Interpretation

<<explanation, making clear>>

1/. Of Scripture

Much of the Bible is clear as to how we are to live, but there are other portions where there seems to be indistinct, confusing or ambiguous teaching. God tells us to ‘correctly handle’ the Word of truth (2 Tim 2:15). The purpose of biblical interpretation, technically termed hermeneutics, is to make the meaning and message of the biblical writings clear and understandable to the readers where there is uncertainty.

Each part of the Bible must be interpreted in its wider context, not just within the verse, bearing in mind also the time, place and human situation to which it belongs. Interpretation seeks to discover the author’s intended meaning (and not on the reader’s), in the cultural and historical settings where the passage was spoken or written. Commands and promises are to be understood in the context of who they were given to, and whether they were for a specific occasion or general use. The use of word pictures, symbols, figures of speech and even the language of the early Bible translations have to be taken into account. Each individual book of the Bible contributes to God’s purpose – revealing Himself to humanity.

God intends to communicate with us through Scripture. We should take the obvious or literal meaning of the text at face value and act on it, unless it is clearly an allegorical passage or a figure of speech that reinforces the point – as we do in any normal expression of language. An example is David asking God to protect him as the apple of His eye (Ps 17:8).

As we read and study the Bible, we must intentionally look for the application we can make to our lives. The Bible is God’s Word to us and He means it to be believed and acted on. It is worthless understanding what God wants us to do unless we actually do it, “Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (Jas 1:22). In fact, if we

   God’s Word to us is to be believed –                                     literally, completely –                                                    and acted on

don’t do the good we know we should this is sin (Gen 4:7; Jas 4:17). Among other reasons Scripture is given is for training in righteousness, so even if the passage was intended for another specific person or group we can learn from the general principles which reflect how God would also want us to live (2 Tim 3:16,17). This is “to prepare God’s people for works of service” which includes aligning our whole lifestyle more fully with His ways as it is outworked in our daily lives (Eph 4:12).

It is right to receive instruction from mature, capable Bible teachers; however, it is only head knowledge until we apply it. There is a need to clearly understand doctrine, but it is not given for discussion and debate. Don’t be like those who spent their time doing nothing but listening to and talking about the latest [religious] ideas, for they were in effect “ever learning but never able to acknowledge the truth” (Act 17:21; 2 Tim 3:7). Rather than unprofitably discussing  divisive views or confusing issues it is much wiser to be actively living out what the Bible states – loving God with our whole being and other people as ourselves (Mic 6:8; Mk 12:30,31). The bottom line is when you know what to do, do it!

There are vastly differing views on many spiritual issues, each having a measure of truth, but not fully in agreement with the Lord’s perspective. We are to respect people with differing opinions and show them love and fellowship in Christ as we live out our beliefs, provided we can do this in good conscience. In many spiritual matters there is a godly tension between differing yet Biblical facets of truth regarding the same topic, with these contrasting viewpoints providing a richer and fuller appreciation. When convicted by the Holy Spirit and we come to a fuller understanding from the Bible, its authority is to supersede all concepts, preconceived ideas or views we hold, while also recognising there is a place to humbly give and receive help from other believers to understand the fuller counsel of God (Act 18:24-30). Don’t alter God’s guidebook to suit your desires, beliefs and lifestyle – our lives are to come into alignment with it. Without clear, unchanging governing principles chaos, compromise, confusion and sin reigns as everyone does what seems best in their own eyes (Jdg 17:6, 21:25).

Peter reminds us that scriptural prophecies did not originate with humanity but came by the direction of the Holy Spirit and will  therefore come to pass (2 Pet 1:20). Ask God to reveal the true meaning of the Scriptures to your spirit (Ps 119:18). Some have interpreted Bible passages incorrectly, been deceived and led away from the truth, forming new cults that teach heresy. God does not wish us to suffer such confusion (1 Cor 14:33).

2/. Of tongues

One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the interpretation of tongues spoken in a group gathering (1 Cor 12:7-11,28-30). Without a message in tongues being interpreted within the group setting it is unfruitful or of no value, hence “If there is no interpreter, the one speaking in tongues should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God” (1 Cor 14:5-28).

3/. Of dreams

Interpretation also includes the translation of ideas from one language or medium to another. For example Joseph and Daniel were both given the ability (by God) to interpret the meaning of dreams. They humbly acknowledged “the interpretation of dreams belongs to God”, and He revealed the secrets portrayed in them (Gen 40:8; Dan 2:28). Interpreting dreams today should be undertaken with the same caution and humility.

See also: Bible, commandments, controversial issues, cults, doctrine, dreams, false teachers..., heresy, hermeneutics, non-negotiable, principles, promises, spiritual gifts, tension (2), tongues, translate/translation.

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