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Bible Study Pt.2- The Bible Is Its Own Interpreter

Written by: Unknown    Posted on: 05/06/2003

Category: Bible Studies

Source: CCN

                                                    BIBLSTD2.TXT

                          CHAPTER II

                The Bible Is Its Own Interpreter

  A ÿsecond principle we shall now examine is the truth that the Bible is its own interpreter. This truth is of great consequence, for ÿit ÿunderscores the method by which we are to ÿexamine ÿeach verse of the Holy Scriptures.   When two Bible teachers disagree on a doctrine, frequently one will declare, "Well, he has his opinion, his interpretation, ÿand I have mine. Therefore we don't see this verse in the same way.'   If ÿthis ÿteacher's statement is correct, ÿwe ÿcan ÿdo ÿalmost anything ÿwe wish with the Bible. ÿWe become free to look at ÿthe Bible and make our own personal judgments as to what God means by each ÿverse. ÿUnfortunately, ÿthis is the thinking that underlies the writing of paraphrased Bibles. This also is the thinking that has influenced some of the newer translations of the Bible.   Such ÿa ÿprocedure makes man the ultimate ÿjudge, ÿÿthe ÿfinal authority. ÿIt effectively declares that God has written a number of words and phrases which together we call the Bible, ÿbut which depend ÿupon ÿour responsibility as a teacher to decide what ÿGod really ÿmeans. ÿÿThus the reader has the final say as to what ÿis truth.   This ÿkind of "anything goes' ÿthinking has spawned cults and the false gospels which prevail so greatly in the world today. By interpreting verses according to preconceived ideas, ÿthe teacher tries to show that his gospel is Bible-based.   This condition prevails in many of our churches and ÿcongrega- tions today. ÿOne of the most puzzling phenomena currently facing the ÿÿchurch ÿis ÿthe ÿfact ÿthat ÿthe ÿtheologians ÿof ÿÿvarious denominations ÿremain ÿso far apart in their understanding of ÿso many doctrines supposedly related to or derived from the Bible. A result ÿof this is that Lutherans remain Lutheran from generation to ÿgeneration, ÿBaptists remain Baptists, ÿPresbyterians ÿremain Presbyterian, Methodists remain Methodist, etc. ÿOne of the basic reasons ÿfor ÿthe ÿexistence of different denominations ÿis ÿthat there ÿÿare ÿdifferent ÿconclusions ÿheld ÿby ÿeach ÿdenomination concerning certain doctrines.   For ÿexample, ÿsome denominations hold the pre-millenial ÿview from ÿgeneration ÿto ÿgeneration. ÿÿOn ÿthe ÿother ÿhand, ÿÿother denominations ÿhold ÿthe post-millenial view from ÿgeneration ÿto generation. ÿÿAnd still others hold the a-millenial view ÿthrough the generations.   We must realize that there can be only one true account of the return of Christ, ÿso at least two of the foregoing views must be altogether wrong and unbiblical. The return of Christ and the end of the world simply can not take place in three different ways.   The ÿsame problem exists with many other doctrines. ÿÿFor ÿin- stance, ÿthere are widespread differences amongst many ÿdenomina- tions ÿin relationship to such important teachings as the ÿnature and character of salvation, and the meaning of baptism. One would certainly think that, ÿas diligent students of the Scriptures who earnestly love the Lord continue to search the Bible, ÿthey would come ÿcloser and closer to each other as they all come closer ÿto the ÿfulness of the truth. ÿIf this were the actual condition ÿin each denomination, gradually all the denominations would begin to agree ÿmore ÿand more. ÿYet year follows year, ÿand there ÿis ÿno rapprochement ÿof any kind. ÿThe Baptist still remains a Baptist, the Lutheran a Lutheran, the Presbyterian a Presbyterian, etc.   This phenomenon is a result of the fact that the Bible is ÿnot fully relied upon as the source of absolute truth. ÿThe Bible ÿis often ÿtreated ÿmerely ÿlike one of the various ÿdisciplines ÿand philosophies ÿof ÿthe ÿsecular ÿworld. ÿOne ÿcan ÿunderstand ÿthe proliferation ÿof ÿdifferent schools of thought ÿin ÿthe ÿsecular world, ÿbecause in such disciplines as music, art, ÿor philosophy there ÿis ÿno such thing as absolute truth. ÿEach ÿdiscipline ÿis allowed to exist independently of the others and is accepted just as it stands.   But when we deal with the Bible, ÿwe are dealing with absolute truth. ÿTherefore, anything that is taught, ÿany doctrine that is held, that is not in agreement with truth is false. In short, any doctrine ÿnot in agreement with absolute truth is a lie. ÿIf ÿany teacher ÿor pastor declares to his congregation, ÿ"Thus saith the Lord,' when the Lord has not said that, he is mouthing doctrines that ÿare out of man's mind rather than God's.  ÿÿWe ÿimmediately sense how reprehensible and awful this is.   So, ÿÿif well meaning, ÿlearned, ÿGod-loving ÿtheologians ÿare earnestly, seriously teaching three entirely different answers to the ÿsame ÿquestion, ÿwe are forced to conclude that ÿsomeone ÿis teaching ÿthat ÿwhich is false. ÿSince no child of God ÿwants ÿto preach lies, ÿthis becomes an exceedingly serious matter; ÿand it is a matter that will not go away by itself.   Unfortunately, ÿÿthere is tremendous evidence that these ÿdif- ferences in understanding of Bible doctrine exist today. ÿWhat is the ÿproblem? ÿI ÿbelieve we can both understand the problem ÿand find its solution.   The problem is that theologians and pastors are taught to come to ÿthe ÿBible ÿfrom the perspective of the ÿalready ÿestablished theological position of the church or denomination to which ÿthey belong. ÿThat is, ÿif someone is a Baptist, ÿthen he is taught to come ÿto the Bible with Baptist presuppositions. ÿIf someone is a Lutheran, he comes to the Bible with Lutheran presuppositions. If he ÿis ÿReformed, ÿÿhe comes with a Reformed ÿperspective. ÿÿSuch theological ÿpresuppositions ÿgovern the way ÿthe ÿBible ÿstudent interprets ÿand understands the Bible. ÿSince ÿeach ÿdenomination believes ÿthat its presuppositions correctly reflect Bible truth, the ÿteachers and pastors in that denomination cling ÿtenaciously to ÿthem. ÿSimilarly, ÿthey are convinced that perspectives ÿfrom other ÿdenominations are most likely incorrect and therefore ÿare not ÿto ÿbe considered or followed. ÿThis is so even though ÿthey readily acknowledge that each denomination has a right to ÿexist. Only ÿÿÿbecause ÿÿÿthey ÿÿbelieve ÿÿtheir ÿÿown ÿÿÿdenominations' presuppositions ÿare the most accurate do they remain with ÿthem. The ÿconsequence, ÿÿtherefore, ÿÿis that the ÿBaptist ÿremains ÿa Baptist, the Lutheran remains a Lutheran, etc., etc.   I ÿam afraid that most theologians come to the Bible ÿin ÿmuch the ÿsame way that students come to such social sciences as ÿart, music, ÿand philosophy. For example, ÿthere exist many schools of philosophy. There are the Eleatic school of philosopy, the Ionian school of philosophy, ÿByzantine philosophy, ÿArabic ÿphilosophy, and Western philosophy, just to name a few. Each has its original thinkers, ÿÿand each has its faithful followers. ÿEach ÿhas ÿsome truth ÿin it. ÿOrdinarily, ÿfollowers of one school of philosophy are ÿready ÿto ÿaccept the rightful existence ÿof ÿand ÿpotential contribution of another school. ÿMoreover, ÿno one would be ready to conclude that the philosophy he follows is absolute truth. ÿHe just ÿfollows ÿa ÿparticular ÿschool ÿof ÿphilosophy ÿbecause ÿhe believes that it is more acceptable than any other.   Most theologians approach the Bible in much the same way. They do ÿnot regard the Bible as the lawbook of absolute truth. ÿIt is only a book that is to be viewed from their denominations' school of ÿthinking. ÿThey effectively contend that there exist ÿvarious schools ÿof thought (denominational presuppositions) ÿrelating to how ÿwe ÿare ÿto interpret the Bible. ÿThe school of ÿthought ÿwe follow will heavily influence the conclusions we derive from ÿthe Bible. ÿAnd the feeling is that we are being honest as long as we remain faithful to our particular denominational presuppositions. Likewise, ÿit is believed that theologians of other denominations are being faithful to the Word as long as they remain faithful to their denominations' ÿpresuppositions. In this way, ÿthe study of the ÿBible is looked upon as an activity similar to the study ÿof various social sciences.   But may the Bible be treated like a social science? ÿIsn't ÿit the ÿbook ÿof absolute truth? ÿOnly when a student ÿhas ÿcome ÿto realize ÿit ÿas the absolute truth has he really ÿunderstood ÿthe Bible. ÿÿMoreover, ÿif he has not come to that ÿrealization, ÿÿin essence he is still teaching less than the truth - that is, he is teaching falsehoods.   That ÿthe ÿBible ÿteaches ÿabsolute ÿtruth ÿshould ÿbe ÿeasily recognized by all theologians. ÿIsn't it true that the conclusion that all men are sinners is absolute truth? ÿIsn't this also ÿthe case ÿin ÿregard to such conclusions as: ÿthe ÿcertainty ÿof ÿthe death, ÿÿburial ÿand resurrection of Jesus; ÿthe facts ÿthat ÿGod created the world, that Christ will come to judge the world, that there ÿwill be a New Heaven and New Earth, ÿand that salvation is possible only through the atoning work of Jesus Christ?   All of these teachings are absolute truth. ÿAnd they are taken from the Bible which is the book of absolute truth. Therefore, it is ÿincumbent upon the pastor and the teacher to study the ÿBible until he has found absolute truth in regard to each aspect of the Gospel. Only then can he be sure he is not teaching a lie.   Indeed ÿthe Bible is wholly unrelated to the social ÿsciences, and cannot be studied in the same manner. ÿIt must be ÿapproached very analytically, ÿas we would approach an engineering or a ÿlaw book. ÿÿBut ÿeven ÿthe engineering or law book ÿcannot ÿbegin ÿto approach ÿthe level of truth that the Bible presents. ÿIt has ÿno peer. ÿWe must recognize that it is absolutely true in all of its aspects. We are to carefully, prayerfully, ÿdiligently search out the truth. As we do so, God Himself will lead us into the truth.   Now we can see what the church has done. Inadvertently, by ap- proaching ÿthe ÿBible as any social science is ÿapproached, ÿÿthe church ÿhas ÿplaced ÿitself above the Bible. ÿI ÿÿam ÿaware ÿthat theologians ÿwithin ÿthese ÿchurches would vigorously ÿdeny ÿthis assertion. ÿÿThey ÿwould ÿmaintain that the Bible ÿis ÿaltogether infallible ÿand inerrant and is the only authority on which ÿthey lean and structure doctrine.                                    While ÿthis claim might be made confidently, ÿthe sad fact is that ÿin ÿpractice ÿit is altogether ÿnegated ÿbecause ÿonly ÿtoo frequently ÿÿeach ÿÿtheologian ÿcomes ÿto ÿthe ÿBible ÿwith ÿÿhis denomination's ÿpresuppositions. ÿWith this approach the Bible is no ÿÿlonger ÿÿthe ÿÿultimate ÿÿauthority: ÿÿÿthe ÿÿdenominational presuppositions have become the ultimate authority.   Of ÿcourse the argument will be made that each ÿpresupposition is ÿderived ÿfrom ÿthe ÿBible, ÿand therefore ÿthe ÿBible ÿis ÿin actuality the ultimate authority. The fact is, however, that, ÿin practice, ÿÿÿthe ÿpresupposition ÿis ÿnever ÿquestioned ÿby ÿmost theologians. ÿÿÿIt ÿstands ÿinviolate, ÿÿas ÿbelonging ÿto ÿÿthat denomination, ÿand must never be tampered with. ÿActually, ÿif we are ÿto ÿfind truth, ÿthe presuppositions themselves have ÿto ÿbe examined ÿand critiqued just as vigorously as any other ÿdoctrine that we claim to have received from the Bible.   The solution to this problem, I believe, is that we must go to the ÿBible with no prejudices or presuppositions whatsoever. ÿÿWe must let the Bible alone guide us into truth. ÿWe must ÿrecognize that we as humans have feet of clay. ÿWe have sin-tainted ÿminds. Our ÿminds ÿare exceedingly finite as compared with the ÿinfinite mind of God. Truly we must hold the position: "...let God be true and every man a liar;...' (Romans 3:4).   It ÿcould be argued that even these preliminary statements ÿof solution ÿand principles of Bible interpretation as set forth ÿin this ÿstudy are in themselves presuppositions with which we ÿview the ÿBible. ÿÿBut ÿthe ÿquestion at ÿissue ÿis ÿ"Where ÿdo ÿthese              statements come from?' ÿAre they the teachings of the Bible? Are they ÿsomething that can be clearly demomstrated ÿas ÿoriginating from the pages of Holy Writ, ÿor are they just someone's ÿtheory? If ÿthey ÿcannot be shown to be actually derived from the ÿBible, they should be corrected, ÿbecause no presupposition should stand if it is not in complete harmony with the Bible.   I ÿdo believe that amongst the various denominations there ÿis the ÿcommon agreement that the Bible is true, ÿthat the Bible ÿis the ÿinfallible ÿWord of God, ÿand that it is the only ÿrule ÿfor doctrine ÿand ÿfor ÿpractice. ÿI ÿbelieve there is ÿalso ÿgeneral agreement ÿthat we cannot trust our minds, ÿbut that we must ÿput every thought under the searchlight of the Word of God. ÿAt least this is what the Bible clearly teaches.                                          If theologians would come to the Bible with no more than these common presuppositions, ÿhumbly letting the Bible lead them ÿinto truth, then, there would be more and more agreement amongst those who are children of God regardless of denominational ÿbackground. This is so simply because truth is truth. ÿAn incorrect ÿdoctrine can never agree with the Scriptures. ÿA stubborn holding to wrong doctrine ÿin ÿthe ÿface ÿof the light of the ÿScriptures ÿis, ÿÿI believe, the most serious problem facing the church today.   Indeed, ÿÿif ÿwe are truly a child of God, ÿat the ÿmoment ÿof salvation we receive our resurrected souls in which we never wish to ÿsin again. ÿThus, ÿeven though our unsaved bodies still ÿlust after sin, ÿthere is constantly within us an earnest desire to do the will of God. And as we read and study the Bible we learn more and ÿmore how we can live in accord with God's will. ÿBecause ÿwe have this intense desire to do God's will, we also become greatly troubled ÿÿwhenever ÿwe ÿdiscover ÿwe ÿhave ÿbeen ÿholding ÿwrong doctrine. ÿÿThat ÿis, ÿas we read or study the Bible, ÿif we ÿrun across a verse that appears to contradict a doctrine we hold, ÿwe will ÿbecome greatly concerned. ÿOur new nature (our ÿresurrected soul), has an intense desire to be true to God's Word. Therefore, this ÿÿconcern ÿwill ÿnot ÿdisappear ÿuntil ÿwe ÿhave ÿÿcarefully reexamined ÿthis ÿdoctrine to the point that we ÿare ÿcomfortable with all that the Bible teaches concerning it.   Of ÿcourse, ÿthe tragic other-side-of-the-coin is that ÿif ÿwe persist ÿin ÿa ÿsinful practice after reading statements ÿin ÿthe Bible ÿthat ÿshow ÿthat practice to be sinful, ÿÿthen ÿwe ÿshould rightly begin to wonder whether or not we are really saved.                  Likewise, ÿif we continue holding and teaching wrong ÿdoctrine after reading Scripture that suggests it is wrong, ÿthen we ÿmust ask the logical and fair question, ÿ"How can I really be a ÿchild of ÿGod ÿand blatantly continue holding ÿwrong ÿdoctrine?' ÿÿThe seriousness of such a question cannot be overestimated.   It may be that, ÿas we humbly approach the Bible, ÿletting God lead us into truth, we may find that a doctrine or a whole series of ÿÿdoctrines ÿÿtaught ÿÿby ÿÿour ÿÿchurch ÿÿas ÿÿdenominational presuppositions ÿare indeed true to the Word of God. ÿThen we can be ÿassured ÿthat the church fathers who ÿfirst ÿpresented ÿthese doctrines ÿhave done their work very well. ÿThe Holy ÿSpirit ÿhas indeed enlightened their hearts and minds to truth.   If ÿI may give a personal note, ÿI ÿwas brought up in a church that ÿis ÿReformed in doctrine. ÿWhile I had heard about the ÿso- called ÿfive points of Calvinism, ÿI ÿhad never been taught ÿwell enough so that I could go to the Bible to prove any of these five points that concern themselves with the doctrines of grace.  ÿThe    fact is, ÿI ÿcan recall reading learned essays on these doctrines in ÿmy younger days in some of our church papers, ÿand being very confused by what I read.                                          However, ÿÿin my role as host of the Open Forum program ÿwhere people ask me questions concerning the Bible "live' ÿon the air, I have had to face the whole question of the nature of ÿsalvation with ÿgreat zeal. ÿWhen I was finally able to ferret out all ÿthe biblical ÿteachings ÿconcerning the nature of salvation, ÿÿto ÿmy utter ÿdelight I found that the five points of Calvinism were ÿin agreement ÿwith ÿeverything ÿthat I had found in ÿmy ÿindependent studies ÿof the Scriptures. ÿThe Reformers of old had done ÿtheir work very well and very accurately.   On the other hand, in my personal experience I have also found that ÿother ÿhistorical ÿstatements ÿof the ÿchurch ÿare ÿnot ÿas biblical. ÿÿFor example, ÿtoday we have the confessions like ÿthe Heidelberg Catechism, ÿthe Canons of Dort, ÿthe Belgic Confession and ÿthe Westminster Confession. ÿWhile I have a very high regard for ÿthese confessions of the church (because in many cases ÿthey have ÿbeen ÿhammered ÿout ÿin the crucible ÿof ÿa ÿchurch ÿfacing apostasy ÿor heresy, ÿand because in the main they can be ÿtested and ÿfound ÿto ÿbe quite accurate insofar as the ÿScriptures ÿare concerned), ÿnevertheless, ÿthere are statements in some of ÿthem which I believe can be shown to be incorrect insofar as the Bible is concerned.   But do we dare to disagree with the confessions? ÿWe must dare to ÿdisagree ÿif ÿwe ÿcan ÿshow ÿfrom ÿthe ÿScriptures ÿthat ÿthe confession ÿis incorrect!  ÿOtherwise the confession ÿbecomes ÿan authority higher than the Bible itself.   As long as we are talking about confessions, I think it is ap- propriate to make this statement: The confessions have served the church ÿexceedingly well in that they have provided stability ÿat times ÿwhen theologians might have become careless in their study of the Scriptures. ÿThey can give a church a lot of security. ÿOn the other hand, they can also do a great disservice to the church if ÿthe ÿconfession is looked upon as being inviolate. ÿÿWe ÿmust realize ÿthat the confession is the work of man, ÿnot the work of God. Only the Bible is the work of God. I am tremendously pleased with Article VII of the Belgic Confession, which reads:

          THE SUFFICIENCY OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES TO BE           THE ONLY RULE OF FAITH

  We ÿbelieve that those Holy Scriptures fully contain the ÿwill of God, ÿand that whatsoever man ought to believe unto ÿsalvation is ÿsufficiently taught therein. ÿFor since the whole ÿmanner ÿof worship which God requires of us is written in them at large, ÿit is unlawful for any one, ÿthough an apostle, ÿto teach ÿotherwise than ÿwe are now taught in the Holy Scriptures: ÿ"nay, ÿthough it were an angel from heaven,' as the apostle Paul says. ÿFor since it ÿis forbidden to "add unto or take away anything from the Word of ÿGod,' ÿÿit does thereby evidently appear that ÿthe ÿdoctrine thereof is most perfect and complete in all respects.   Neither ÿmay ÿwe consider any writings of men, ÿÿhowever ÿholy these men have been, of equal value with those divine Scriptures, nor ÿought ÿwe to consider custom, ÿor the great ÿmultitude, ÿÿor antiquity, ÿÿor ÿsuccession of times and persons, ÿÿor ÿcouncils, decrees ÿor statutes, ÿas of equal value with the truth ÿof ÿGod, since ÿthe ÿtruth is above all; ÿ"for all men are ÿof ÿthemselves liars, ÿand more vain than vanity itself.' ÿTherefore we ÿreject with ÿall ÿour ÿhearts ÿwhatsoever ÿdoes ÿnot ÿagree ÿwith ÿÿthis infallible rule, ÿas the apostles have taught us, saying, ÿ"Prove the spirits, ÿwhether they are of God.' ÿLikewise: ÿ"If any ÿone cometh unto you, ÿand bringeth not this teaching, receive him not into your house.'

  This ÿarticle of the Belgic Confession accurately ÿsets ÿforth the biblical principle that nothing can stand above the Bible. It reminds us that accurate dealing with the Bible is of ÿphenomenal importance. ÿAnd this matter of the importance of the Bible being the ÿultimate authority cannot be swept under the rug. ÿIt cannot be answered, ÿ"That is your opinion. ÿI ÿhave my opinion.' ÿÿThe issue is whether we are going to be true prophets of God or false prophets of God.   The ÿprophets of Baal on Mount Carmel were ÿutterly ÿconvinced that they had truth as they cut themselves and cried to their god to burn the sacrifice on the altar. ÿBut all their zeal and their sincerity ÿand ÿtheir conviction could not change the ÿfact ÿthat they ÿwere ÿfalse prophets. ÿThe prophets and ÿthe ÿPharisees ÿof Jesus' ÿday, together with Saul of Tarsus, were utterly convinced that ÿthey had truth as they did everything possible to stop ÿthe spread of the Gospel as taught by this Rabbi, Jesus. Certainly no one ÿcould ÿfault ÿthem ÿfor their zeal and ÿsincerity ÿor ÿtheir conviction. ÿÿBut ÿthey were false prophets, ÿand only ÿthe ÿtrue followers of Jesus were the true prophets. ÿIf we are going to be true ÿprophets ÿin ÿour day, ÿit is ÿimperative ÿthat ÿwe ÿhumble ourselves ÿand approach the Bible with the recognition that ÿonly God is true, and every man is a liar. That is, we all have within us the possibility of self-deception.   Even after we are saved, ÿwe still have sin-stained minds. ÿNo one ÿon this side of the grave is going to know truth ÿperfectly. Therefore, ÿÿat ÿtimes even the most careful teacher will ÿbe ÿin error. Each and every time that we teach in error we are actually teaching a lie. For that reason, every teacher has to come humbly to ÿthe ÿLord asking forgiveness for that which has ÿbeen ÿtaught which was not true. We all see through a glass darkly.   But ÿthe ÿteaching of doctrine is analogous to living out ÿour Christian life. ÿAs we saw earlier, as we study the Bible, ÿif we find sin in our lives, the earnest desire of our lives is to turn away from that sin. ÿSo we ask the Lord's forgiveness, and we ask Him ÿto strengthen us as we turn away from that sin. ÿThe life of the ÿbeliever ÿis ÿone of constant learning ÿas ÿhe ÿincreasingly discovers how to live a more holy life before God.   Even ÿso, ÿÿeach teacher, ÿeach pastor should ÿbe ÿcontinually learn- ÿing doctrine. ÿHe can never say there is nothing more ÿto learn. ÿIf he has stopped learning, ÿhe may as well be dead. ÿAnd just ÿas we repent of sinful practices when we discover ÿthem ÿin our ÿlives so too, ÿas we continue our study of the Bible, ÿif we discover ÿthat ÿa doctrine that we have held and ÿtaught ÿis ÿnot biblical, ÿÿwe should ask the Lord's forgiveness, ÿand we ÿshould turn away from that unbiblical teaching.   Obviously, ÿthis is much easier said than done. When we repent of ÿunbiblical practices, ÿwe usually have the approbation of our congregation, ÿÿand this serves as encouragement to take this new path. ÿÿÿHowever, ÿÿÿwhen ÿwe ÿdiscover ÿthat ÿa ÿÿdenominational presupposition ÿis not as biblical as it should be, ÿor should we discover ÿthat a doctrine we have held is unbiblical, ÿin turning away from this we risk the wrath of our colleagues as well as the wrath of our entire denomination. We may even look like a heretic in ÿtheir ÿeyes ÿbecause ÿwe ÿno longer ÿhold ÿto ÿthis ÿor ÿthat denominational ÿpresupposition ÿor doctrine. ÿThe consequence ÿof this can be that we are actually driven our of our denomination.   This ÿdire consequence seems strict and unwarranted. ÿBut that is how monolithic denominations are in what they believe. ÿTruly, it ÿis only God's grace working in one's life that enables him to courageously face the consequences of coming closer to truth.   I can't help but comment on the fact that churches, ÿto a high degree, ÿÿhave ÿfigured ÿout ÿhow ÿto ÿhave ÿa ÿvery ÿcomfortable existence. ÿEverything is agreeable. ÿEverything is happy. ÿÿThis makes me wonder why Jesus said in Matthew 5:10-12:

        Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness'         sake:  for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

        Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute            you, ÿÿand ÿshall ÿsay all manner ÿof ÿevil ÿagainst ÿyou         falsely, for my sake.

        Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward            in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were         before you.

  Did ÿJesus ÿhave ÿin mind only the kind ÿof ÿpersecution ÿthat occurs in a Communist country? ÿWas He thinking only of ÿdreadful bloodlet- tings by political authorities?   Amazingly, the persecution spoken of in the Bible, as the pro- phets were killed, or as the Christians of the New Testament were brought into Jerusalem to be cast into prison, was persecution by the church leaders. ÿThe Bible anticipates that it is the leaders of ÿthe church who will be the first to denounce those who make a stand for the truth. Because people do not change, ÿbecause today they ÿdo not want the truth any more than they have at any ÿother time ÿin history, ÿwe should also expect that, ÿif we hold to the truth, ÿÿwe will experience persecution. ÿOf course, ÿin our land physical ÿbloodletting ÿis not fashionable, ÿbut certainly it ÿis permissible to scandalize, to vilify, ÿor to speak badly of those who hold to truth.   The ÿother side of the coin is, ÿif all appears beautiful ÿand complacent ÿand secure, ÿthen we can rightly wonder "Do we really have the truth?' ÿRemember, Jesus said, "Woe unto you, ÿwhen all men shall speak well of you!' (Luke 6:26).   This ÿÿis ÿnot ÿto ÿsuggest ÿthat ÿwe ÿshould ÿwillingly ÿseek persecution. ÿÿIt ÿis ÿonly ÿto remind us of the ÿsad ÿfact ÿthat persecution ÿis reasonably normative for the true believer. ÿÿAnd surely, ÿwhen a pastor discovers that a cherished doctrine of his church ÿis ÿnot as biblical as it should be, ÿhe can expect ÿsome kind ÿof ÿpersecution as he begins to preach more ÿfaithfully ÿin accordance with the Word of God.   Again, ÿÿI ÿcannot help but comment at this time upon ÿa ÿvery significant ÿagreement ÿthat ÿis developing in ÿour ÿday ÿbetween denominations which historically have been quite adamant in their "go-it-alone' understanding of many of the cardinal doctrines of the Bible. ÿThat growing unity is centered around doctrines ÿthat can be shown to be quite unbiblical. Increasingly, unity is being found in connection with doctrines such as divorce and remarriage after ÿdivorce, ÿthe right of women to rule and speak within ÿthe congregation, birth control, and the responsibility of the church to ÿphysically ÿfeed and clothe the hungry masses of ÿthe ÿworld. Additionally in our day, ÿdoctrines that favor miraculous healing and additional revelation are finding increasing approval ÿacross all denominational lines.   This ÿis ÿan amazing phenomenon in view of the fact that ÿthis latter ÿday unity is based on principles that can be shown to ÿbe contrary to the Bible. ÿI ÿcannot help but wonder whether this is the end product of a church age in which the churches have become careless ÿwith the Bible because of their presuppositions. ÿÿWhen bringing ÿjudgment, ÿGod first of all blinds theologians so ÿthat they ÿbegin to rewrite the rules of the Bible. ÿThen, ÿas a final judgment ÿon the church prior to Judgment Day, ÿHe will allow the churches ÿto ÿbe overcome by these false gospels that ÿhold ÿthat there is more to divine revelation than the Bible alone.   But ÿwe have wandered way beyond the scope of our study, ÿÿand now ÿwe should return to the questions at issue: ÿHow are ÿwe ÿto under-stand ÿthe ÿBible? ÿHow are we to interpret ÿthe ÿdifficult passages of the Bible?   God ÿÿgives ÿus ÿthe ÿanswer ÿconcerning ÿthis ÿmatter ÿin ÿÿI Corinthians 2:13:         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.                       

  In ÿthis ÿstatement ÿGod ÿis rejecting the idea ÿthat ÿwe ÿcan interpret ÿthe Scripture in order to make it agree with ÿwhatever we ÿhold in our own minds or in our denomination's thinking. ÿOur thinking, our opinion, our ideas are of no value. Only the Bible, which is the source book of spiritual truths, ÿcan guide us to ÿa solution, ÿto a true understanding of the verse in question. ÿAnd God Himself, ÿin the person of the Holy Spirit, will lead us into truth ÿas ÿwe humbly look to Him for guidance (John 16:13). ÿÿThe sword of the Spirit, ÿas He leads us into truth, ÿis the Word ÿof God which we call the Bible. ÿWe must come to an understanding of any part of the Bible by searching the rest of the Scriptures for help in our understanding of that part of the Bible.    True some verses seem to be easily understood, ÿbut there ÿare so many that are very difficult, ÿyes, even seemingly contrary to other verses. ÿEven those verses which seem so easily understood, how can we be sure that we understand them correctly?    For ÿexample, ÿÿwhen ÿwe read Matthew 25:31, ÿÿsurely ÿGod ÿis speaking ÿof a time when all nations will literally stand ÿbefore Him. ÿÿAt ÿthat time all those who have done such good ÿworks ÿas feeding ÿthe hungry, ÿclothing the naked, ÿand visiting the ÿsick will ÿgo into heaven to be eternally with the Lord Jesus ÿChrist. Certainly, it seems, ÿthis passage is teaching that our salvation is based on our good works. As a matter of fact, this passage has become a convin- cing proof passage for those who wish to believe that ÿtheir good works make at least a contribution towards their salvation.    However, those who have read more widely and more carefully in the ÿBible immediately become uneasy with the conclusions of ÿour last ÿparagraph. ÿThey argue, ÿ"But doesn't the Bible say that we are ÿsaved ÿby grace and not by works?' ÿAnd indeed, ÿÿthey ÿare correct. ÿÿSalvation is by grace alone. ÿOur works are ÿonly ÿthe proof, ÿÿor evidence, ÿor result of God's saving

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