how a mistaken idea can come about when the common usage of a New Testament word is not considered and all its usages compared. So often we forget the warning of II Cor. 10:5 to cast down all reasonings and everything that exalts itself against the Lord.

      This brings us to consider another mistaken practice that is very common among the Lord’s people, and this is the practice of making common sense to be the judge and jury as to the rightness of an interpretation or practice. Since "common" means that which is shared by all, and Scripture often warns us that the generality of mankind are neither saved, nor spiritual, nor knowledgeable about the truth, we can see the danger in following "common sense" in spiritual matters. We cannot substitute "common sense" for the "common meaning and usage" of a word in the New Testament and expect to come out with anything but confusion. At best, "common sense" is but human reasoning, which can never be depended upon when it departs from the authoritative pronouncement of the Word. Paul was inspired to command the Lord’s people to bring all of man’s mental processes into subjection to the mind of Christ, which is only known by means of the Word of God, II Cor. 10:4-5.

      Because the human mind was affected by the fall of man into sin in the Garden of Eden, it can never be wholly trusted until the flesh is redeemed at the return of the Lord. Until then, even Christians will need to constantly be renewed in mind, Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23, and they can never so trust their own reasoning ability so as to interpret the Word thereby. The Laws already considered in this series must be allowed full impact upon the common meaning and usage of a word, else error will surely occur.

      We venture to give another instance of the folly of departing from the common usage of a word—in this instance, the universal usage of a word—and of substituting human rea-soning instead. In Matt. 13:33 Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened." Loosing from the mooring of common usage, and giving rein to their imaginations, men have concluded that here leaven was a type of the Gospel, which, it is thought, when it was once introduced into the world, would soon permeate the whole world, and cause it to be universally Christianized. This interpretation was given as a means of justifying a false doctrine—the error of post-millennialism, which cannot be established except by misinter-preting the plain teachings of the Word of God. This conclusion about the meaning of the leaven here was arrived at in spite of the fact that leaven (Greek zume) is never used in a good sense, but always in an evil sense in Scripture. The common usage of this word is totally against the interpretation that the leaven here is a type of the Gospel, yet some otherwise good and sound men have been led astray by ignoring this Law of Common Usage. "Leaven" appears fifteen times in the New Testament, plus an even greater number of times in the Old Testament, and with the exception of its appearance in Matt. 13:33 and the parallel in Luke 13:21, it is always warned against, and believers are commanded to purge it out. Nor are these two texts exceptions to the common usage, for they teach the same truth except that here "leaven" is used typically or as a metaphor. Reference to Matt. 16:12 reveals what the leaven was meant to typify in Jesus’ parable. "Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees."

      Jesus’ parable was meant to show, not the pervasive effects of the Gospel through-out the whole world, but rather the pervasive and corrupting effects of false doctrine. In the Scriptures, a woman is often used to typify a moral or religious system, either good or bad. See the bad aspect pictured in Rev. 17:1ff. In this parable the woman represents a false religious system which introduces false doctrine into the religious world with the result that the earthly kingdom of heaven is corrupted. That is exactly what happened beginning in the second and third centuries, and it resulted in all the false churches of Catholicism and Protestantism. All of the parables in Matt. 13 preceding this one in V33 had predicted only a limited success in the sowing of the seed because the devil would send forth evil workers to introduce tares (unsaved religionists) among the good seed, and that these would be intermixed in the kingdom of heaven to its great detriment. To now have a parable that pictures almost universal permeation and success by the Gospel would be a jarring contradiction of the whole theme of this series of parables, all of which are interrelated, and harmonious in their teachings. But interpretation against type, it seems, is all right to some interpreters if it establishes their false system of doctrine that cannot otherwise be established. But such is contrary to all right Bible interpretation.

      "The principle of fermentation which inheres in it makes it the symbol of corruption, for fermentation is the result of the divine curse upon the material universe because of sin. Always in the Bible, it speaks of evil in some form…In Matt. 16:12, it speaks of evil doctrine in its three-fold form of Phariseeism, externalism in religion, of Sadduceeism, skepticism as to the supernatural and as to the Scriptures, of Herodianism, worldliness."—Ken-neth S. Wuest, Word Studies In The Greek New Testament, Vol. I, p. 162.

      This need for considering the parallel usages of a word when interpreting Scripture, is shown in I Cor. 2:12-13. "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 us of God. 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." Here we observe several pertinent things about the interpretation of the Scriptures. (1) It is through the Holy Spirit alone that we can understand the things of God. (2) He is given "that we might know" etc., which gives evidence that it is God’s will for His people to be knowledgeable about the spiritual truth that is stored in the Holy Writ. (3) These things are not learned through the words of human wisdom, but only through the words of Divine wisdom. It is for this reason that we need to keep to the words which Divine wisdom has given instead of substituting human terms and synonyms where possible. (4) Finally, this understanding of the things of God comes about only by "comparing spiritual things with spiritual." This is the point that we wish to make—the comparing of all the usages of a given word or doctrine in Scripture is the divinely ordained way of interpreting the Word. One of the common forms of Bible presentation is parallelism—the putting of two statements in parallel with one another so as either to compare them, or to contrast them, thereby defining them more clearly by each part explaining the other.

    9. THE LAW OF LANGUAGE.

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      This might as well be entitled "The Law of Grammatical Construction," for this relates to the forms and structures of words, and their ordinary arrangement in phrases and sentences. Hence, we mean by this Law to consider the weight that different tenses, moods, number, voice, etc., have on the proper interpretation of the Scriptures, and especi-ally so in the languages of Inspiration. It is a fact that often an erroneous interpretation is produced through the simple failure to consider the exact way in which a statement is presented in the Word of God. God’s Word is wholly inspired, and hence we may expect that every particle of it will have a significance worthy of our fullest attention. This could not be so if, as some liberals claim, only the thoughts were inspired, with the exact wording left to the choice of the individual writer. Scripture teaches in I Pet. 1:10-12 that the inspired writers sometimes themselves did not understand what they prophesied, but had to diligently study their own writings to determine this. Our Lord denied the liberals’ view of the doctrine of inspiration when He said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away," Matt. 24:35. And even more to the point is His statement in Matt. 5:18: "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."

      In this latter passage, the word "jot" refers to the Hebrew letter Yod, the smallest of that alphabet, while "tittle" refers to the small horn or appendage that differentiated some Hebrew letters from others, neither of which would be allowed to pass away. Imagine! Not only the words, but even the smallest letters, yea, the smallest parts of the letters which made up the words were to not pass away, but would remain until all was fulfilled. This hardly sounds like the liberals’ view of inspiration, and further study will confirm this.

      It is very important in the consideration of any given passage of Scripture to give proper heed to the tenses of the verbs used, for this is the part of speech that determines the time of the action or the state of being of the subject. We cite, by way of illustration, a passage in which some have committed this error, and have consequently come up with a very serious error in regard to the opportunities for salvation after death. Scripture declares that "For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the Spirit," I Pet. 4:6. From this some have formulated a doctrine of a second chance for men to be saved after death. They base this idea upon the mistaken idea that the gospel is preached to those who are dead, giving them a second chance to be saved. But consideration of the tenses show the error of this interpretation. The Gospel was preached (past tense) to them that are (now) dead (present tense), which makes a great deal of difference in understanding to what is propounded by some.

      It is even better yet if one can study the Scriptures in their original languages, for the languages that Inspiration chose in which to record the Word of God—the Hebrew of the Old Testament, and the Greek of the New Testament—are both much more precise than our English language. This is to be seen by taking an English concordance and looking up almost any common word. For it will be found that often one English word will be used to translate up to a dozen wholly different Greek or Hebrew words, all of which have varying shades of meaning, most of which the English does not reveal. Of course often this is not possible for laymen, and so God calls pastors, who commonly are knowledgeable in the languages of Inspiration, to expound the Word to them. But sometimes even pastors may not have knowledge of the Hebrew and Greek, but God has endowed many godly men of the past with knowledge in these, and has lead them to write commentaries in which the original languages are expounded. Sadly we have known some preachers that refused to use any such helps on the plea that the Holy Spirit would teach them what they needed to know. Their attitude, if we may judge by their practice, is the proud and arrogant attitude that "I alone of all men am led by the Spirit of God. These other men who have written all these commentaries were not led by the Spirit of God in doing so, but only invented these things themselves. I need them not, for I am so much more spiritual than these men were."

      If this is not their attitude we know now what excuse they have for not using the good studies and expositions that God has given to good and godly men of past generations. And it is to be readily granted that no commentator wrote by inspiration, and so, they were sometimes wrong on some of their interpretations, but perhaps in no more instances than we all will be found to be when we stand at the judgment seat of Christ.

      In the Greek New Testament the present and future tenses generally correspond to the tenses of the same name in English. But the Greek language has several tenses that have to do with past actions, but with different shades of meaning from our English past tense. These are often not translated so as to reveal that shade of meaning that Inspiration has given the particular verb. The Greek imperfect tense expresses a prolonged or recur-rent action in past time. The Greek aorist tense is strictly the expression of a momentary or transient single action, being thus distinguished from the imperfect. And in the indica-tive mood it ordinarily signifies past time. The perfect tense is often translated as a simple present tense, yet it has the double notion of an action terminated in past time, and of its effect existing to the present. This is an especially blessed tense since it often expresses the Christian’s standing in Christ, but that is generally not shown in our English translation. The pluperfect tense expresses the effect as past as well as the action. (On all this, see Harper Brothers’ Analytical Greek Lexicon, p. xlii.)

      The deleterious effect of not taking cognizance of all the Greek verbs is to be seen in the doctrine that is drawn from Matt. 16:19, which is almost the opposite of what is set forth by the verbs of Inspiration. Many people and even whole denominations take this as a justification for a church to enact anything it pleases, as if the Lord would ratify it. We take the liberty here of recording our own notes on this text.

      "Most translations, including the King James Version have completely ignor-ed the tenses, especially in the second usage of ‘bind’ and ‘loose’ of each section of the verse. For these second usages of the words are not future tenses at all, as the English implies, but they are perfect tenses, which represent a completed action, but with results extending to the present. A literal rendering, taking cognizance of every verb in its proper tense would read: ‘And that which thou mayest bind (future subjunctive active, indicating possible action in the future) on earth shall be (future indicative, indicating simple future action) what has already been bound, resulting in a permanently established binding (perfect passive participle, indicating a completed past action with on-going results) in heaven. And that which thou mayest have loosed (aorist subjunctive, a simple past possibility) on earth, shall be (future, indicating simple future action) what has been loosed, resulting in a permanently established loosing (perfect passive participle, again indicating completed past action with on-going results) in heaven.’ Thus, instead of the Head of the church giving churches permiss-ion to make any rules they may want to regulate their worship, He shut them up to always ‘bind’ and ‘loose’ only in conformity to principles that have already been established in heaven. In other words, they are only to be regulated by principles revealed in the Inspired Scriptures."—Studies On A Harmony Of The Four Gospels, p. 481. (Unpublished manuscript.)

      We venture to give yet another illustration, which, while not relating to a great doctrinal error, is an error nonetheless. Some men, in order to hold to the theory that ordination to the Gospel ministry is absolutely necessary to the administration of baptism, have declared that the deacon Philip had become a regular preacher before he baptized the Samaritans and the Ethiopian, Acts 8. Yet we read of him some twenty years or more later that he was still considered one of the seven original deacons even though he is now known as "Philip the evangelist," Acts 21:8. The statement "which was one of the seven" sounds in English as if it referred to what he once was. But in actuality, the Greek verb is a present participle—"being one of the seven," so that, so far from being a regularly ordained preacher, he was still reckoned as one of the original seven deacons. The error of thinking that Philip had become an ordained preacher arose in part from attributing a modern day meaning to the Biblical word evangelist. In our day this word has come to signify a preacher who is only a revivalist, but in the New Testament in its three appearances, the word always is used in contrast to the regular pastoral ministry of the Word, and rather has the meaning of "gospelizer."

      There is also the need for a careful consideration of nouns and their pronouns in order to arrive at a proper understanding of the Scriptures, for it is sometimes the case that the right interpretation will turn upon one of these. For example, Roman Catholicism puts much emphasis upon its women bearing all the children that they can, and promises them, in effect, eternal life for so doing. They base this upon a misinterpretation of I Tim. 2:15. "Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety." But this misinterpretation will not stand if one but carefully considers the two pronouns in this verse. "She" refers to the woman, but the pronoun "they" being different in number, cannot refer to the same person, but refers to her child-ren. This has nothing to do with the salvation of the soul, but rather relates to the life of the mother. A mother lives on indirectly in her children, so that if they are faithful Christian children—i. e., "if they continue in faith and love and holiness with sobriety,"—then whatever suffering she may have endured in bearing them will not have been in vain. Otherwise her life will have been in vain, and her whole purpose for living will have been lost. Men rear up monuments to themselves in government, business, the arts, and other areas, for man’s sphere of labor has historically been public. But the woman’s sphere, having been historically in the home, her children are her monuments, and she is saved in them—i. e., she lives on in them, but they reflect well on her only if they are good and faithful Christians.

      There are many other instances where it is necessary to carefully consider the noun and its pronouns in order to rightly understand and interpret the Scriptures. For if a pronoun is made to refer to the wrong antecedent, then at best a wrong interpretation will result, and, depending upon the subject under consideration, a great heresy may be produced.

      One of the worst instances of the wrong interpretation of pronouns is to be found in the common interpretation of II Pet. 3:9. "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." The common interpretation of this applies it to all lost people, and yet all mankind is nowhere in view in the context, nor are the generality of sinners. "Any" and "all" are both pronouns, and no pronoun can stand alone, but must refer back to an antecedent noun or pronoun. The "all" that God wills to come to repentance refers to the "any" that God is not willing should perish. But neither identify whose these are, so we must go backward a step, and we find yet another pronoun—"us" ("us-ward" is an old, archaic English expression. The Greek text says simply "us.") But this is yet another pronoun, so we still have not identified who these are whom God is not willing should perish, but should come to repentance. The next antecedent noun is the "Beloved" in V8, but though this is a common terminology for the Lord’s people, it still is not as specific as needed to identify these in V9. However, it appears before this in V1, where we are shown that it refers to the same people that were addressed in the first epistle that Peter wrote, and that defines who these are. "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the elect strangers scattered abroad…" (So reads the inspired text). Clearly then the "any" that God is not willing should perish, but "all" of whom He wills to come to repentance, are the elect. This harmonizes with the declared purpose of the Saviour Himself, who said "All that the Father giveth to me (the elect, as this phrase always means) shall come to me," John 6:37. And again, "Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none," John 18:9.

      The other, more common interpretation, while it is given with a sincere desire to make sinners realize God’s willingness to save those that repent, is a bad misinterpretation. And worse yet, it has the God-dishonoring implication that God is impotent to save all He has chosen, and is constantly frustrated in His purposes of grace. Often Scripture declares that God accomplishes all that He determines upon, Ps. 103:19; 115:3; Isa. 46:9-10; Rom. 8:28-30; Eph. 1:11, et al.

      At this point something more needs to be said about the word "all." A common, but utterly senseless and deceitful little ditty is often parroted as if it were the word of the Lord Himself. Often it is said that "All means all, and that is all that all means." Wrong! It must be emphasized that the word "all" is not only not all-encompassing, as many think, but it is always limited in every usage. "All" can never stand alone, for it is always used either as a pronoun, adjective or adverb. But whichever it is used as, it is limited by the noun, pronoun, verb, adjective or adverb that it modifies. And the fact that the word that it modifies is not always stated, but may only be implied, does not alter this fact.

      The importance of prepositions cannot be overlooked in our study of the Scriptures, for often these are the "nail-clinchers" to some interpretations. Again we cite an example. Advocates of sprinkling and pouring for baptism have long challenged the meaning of the Greek word baptizo, as indeed they must in order to hold that the rite may be performed in any other way than by immersion. But the prepositions that are used in connection with baptizo are such that they never antagonize with immersion, and often are required by it. On the other hand, most of these same prepositions cannot rationally be used at all with the practice of either sprinkling or pouring. Thus, the Greek preposition en, which corresponds to our English word "in," is used in many places in Scripture with this ordinance. In our authorized English version the Protestant translators gave them-selves the edge in the argument by translating this word "with" where it is used with baptism. In literally hundreds, if not thousands of other usages, it is most commonly rendered "in." Let this word be literally rendered and put in company with "sprinkle" or "pour," and one immediately sees the inconsistency of trying to make baptism be by either of these modes. This preposition is used with baptism in Matt. 3:6, 11; Mark 1:4, 5; Luke 3:16; John 1:26, et al. But listen to how this preposition would sound if used with "sprinkle" or "pour." "And were sprinkled of him in Jordan!" "And were poured of him in Jordan." Remember! The wording is such that it was not the Jordan that was sprinkled or poured, but it was the people. You cannot sprinkle or pour people. But used with immersion—"were immersed in Jordan"—and it makes perfect sense and harmonizes with the meaning of the Greek word baptizo.

      The preposition eis (into) is also used with baptism in several places, which is again inconsistent and irrational if used with any word except immerse or its equivalent. The same is true of the use of "went down into," and "came up out of" in Acts 8:38-39. Only if immersion was the mode of this ordinance does the use of these prepositions make sense.

      It is even so that the number of a word may be a point upon which the proper inter-pretation turns, for so argues Paul in Gal. 3:16. "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds (plural) as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed (singular), which is Christ." Doubtless this same manner of argument applies in II Sam. 22:51 and Ps. 18:50, where reference is made to David, "and to his seed (singular) for ever," for clearly one specific descendent of David is mean. Some commentators have thought that this singular looked upon all the plural seed as some sort of a unity, but Gal. 3:16 is clear beyond denial that the reference is to Jesus Christ, so that it seems safest to see Him wherever the singular is in such references.

      There are other places where a single noun is used but which the translators have mistakenly rendered as a plural, or vice versa. Thus, in that remarkable Messianic Psalm, Ps. 110:6, we read "He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads (literally, head—singular) over many countries." This is unquestionably in reference to the final overthrow of the prince of this world as prophesied long ago. "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel," Gen. 3:15.

      Much more could be said about the careful observation of the grammatical con-struction in the interpretation of the Scriptures, but this will be sufficient, we trust, to show the importance of it, and so we pass on to consider yet another Law.

    11. THE LAW OF THE CONTEXT.

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      The word "context" means literally "to weave together," and it deals with that which goes before and after a specific word or passage of Scripture. Thus, the context to a text of Scripture is the surrounding verses that relate to the same subject or theme. A pastor friend, Brother Charles Whaley, put it very well when he said, "There is no text apart from the context." Untold harm has been done by persons who lifted a text or phrase out of its context, and interpreted it without reference to the surrounding verses.

      We cite an example to show the folly of this, and while few people would go to the extreme that our example did, yet some interpretations are all the more dangerous for their seeming plausibility. A preacher that had a very grave aversion to women wearing their hair in topknots, determined to preach a message against it. But being unable to find a text that condemned this practice, he chose four words from Matt. 24:17, lifted them from their setting and preached on the subject "…Top (k)not Come Down." Reference to this passage shows that there is not the remotest reference to hair, women’s fashions, nor even to the female sex in any way. Yet it served to try to justify his prejudice. And sadly, sometimes such folly is still practiced by men that are more concerned with their own views, than with the correct exposition of the Word of God.

      One of the most basic factors in Inspiration deals with this matter, as we read in II Pet. 1:20-21, "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." Let it be first noted that prophecy here and elsewhere in Scripture is not restricted to future events that are foretold. The Greek word propheteia literally means to speak forth = to preach, and this is the more common meaning in Scripture when this word is used.

      This "signifies the speaking forth of the mind and counsel of God (pro, forth, phemi, to speak: see PROPHET)…Though much of the O. T. prophecy was purely predictive, see Micah 5:2, e.g., and cp. John 11:51, prophecy is not necessarily, nor even primarily, fore-telling. It is the declaration of that which cannot be known by natural means, Matt. 26:68, it is the forth-telling of the will of God, whether with reference to the past, the present, or the future, see Gen. 20:7; Deut. 18:18; Rev. 10:11; 11:3."—W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vol. III, P. 221.

      It is erroneously held by some that V20 forbids any individual to decide for himself what any Scripture means. This is especially the position of Catholicism which has, until very recent times forbidden their people to even read the Bible, much less to determine its meaning, but they were commanded to let "The Church" decide the meaning, and tell the people what to believe. But this is not the meaning of this verse, as the literal rendering reveals. Literally this says, "No speaking forth of Scripture is of its own unloosing," and the reason is given in V21, "because the speaking forth came not at any time by the will of man," etc. God gave the Scripture to His chosen spokesmen, and He must give the inter-pretation of it. But in saying that no Scripture is of its own unloosing, there is implied that no Scripture is to be lifted out of its context and interpreted as if it stood wholly alone, without any relevance to any other Scriptures. The context will often "loose" the knot of something that is otherwise impossible to be understood. The mistake that many people make is in not interpreting Scripture according to its context.

      It is a fact that most pet theories are based upon perversions of the true meaning and applicability of the text, for the theories that are held with the most tenacity, and propounded with the most heat, are generally the ones with the least substantiation in the Scriptures. This seems to be one of the characteristic failings of the flesh—to major on minors.

      Peter warned against this very thing—wresting the Scriptures to try to force them to say what they do not say. After speaking of Paul’s epistles, and of the deep truths contain-ed in them, he said, "…which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction," II Pet. 3:16. It is to be noted in passing that Peter was inspired to put Paul’s epistles on a par with "the other scriptures." This would also apply to that which the Holy Spirit had moved Peter to write.

      The words used by Peter here are instructive. "Wrest" translates strebloo, which is the verb form of a noun that referred to an instrument of torture, and so, refers to torturing by a windlass, or to wrench out of joint. This is what one tries to do to Scripture when he is unwilling to take it in its setting and let it say what it was meant to say. "Destruction" is the literal meaning of the word here used, but it is more commonly translated "perdition," for it often has the connotation of spiritual destruction. And this is evidently the thought here, as the following verse suggests. "Ye therefore (he is drawing a conclusion from the preceding verse), beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness." Perversion of Scripture in order to establish one’s own interpretation is a characteristic of wicked men, and carries its own curse, for it twists one’s understanding of the truth, and establishes falsehood in one’s thinking. But true saints may also go astray in this matter, for we all still have a fleshly mind that must be kept submissive to the Holy Spirit.

      If people would but give larger heed to the context of any Scripture that they are considering, it would eliminate probably ninety percent of the heresies and misinterpret-ations that plague Christianity. Most misinterpretations arise from having too limited a scope of the subject under discussion, and also by being tempted to interpret it in the light of modern beliefs and practices. The writer ventures to cite another example, and one in which he himself was at fault at one time. There is a theory about a "middle life," which holds that a person does not, at death, go either to heaven or to hades, but rather goes to an intermediate place of confinement until the return of Christ. This writer at one time subscribed to this error, and one of the Scriptures relied upon to prove this was Acts 2:34. "For David is not ascended into heaven." This was taken to prove that there must be a "middle state" since David had been a long time dead, yet he had not ascended to heaven. But the mistake was based upon ignorance of the context.

      By reading the context, one quickly learns that the subject being discussed here is not a "middle life," nor is the state of the soul under discussion at all. The apostle is here arguing that Jesus was indeed what He claimed to be, and that Pentecost was a proof of the fact that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead and bodily ascended back to the Father as foretold in prophecy. The physical resurrection of Christ is the subject here, for David had not bodily ascended to heaven, so that the prophecy could not refer to him. A preconceived bias involving the theory of a middle state stood in this writer’s way of rightly under-standing this marvelous passage for three or four years, but when he read this in its context, the truth finally broke through. This made this writer more cognizant of the need to view the whole context in any passage before putting any dogmatic interpretation upon it. Through the years since then, as he has written commentaries on almost every verse of the New Testament, this writer has found repeatedly that taking in the whole context almost always gives one a more sound view of any verse.

      Expository preaching was the most common kind found in the New Testament, and of course, this involves taking a section of Scripture and examining it, as opposed to taking only a text or topic and developing a message around it. For this reason, expository preaching deals with a larger portion of Scripture generally than does any other form of preaching, and is therefore more faithful to the context of any given verse than any other form of preaching. So this would appear to be the ideal form of preaching the Word. However, topical and textural preaching are also important and often necessary, but one must always consider the context.

      But we may and should carry over into all our studying this same principle and always make a point of studying the full context of any verse, even when it involves several chapters. And we shall have gone a long ways toward preventing the putting of an erroneous interpretation upon a single verse if we do so. The popular "Roman’s Road" evangelism errs in this regard, for it takes Rom. 10:13 and builds an inverted pyramid upon this one verse with little or no heed to the context. It is gloriously true that "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." But there was a full nine and a half chapters of context before this that must be understood else one will put a wholly erroneous interpretation on this verse. Failure to take into account Romans chap-ters one through three will leave men ignorant of the total depravity of all men so that they will not realize their need. And without knowledge of Rom. 3:24-5:1 men are left ignorant of the absolute necessity of the redemption that is solely and wholly in Christ. And if men do not realize that this redemption is applied solely by sovereign grace, Rom. 5:20-21, they will feel a self-sufficiency that will make it impossible for them to feel the need to call upon the Lord. It is easy to get professions of faith if a perverted or incomplete Gospel is presented, but failure to present all the truth will damn the sinner, and make the careless preacher guilty of the blood of men, Acts 20:26-27.

      The context will, in most cases, determine the subject of any verse, for there is generally a connected discourse. The exception to this is the Book of Proverbs, which is, as its name implies, a collection of short sayings upon many subjects. Yet, even in Proverbs there is sometimes a continuity of subject through several verses, or, in one instance, several chapters (the subject of "Wisdom" is very prominent in a number of chapters).

      The Laws thus far considered are all interrelated, for Law One asks, "Has God given a revelation?" Law Two asks, "Am I submissive to God’s revelation?" Then Law Three asks, "What is the meaning of the terms used?" Law Four then asks, "In what ways are the terms used?" Law Five asks, "What grammatical laws govern the terms used?" While Law Six asks, "What is the subject of the context in which this verse rests?" These are all very important in the determining of the correct interpretation of Scripture, and where these laws are ignored or transgressed, there cannot help but be error and misinterpretation of Scripture.

      Every Christian ought to be concerned that he rightly interpret the Word of Truth, not only for his own sake, for we must all someday "appear before the judgment seat of Christ," II Cor. 5:10, "to give account of himself to God," Rom. 14:12, but for others’ sake as well. We all have influence on others whether we want to or not, and for this reason, we must be sound in the faith, else we shall misguide others. Error in doctrine in one person’s life may not have as serious consequences as it does in others that follow his example, for he may have other beliefs that are sound enough to withhold him from going deeper into error. But the ones following his error may not have those counterbalancing truths, and so, may be carried much further astray.

    13. THE LAW OF COLLATERAL REFERENCE.

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      This law is related, in a sense, to the one regarding common usage, yet it is not the same by any means. Common usage relates to the other appearances of the same word or phrase, while this law has to do with different terms, but which relate to the same subject. The word "collateral" means side by side, or parallel, and so this law deals with the bringing together of all passages which relate to a given subject whether they use the same termin-ology or not. In studying a subject using common usage, one needs a good Concordance to show where the same terms appear in other places in Scripture. But when applying the law of collateral reference, one needs a Topical Text Book, which lists related subjects together by whatever name they are called.

      Thus, if a person was going to study the subject of prayer, he would want to find all of the references, not only just to the word "prayer," but also to "intercession," "praise," "worship," "confession," "thanksgiving," "importunity," "supplication," etc., for these are all collateral terms and relate to the general subject of prayer. Being related, they have a bearing upon what prayer is, and no one could expect to come to a full understanding of what prayer is and does without consulting all of these.

      The reader will immediately see that in our interpretation of the Word of God, there is no room left for the lazy or careless student, for there is no such thing as a person learn-ing sound doctrine by reading a couple of verses and then closing the Book. Those that have become the most well grounded in the Scriptures are those who have made them a lifelong study, and who have endeavored to daily gain new truths by exhaustive study. If a person is too lazy or too unconcerned to put out the effort required by diligent study, then he will never be anything more than a child in spiritual knowledge. And consequently, he will probably always be an ignorant and infantile Christian. It is interesting and instructive to observe that Paul, though a great theologian, was a student until the very end, for in the last epistle written by him before his death he gave evidence of still being a student. "The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments," II Tim. 4:13. How few, even of the ministers of our day, are truly students of the Word of God. Doubtless this explains in large part the weak doctrinal condition of most churches today. Mail order sermons are popular with many.

      This Law of Collateral Reference demands a great deal of comparison "of spiritual things with spiritual," if we would come to anything like a full understanding of the Scriptures, for the Lord has never reposed all of the truth about any subject in a single passage of Scripture. The reason for this is perhaps to discourage laziness on the part of His people, and to encourage them to diligently study all of the Scripture. For "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works," II Tim. 3:16-17.

      As an illustration of the folly of not considering all collateral references when endeavoring to interpret the Scriptures, we cite a modern mistake. In the 1800’s there was a great debate upon the subject of the Millennium, and, because men did not study this subject under the numerous other terms related to it, many came to an erroneous conclusion. Because reference was only made in one place to a thousand year reign of the saints with Christ, and this in a book "confessedly symbolic," many had doubts about there actually being a Millennium to come. Such texts as Ps. 149:5-9; Dan. 7:13-14; Zech 14:3-9; I Cor. 15:22-28, and numerous others that speak of God’s coming to subjugate all nations, and reigning with His people, were ignored because they did not mention the specific length of this reign. The full fruit of these doubts has only come about in our day in which a large percentage of religious schools and seminaries teach A-Millennialism—i. e., that there is no such thing as a Millennium to come.

      Had Bible students realized that Rev. 20:4-6 relates only to one small aspect of the Millennium, namely its length, and had they studied the subject under its other aspects, A-Millennialism could never have gotten its foot in the door. Other related subjects being Christ’s kingdom, its being situated in Palestine, its government being administered by the glorified saints, its accomplishment being after Christ’s literal return to earth, and others. Here is another evidence that when we fail to apply all pertinent data in interpretation we often create a "Frankenstein’s monster" of false doctrine.

      But the study of collateral passages not only sheds light upon the primary subject that a person is studying, it also reveals the relationship of the subject to other subjects, so that often one has revealed to him the interrelationship and harmony of the subject with others. This gets back to what was said earlier in this study. If we are plowing a straight furrow in our interpretations, we need never fear that we will have a head-on collision with some other doctrine, nor will there even be a scraping of fenders. Right Bible interpretation results in a harmonious system of doctrine all the way through the Bible.

      Another thing about the use of collateral references is that we often find that God had prophetically forecast something ages before it came to pass, thereby confirming our faith in the inspiration of the Scriptures, and revealing His own marvelous providential control of all things. Collateral references, especially where it is a New Testament fulfill-ment of an Old Testament prophecy, or a reference from a New Testament passage back to its Old Testament prophecy, often reveals important details that affect the right interpret-ation of the verse under consideration. For instance, there are many things stated in Ps. 22 that are hard, if not impossible to understand when applied to David. But when the collateral references in the New Testament are studied in parallel with this, they are all clearly revealed to have primary reference to "the greater David," even Christ Himself. Were the collateral references in the New Testament not consulted, what great confusion would result in trying to rightly understand the Old Testament reference.

      The Law of Collateral Reference deals with the study of parallel passages of Scripture, or doctrines, even though they may not use the same terms, but which, when compared, throw light upon each other, thereby helping to rightly interpret all of them. This is obviously another very important law in the interpretation of the Word of God.

    15. THE LAW OF ADDRESS.

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      This law requires the proper consideration of who, what, when, why, etc. of the subject under study. The first thing that should be considered under this law is Who is addressed? An illustration will reveal the importance of this law. The world—yes, even the religious world—has all but unanimously agreed that the way to heaven is by doing good works, yet nothing is so vigorously condemned in Scripture as this idea. "I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee," Isa. 57:12. "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags," Isa. 64:6. "…By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight," Rom. 3:20. "…By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified," Gal. 2:16. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us…" Tit. 3:5. These and many other passages deny in no uncertain terms the idea that man can in any way save himself by his own works. This being so, whence then arises the idea so prevalent in the world that works have something to do with a man being saved? For one thing, it is characteristic of the natural man to want to trust in himself, and not be beholden to God. And the idea that his trust in his own works will avail to his salvation comes from a failure to consider the Law of Address when interpreting Scripture.

      Scripture does indeed admonish certain people to "learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful," Tit. 3:14. Those that trust in their own works for salvation miss several points, as follows: (1) No where is anyone ever promised salvation by works. (2) The ones so admonished are those that have already believed unto salvation. (3) The "necessary use" is not salvation, but service to God. (4) These are the required "fruits" that every living Christian is to produce for God’s glory, as in John 15:1-8, which refers only to those that are "in Christ" = saved people. Hence, (5) Those that think these things apply to them saving themselves by their own works have violated the Law of Address, and tried to apply to themselves that which has no application to them. God’s grace and man’s works are utterly incompatible where salvation is concerned. Salvation must be of one or the other, but it cannot be of both, as Rom. 11:6 shows. And many other passages declare salvation to be solely by grace through faith in Christ, but none base it upon human works.

      And the following Scriptures, all enjoining good works, are also all written to or of persons who have already been justified by faith in Christ, and saved by grace. "Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon [upon Christ, V11], he shall receive a reward [not eternal life]. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire," I Cor. 3:13-15. This was written "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours," I Cor. 1:2. And even V15 above shows that salvation is not the issue of the works mentioned, for those whose works are burned up, are nonetheless saved. Obviously, then, man’s works have no relevance to salvation. See then the importance of observing the Law of Address.

      "For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus UNTO GOOD WORKS, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them," Eph. 2:8-10. Here, works are to be the result and fruit of salvation, not the cause of it, for as V1 shows, until a man has been spiritually quickened—made alive—he is spirit-ually dead, and so, unable to do anything spiritual except become more corrupt. Besides this, any work that is done for selfish reasons loses its value in God’s sight, as Jesus taught in Matt. 6:1, 5, 16, yet men profess to do these good works in order to be saved, which is a selfish reason.

      "This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men," Tit. 3:8. This reference to works is clearly limited to believers, or saved people, and they are the only ones to whom good works are profitable, as a comparison with Isa. 57:12 shows.

      Perhaps of all the passages relied upon to teach salvation by works, James 2:14 is the favorite. "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?" Those who view this text as teaching salvation by man’s works, not only violate the Law of Address, but also the Law of the Context. For seven times prior to this in this book the word "Brethren" appears, and this is almost always an evidence of a statement being addressed to Christians. But even stronger evidence that this refers to believers, is found in James 2:1, where they are admonished to have "the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ," and 2:5, where these are said to be "rich in faith." The context of James 2:14 shows that James was simply showing that works will be the natural fruit of genuine faith in Christ, that true faith is not a dead faith, but a living faith, and that true faith will be justified in man’s eyes only by good works. It is not just any kind of faith that is meant here, for the literal rendering of V14 is "…can that faith save him?" That is, a faith that has no substantiating works, for such is a "dead faith," V26..

      Another thing involved in the Law of Address is whether a given statement is written only to the generation then living, or whether it has application to future generations. I Pet. 1:10-12 bears on this matter. "Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching, what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you…"

      One of the common mistakes that many liberal and modernistic teachers make is in assuming that the Old Testament prophets generally spoke only for their own time, and concerning only local issues. Thereby many of them try to rob all later believers of the com-fort of many of the ancient promises that God has given. Of course, their problem is that they have a very small, weak and ignorant god that cannot be allowed to be omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent, and so, cannot speak to any generation except the one that it can observe and react to at the time. But such is not the God of Scripture.

      The Law of Address is seen to be very important in Biblical interpretation, for if one attempts to apply a Scripture to someone to whom it does not apply, only confusion can result. But again, this Law must be considered from the standpoint of what is spoken of, for if one applies a Scripture to some subject to which it does not apply, and to which it has no relevance, it will result in a misinterpretation of it. This may be illustrated by the endeavor of pedobaptists to extort from Scripture a confession of the legitimacy of infant baptism when it does not speak of this anywhere. T. P. Simmons well says of this:

      Barring the alleged baptism of infants in household baptism, which we shall dispose of presently, there is not in the Scripture the least semblance of a hint that infants were ever baptized. It has been strikingly said that passages that are used by advocates of infant baptism fall into three classes. One class mentions baptism, but do not mention infants. An-other class mentions infants, but do not mention baptism. And a third class mentions neither infants nor baptism."—A Systematic Study of Bible Doctrine, p. 348.

      If one tries to force a Scripture to say something that was not in the mind of the Divine Penman in giving that Scripture, then it is going to twist that Scripture out of its context, and throw it out of harmony with all the rest of the Word. The result can only be misinterpretation and confusion to all that accept that wrested interpretation. Someone has well said that, "We must let Scripture say what it means to say."

      Finally, this Law of Address also concerns the question of When, or Under what circumstances was the Scripture in question spoken? For circumstances may have a great bearing upon the meaning of a verse or passage of Scripture. We may illustrate this from an event in Paul’s life. In I Cor. 2:2 Paul declared, "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." Some people, not considering the attendant circumstances, have considered this as justifying them in preaching nothing of a doctrinal nature at any time, but as encouraging only evangelistic messages. But such was not Paul’s meaning nor was this his practice, for he preached very strongly doctrinal mess-ages, even to the carnal Corinthians. The circumstances of the writing of these words show that when Paul came to Corinth to preach the Gospel, he was at the lowest ebb of his ministerial life, for he had just had one of the most serious setbacks of his whole life. Comparison of I Cor. 2 with Acts 17:16-18:1 reveals that while at Athens before coming to Corinth, Paul had preached the Gospel. But he had evidently tried to preach it to the Athenians, not in its native simplicity, but in contemporary intellectual terms in accordance with the intellectualism of the Athenians. He had done so, even to the point of quoting heathen poets in substantiation of it, Acts 17:28-29. The result had been that at Athens, Paul’s preaching was less successful than at any other place that he preached. It was, in fact, almost a dismal failure, for only a handful of people were converted. And if there was even enough for a church to be organized there, no mention is ever made of it. This was what caused Paul to make the statement of I Cor. 2:2. He simply meant that henceforth when he preached the Gospel, it would be in the simplicity of the Gospel, and not in "in excellency of speech or of wisdom," as was done to the intellectuals in Athens, I Cor. 2:1.

      Much of the New Testament is quoted from the Old Testament, and is only fully understood if we consider the circumstances of the original text. Therefore, it is very important in endeavoring to interpret any passage of Scripture to consider the circum-stances attending the giving of the original statement.

    17. THE LAW OF FIRST MENTION.

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      Everything that God would have man to know and understand is revealed at some point in Scripture, and generally every doctrine has at least one definitive passage that clearly expresses that doctrine, or that aspect of the doctrine that is dealt with there. Very seldom is anything of any major importance mentioned in the Word but that it is some-where clearly explained. And very often the definitive passage is the first reference in Scrip-ture that relates to that particular word or doctrine. So that when we find the first mention of anything in Scripture, we ought to give special heed to it, for it will probably be funda-mental to the right understanding and interpretation of it.

      God has revealed His will in the Word, not concealed it, and God is a God of orderli-ness, not confusion, I Cor. 14:33, 40, and therefore we may expect to find Him explaining all things that pertain to us in some place in His Word. If a given doctrine is not explained in the text we are studying, then we need to refer to all collateral passages, with special study given to the first appearance of that word or doctrine, for this is often where we will find it most fully defined. However, we must not neglect subsequent mentions of a word or doctrine, for these often give further information about it that will be important also.

      We cite as an illustration of this, the numerous references to the resurrection of Jesus, that it was to take place after a stay in the tomb of three days. Many scholars—some of them quite fundamental—have said that this could not be taken as meaning a literal seventy-two hours. They think this because they misunderstand upon which "preparation of the sabbath" Jesus was crucified, for if this was the preparation of the weekly sabbath, then He was indeed crucified upon Friday. And, according to Jewish methods of reckoning time, one complete twenty-four hour day, plus the last part of another day, plus the starting of a third day could be accounted three days. Thus, it is possible, according to this interpretation, for Jesus to have only been in the tomb for a total of some twenty-six hours. It is on the basis of these things that the religious world almost unanimously holds to a "Good Friday" crucifixion. It inherited this view from tradition.

      It must be said that of the references to Jesus’ stay in the tomb, seven of the eight references in the Four Gospels are somewhat vague, and only speak of His resurrection being "in three days," or "after three days." But the one remaining reference to this is the first reference, and is the one that defines all the others. "For as Jonas was three days and three night in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth," Matt. 12:40. There is no way possible for this to be applied to a mere twenty-six hours or so. At the very least this would require a total of more than five twelve hour periods of time—either three full days and over two full nights, or vice versa, which would amount to a minimum of over sixty hours. So, if this is not true, then there is a glaring mistake in Matt. 12:40.

      On the other hand, when once a definitive statement has been made about some-thing, it is no longer necessary to exactly define it each time it is subsequently spoken of, but it can be spoken of in a general way, and so it is in this matter. Matt. 12:40 defines the exact extent of Jesus’ stay in the garden tomb, while all the later references are general statements that refer back to the definitive one. But, it may be asked, How can this be reconciled with the declaration that Jesus was crucified on the "preparation of the sab-bath"? Very simply! Every one of the Jewish feasts was considered a "sabbath" day, and each had a preparation day. Thus, it was common for there to be as many as three "sabbaths" on the week on which the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread occurred, depending upon what day of the week the Passover fell. And that Jesus was not crucified on the preparation of the weekly sabbath—Friday—is intimated by the pronoun "that" in John 19:31. "That sabbath," i.e., of the Passover, "was a high day,"—considered more holy than the weekly sabbath. This will harmonize all the data, yet will not impute error to the Word of God as the theory of a Friday Crucifixion clearly does.

      This is why it is so important that special heed be given to the initial reference to a word or doctrine in Scripture; it will probably be the definitive one, and therefore the most important one of all, and it may, and probably will, prevent the introduction of error.

      We find this Law of First Mention standing out in many places, for it is the most natural order in dealing with any matter. For it is not generally the practice for a person to speak at great length of a matter before defining and describing the matter of which he is speaking. From the standpoint of logic and good order, we naturally expect anything to be explained at its first mention.

      God must speak to man in human terms, and use a logical order of revealing His will if He would have man to understand His will, and this is exactly the case in this Law. And while we do not find much reason to trust in human reason except where it is in submission to, and directed by, the Spirit of God, yet we do believe that God has revealed His will to man in forms which are both reasonable (to faith) and logical (to the spiritual mind). This is one of the reasons why we believe that one of the basic laws of biblical inter-pretation involves giving special heed to the first mention of anything in Scripture.

      Let the reader take his concordance and run the references on a number of subjects and he will find that this is generally the case, although there are exceptions to the rule. For instance, the Book of Genesis, the meaning of which is "beginnings," opens with the laying down of numerous fundamental facts about God, man, sin, Satan, redemption, and numerous other very important facts. Without the Book of Genesis, much of the rest of the Bible would be almost totally unintelligible. Indeed, no man could understand himself and the strange predilection to sin that is universal in man, except by the first reference to sin in the Bible. We have all seen the confused attempts of psychiatrists to explain sin and evil apart from the Scriptures, which only proves to us the absolute necessity of considering the revelation that God has given about the first introduction of sin, if we would know the truth. Thus again we see the importance of the first mention of words and phrases in the Scriptures.

      This same fact holds true in the New Testament also, for the Four Gospels lay down some primary facts from which truth is progressively revealed in the remaining portions of the New Testament. For this reason Dr. Henry G. Weston wrote a book on Matthew which he termed "The Genesis Of The New Testament." From this first book of the New Testament we venture to cite a couple of illustrations of this Law of First Mention. First, it opens with an account of the birth of Him that was foreordained to be the Redeemer, I Pet. 1:18-21, and the first mention of His work is definitive, not only of it, but of the divinity of Him that would accomplish it. "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins," Matt. 1:21. "Jesus" is the Greek form of Jehoshua, a Hebrew name compounded of Jah, Jehovah, the personal name of the covenant keeping God, and hoshua, saves. Its meaning is, Jehovah is saviour. That this name was significant is shown by the conjunction "for" = because—"He shall save His people from their sins." The two subsequent verses show that it was prophesied that this would come about, not in an ordinary, but in a miraculous way—by a creative act of God, as in Jer. 31:22. Hence, we have (1) Prophecy declared. (2) The Person described. And, (3) The Propitiation defined, which would be limited to the Lord’s chosen ones—those only that would believe, as in so many subsequent texts.

      And second, but of lesser importance, but still illustrating the point. Liberals have long denied the fact of demon possession, and attributed its manifestation to mental illness, which, they arrogantly presumed, the people then were too dumb to understand, so that they attributed it to demonic activity. But the first mention in the New Testament of demon possession clearly distinguishes it from lunacy, or mental illness. "And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils [demons], and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them," Matt. 4:24. Here were actually four classes distinguished one from another: (1) Those with physical sicknesses. (2) Demon possessed. (3) Lunatics, or those with mental illnesses. And, (4) Those with palsy, or paralytics. No right method of interpretation could ever confound these with one another. Thus, by simply applying this Law of First Mention, no one would ever have tried to make it appear that demon possession was simply the ignorant masses’ superstitious view of mental illness.

      It has been evidenced time without number that when wrong methods of interpret-ation of Scripture are applied, an erroneous conclusion will be drawn. If the interpreter is yet in unbelief, or if he has a bias against the truth, the evil will be compounded. First principles must be sound, else nothing can be sound.

    19. THE LAW OF THE ANALOGY OF THE FAITH.

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      Here again we consider a Law that is related to a former Law, though of a much greater comprehensiveness. Law Seven dealt with Collateral Reference—i. e., with the con-sideration of related subjects within the same general subject matter. We observed then that there must be general agreement between the divisions of any subject if they are both true. But now we must go yet further and consider that if the Scriptures are indeed a revelation from God, given to reveal His will for man, then they must all harmonize with one another. Any time that one of our interpretations contradicts another interpretation, there is evidence that either one or both of them are false, for the perfect and holy God cannot give an imperfect or false revelation. Man does so with his interpretations, his translations, and in other ways, but God cannot be blamed for that. "The Analogy Of The Faith" used to be commonly spoken of by the theologians, but few people today know what this means.

      By "Analogy of the Faith" is meant the harmonious interrelationship of all doctrines within the compass of the Scriptures. Bible doctrines do not clash with, nor contradict one another, but they constitute one single complex system of truth. It is this that is called in Scripture "The Faith," for there is a vast difference between the verb to believe, or, to have faith, and the noun "the faith," which is the object to which the believer’s faith is to be directed. T. T. Eaton very ably brought out this difference almost a century ago.

      "New Testament faith is far more than the mere acceptance of certain teachings. Faithing [sic] is more than believing. A man might believe everything in the Bible, from lid to lid, and still be lost. Gospel faith is a heart trust in Christ as Saviour and Lord, the heart including the will, so that action follows…What we are to believe, what we are to be and what we are to do ‘according to the Scriptures’—this is ‘the faith’ which was delivered once for all and for which we are to ‘contend earnestly’—epi-agonize…The Greek is epagonizesthai,—epi-agonize—and it is the strongest word in any language, so far as I know, to express intensity of struggle. It occurs in the New Testament only here [i. e., in Jude 3—DWH]. We are to agonize to enter the straight gate [Luke 13:24—DWH], but we are to epi-agonize for ‘the faith once for all delivered unto the saints.’ This, then, is the supreme struggle of our existence. It is more important that ‘the faith’ be maintained than anything else, yea, than even our own salvation as individuals. We are to agonize for the latter but to epi-agonize for the former."—Faith And The Faith, pp. 35, 45, 48-49.

      The Law of the Analogy Of The Faith requires that any interpretation which is put upon any word, verse or doctrine in the Scriptures be in harmony with the general body of truth throughout the remainder of the Scriptures. No interpretation can be tolerated that antagonizes with any other portion of the Word, or with the whole of it. The importance of this Law is to be seen in that when a misinterpretation is put upon one portion of the Word, it throws that portion out of harmony with another portion. This then requires the adjust-ing of the interpretation of the second portion, which therefore is thrown out of harmony with a third portion, and so on ad infinitum. Error is always progressive and nowhere is this more evident than where the error is in Bible Interpretation.

      Once again, this makes it manifest that the sound Bible student can be neither lazy or careless, for there must be a thorough knowledge of all Bible doctrine in order to put this Law into effect. Thus also there is again brought forth the fact that the right method of Bible interpretation involves a great deal of "comparing spiritual things with spiritual."

      The Christian religion is not a bunch of isolated doctrines gathered into one inhar-monious and jangling system, but it has one great central focus, around which all things in it revolve, and that center is Christ. It is interesting to note that inasmuch as the sun is the center of our own solar system, so Christ is sometimes referred to as the "Sun," and other such terms which suggest that He is the center of the spiritual world. Scripture reveals Christ in the following characters: The Creator of the World, the Sustainer of the World, the Revealer of the Father, the Redeemer of men, the Advocate with the Father, the Head of the Church, the Coming King of the World and the Judge of all men. In a word, He is the source, sustainer and end of all creation. "For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen," Rom. 11:36.

      Not only is this so, but the whole of Scripture deals with Him in a greater and lesser way. For this reason, it is written: "For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy," Rev. 19:10. This being so, it is but natural that all the doctrines of Scripture should be interrelated through the Lord Jesus, and this justifies us in always seeking to interpret all portions of the Word in harmony with all other portions of Scripture. The Bible is, as primitive converts in some lands have called it, "Jesus’ Book," for He is the central person in it, and all things contained therein are in some way related to Him. All of the doctrines of the Bible are interrelated through the Lord Jesus, and this is why there must always be a consideration of this interrelation in our interpretations of the Bible. To do otherwise is to ignore this Law of the Analogy of the Faith, and perhaps produce an antagonism between two Scripture doctrines by our interpretation.

    21. THE LAW OF DOUBLE REFERENCE.

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      It is often the case that a given passage of Scripture may have a two-fold reference, one immediate and local, and the other prophetic and far distant. When such is the case, great confusion is wrought if we do not recognize this and take into account the prophetic aspect of it. Likewise, it has sometimes been the case that individuals have refused to ac-cept the immediate and local reference, but have claimed the sole reference is to the pro-phetic and far distant. In doing so, they were able to disregard their own responsibility in the matter. Thus it was in the days of Ezekiel, for he was commissioned to say to the Israelites, "Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off. Therefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; There shall none of my words be prolonged any more, but the word which I have spoken shall be done, saith the Lord God," Ezek. 12:27-28.

      The Law of Double Reference is simply the recognition that one fulfillment of a given passage of Scripture may not exhaust its meaning, but that there may be a later, even larger fulfillment of it. This is not an uncommon thing in Scripture, but appears numerous times in both the Old and the New Testaments. This applies both to events and to people, for people often are types and foreshadowings of people. Who, for instance, would ever have imagined that there was anything more than an immediate and local reference to Isaiah and his children in the statement of Isa. 8:18. "Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts." Yet this statement is quoted in Heb. 2:13 as referring to Christ and His brethren. This is simply an instance of Double Reference, and where this is not taken into consideration, confusion may result, and there may be a failure to receive all the truth. This Law explains a number of references in the Old Testament as having a two-fold meaning and application. Doubt-less, just as Christ was prefigured by some of the Old Testament people, the Antichrist is likewise prefigured in some places by people that have long since passed off the scene.

      This Law is found especially in the prophetic portions of the Word, for prophecy is often set forth figuratively in some local events. Such a case is that which is found in our Lord’s forecasts of the destruction of Jerusalem, which came to pass in 70 A. D., which prefigures the final invasion of the Holy Land by the forces of the Antichrist, and the Great Tribulation which will then ensue. This does not in the least detract from the immediate and local fulfillment, nor does it lessen in the least the full meaning and force of the prophecy in its first fulfillment. In the case of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A. D., the prophecy was literally fulfilled, and untold thousands of Jews were slaughtered in the most cruel and barbaric manner imaginable. But this has not exhausted the prophecy, for the Book of Revelation, which was written after that event, still looks forward to an awful slaughter of both Jew and Gentile, which shall reduce the population of this globe by almost half.

      Jesus declared that "in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be," Mark 13:19. That is, the Great Tribulation will be a time of affliction that is unparalleled in history, and which shall never be approached by another for awfulness and ferocity, so that it is evident that the destruction of Jerusalem did not exhaust this prophecy. There have already been several events since which have surpassed this in awfulness. Thus, the final fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy is yet to come.

      It is the failure to take into consideration this Law of Double Reference in Biblical interpretation that has thrown off so many liberal and modernistic thinkers. For they have too often looked for an immediate and local fulfillment of certain prophecies, and when these were not literally fulfilled in the time allotted by these self-styled critics, they are accounted as failures on God’s part. Peter spoke of these scoffers in his day. "Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation," II Pet. 3:3-4. Too many people want to set a deadline for God, and if He does not fulfill His word right on their puny sched-ule, they assume that He has failed, or else that He is unable to keep His word. Or, they may look upon some immediate and local fulfillment—one that is perhaps only a partial fulfillment—and think that nothing more can come of the prophecy. But in Biblical inter-pretation, we had best remember that one of the basic laws is the Law of Double Reference, which allows for a much later, and even fuller fulfillment of a prophecy.

      We earlier cited the case of the Israelites rejecting the immediate and local applicat-ion of a prophecy, but even more common is the acceptance of the immediate and local reference, but the neglect of the fuller, more distant fulfillment. The scoffers referred to above would manifest much greater wisdom if they took heed to the warning of Hab. 2:2-3. "And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and shall not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry." This prophecy is applied to the coming of Christ at His second advent in Heb. 10:37 where these verses are quoted in part in this context. It is evident, therefore, that this prophecy had a double reference to it.

      A great deal of prophecy has this characteristic about it. Someone has likened these double references, and the fact that even the prophets themselves sometimes did not realize their double import, to the viewer of mountains who may see only a great and loft range of mountains without discerning that a broad valley lies between the foremost and those further back. Even many of the prophecies of the coming of Christ partake of this double character. One of the most outstanding illustrations of this is to be seen in the prophecy of Isa. 61:1-3, which blends elements of both Advents of Christ into one to the prophet’s eyes. Yet when Jesus took up the scroll of Isaiah and read from it in the synagogue at Nazareth, He skillfully separated the two parts of this composite prophecy. He stopped reading in the midst of the prophecy with the words "To preach the acceptable year of the Lord," then proclaimed, "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears," Luke 4:18-21. The remainder of this prophecy could not be said to be fulfilled that day, nor has it yet been fulfilled, after almost two thousand years. But it assuredly will be in due time.

      This Law of Double Reference, so far as individuals are concerned, finds numerous instances in the prophetic books. In Daniel especially we find the final Antichrist several times portrayed under the immediate and local figures of the King of Babylon, the King of Greece, the King of Syria, etc. None can deny the fulfillment that took place shortly after the prophecy was uttered. But neither had we better overlook the fact that these same prophecies also have a second, and even greater, fulfillment that is yet to come to pass in the last days in the person of the Man of Sin.

      We venture to cite yet one other instance of a double reference in what is said of an individual. In Ezek. 28, reference is made to "the King of Tyrus" in V11-19, and these words no doubt had a partial fulfillment in some man who occupied this position and held this title. Yet the language goes far beyond what could ever be applied to any man, for this one is called "the anointed cherub," V14, "the covering cherub," V16, titles that are never given to any except some of the angelic hosts. And he is said to have been in Eden, the garden of God, V13. Obviously, there must be a double reference in these verses: one to a mere man, the other to Satan himself.

      Having said all this, it is necessary to sound a warning against the innate desire to sensationalize the Word of God by trying to find out secret things. Let no Bible student be guilty of trying to manufacture some secondary fulfillment of a historical event. The only safe course is to only hold to a secondary prophetic fulfillment where later texts declare that one exists. Otherwise one can easily fall into Origin’s mistake of spiritualizing what is only intended to be taken literally.

    23. THE LAW OF DISPENSATIONALISM.

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      The word "dispensation" is derived from a Latin term which means "management" or "charge," and it refers to the Divine method of dealing with mankind and of administering the truth in different periods of time. No one can read the Scriptures without seeing that God has dealt with man differently in some ages than He has in others. This is because there are several dispensations in God’s dealings with mankind. We are now living in what is commonly called "the Dispensation of Grace," although this is not a well-chosen term. By the confession of most people that are sound on the plan of salvation, God has always dealt in grace with man, beginning in the Garden of Eden immediately after Adam and Eve fell. "The Church Dispensation" is a more fitting terminology for our present age, for it is through the Lord’s churches that God is presently dealing with mankind.

      As to the number of dispensations into which sacred history is divided, the most commonly suggested number is seven, with five of these already past, one in which we are now living, and one more that is yet future. J. R. Graves, in his rather large work on this subject (which all Christians would profit from studying) makes the following observations about these seven dispensations.

      "It strikes me that these were indicated or foreshadowed by the divisions of time. The time he allotted to himself for fitting up man’s abode he divided into seven periods, which he called seven days. Each marked a stage, or step, in the grand accomplishment, and the last marked the consummat-ion of all, and was appointed as a day of commemoration by resting. These days were seven, which is the sacred division of time. Notice how the number seven runs through the Sacred Scriptures [Here, Dr. Graves lists almost fifty times that the number seven appears significantly in Scripture] …All these point to the Seven Dispensations, or Ages, Christ appointed for the finishing of his work, and the grand and eternal Sabbatism with which it closes. What we call time is that period appointed by Christ for the accomplishment of his work, and is divided into ages, years, months, weeks, days, hours; and, when Christ’s work is completed, time will be no more, but be lost in an unmeasured eternity."—The Seven Dispensations, pp. 165, 166.

      The word "dispensation" only appears four times in the English Scriptures, viz., I Cor. 9:17; Eph. 1:10; 3:2; Col. 1:25. In these places the Greek word oikonomia seems to have rather the meaning of "stewardship," or "the management of a house," as the same Greek word means in its other appearances in Luke 16:2, 3, 4. However, the Greek word aion, which appears in the New Testament somewhat over one hundred times, and is generally translated either "world," "ever," or "evermore," is commonly conceded to have the meaning of "age" or "dispensation."

      The following Scriptures show that there are but this present age and one other to follow remaining before the fulfillment of all things in God’s great program. "And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him, but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world (Greek aion = age), neither in the world to come (literally ‘neither in the coming one’)," Matt. 12:32. "Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time (Greek kairos = time), and in the world (Greek aion = age) to come life everlasting," Luke 18:30. "Far above all princi-pality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world (Greek aion = age), but also in that which is to come (again, literally ‘the coming one’)," Eph. 1:21. Here is a present age or dispensation and one that is to come.

      But how does all this enter into the right interpretation of Scripture? It must be considered because some things of Scripture pertain only to one given dispensation, and if we try to interpret them in reference to another, there will result a great deal of confusion. Some things are applicable in all ages, for they are everlasting principles of truth and justice. Thus, for instance, the principles set forth in the Decalog or Ten Commandments, though they were first recorded in the Mosaic dispensation, are of such binding moral truth that they are in force in all ages of man’s history. It is implied in Rom. 2:14-15 that these have always been written in the human heart, even before they were written in stone upon Mount Sinai. No one can nullify these on the plea that they do not belong to the present dispensation without great harm being done to all morality, and moral order being practi-cally destroyed. No one violates the moral law with impunity, although there are some ultra-dispensationalists that claim that these are no longer in force for any but Jews.

      Without going into a study of all of these seven dispensations, and describing them in minute detail, we would observe only that three or four of them concern us in the present matter. There were many things set forth under the Typical Dispensation, for example, that were for the instruction and preparation of the nation of Israel to recognize her Messiah when He came on the scene. Consequently, those things passed away, so far as the duty to practice them was concerned, when the Son of God came and fulfilled them. They are no longer to be practiced by people today, and their main value today is in them evidencing that God had foretold and foreshadowed the coming of His Son so that men were without excuse for their failure to recognize and receive Him.

      The passing away of the Typical ministry was signified by the rending of the great veil that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place at the moment of Jesus’ death, Mark 15:37-38. To this reference is made in Heb. 10:18-20. "Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiness by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh." The veil typified Jesus’ body.

      This and numerous other Scriptures forbid us to make a practice of typical things in our form of worship today, for they were limited to the period of time ending with the death of Christ. Yet multitudes, and even whole denominations, today still incorporate some of the things of the typical dispensation into their worship in this the church dispensation, which only goes to show the great importance of considering dispensational divisions and limitations in our interpretations of the Scriptures.

      Again, some are guilty of trying to carry over into this dispensation things that had a purely Jewish application. There are many things which were commanded to Israel solely in a national way, but which are sometimes applied to believers today, as if they still were in force. To cite but one illustration. Many people, judging by modern Western customs, try to apply Deut. 22:5 to women today. This verse says: "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abominations unto the Lord thy God." It is erroneously assumed that God is here dictating fashion, and not only so, but the He wants it to conform to modern American fashion. The use of this passage is often a pretext to beat women over the head for wear-ing pants suits, and this, in spite of the fact that pants are often more decent than some dress styles, and hence, are more becoming. But the fact is, nowhere in Scripture does God ever dictate fashion. Rather, He commands that to be done which conforms to what is culturally considered decent. In some cultures what is considered a woman’s garment, may be considered a man’s garment in another. In some countries such as Scotland and Greece, kilts, or kilt-type garments are men’s garments, while in other countries, pants type garments are more a woman’s garment than a man’s. But most commonly the use of this text in preaching evidences an arrogance that would try to conform all people to modern Western customs.

      As we said before, there is no evidence that either here or elsewhere, God has ever dictated fashions. This text is more likely to have to do with the homosexual custom of men or women cross-dressing, which is a moral issue, and God often deals with moral issues in Scripture. This would be a deliberate flaunting of one’s rebellion against God’s manifest will concerning maleness and femaleness. But the issue is not the outward ap-pearance, but the inward attitude of the heart.

      That those that use Deut. 22:5 to lambaste women for the way they dress are being inconsistent and hypocritical is evident when we consider that such preachers never use any other verse in this chapter in their preaching. It is extremely doubtful that one could find any preacher that was not guilty of violating Deut. 22:7, which says "Thou shalt not wear a garment of diverse sorts, as of woollen and linen together." And in our times, there are great numbers of young women that are not virgins when they marry, yet who ever heard of a Baptist elder leading in the stoning of such. But see the duty of elders to take the lead in this in Deut. 22:13-21. And the chapter is full of numerous other things that modern preachers do not obey, so that again we say, that it is inconsistent and hypocritical to take V5 and use it to whip church members while ignoring all other verses.

      Nor does this just involve chapter 22, for all chapter and verse divisions are man-made, and there are many other things in Deuteronomy that must be applied in daily practice if 22:5 applies. There are indeed some things in Deuteronomy that are appro-priate, for our Lord Jesus quoted from this Book more than from any other, and He Himself fulfilled what was forecast in 18:15, 18-19. But many of the laws of this Book were purely national laws for Israel only, and must not be applied otherwise.

      The attempt to obligate New Testament saints to keep Old Testament ceremonial, dietary or national laws involves the failure to recognize the Law of Dispensationalism, and it will invariably bring in confusion, and will tend to legalism.

      Many that claim to be dispensationalists are actually ultra-dispensationalists, and instead of "rightly dividing the word of truth," as they claim to do, they are guilty of hacking the Word up into hamburger meat. No one is justified in doing this. Nevertheless, it is true that there are dispensational considerations that must enter into our interpretation of the Scriptures, and none can be wholly right in his views if he does not take this into account.

    25. THE LAW OF SCRIPTURE NUMEROLOGY.

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      Many of the numbers that are used in Scripture have a definite signification and importance, so that often the very number itself will suggest the general subject of the con-text in which it is used. This is but another of the many infallible proofs that God does nothing carelessly or by happen-stance, but that everything is done so as to harmonize with God’s great all-comprehensive plan and program.

      Numbers have a great significance, not only in Scripture, but in all areas of human life, there being a consistent repetition of the same number in various areas of nature, chronology, chemistry, music and otherwise. This is shown by E. W. Bullinger in his book Number in Scripture. He further observes the following.

      "We can have neither words nor works without ‘number.’ The question which we have to answer is—Is number used with design or by chance? Surely if God uses it, it must be with infinite wisdom and with glorious perfection. And so it is. Each number has its own significance; and its meaning is found to be in moral harmony and relation to the subject mat-ter in connection with which it stands. This harmony is always perfect. Every word of God’s Book is in its right place. It may sometimes seem to us to be deranged. The lock may be in one place, and the key may sometimes be hidden away elsewhere in some apparently inadvertent word or sentence."—The Word In Scripture, p. 21.

      If, therefore, in our interpretations of Scripture, we always keep in mind the signifi-cance of each number, it will help us to confirm our interpretations. Scripture numerology is not so much to be used to interpret the Scriptures, as to confirm the interpretations once they have been made, using the foregoing Laws of interpretation. We say this by way of warning, for we have read after some individuals who endeavored to make Scripture numerology the sole rule for interpreting Scripture. These have even so tried to determine which verses were genuine and which were later additions or interpolations by examining the numerical value which even the letters have. But this is a mistake that will lead to further errors. Nevertheless, where the Scriptures sets forth a definite number, it generally has as definite a significance as words themselves do.

      As an illustration of the significance of Scripture numbers, we cite the usage of the number forty. When it appears alone it almost always is used in such a way as to be related in some way to a period of probation or testing, after which there is either judgment or approval. Thus, there was rain upon the earth for forty days and forty nights before the earth was finally destroyed by the flood, Gen. 7:4, 12. And thus the children of Israel ate manna for forty years in the wilderness, Exod. 16:35. The purpose of this is expressly declared to be to prove whether they would walk in God’s law or not, Exod. 16:4. And thus Moses was in the mount with the Lord for forty days and forty night to test the Israelites, whether they would obey God as they had said that they would, Exod. 34:28. Cf. Exod 19:5-8. Thus Jesus was tested for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness before He entered upon His ministry, Matt. 4:2; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:2. And thus Jesus was seen of the disciples forty days after the resurrection before He was taken up into heaven, Acts 1:3. This characteristic about this number is so common in Scripture as to need little argument to establish this fact.

      This fact holds true for many other numbers, though not, apparently, for all numbers that appear in the Word of God. At least some numbers do not have such an apparent significance as others do. The following are some of the more common numbers, and their usual significance.

      The number one is the primary unit that goes to make up all others. It is the number of unity, and consequently it is associated with the Godhead, for God is a unity at the same time that He is a Trinity. Thus, Scripture declares: "Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one," Gal. 3:20. "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus," I Tim. 2:5.

      Often is this number used where the thought of unity is declared as in Matt. 19:5-6: "They twain shall be one flesh. Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh." "And the next day he [Moses] shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again," Acts 7:26. "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd," John 10:16. "I and my Father are one," John 10:30. "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me," John 17:21. "But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit," I Cor. 6:17. And many other such references there are which show the significance of the number one. It is such that it is incapable of division without fragment-ing it, so that it must signify unity of some sort.

      The number two has several related significances, and these are so well stated by A. W. Pink that we can do no better than to quote his words.

      "The number two, in its scriptural significations, treats of difference or division. Proof of this is found in its first occurrence in the Bible: the second day of Gen. 1 was when God divided the waters. Hence, two is the number of witness, for if the testimony of two different men agree, the truth is established. Two is therefore the number of opposition. One is the number of unity, but two brings in another, who is either in accord with the first or opposed to him. Hence, two is also the number of contrast, consequently, whenever we find two men coupled together in Scripture it is, with rare exception, for the purpose of bringing out the difference there is between them."—Gleanings In Exodus, p. 8.

      Some of the many Scriptures that bear out these things, are the following. "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other," Matt. 6:24. "But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established …Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven," Matt. 18:16, 19. "It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true," John 8:17. "And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen," Acts 1:24. "Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from mount Sinai which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar," Gal. 4:24.

      The number three is the number of manifestation, for God is manifested in the three Persons of the Trinity. Because this number does have this significance, it is also the number of the resurrection, and it appears in this connection more than in any other. The very first appearance of this number in the New Testament deals with this. "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth," Matt. 12:40. That this number is at once the number of Deity and of the resurrection is shown where these two things are brought together in Rom. 1:4. "And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." As it is several times connected with the number two as in Matt. 18:16, it shows that where there are two witnesses to the truth of a matter, three is a step forward—it is a further manifestation of the truth.

      Number four is very intimately connected with the earth, for we read of "the four winds," Mark 13:27; Rev. 7:1, "the four corners of the earth," Rev. 7:1; Isa. 11:12, "the four quarters of the earth," Rev. 20:8.

      Not only so, but even in our ordinary conversation, we often speak of the four seasons, the four directions, the four elements (i. e., earth, air, fire and water) which were formerly believed to constitute all matter. And many other such usages of the number four that associate it with the earth. Thus, four is associated with universality and com-prehensiveness. God speaks of the four judgments upon Israel in Ezek. 14:21, which were comprehensive and universal upon all Israel.

      Number five is the number associated with grace, and it often has this significance in the Scriptures. Thus, the number five is very prominent in the Tabernacle and its sacri-ficial system, for this pictured Christ in His Person and work. Just to cite one illustration of this, we find that the brazen altar measured five cubits by five cubits, Exod. 27:1-2, which would signify that only by grace can man approach God. This is exactly what was wrought at the cross, and it is conceded by almost all typologists that the brazen altar did typify the work of Christ upon the cross. God had said of this brazen altar that "there will I meet with the children of Israel," Exod. 29:43, which shows that Christ is alone the way of approach to the Father, harmonizing with Eph. 2:5, 8: "By grace ye are saved."

      Number six is man’s number in Scripture, for man was created on the sixth day of the creation week, Gen. 1:26-31. And six days are given to man out of each seven, but the seventh is reserved for the Lord, Exod. 20:9-11. Nor is this number just associated with man in Scripture, for even worldly men unwittingly associate the number with man.

      "Six is the number of man. It was on the sixth day that man was created (Gen. 1:26, 31). Six days are the span of man’s weekly labor (Exod. 20:9). It is striking how prominent is this numeral in the measure which man uses in connection with his labors: each of the following is a multiple of six. There are twelve inches to the foot: eighteen to the cubit: thirty-six to the yard. It is thus with man’s divisions of time. The day has twenty-four hours, each of these is made up of sixty minutes, and these of sixty seconds. It is remarkable there are just six words in the Bible for ‘man’—four in the Hebrew and two in the Greek. How fitting that He who took the place of sinful man was crucified at the sixth hour (John 19:14)!"—A. W. Pink, Gleanings In Exodus, p. 222.

      Not only so, but when the Antichrist comes upon the scene, he shall have "the number of a man," Rev. 13:18, but his number is 666—man’s number raised to the third power, for he will be a deified man. And there is an interesting picture of the natural man to be seen in the six pots in John 2:1-11 for they were cold and empty until the power of the Master entered the picture. When, at His command, they were filled with water (symbolic of the Word of God, Eph. 5:26), this was miraculously changed into wine, and therefore made to be a blessing, Ps. 104:15. And there are other symbolisms here as well.

      Number seven is the number of Divine completeness, for on the seventh day God rested from all His works, Gen. 2:2. In the New Testament this number appears more times in the Book of Revelation than in all the rest of the New Testament together. And this is as it should be, for Revelation is the final Book of the Bible, and it reveals God’s final dealings with mankind. Here we read of seven churches, seven spirits of God, seven golden candlesticks, seven stars, seven seals, seven horns, seven eyes, seven angels, seven trumpets, seven thunders, seven heads, seven last plagues, seven golden vials, seven mountains, seven kings and seven new things. Wherever this number appears, it is more likely to have a spiritual significance than almost any other number in all of Scriptural numerology.

      The number eight has the significance of new beginnings, for it follows after seven, the number of completeness. It was on the day after the sabbath—on the eighth day, in other words—that Jesus rose from the dead, Mark 16:1-8, as was typified in Lev. 23:10-11. And from the time of the resurrection of Jesus onward, He always met with His disciples on the eighth day. This signified that the Jewish sabbath had ceased to be the day of worship, and that a new beginning had dawned, wherein the eighth day—Sunday—would henceforth be the day of worship in commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection.

      Again, it was Noah, the eighth person, as he is called in II Pet. 2:5, that re-peopled the earth after the flood, and so, was a new beginning of the human race. In Rev. 17:11 one of the beasts is seen to be at once an eighth, yet one of the seven, which shows that it is but the revived form of one of the former kingdoms.

      Finally, eternity itself will be, in effect, an eighth age after seven ages, or dispensat-ions, in which God has dealt with mankind, but this "new beginning" will be an endless age —the "age of ages" as the Greek text calls it in several places. See Eph. 3:21; Phil 4:20; I Tim. 1:17; Rev. 20:10, et al.

      The number nine is not so prominent in symbolic language as some of the foregoing numbers, and consequently, is not so easy to determine its import. It is more commonly used as an ordinal, or else with other numbers. E. W. Bullinger says of it:

      "The number nine is a most remarkable number in many respects. It is held in great reverence by all who study the occult sciences; and in mathe-matical science it possesses properties and powers which are found in no other number. It is the last of the digits, and thus marks the end; and is significant of the conclusion a matter. It is akin to the number six, six being the sum of its factors (3 X 3 = 9, and 3 + 3 = 6), and is thus significant of the end of man, and the summation of all man’s works. Nine is, therefore, THE NUMBER OF FINALITY OR JUDGMENT."—Number In Scripture, p. 235.

      The number ten, on the other hand, is clearly significant of human responsibility. Thus, we have the Ten Commandments, which clearly set forth human duty to God and to man. Abraham pleaded with God for Sodom until he had gotten God’s promise that for even ten righteous persons’ sakes He would not destroy the city. For Abraham felt that Lot would have been responsible enough that at least ten righteous persons could be found in his family alone, should there be none others in the city, Gen. 18:32. By comparison with Gen. 19, it is evident that Lot and his wife had two virgin daughters, V8, plus at least two married daughters and their husbands (4 people), V14, plus at least two sons, V12, so that this totaled at least ten people. Alas, most of them were not righteous as Abraham had expected, and as his house was, Gen. 18:19. And Lot’s testimony was so indecisive that we could not know that he was truly saved but for the testimony of II Pet. 2:7-8.

      And there were ten lepers cleansed, yet only one returned to give thanks to God, Luke 17:12-18. There were ten virgins tested by the coming of Christ, Matt. 25:1. Ten servants were tested by their master as to their faithfulness, Luke 19:11-27. There were ten plagues upon Egypt to test that nation as to its responsibility to obey God’s command to release Israel.

      The number eleven is another number which is not so clearly significant as many others, yet it may be that the symbolic import of it of lies in the numbers whose sum adds up to eleven, as suggested by some. In Exod 26:9, the curtains of the Tabernacle, being eleven in number, are coupled five and six to the piece, which seems to bear this out. Evidently there is a spiritual import to this number, for it is used in several contexts in reference to the building of the Tabernacle, and also in some of the offerings.

      Finally, twelve is the number that is associated with Divine Government, there being twelve tribes of Israel, over which twelve apostles are to rule on twelve thrones in a coming day. This number is quite prominent in Revelation, there being twelve thousand sealed out of each of the twelve tribes of Israel, and there being a crown of twelve stars upon the woman’s head, Rev. 12:1. And the New Jerusalem has twelve gates with twelve angels, twelve foundations and standing twelve thousand furlongs square. Then the tree of life bears twelve manner of fruits during the twelve months of each year.

      There are other numbers that have symbolic value in Scriptural interpretation, but the meaning of all others will be chiefly determined by the combined meanings of the numbers of which they are made up. These things, if studied in connection with the other Laws of Bible Interpretation have considerable interpretive value, and cannot be ignored without lessening the effectiveness of one’s interpretation.

    27. THE LAW OF PRACTICALITY.

    28.  

       
       
       
       
       

      By this we mean to consider, What are the practical effects of our interpretation? For if our method of interpretation is speculative only, and does not eventuate in practical Christian living, it is evident that something is wrong in our system of interpretation. One of the great errors of the Pharisaical system of Bible interpretation was that it had no good practical effects. Jesus’ charge against the scribes and Pharisees was that: "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they them-selves will not move them with one of their fingers," Matt. 23:2-4. In other words, these religious hypocrites did not have a practical system of interpretation, or else they did not apply it to themselves personally, for their beliefs had no bearing on their behavior. Belief must have a corresponding behavior, else one’s profession is nothing but empty hypocrisy.

      After we have arrived at an apparently sound interpretation of a passage of Scrip-ture, it would be well for us if we would always pause a moment before endorsing it, and consider what the practical effects of that interpretation will be in our own, and in our children’s and grandchildren’s lives. Especially so the latter two classes, for we may adopt an erroneous interpretation of a Scripture, yet not be greatly led astray in practice because we hold truths that are off-setting to the error, so that we are hindered from any great departure from the truth. But our children or others under our influence may not have those truths that would serve as an antidote to the error, and they may quickly go to the depths of error under the guidance of that erroneous interpretation. Often it takes two or three generations to fully manifest the tendency of some erroneous interpretations. This is why sects, that may have been started by genuinely pious men, but men with an erroneous system of interpretation, may not get so far astray in doctrine as they do when the man or men of the first generation of the sect passes off the scene. Their successors, without the hindrances of sound doctrines that the founders may have had, quickly degeneration into a full-blown heresy that has no redeeming features.

      The Law of Practicality will ask of a given interpretation, "Whom does this view glorify—God or Man?" Man’s chief purpose for existence upon earth is the praise and glory of God, and if his method of interpretation does not lead him to do this, something is wrong with it. A secondary purpose of man’s existence on earth as a Christian is that he may lead others to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus, and then to build them up in this most holy faith, so that they will obediently serve Him. Thus, another question to ask is, "Does this interpretation build up others in the faith, or does it seduce them from the faith?" Paul was moved to solemnly warn that in the end of this age there would be persons that would lead others astray by false and pernicious doctrines. "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils," I Tim. 4:1. "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables," II Tim. 4:3-4.

      It is interesting to notice that this building up, or edification, as Scripture terms it, is always in the context of the local church. Using a concordance, one will find that this is always the case. Hence, one must always be very wary about any private "Bible study" groups that are not sponsored by, and under church authority. Often Satan uses sincere, but misguided people to sow discord and division in churches by secretly insinuating error through their misinterpretations. God is never the author of any such confusion and disorder, I Cor. 14:33, 40. God’s will is for glory to come to Him through His churches, Eph. 3:21, not in some parallel and even contra-congregational work.

      The Law of Practicality will also consider whether a given interpretation elevates the carnal pride of man, or whether it humbles him, and makes him more trustful of the Lord. "Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord," Prov. 16:5, and therefore, a system of interpretation that conduces to fleshly pride, though it may make man feel very good about himself, is clearly one that is contrary to the Lord’s will. This is always the aim of all Humanism and Arminianism, which gives evidence that neither of these is of God. Man has no right to try to elevate himself so that he can glory in himself. God alone has the right to elevate man, and He always does this by first humbling man. "Before honor is humility," Prov. 15:33. "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time," I Pet. 5:6. We are presently in the time of humility. Glory for the Lord’s people is not to come until after the Lord’s return.

      Again, it must be considered whether the tendency of a given interpretation is toward personal gain, for some people always interpret Scripture with an eye as to how they will be personally profited thereby. The Cross is not in their minds so much as the dollar sign is. Paul spoke of some who are "men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself," I Tim. 6:5. It would be much better for the Christian in the day of rewarding if he had always been willing rather to suffer a personal loss in order to be sure that he was doing God’s will, than for him to give himself the benefit of the doubt, and interpret Scripture only in a way that personally profits him. In the former case, God will make sure that no person ever really loses by "denying himself," for this is the requirement for discipleship, Matt. 16:24. But those that always interpret Scripture with a view to personal profit, will find their losses at the judgment seat of Christ when their worldliness and selfishness is manifested.

      Christianity is a practical religion, and God’s Revelation to man is a practical Revel-ation. There is nothing speculative or theoretical about it. For "the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ," Tit. 2:11-13. If our interpretation of any given passage does not square with this requirement, then our interpretation is evidently not founded upon the grace of God.

      The very commission that was given to the New Testament Church involves the res-ponsibility to make certain that our interpretations are practical, for the fourth part of this commission is "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you," Matt. 28:20. Here, the word rendered "to observe" (Greek tereo) is more commonly translated "to keep," and thus it deals with the practical aspect of Bible doctrine—the put-ting into practice what we are taught from the Scriptures. Yet, it is obvious that very few Christians, comparatively speaking, are putting into practice the things that they profess.

      Doubtless, many false and erroneous and hurtful interpretations could be elimi-nated from the very onset, if every Bible student, even as he sits before his open Bible, would consider what the practical effects of his interpretations would be ere he proclaims them to the world. One of the great tragedies of Christianity is that entirely too many pro-fessed Christians are Christians only in theory and profession, and not in practice. Little wonder that so few people have any respect for Christianity today. Hypocrisy—divorcing practice from profession—always brings Christianity into contempt.

    29. THE LAW OF PROGRESSIVE REVELATION.
By this we mean that the Bible was written over a long period of time, and not until toward the end of the first century of the Christian era was the canon of the Scriptures completed and closed. And it was often the case that later inspired utterances supplement-ed and interpreted the earlier ones. The words of B. H. Carroll are to the point here. "There is a growth in the Bible in two respects: (1) There is a growth in the adding of document to document for at least 1,600 years. Hence the simple or primary part of speech will appear in the earlier documents; the more expanded and recondite may come out only in the later. (2) There is a growth also in adding fact to fact, and truth to truth, whereby doctrines that at first come out only in the bud are in the end expanded into full bloom. At its commencement the Bible chooses and points the all-suffici-ent root from which all doctrines may germinate. The root is God. In him inhere all the virtues that can create and uphold a world, and therefore in the knowledge of him are involved the doctrines that can instruct and edify the intelligent creature. Hence the elementary form of a doctrine will be found in the older parts of Scripture; the more developed form in the later books. This gives rise to two similar rules of interpretation. The meaning of a word or phrase in a later book of Scripture is not to be transferred to an earlier book, unless required by the context. The form of a doctrine in a subsequent part of the Bible must not be taken to be as fully developed in a preceding part without the warrant of usage and the context."—An Inter-pretation of the English Bible, Vol. I, p. 31. As an example of this law we cite the utterances of the Old Testament prophets, which are often considered today to have been statements which had application only to those persons to whom they were immediately delivered, and whose subjects were only historic persons and events then existing. But the New Testament Scriptures speak other-wise when they show that these were often forecasts of things to come. "Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days," Acts 3:24. Again, for many hundreds of years few men saw in the Psalms anything more important than David’s records of his own trials and afflictions, and his conduct under them. But the New Testament reveals the prophetic import of them. "Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption," Acts 2:30-31.

The Book of Hebrews is a prime example of this also, for it is, in effect, a commen-tary on the whole sacrificial system in the Old Testament, and much of the Pentateuch cannot rightly be understood without reference to it. In the Pentateuch the type was set forth, while in Hebrews the type is explained, and the antitype is presented. But not alone the book of Hebrews, but all of the New Testament sustains this character of an interpretat-ion of the Old Testament, and it has been rightly observed of the relationship of these two divisions of the Bible by Sidney Collett that—

"The New is in the Old contained,

While the Old is by the New explained.

Or—

The New is in the Old concealed,

While the Old is by the New revealed.

Or again—

The New is enfolded in the Old,

While the Old is unfolded by the New.

—All About The Bible, p. 169.

But this is not to say that there will yet be further revelations given, for it is clear to all who will see, that the Scriptures have now been completed and closed for some twenty centuries, and no one is warranted in looking for further revelations. It is true that there have been new books produced that claimed to be additional revelations from God, but without exception, all these bear upon their very faces the evidence that they are but human productions, or at least, that the inspiring spirit is not from God. Any time men are not content to worship and serve God according to what He has revealed in Scripture, Satan will give them a "bible" to suit their depraved tastes in false worship. Sometimes he does this only by giving a false interpretation. And then sometimes he does it by actually bringing into existence such a book as Science and Health, With Key To The Scriptures, the book of Mormon, and other such false "bibles." It is sad, but true, that when men love their sin and self-will so much that they refuse to believe the truth that they might be saved, then God turns them over to themselves, and to deluding spirits that they might be deceiv-ed by lies, Rom. 1:21-28; II Thes. 2:10-12. This latter passage, while having primary application to those that shall be deceived by the Antichrist—the Arch-liar—has yet been fulfilled in a general way millions of times in the past by false prophets and false preachers and teachers. But a very solemn warning is given about meddling with God’s Word in Rev. 22:18-19. "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."

Some men might debate whether this had applicability to any part of the Bible other than the book of Revelation. But before one begins to argue the matter, he had best remember that on the basis of these verses themselves, he may be gambling his own eternal destiny in doing so. The Book of Revelation is a very fitting summary and close, not only to the New Testament, but also to the whole Bible, and there is certainly nothing lacking in the whole Bible of man’s spiritual needs, nor of how man’s needs may be met. The only things that man could henceforth desire to have revealed to him, are things that contribute nothing really important or needful to his spiritual being or welfare. Further revelations could be desired only through curiosity about hidden things that God has not seen fit to reveal to man.

CONCLUSION: Some of the world’s greatest heresies have come into existence because men ignored basic laws of Bible interpretation. Indeed, it is questionable whether there would ever have been a single heresy if men had always rightly interpreted Scripture. Heresy only comes in because someone has failed to "handle aright the Word of Truth." Of course, much heresy has been introduced by unsaved men who had no spiritual under-standing, but much error has also been introduced into the religious world by ignorant and ill-grounded believers that failed to "rightly divide the Word of Truth." Hence, we see the very great importance of right methods of Bible interpretation.

—O—

Source of Origin: http://www.woosterbaptisttemple.org/

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