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June 24, 2022 8:00 am
We come to a crucial question.
How shall we interpret Scripture what guidelines lead us to the truth. What should you be thinking, looking for asking, applying as you open up God's word and read it, how it is to be able to correctly ascertain the true meaning and intent of Scripture elevator and welcome to the truth pulpit with nongreen founding pastor of truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. I built right today as Don continues teaching God's people. God's word is going to show us just how critical it is to rightly divide, interpret God's word is holy word before we get started on this is really a hot button a lot of people. Isn't it I mean we've all heard people say well that's your interpretation or that's not what my Bible says what you have to say about it will bill that's a great question and the important thing for us to realize is that God's word has an objective meaning. The question is not what the Bible means to you or what the Bible means to me. The question is, what does the word of God intend for us to understand by what it says and Scripture commands us to work hard to get our understanding correct. The Bible says in second Timothy chapter 2 verse 15 to be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth, my friend. Understanding the Bible takes diligence. Over time, and that's why it's so important for us to know how to engage in effective Bible study. That's our series for this week. Stay with us as we open God's word together now. Thanks Don and Fred, if you're ready, let's get started. Here is our teacher with part one of a message called, how should we interpret Scripture you're on the truthful counter message today. I feel like I need to give you just a brief introduction on this will be a little bit different than anything that I've ever done from the truth. Community pulpit because it's not specifically teaching a text of Scripture as much as doing something that's preliminary and and and giving us that which is necessary to understand any text of Scripture.
It's kind of preliminary and again very foundational we come to a crucial question. How shall we interpret Scripture.
This is another very fundamental question.
In some ways it's surprising to me as I stand here, why haven't we done this sooner. We need to understand something we need to understand that that we must have the meaning of Scripture. If we are to have the truth. It is not enough simply to have the words on the page in front of you. If you don't understand what they mean. We need to have the meaning of Scripture. If were going to have Scripture itself. And so this message today is a basic introduction to what is called hermeneutics.
Which is the system of rules that we follow to interpret the Bible correctly now let me just kind of preface this and ask you for a favor if I may.
Some of this may be a little bit technical.
This may sound a little bit more like a lecture than a sermon, but that's okay. It's foundational and so I just ask you to give me your mind and your heart because these things are going to open up a lot of a lot of clarity for you and probably again as it did for me.
Looking back on things that I did in the past that were misguided and hopefully give you that which can make your Scripture time in reading more productive. Let me introduce it by way of a an analogy and illustration. Suppose that you were going to go to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to visit that great Civil War battlefield, but you never been there before and you don't know exactly how to get there at Gettysburg is like Boston or Miami on a map you you instantly know where those cities are to Gettysburg IN Pennsylvania somewhere, but I don't know just exactly where will you have a fixed destination as your goal. I want to go specifically to one place, which is Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and if you're going to drive you have a car that's going to transport you there to that destination to get you from where you're at, to where you intend to go and then you have a GPS on your phone or an atlas or a AAA roadmap to give you directions and say oh we turn here, not there we go straight here, not there, and so there's there's different elements that are in play to make a successful trip to that location, but but there's one destination and you need something to get you there and you need directions along the way.
Let's kind of a rudimentary analogy to help you understand what were going to be saying here today to properly understand the Bible. You need to understand three things I think first of all you need to know what your destination is, and that destination is the author's intent. The Bible writers intended to communicate a meaning when they wrote and they intended to commit communicate a single meaning with with any given sentence that they wrote they had something in mind that they were trying to communicate, and our goal is to understand what that author meant by what he wrote. That's the goal that's the destination it's a point that we are trying to get to the vehicle. What is it that carries us to that destination. The vehicle is a literal interpretation of Scripture. I'm just giving you the outline in advance and then the roadmap the roadmap that we use our various principles of interpretation that that we use in every passage that we look at and so were going to look at the destination. The vehicle of interpretation and the roadmap that gets us there and that's just a little crude illustration to help you have a sense because some of these topics. Some of the things were going to say almost philosophical in nature and so I want to give you something that kinda gives you a word picture to the point Taunton to hang your hat on, so you can understand what were saying.
What's our goal in Bible interpretation. What's the destination. What are we trying to do the first point. The destination is the author's intent. The author's intent.
Now we've all been to Bible studies and you'll instantly understand why this is so crucial when I set it up for you. This way we have all been to Bible studies probably were at some time or another. Someone says something like this. We know what this verse means to me is and then they go and give their opinion about what those words from God mean and other people chime in. Well what it means to me and then you start getting competing opinions in your left in a fog, and frankly would've been better off not even having a study like that when someone says what this verse means to me. Let me tell you that is not the question that is utterly irrelevant.
We don't care. Speaking to somebody who's not here somebody who I this is an imaginary person even though I'm going to use a second person singular so don't take this personally.
We don't care what that verse means to you. We don't care what that verse means to you what we want to know is what that verse means we want to know what that verse means, if you had never been born. What did that verse mean before you existed and see and that little illustration helps you see that there is a meaning in the text that is independent of the person who is reading the Scripture had meaning before any of us existed, and it had a meaning that was fixed when the author wrote those words either himself or through the secretary who recorded it for him and sort question is what did the biblical author mean by what he said that's crucial there comes a time and a place for us to apply the implications of the meaning, but when we are reading Scripture and trying to understand it.
We are not interested in what I think it means we have to understand that our goal is to see what the author means and not put ourselves front and center in the process.
This beloved as part of the humility that we were talking about at the end of the last session. Part of the humility of deferring to the tax coming under the authority of the attacks instead of arrogantly putting ourselves at the center and send. This is what it is what it means to me that's really crucial others. Another crucial aspect of this is that God inspired the author to write the exact words that he wrote so there is an authority in the biblical text that we need to respect the text has a fixed meaning that preceded us in our goal in interpreting Scripture, and our goal for understanding Scripture is to understand what that text means rather than simply imposing my opinion upon it and saying that my opinion is what matters and what is important and so the next time that someone says what this verse means to me is this you can handle that, according to the wisdom that God gives you at the moment but understand that for you and I want our desire is we want to know what this text means and that's a different question we humble ourselves and let it speak for itself. Now tying it in with my illustration we look for a fixed meaning, just as Gettysburg is a fixed geographic location and it exists in one place and in in space and you have to go there to that point in Pennsylvania to get to Gettysburg.
Can you imagine how ridiculous it would be for somebody to says I know what the map says I know that that that that get it says that Gettysburg is in Pennsylvania but you know in my heart of hearts. What I believe that Gettysburg is in Idaho and and I just I just feel that way. I feel that way about it and as I look about it. I just have this. I have the sense that God is telling me that regardless of what people said in the past.
Gettysburg is in Idaho. We would look at a person like that and say you're not, you need to be admitted to a hospital where you can get help. Gettysburg is in Pennsylvania and it doesn't matter how you feel you can't move Gettysburg from Pennsylvania to Idaho by your feelings and baptizing with a sense that God told you that Gettysburg is really in Idaho that's insane know what the meaning of God's word is a whole lot more important than where Gettysburg is and therefore it cannot possibly be that God would have us all have a subjective sense of our own opinion what we feel that this text means it's fixed. And our goal is not to impose ourselves on that text with with ridiculous ideas that have no bearing in reality we need to we need to get out the map and say Gettysburg is here.
We need to get out the Bible say okay this is what it means. That's really crucial that's fundamental whenever you're reading the Bible, studying it, listening to a sermon, were moving toward a destination in a direction were doing the best we can say what does this text mean that is essential now a fixed destination. Okay, that's fine.
But how do we get there.
How do we get from here to there to getting getting to go to Gettysburg you get in the car and you go and you drive on that miserable Pennsylvania Turnpike in a men's anybody that's been on that's going. Amen. That statement that's my that's my them if I need an amen for encouraging all to say II don't like the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Amen will be there for me. But how do we get from where were at in our reading as we come to the text. How do we get from the point that we start with to the point of understanding the author's meaning that brings us to our second point, the vehicle that we use is the literal interpretation of Scripture were answering the question how do I determine what the author meant by the words that he used and here's a simple answer all of this look. All of this ties together we talked about the clarity of Scripture and we talked about the kind of person that you need to be to understand Scripture an hour saying you know were asking the question will how do we understand all of these things are taken together, and the fact that Scripture is clear, leads us to to this very simple observation. Simple basic but also fundamental. We take the author in the natural sense of the words that he used.
We don't come to Scripture and read it in a as if it were full of indecipherable symbols communicating hidden mysteries that we have to look for as if it couldn't be understood on the face of the words that it that are used know we take the author in the natural sense of what he said that we call that method by different names. Some call this the literal principal of interpretation and what they mean by that and that's that's a good term we read his words in the literary form that he employed remember that that God intended his Scripture to be clear and so is he inspired the biblical author to use particular words.
He was intending for them to communicate clearly as he directed them and what they said well the only way that it can be clear is if there is a plainness and openness to the words. It is obvious to those who would read them, rather than some kind of ministry you know years ago there was a big a big splash about something called the Bible code what people said was this that that if you use mathematical equations, and if, for example, if you'd take every fifth letter of the of the tax you would get prophetic messages about what was going to happen in the world and supposedly this was used to to show that the Bible text indicated world events 2000 years before they happened and and you did you look at the cover of the book can there be in other be these is kind of like a word search and they draw the they draw circles around the letters that were involved in. You'd read the letters that way and and it would communicate these hidden meanings. That was all bogus. From the very beginning.
That's all impossible and I want you to understand why it's impossible even though that something from years ago that isn't dominating anyone's attention right now you should know just based on what we've done already so far that it is impossible that that was ever true that that was ever what God intended to do with his word. First of all, it's not clear you have to you have to generate programs and you have to you have to use the biblical text instead of just being able to read it and and that there there is clarity on the of the on the surface of it you have to you have to dive into some kind of mystery mathematical formula in order to understand God's word. Not true absolutely false. Sold some guy a bunch of books and them I'm sure he's got a nice house. As a result in Christians. Christians are are notoriously vulnerable to that kind of nonsense because they're looking for shortcuts because they they don't want to do the work that's involved to understand God's word. They want something they want something that is that is special and and and and flamboyant know.
Isn't that cool look. It showed that the Lincoln was going to wear his black suit to the Ford theater that night. The Bible predicted that, as if that something that was going to give people a sense of God's word was inspired not true, not true in the reason that it's not true is because that's not clear. That wouldn't be that would be evident on the surface to somebody like you and me and so the Bible wasn't written in these mysteries that we have to figure out we can read the text in the natural sense and way the in the way that the author wrote them and understand it that way. So that's really the truly important just understanding the literal interpretive principle would would negate a whole genre of books that existed some years ago and to the credit of good scholars or people that debunk that pretty quickly. So the guy made his money off the book and ran disgusting. Now, more technical term for what we do is is called the grammatical historical method that's about when were using that term synonymously with the literal method and then to use the term grammatical historical method is simply to say this. That's a fancy term stay with me if you would. It's a fancy way to say that we understand the biblical author by the words and grammar. He wrote to his audience in their historical context, let me say again, it's very simple it's intuitive really it's it's basic human communication.
How do you understand what I'm saying now you you take my words at the literal sense in which I use them in this historical context.
You understand intuitively that the nouns and the verbs that I use in the grammatical constructions and you say okay I'm following him well. It's the same way with the Bible human language.
The dynamics of human language are transcend time and culture. People communicate with the words that they use and they intend to be understood when there being written in Scripture and so that's the idea now within that broad statement, we understand something important. We know that the biblical authors used different kinds of literature to express their literal meaning.
Following here. This is really this will help set the stage for so much. There are different kinds of literature in the Bible there are. There is legal literature in Exodus and Leviticus saying you shall you shall not those those things are kind of hard to read. Sometimes there's historical narrative where there's a story being told. It's different from the shall not in in revelation you have. You have prophetic imagery and visions being given.
However, you understand that in the songs you have poetry being written in the New Testament epistles you have a different kind of instruction going on, and so when we say that we use the literal meaning that that that were after that, we understand that there are different ways different kinds of literature that were being used but we understand also that in whatever form it was being taken information that was intended to be understood was being communicated is very basic. That's probably as technical as I'm going to get the day. If you're still with me or through the hard part.
The wave has already hit us and now we can we can stand up and swim.
I know that is make any sense but I'm not a swimmer. Why would you stand up and swim didn't dive in and swims what it should say stand up and walk your metaphors right pastor anyway. Were talking about the literal interpretation. Here's what I want you to walk with me through this in the four Gospels and in the book of acts. For example, writers were giving a historical account to describe what happened in the New Testament epistles. They rode in an orderly fashion to to teach about Christ and doctrine to the audience that the apostle was writing to. In other places like the songs they wrote poetically in the used figures of speech to express their meaning. But there's there's not a deep mystery and indecipherable subjectivity and that we we use figures of speech all the time in our language and we understand that that it's it it's a figure to express a real meaning. So for example if I came to you and I said you know my my kids said this to me last night and I exploded with laughter will you're not. You're not thinking that that my body literally flew into pieces, you realize I just burst out with a laugh response and that that explosion was simply a metaphor figure of speech to say I burst out with a response. You understand that and you don't you don't try to over interpret that. Well I don't you know your you know your stomach lining seems to be in order now was repaired surgically.
No one does, that we should do that to Scripture either in the Psalms, David said Psalm 23 said the Lord is my shepherd, will you know that he's not trying to say that God is a literal shepherd in a literal field in the land of Palestine overlooking actual sheet you know that's not true what David is saying with that figure speech as God watches his own and he protects them like a shepherd does his sheep God is like a shepherd in the way that he protects and cares for me, so you can understand that, meaning, and so when we say that we interpret the Bible literally, we mean the that were trying to take the author in the natural sense in which he wrote, and that includes poetry and figures of speech and we can get to his meaning by saying okay I'm going to I'm going to listen to this author like I would listen to one of you. I'm going to read the Bible, expecting us a natural sense. It's similar to what I have when I read a magazine or a newspaper that there is an intended clarity on the surface of the meanings of that's our general principle.
That's our general principle.
That's art. That's our vehicle.
Remember what we want to get to is the author's intent and our question is how do I get there, we say okay I'm going to taken by what he said. Rather than imposing my thoughts upon it or twisting it to make it say something that is unnatural to the words and the grammar that he used now.
This brings us to our roadmap for number three were already to point number three. How about that point number three is the roadmap what I just said about the literal meaning is the general idea within the general idea there are specific principles that you can follow and understand. To help you understand what the author meant to say that's Don Greene bringing our time in God's word to a close for today here on the truth.
Pulpit friend if you'd like a copy of today's message. Perhaps the entire audio series.
We invite you to visit the truth. Pulpit.com. Once again, that's the truth. Pulpit, I'm Bill Wright inviting you back next time. For more of our series titled effective Bible study. Don Greene continues teaching God's people.
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