Sunday, February 19, 2017

Rightly Handling the Word of God

2 Timothy 2:15 “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

I read that during the medieval times, when some church leadership did not believe that individual Christian did not have a right to read and interpret the Bible for themselves, Reformers of the time believed in the doctrine of justification by faith alone and that a closed book available only to scholarly elite and the clergy violated that right because the Word of God as the possession of all Christians. The doctrine of “sola Scriptura does not mean that Christians are to pay attention only to personal understanding of the Bible or that we can make the Scriptures mean whatever we want them to mean; the Word of God must be rightly handled. The meaning of Scripture is not so uncertain that we can all come up with our own views and never know the truth. That would be a skeptical view of divine truth that says it is wholly subjective and objectively unknowable. The Holy Spirit is no skeptic.

Ecclesiastes 8:1b “Who knows the interpretation of a thing?”

With the right of private interpretation comes the obligation to interpret Scripture correctly. We must work diligently with the text in order to rightly handle “the word of truth.”  Scripture is the only infallible authority and the Bible is the best guide for interpreting the Bible, but we also have the teaching of godly councils, individual theologians, ordained clergy and teachers as lesser authorities to help us understand God’s Word and provide a measuring stick against which we can check our personal interpretations of Scripture.

1 Corinthians 14:33 "For God is not a God of disorder but of peace."

We are not to treat Scripture like a secret code book; rather, we read the Bible as we would read any other work of literature, because our goal is to read the Scriptures according to the intent of its authors and the literary conventions of the particular style that is being used, whether poetry, narrative, proverb, epistle, sermon, et cetera. In reading the Bible literally, our goal is to get at the plain sense of the text. Scripture is divinely inspired and the content we need to know for salvation. God did not use specialized or obscure forms when He revealed Himself because He wanted us to readily understand it. God accommodated Himself to the genres that we know when He gave us His Word. God is not “a God of confusion”. The purpose of literal interpretation of Scripture is simply to read the Word of God with an eye for understanding it according to its various forms and genres (for example, we should read poetry as non-literal symbolic language), thereby rightly handling the Word of God.

In Christ, Brian

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