This series of 26 lessons was developed for classroom presentation from the book by David Miller that should be required reading for every preacher, elder, and Bible school teacher in the Lord’s church: “Piloting The Strait”. This book is available from a variety of bookstores, Sain Publications at www.sainpublicans.com as well as from David Miller at www.apologeticspress.org.
CHANGES IN THE CHURCH
MECHANISM FOR CHANGE - HERMENEUTICS
Principles of Hermeneutics
II Timothy 3:16-17 “ALL SCRIPTURE is GIVEN BY INSPIRATION OF GOD, AND is PROFITABLE FOR DOCTRINE, FOR REPROOF, FOR CORRECTION, FOR INSTRUCTION IN RIGHEOUSNESS: THAT THE MAN OF GOD MAY BE PERFECT, THOROUGHLY FURNISHED UNTO ALL GOOD WORKS.”
After spending the lesson just completed looking at our Lord’s tremendous example of hermeneutical application we will turn now to some simple principles that we must all remember in order to properly interpret and apply the Bible to our lives.
1. Absolute, objective truth exists and can be attained.
The human mind can come to a knowledge of that truth. Many theologians today are maintaining that truth is subjective and relative. The people who would give us a “new hermeneutic” (one that Jesus wouldn’t recognize by the way) claim that a circle is set up between interpreter and text, each interpreting the other in an ongoing process with the interpreter’s presuppositions determining the meanings that he would draw from the text. In other words, we can interpret it pretty much any old way we want too, and a lot of people do. But Jesus said:
Matthew 4:4 “BUT HE ANSWERED AND SAID, IT IS WRITTEN, MAN SHALL NOT LIVE BY BREAD ALONE, BUT BY EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDETH OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)
John 8:31-32 “THEN SAID JESUS TO THOSE JEW WHICH BELIEVED ON HIM, IF YE CONTINUE IN MY WORD, then ARE YE MY DISCIPLES INDEED; AND YE SHALL KNOW THE TRUTH, AND THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOUR FREE.” (Also note that our discipleship is conditional upon knowing and continuing in God’s Word.)
John 7:16-17 “JESUS ANSWERED THEM, AND SAID, MY DOCTRINE IS NOT MINE, BUT HIS THAT SENT ME. IF ANY MAN WILL DO HIS WILL, HE SHALL KNOW OF THE DOCTRINE, WHETHER IT BE OF GOD, OR whether I SPEAK OF MYSELF.” (This body of teaching, doctrine that Jesus has provided us is not his but belongs to God the father.)
John 6:44-45 “NO MAN CAN COME TO ME, EXCEPT THE FATHER WHICH HATH SENT ME DRAW HIM: AND I WILL RAISE HIM UP AT THE LAST DAY. IT IS WRITTEN IN THE PROPHETS, AND THEY SHALL BE ALL TAUGHT OF GOD. EVERY MAN THEREFORE THAT HATH HEARD, AND HATH LEARNED OF THE FATHER, COMETH UNTO ME.” (Isaiah 54:13, Jeremiah 31:34, Micah 4:2)
Yes, God has provided us with a body of absolute, undeniable truth that if we will but believe and follow; will provide a road map to the heavenly reward we seek in the great here after.
2. In order to arrive at God’s truth, we must reason correctly.
We must use our God-given talents and ability to reason clearly, accurately and logically in our treatment of Scripture. When Paul was brought before Felix in Acts 24:25 “AND AS HE REASONED OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, TEMPERANCE, AND JUDGMENT TO COME, FELIX TREMBLED, AND ANSWERED, BY THY WAY FOR THIS TIME; WHEN I HAVE A CONVENIENT SEASON, I WILL CALL FOR THEE.” And then again when he defended himself again before both Festus and Agrippa; the following exchange of words are found in Acts 26:24-25 “AND AS HE THUS SPAKE FOR HIMSELF, FESTUS SAID WITH A LOUD VOICE, PAUL, THOU ARE BESIDE THYSELF, MUCH LEARNING DOTH MAKE THEE MAD. BUT HE SAID, I AM NOT MAD, MOST NOBLE FESTUS; BUT SPEAK FORTH THE WORDS OF TRUTH AND SOBERNESS.”
II Timothy 2:15 “STUDY TO SHOW THYSELF APPROVED UNTO GOD, A WORKMAN THAT NEEDETH NOT TO BE ASHAMED, RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORD OF TRUTH.” (another translation makes it even more clear for instead of “rightly dividing” it reads “handling aright”.
I Thessalonians 5:21 “PROVE ALL THINGS; HOLD FAST THAT WHICH IS GOOD.” (We are to prove all things; you are to prove the things that I, Darwin, Mike, Charles, or anyone else tells or teaches you to make sure that they’re telling you the truth.) Even when after a while you learn that we would not willing lead you astray, you still need to make sure we don’t - read and study for yourself.
I Timothy 1:8 “BUT WE KNOW THAT THE LAW is GOOD, IF A MAN USE IT LAWFULLY.” (And finally we’re admonished to use the law of God lawfully, the other side of that is that if we do not use the law of God lawfully then it is not good. The law doesn't change but we change because we use it wrong.)
3. Learning what God wants us to know requires effort.
We must be willing to spend the time and trouble to carefully, prayerfully and diligently analyze and examine God’s words.
Hebrews 11:6 “BUT WITHOUT FAITH it is IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE him: FOR HE THAT COMETH TO GOD MUST BELIEVE THAT HE IS, AND THAT HE IS A REWARDER OF THEM THAT DILIGENTLY SEEK HIM.”
Not only in the New Testament but the Old Testament as well, seeking and understanding the nature of our God and his relationship with mankind was commanded.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 “AND THESE WORDS, WHICH I COMMAND THEE THIS DAY, SHALL BE IN THINE HEART: AND THOU SHALT TEACH THEM DILIGENTLY UNTO THEY CHILDREN, AND SHALT TALK OF THEM WHEN THOU SITTEST IN THINE HOUSE, AND WHEN THOU WALKEST BY THE WAY, AND WHEN THOU LIEST DOWN, AND WHEN THOU RISETH UP. AND THOU SHALT BIND THEM FOR A SIGN UPON THINE HAND, AND THEY SHALL BE AS FRONTLETS BETWEEN THINE EYES. AND THOU SHALT WRITE THEM UPON THE POSTS OF THY HOUSE, AND ON THY GATES.”
Acts 17:11 “THESE WERE MORE NOBLE THAN THOSE IN THESSALONICA, IN THAT THEY RECEIVED THE WORD WITH ALL READINESS OF MIND, AND SEARCHED THE SCRIPTURES DAILY, WHETHER THOSE THINGS WERE SO.” (Search the scriptures, even if the speaker was the apostle himself. and how often did they do this? DAILY)
4. We must recognize that there are incorrect interpretations.
False teachers do exist who misrepresent God’s word and deceive people with incorrect interpretations.
II Corinthians 4:1-2 “THEREFORE SEEING WE HAVE THIS MINISTRY, AS WE HAVE RECEIVED MERCY, WE FAINT NOT; BUT HAVE RENOUNCED THE HIDDEN THINGS OF DISHONESTY, NOT WALKING IN CRAFTINESS, NOR HANDLING THE WORD OF GOD DECEITFULLY, BUT BY MANIFESTATION OF THE TRUTH COMMENDING OURSELVES TO EVERY MAN’S CONSCIENCE IN THE SIGHT OF GOD.”
Acts 20:30 “ALSO OF YOUR OWN SELVES SHALL MEN ARISE, SPEAKING PERVERSE THINGS, TO DRAW AWAY DISCIPLES AFTER THEM.”
Galatians 1:6-7 “I MARVEL THAT YE ARE SO SOON REMOVED FROM HIM THAT CALLED YOU INTO THE GRACE OF CHRIST UNTO ANOTHER GOSPEL: WHICH IS NOT ANOTHER; BUT THERE BE SOME THAT TROUBLE YOU, AND WOULD PERVERT THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST.”
II Peter 3:16 Speaking of Paul’s writing “AS ALSO IN ALL his EPISTLES, SPEAKING IN THEM OF THESE THINGS; IN WHICH ARE SOME THINGS HARD TO BE UNDERSTOOD, WHICH THEY THAT ARE UNLEARNED AND UNSTABLE WREST, AS they do ALSO THE OTHER SCRIPTURES, UNTO THEIR OWN DESTRUCTION.”
II Peter 2:1 “BUT THERE WERE FALSE PROPHETS ALSO AMONG THE PEOPLE, EVEN AS THERE SHALL BE FALSE TEACHERS AMONG YOU, WHO PRIVILY SHALL BRING IN DAMNABLE HERESIES, EVEN DENYING THE LORD THAT BOUGHT THEM, AND BRING UPON THEMSELVES SWIFT DESTRUCTION.”
Jesus warns us as well, in the same discourse where he teaches us to judge properly by telling us that by their fruits you shall know them and when we couple that rightly with John we can know and understand what righteous judgment is.
Matthew 7:15 “BEWARD OF FALSE PROPHETS, WHICH COME TO YOU IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING, BUT INWARDLY THEY ARE RAVENING WOLVES.”
So it is clear that the New Testament warns of false interpretations and misrepresentations of God’s word and what it says applies to today as well as throughout all time.
5. We must remain within the framework of Scripture.
Deuteronomy 4:2 “YE SHALL NOT ADD UNTO THE WORD WHICH I COMMAND YOU, NEITHER SHALL YE DIMINSH ought FROM IT, THEY YE MAY KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS OF THE LORD YOUR GOD WHICH I COMMAND YOU.”
Proverbs 30:5-6 “EVERY WORD OF GOD is PURE: HE is A SHIELD UNTO THEM THAT PUT THEIR TRUST IN HIM. ADD THOU NOT UNTO HIS WORDS, LEST HE REPROVE THEE, AND THOU BE FOUND A LIAR.”
I Corinthians 4:6 (ASV) “NOW THESE THINGS, BRETHREN, I HAVE IN A FIGURE TRANFERRED TO MYSELF AND APOLLOS FOR YOUR SAKES; THAT IN US YE MIGHT LEARN NOT TO GO BEYOND THE THINGS WHICH ARE WRITTEN; THAT NO ONE OF YOU BE PUFFED UP FOR THE ONE AGAINST THE OTHER.”
Remaining within the framework of Scripture requires a proper recognition and application of the “silence” of the Scriptures as well as what it says. This misunderstanding occurs in two ways: (1) some reason that if the Bible is silent concerning a particular practice (and therefore does not explicitly condemn it), they are free to engage in that practice; (2) others reason that if the Bible does not mention a practice, then they are not free to engage in that practice. One of the laws of logic is that a truth that is absolute will be true in all applications not just one or two. Neither of these two suppositions is true. Examples:
(1) If we are indeed free to engage in any practice not specifically forbidden in Scripture; we could then shoot ourselves full of heroin and not be in violation of God’s law couldn’t we? But we know that this isn’t true as there are any number of Scriptures that with correct reasoning and right application tell us that this practice is sin; so there must be something wrong with our supposition.
(2) The second of our two suppositions requires
that something be specifically authorized in Scripture before we can practice
it. But what about having a church
building? Hebrews 10:25ff teaches us
that to habitually forsake the assembling of the saints is a symptom of a
sin-sick soul. Doesn’t that imply that
we must have a place to assemble? Doesn’t it make sense that the place we
assemble should provide us with some protection from the elements; I mean it
might be nice to meet out under the trees on a nice spring or fall day but what
about mid-January in
6. We must have the right mindset; the right attitude.
We must have the desire to know the will of God and an honest heart to accept the truth no matter how difficult the demands of that truth might be.
Matthew 5:6 “BLESSED ARE THEY WHICH DO HUNGER AND THIRST AFTER RIGHTEOUSNESS FOR THEY SHALL BE FILLED.”
II Thessalonians 2:8-10 “AND THEN SHALL THAT WICKED BE REVEALED, WHOM THE LORD SHALL CONSUME WITH THE SPIRIT OF HIS MOUTH, AND SHALL DESTROY WITH THE BRIGHTNESS OF HIS COMING: even him, WHOSE COMING IS AFTER THE WORKING OF SATAN WITH ALL POWER AND SIGNS AND LYING WONDERS, AND WITH ALL DECEIVABLENESS OF UNRIGHTEOUSNESS IN THEM THAT PERISH, BECAUSE THEY RECEIVED NOT THE LOVE OF THE TRUTH, THAT THEY MIGHT BE SAVED.”
The implication is that without a love for the Truth we will not be saved. I submit that if we do not love, defend and live the Truth we will be lead astray and lose our souls.
Luke 8:15 “BUT THAT ON THE GOOD GROUND ARE THEY, WHICH IN AN HONEST AND GOOD HEART, HAVING HEARD THE WORD, KEEP it, AND BRING FORTH FRUIT WITH PATIENCE.”
This has been a brief discussion of correct hermeneutical procedure but it shows how simply the Bible is presented in terms of principles by which truth may determined and understood. Mankind can get by their prejudices and presuppositions if they really want to. There is simply no such thing as “my interpretation” and “your interpretation.” There is only God’s interpretation, there is only God’s meaning and with diligent study and rational application of what we learn we can arrive at the truth (God’s interpretation) on any subject that is vital to our soul’s salvation and our spiritual well-being.
We must be about the business of studying and searching God’s book, working at not misinterpreting or misapplying what we find therein. At the same time we can’t just shrug off the conflicting views and positions on various subjects that are contrary to God’s word but:
“BUT SANCTIFY THE LORD GOD IN YOUR HEARTS: AND be READY TO give AN ANSWER TO EVERY MAN THAT ASKETH YOU A REASON OF THE HOPE THAT IS IN YOU WITH MEEKNESS AND FEAR:” I Peter 3:15
We simply don’t need a “new hermeneutic.” Especially a so-called “new hermeneutic” that is simply the same old liberal attitude toward God’s word that created the denominations in the first place just dressed up in a new dress. And that is exactly what it is. It is but a ploy – a mechanism – by which those desiring to change the church may accomplish their devil serving goals. In the next lesson we will start a series to look at their reasoning.