The Guest Author Br. John Vargis is a former official of OM India, Presently he teaches and train Pastors/Shepherds/Leaders in the Word.
He is an ordained Pastor of Calvary Chapel, U S A.
Here is a paper he prepared for the Bible Students:
The BIBLE,the only source
for growth & maturity:
|Picture Credit: Google.com|
Introduction:Through this article, (in fact, this is not an article for a magazine or any periodicals. This has gone thru the crucible of many years of searching the Scriptures, after you have done all what you have to, the Spirit of Jesus opens the Word to you and enlighten you to/in the Truths of/in His Word and I am so grateful to my Lord, and still learning to walk humbly with my Lord !!). I would go ahead and present some of my firm convictions (without apology or compromise), regarding the Bible and what the Bible means to me in my Christian life and ministry (At the outset you may wonder, why you should even venture/attempt to read, for you would say, “I have my church and I read Bible”, I would do the same if I were in your shoes!! But I request you to give me a look(eye), an ear(hearing), still you are not convinced this is not for you(why not?)…go ahead lay it aside, may be come back later, for I believe, I also have the Spirit of Jesus, hence this presentation!!!). This material is, but more than a testimony, it’s a presentation, an appeal, an exhortation to the body of Christ to take God at His Word and dig into the ever Living written Word and live from the sumptuous meal at the Master’s Table , not from the crumbs of “passers-by”!! In this process, I do a “passing critical analysis” of the christendom at-large, to a certain extent, though not in depth!! My intention is to rouse (you may wonder, “Aren’t we roused enough?” may be not,…so please be patient with me!!), the people of God, to get into the Word by themselves, for themselves and be ministered by the Spirit of Jesus, as He is the Author of the Word. It’s rather a critique than a criticism. By no means, I have any intention knowingly or unknowingly to offend any (one), or church (es), but Truth is always offensive in a world of passivity!! After going thru this, search yourself, where you are, (individual, church (es), pastor(s)-shepherd(s), teachers… and you are willing to humble before the Lord God and put these into practice your life(s), otherwise, I will still pray somewhere along the line, God will make it clear to you(s). All glory be His alone!!!
|Br. John Vargis|
The Bible, the written Word of the Living God:
Is given to us to know Him and to grow in the Grace of the Living God. Bible is the mind of God, heart of God, the will of God, the plan of God, the purpose of God for our lives.
It is our only source for growth, maturity. Bible is our food, drink, nourishment, sustenance, vitality. Apart from it we impoverish ourselves, faint and die. No wonder, majority of the Christians are famished, go here and there to get a blessing (as if it is blessings they need!!), not realising/acknowledging that God has blessed us with every blessing in Christ Jesus and seated us in the Heavenly realm.
There are plenty of people (“ministers”) going around to dispense “the blessings” for a price even through the electronic media, and millions are there to “buy” these.
The Lord through Jeremiah 2:13, warned the Israelites that they are guilty of two sins: One: they have forsaken the Living Fountain- (The Lord God who redeemed them from the slavery of Egypt and entered into a Covenant with them); and two: they have dug up for themselves dry cisterns (wells)-substitute religions, ways and means to appease themselves in the name of quest for spirituality !!!.
Today’s Christianity, may be worse than the Israelites of Jeremiah’s day, and is guilty of the same! Paul, by the Holy Spirit warned, in 1Cor 3:10-15, building on someone else’s foundation!! I wonder if this is not true about majority of Christians, living on someone else’s hard work/food ( parasitical ?).
How about one personally goes the Fountain (Ps 36:8-9), and drink for oneself!! In Timothy, Paul warned that people will hire preachers who will preach what they want to hear, with itching ears, and we have plenty of them all around us!!
Majority of the churches have a lot of preaching!!!
|Brother John Vargis in a Bible study session|
Preaching (the gospel), is for unbelievers to hear the gospel, believe, repent and receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior (Rom 10:14-15). After conversion (born-again), the babies (the believers), need teaching of/from the Word to grow in their Christian life (1 Pet 1:23-2:3)!! This is food, drink, sustenance, vitamins, minerals for the spirit…majority of the churches do not teach the Word…for most of the Pastors do not know the difference between the two, how, then can the congregations??
Not only a lot of preaching, but most of the preaching is passing on information! And to get the people charged up emotionally (tearing!!), mentally and even spiritually. Information does not make one grow, for Paul by the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 13, says, knowledge puffs one up…no wonder, so many go from one conference to another, with big note books (audio/videos/or even on internet or YouTube on their smart-phones/laptops etc…etc…etc…). So they can argue, discuss and impress/show of others how much informed (puffed up) they are who/what the Lord said in Matthew 13:18-22!!! And this is one of the main reasons why much of the Christian world does business on “these” for a profit and to “benefit, bless and promote yours or mine (?? spiritual life”/of course!! Much of today’s Christians are over-fed, informed, tickled, energized in the mental/intellectual (soulish level to use Watchman Nee’s terminology), level, not in the spirit level (“deep crying to Deep” to use a kjv verse from Psalm 42:7, though out of context, but to get the point across, and I know we sing about it don’t we?). It’s not information/ knowledge you need, but SOLID FOOD and the result/productivity is,
Matt 13: 23(emphasized)!!
Another kind of preaching from the OT !!
Nothing wrong from preaching from the OT! It’s the inspired Word of God as the NT is!!! It has to be applied in everyday life of the believer(s). But it’s types, shadows, allegories, symbols…there are churches, Bible colleges/schools spend 1-2 semesters simply teaching/ studying the Tabernacle…is anything wrong? Absolutely not!! (Majority of Christians are taught to believe that the church has “replaced” Israel and the new Israel is the church and all “the blessings” of Israel are ours to name and claim. And if anyone is not “blessed”, it is because they have no faith…to receive or there is sin in their lives!!!) But the Reality is here (you don’t have to live in the shadows, types and allegories)…the Lord Jesus (GOSPEL) IS the culmination of all OT and the CHURCH born from His riven-side is the ULTIMATE Product/Fruit birthed by the Holy Spirit is that REALITY…not shadows!!!
What is recorded (written) in Genesis chapters 1-2, is the purpose, the plan, the will of God for His Crown- Creation, Man (though we do not have the full knowledge(revelation) of what took place in the Garden, other than glimpses)!! From chapter 3 onward is the result/product/outcome of deception, rebellion, disobedience and blind (subtle) belief that one can become “god” by believing lie/deception of the deceiver. The Fall (from the Presence of God, from the grace of God, free access to God, from the glory God intended for man to have), and the expulsion of man from the Garden and “Tree of Life”, which God had planted and nurtured for man to continue the nurturing process (Rom 3:23; Ps 14: 2-4; Ps 53:1-5; Rom 3:9-20). So the curse on mankind, on the creation and the eternal separation (chasm) from his Creator God. And in Genesis 3:15, God’s pronouncement of the final and ultimate doom of the deceiver and by his destruction/doom (judgement), and He brings Salvation from the Curse, rebellion, deception and sin and brings redemption to the serpent’s victims (Heb 2:14-15 ), both by the Offspring of the very woman whom he deceived. So from Genesis 3 to Revelation 20:15, the history, events, accounts are, God working out of the doom (pronouncement) and the Promise of redemption of Gen 3:15 to be considered in parenthesis (…), for God then takes the New Humanity straight to the Tree of Life and to a Garden prepared by God, who re-creates or who creates everything new…for the old is gone and not to be found anywhere by anyone. For the redeemed community, the continuation of Genesis 2, is in Revelation 21 onwards!
Other than the first two chapters of Genesis, the rest of the OT came into being as a result ofman’s (Israel’s) disobedience to God and have forgotten their covenant relationship and have strayed into religions of demons and idolatry, and His spoken/ written Word (Covenant Relationship & requirements)…even the Prophetical books!! Why did God send prophets?
To call His wayward wife (children) back to Himself…all through the history of Israel this was the hard hitting truth… so the Lord through the prophets foretold/promised, He Himself will come as the obedient Servant (suffering) who will do “the Father’s” will, fulfil the Law. Even when He appeared on the scene they rejected Him…no wonder, Stephen in Acts 7 retorts the Jewish people/leaders… which of the prophets they have not stoned or killed…
Most of the letters of the NT were written to churches/individuals who were leaders of the churches, how to handle situations and problems…To a large extent preaching from the OT (Psalms) is easier than getting into the Epistles and study hard and then teach… and apply in our everyday life-situations of the individuals and the church.
We have churches and we invite preachers to come and entertain us with jokes (there is a Christian Jokers (Humorists) group in America who go around and entertain Christians for a Fee), stories and few minutes may be from the Scriptures… (and majority of them start with one verse, or a passage, then jump all over the Bible), so it will look/sound/make/ like preaching (dry-cisterns)… then we call ourselves as Pastors, and shepherds… think of any shepherd who would leave his sheep/goats/cows/buffalos with anyone who passes by…and expects to see his cattle healthy and multiply…if you would not do that to your cattle, how dare you do that to the church of the Living God, which He redeemed by His own Blood, and then expect them to grow in the Grace and Knowledge of the Lord!!!???
John Stott, in his book I believe in Preaching argues that Biblical Expository Teaching, extremely rare in today’s church. He then gives the reason for this is “the lack of conviction about its importance”.
It is my firm belief that the kind of preaching we do determines the kind of God we believe.
God is a revealing God…Heb 1:1-5, and He has revealed Himself in Words, His mind, His heart, His will, His plan, His purpose …man can understand and enter into an active, ever increasing, healthier relationship with Him and He with us.
When, after speaking to the little boy Samuel, God did not ask Samuel to go to a theologian, preacher, Levite or even the priest to make him understand what He has communicated!! Young Samuel understood what God has spoken and he had no problem in understanding, transmitting/conveying the message to Eli !!!
Just read Psalm 119 to see if the Psalmist understood the Written Word of the Lord!!! Today, sad to say the preachers make people (congregations) to depend on them to understand the Word…so you have surety of a job…and the people (congregations) want pastors/preachers to do all the reading, studying and preaching…so they can just sit and hear (spoon fed)…, no wonder we have so many churches all around entertaining people…meanwhile true child of God being starved!
Then, after being tired and fed up with Israel and their inability to keep/observe/obey the Law, (if the first covenant had been faultless, then there would have no need for a second covenant to replace. BUT WHEN GOD FOUND FAULT WITH THE PEOPLE, HE SAID…THE DAY IS COMING…in Hebrews 8: 7-13…and when God speaks of a NEW Covenant, it means He has made the FIRST one OBSOLETE. It is now out of date (EXPIRED), and will soon be discarded/disappear. In Jeremiah 31:33-34, the Lord gave clear and far-reaching promise of (new Covenant) NT. The OT (the Decalogue) was written on tablets of stone. And all the rest of the torah (Pentateuch) was an elaborated commentary of the Decalogue. But the NT is imprinted /inscribed/written in the heart (spirit of the believer, irrespective of your origin (background) of race or religion) by the Spirit, (Eph 2:11-22).
Thru Jeremiah the Spirit forthtold/foretold to the Israelites and to us who would believe the Gospel (Jesus), they would need no more any teachers (it was necessary in the OT to teach/expound the Torah to mostly to the illiterates (common people of Israel) as mostly the Levites, priests (class) who were the educated in the Scriptures. No one possessed individual copies of the Scriptures (scroll) with them or in their communities (in later time they established “Synagogues” where there was large of Israelite community, rather than going to Jerusalem on every Shabbath (and they were not allowed to walk on Shabbaths!!). All had to wait/depend on the priests, Levites (teachers, like Samuel, Ezra, Nehemiah ) to read and explain (teaching) the Scriptures to them (men) thrice in a year as collectively herded (Jer 31:34) to Jerusalem (where the Dwelling Place of God was situated and where the Scriptures (scrolls were kept intact), during the three main festivals !!
(Then, the very God who gave the OT/Scriptures stepped into human history as a man, a well-established scholasticism was already in existence, developed by “Rabbis, Teachers/Scholars of the Law”, and was impregnable (stone-walled) and became so defensive. The God of the Scriptures, had problem with their scholasticism (interpretation) and scholars (interpreters) and they in turn opposed Him to “tooth and nail” and found fault with him every step of the way, condemned him, held Him guilty by the measuring rod of their “law” and scholasticism and nailed Him to a Cross!!!)
So, drastic/radical is the change from the external to the internal in the NC (Jer 31:33). This is done by the Spirit of God taking His residence in each believer (the OT believer did not have this distinction/privilege) and accepts him/her as God’s child/children (Jn 14: 17, 23; Heb 2:10-13). (Paul, by the Holy Spirit makes this quite clear in second Corinthians 3:7-18, what the OT was about and what it did and could not do then and now and what the NT does in the lives of believing Israelite or gentile and the life-changing transformation takes place now and forever !!!). Then He takes very Word He authored, inscribes in the “tablet” of our hearts (spirits) as the Lord Jesus said, the words that I speak to you are life and spirit (Jn 6:63).
For instance, look at James 1:16-18, especially verse 18: He chose to give birth to us by giving us His True Word. And we out of/from all creation, became His Prized (first Fruit) Possession. So the pinnacle/culmination of the OT scriptures is the Gospel (Jesus) and we and the transformed life we live, the outcome/product/fruit from/of/by the GOSPEL(the Eternal Gospel)!!!! And as you and I continually read, study, spend time in His Word, meditates His Word, He makes it life and spirit to us. So we do not need any more external coercion, promptings, pushes or pulls not even from the so called higher ups like “teachers”. Why the Christians are so dependent on preachers and teachers? Somehow (deception), we have come to believe Scripture is very difficult and hard to understand, and only by the help (“anointed”) of aides (the “cult” of personalities) we can understand (?). Because majority of us are lazy (easily give up and give in) not hard working, not persistently persevering or very little enduring, of course to get an education/degree (whether in the secular or “Christian” field) to get a job or positions and promotions we are very hard working, ( with plenty of politicking), and also to raise a family, but daily getting into the Word and studying by ourselves for ourselves (eventually ministering to others, if/when the Lord lead us to). (Read Is 50:4-5, the example of the Servant of the Lord’s disciplined life),undisciplined and this is the reason why plethora of “preachers and teachers”! And thisis a big market and industry in the name of training for the (“ministry”?), schools, colleges and seminaries and universities; also printing & publishing or Recording, Broadcasting or Tele(vise)casting), just look around (if you have eyes to see and perceive)!!!
The Scripture-the written Word- of/from the Living God: Was it not intended for the common man/woman? Or was it only for the elite (select few)? Religions of the world do believe this and practice it to this day!! Hinduism: If accidently/unknowingly (of course, knowingly he/she would never!!) by any means the lower/non-castes, heard a recital of the Vedas in Sanskrit, then molten lead was to be poured into his/her ears!!! And thus, the absolute necessity class of Pundits (Brahmins-caste) who alone are “permitted” to read/study and recite Vedas (sacred scriptures: heard, remembered and written down by “venerated sages”). They hold absolute power/authority to enlighten you and give you moksha or bar you from and their recitals (vedas) have authority, power over gods!!
In Islam: allah speaks and understands Arabic(only?!!). Hence Koran was “handed down” from heaven to Mohammed in Arabic. So translation of Koran is prohibited and common man/woman has to learn Arabic and read Koran… for understanding they need the Mulavi’s expertises…for by mistake if they would misinterpret or misunderstand!!! Just think of the Roman ecclesial hierarchy:locked up the Bible (Latin-Vulgate) in chain for almost a millennium and won’t let the “laity” even look into the Bible, fearing they would misunderstand or “misinterpret” the words of the Scriptures!!! So minimum of 12 years of study was necessary for the ecclesiastical “ordained priest (?)” even to “understand” the basic things (?) of the Latin Bible and “explain”!!!Today too, such veneration of Latin, Syriac, Hebrew, Greek & Aramaic languages in which the Bible was translated in early years of the church or even pre-church era!!! (There are people who are preparing and studying Hebrew, insisting that it would be the Language of the Millennial Kingdom!! If so, you’d better get ready, set, go for Hebrew). Think of men like John Wycliffe, William Tyndale had to sacrifice their lives at the altar of ecclesiastical hierarchy in order to translate Bible into common man’s language!!! The so called church assumed on itself such kind of unwarranted authority and held God, the Bible and the people of God at ransom in their custody???
Reformation broke forth over five centuries ago and still God’s people are held captives by ecclesiastical hierarchies, cults, heretics and false theology of false theologians!!! May be missiologically we are quite liberated, but not Biblically (understanding the Bible)!!! Every child of God must be let loose (By sacrificing Himself on the cross, rising from death, ascending to His Royal Glory (reigning), sending the Holy Spirit of Triunity to dwell in the believing (the Gospel) person(s) and oversee the perfecting of the Redeemed Body), from any kind of bondage especially, the bondage of cults of personalities of preachers/teachers/dispensers of “blessings”. To truly find and function in their God-given royal-priesthood (1 Pet 2:5-9). Why am I saying this? To prove the point that God’s Word IS for all people, for all time…NO ONE has RIGHT/AUTHORITY to withhold it from a fallen human being created in God’s Image… for it is HIS REVELATION to humankind. On the other hand the opposite is TRUE and somehow we have come to believe or made to believe, without these intermediaries, one cannot understand the Scriptures!!! This kind belief system and imposing of this is from the pit of hell and as he deceived our first parents and ever since he is trying this deception on the offspring of the first parents (especially on the Redeemed Community). Imagine the audacity of him to try his trickery/deception/charm on the very ONE who created him, the Seed of the woman, the Second Adam!!! Majority of Christendom is caught up in this deception, irrespective of sects, denominations and personalities!!!!
Or, I wonder if we are who Isaiah says in 6thchapter, verses 9-10 ; quoted by our Lord in Mathew 13:13; Luke 8:10; Mark 4:12; John 12:40; Paul in Acts 28:26-27; Romans 11:8 and in Jeremiah 5: 20-22 . I think, this is the real situation and reason why the church IS what it is right today!!! Looks like so much going on… but people are devoid of understanding of God’s Word or what the Spirit is saying to the church thru His inspired, infallible written Word !!! For the Spirit becomes my/your teacher and guide and interpreter of His Word to me/you (Heb 8:10-11; 10:15-18). I believe this is the way to understand God’s Word and to grow in the Grace and Knowledge of Jesus…Does this mean there is no pastoring (shepherding)-teaching gift? No, I do not mean that all!! The Lord has gifted His people for growing and maturing the body (Eph 4:7-16)…but their ministry is only (just) supplemental !!!! Read Psalm 23 to understand what/how the Good Shepherd takes care of His sheep (pl).
Through this study, I would like to pass on to you some hints that helped me to study God’s Word. By studying, coming to know my God more intimately, more personally and this has widened my understanding who this God/Savior of mine is…and I continually grow in awe of Him!!!
Get hold of a Bible, a modern translation (For example, NLT, has a 6th Grader’s language), simple, easy language to understand!!
The Words of the Lord originally given and written down by the original authors/ writers were inspired/infallible/inerrant, but not the languages !!! There is nothing sacredness of a language…it’s simply a medium of communication!!! This is a big “problem”with non-christian religions and their so called scriptural languages (for ex: Arabic, or Sanskritetc.) God is not hung up on a language…He used Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic etc to communicate about Himself and His truth to humankind… and 1000s of languages/scripts to get His Word made available today to nations/tribes/peoples of the world!!!
Somehow we came to believe or forced to believe or accept that older the translations with archaic words, usages with poetical languages, more sacred, inspired (inspiring the readers), or more authoritative it is! Or only few are specially “gifted” to understand these “hard and difficult” words, phrases, passages, chapters or book!! What a superstition, ignorance, misunderstanding!!
For instance, the Englishlanguage in the 16th and 17th centuries was in its infant/formative stage. In fact, it is the KJV (Bible) gave the language a royal lift and popularity. Today, no student readeth, knoweth or understandeth Shakespeare or Milton in their original language (16th/17th century), or style or by removing “eth” from the verbs it does not become modern, simple language of the common man of the street in 21st century!!!).The translators (1605-1611), of the Bible by the order of the king have almost, verbatim 95% of William Tyndale’s translation into “English”, for which “the church” held him guilty and burned at stake, in their esteemed version and then presented it to the king and eventually to the churches as the most venerated “KING JAMES (Authorised) VERSION” of the Holy Bible !!! (Go to any website, or Wikipedia on the History of English Bible and read it for yourself !!!).
For universities and colleges have revised the language of all these writers of yester centuries for their students!! How about the ever living, written Word of the Living God?? In a world of illiterateness towards the Bible, let us keep it simple, so that a child-like Samuel (modern-21st century’s), be able to understand and obey God’s Word.
Many Bible Colleges, Seminaries will not graduate you unless you are thorough with the “Sacred Languages”. So many people do not understand the ancient languages, usages, words, idioms of olden days-for we live in 21st century, have to depend on interpreters, commentarians, dictionarians, preachers (who think they understand!!). My, my, God must be a poor communicator, if we have to depend upon so many via-mediums to make us understand what He has spoken!!! No, I don’t think so. This is not my God, who revealed Himself in and thru the pages of the Bible!!!
This does not mean I see no use or benefit from knowing the original languages in which the Scripture was recorded. Most of today’s translations or versions are very accurate to the original/copies (Ex: Dead-Sea Scrolls). Much advanced scientific archaeology, investigation, thousands of God’s people (scholars) from all walks of life have spent millions of hours of study, research, comparisons to translate and compile some of these versions and are reliable and accurate, we can be blessed by their hard work !!!
Moses warned the Israelites not to go into the unknown/unknowable… that is God’s prerogative. What is revealed is for us today… which means all we need to know about God and come to a living relationship with Him, to live a holy life and wait for His Son’s appearance… is revealed in the Bible… living up to/by it is more important than going after many prophecy conferences!!!
Remember the words of Phillip to the Ethiopian Steward? Do you understand what you are reading? The Steward needed someone well-versed, led by the Spirit to explain the passage to him…(because, he was untaught in the Word, and at least had a scroll with him to read) and the result was obedience to the Word (revealed Truth), salvation of the steward…may be many Ethiopians, eventually….
Bible, notebook, pencil (micro-tip)… find a quiet place where the Lord can get your full attention-not disturbed by anyone/thing. Write notes on the margin of the Bible with pencil. Next time you read the same passage, the Lord may give you a fresher understanding of Himself or the truth…you may erase and rewrite.
I never use pen or markers on my Bible!! (Or keep a note book/journal and jot down what the Lord shows you each day).
If you understand English well, you have a greater advantage!!! Many Study Bibles in modern Translations are in English!!! Much of Christian writings, thinking(s) are in English!!!
Read the whole Book. If you have a Study Bible (always get a Study Bible in modern Versions/Translations, done by group of scholars from different walks of life, rather than one person-however scholarly or godly he (you) thinks/is, so you will get the sum of a wider scholarship and a balanced doctrinal views rather than one person’s), go thru the introduction to the book, author, readers, background, main subjects covered. This way you will understand why the author is addressing the particular issues. Words/sentences have no meaning (only a possible meaning) apart from the context in which these are spoken/written. So the student must study how the words fit together and what/which meaning have in the particular context. Consider the whole section, then the paragraph etc and ask what is the author’s intention and what am I to do with it.
Read the Chapter, the passage, the paragraph, the verse, phrase, word etc. Do not rush thru. Allow the Spirit who is the Author of the Word to enlighten you (Ps119:18)…tarry a while-a kjv usage-(may be just a verse, a passage, a para or even a chapter is more than enough for Him to speak.
Do not depend on “substitutes/ Bible helps/Aids” for your nourishment, growth and maturity. Ex: reading daily devotionals, listening to radio, listening to so called christian (songs-lyrics) music, watching so called christian tv channels, listening to tapes/CDs/MP3/4, these may have their place in Christendom; but cannot and must not be an alternative/substitute to getting into the Word by yourself, for yourself, just the same way you intake food and you do not expect someone else intake food for you!!
The Holy Spirit has only inspired His Word!!, so quieten yourself in His presence. Meditate on His Word, Pray for enlightenment of/into His Word. Most of the time stay within the passage …itself…sometimes He may prompt you cross-check other verse(s)…obedience to the revealed truth is more important than more reading or chapters (fulfilling certain programs), read or acquiring more knowledge.
I know I will be criticized for saying the above. But the naked- truth is, majority of the christendom lives and thrives (if they are!!), on substitutes and supplements, but NOT on the REAL Thing-The Written Word of the Living Word)!!!
Many Christians take a subjective, individualistic stance toward the meaning of Scripture. We tend to think that as long as my heart is touched, I have found the meaning! We also tend to think if we read and memorize the Scriptures (verses, passages), its meaning will automatically become clear-to me/us. IT IS NOT SO!!!
Always (sound, orthodox) understand the Scriptures in its literal, historical, grammatical interpretational strain, not allegorically!
Authors, Geisler & Rhodes in their book, Conviction without Compromise, in the chapter called The Literal Interpretation of Scripture, give the following guide-lines, for studying and interpreting the Bible.
Literal: The literal sense of text-opposed to the non-literal or allegorical sense. It refers to the understanding of a text any person of normal intelligence would understand, without any special keys or codes.
Normal: the normal, everyday, common understanding of the terms in the Bible. Plain way of understanding and interpreting the Bible/passage.
Historical: Sentences, passages of Scripture should be understood and interpreted in their historical-settings. They should not be taken out of space-time, cultural contexts in which they were uttered. This safe-guards the readers from making interpretive error of reading into the text/context, one’s own cultural context.
Grammatical: Proper meaning of a sentence is rooted in its grammar. The sense of the passage emerges from the grammatical structure with all parts of speech…and thus only a certain meaning can be derived. This method involves giving each word the same exact basic meaning it would have the normal, ordinary, customary usage of its day.
Contextual: Every sentence in Scripture should be understood in the historical-context of its paragraph, every paragraph in the context of its whole book. And each book in the context of the whole…so, the meaning is discovered by context-from the immediate to the broader context.
Authorial: (The Divine Author first, then the human authors) The historical-grammatical meaning is the author’s expressed meaning. It is authors who give the meaning to the text, NOT the reader/interpreter/commentator. It is the reader’s obligation to discover the meaning that the authors determined. To put it plainly, only the meaners can give meaning to the text. Hence, what is meant in the text is what the meaners meant by it, NOT what the reader desires it to mean!!!
There are of course, limits to legitimate spiritual applications. Application cannot destroy the basic meaning of the text. There may be many applications of text, there is only one proper interpretation of the text. The application must not contradict any other revealed truth. There is only one interpretation of the text-intended by the author-there may be more than one implication in a text, ex: Matt 2:15.
The advantages of literal interpretations are: it is normal approach in all languages. Greater part of the Bible makes sense when taken literally.
It will make the secondary meaning when demanded; all secondary meanings actually depend on the literal meaning; it is the only sane and safe check on the imagination of man; and it is the only approach in line with the nature of inspiration.
Some may argue or think, I am giving undue/ too much exaltation to the Bible!!! And not giving importance to the ministry of the Holy Spirit!!?? Am I? Absolutely NOT!!
The Holy Spirit alone is the Author/Initiator, the Inspirer of the writers/ and the thoughts/words are inspired by the Spirit and He stands behind what He has inspired and He works in, thru and by the very words He has inspired and that’s why in Hebrews 4:12 says the Word of God is active (alive) and powerful…No time/where He contradicts His Word!!
Does He work outside/apart from His revealed/written Word? In may be rare instances!! In the book of Acts we do see the Spirit working thru visions/dreams to fulfil His plan and purpose in seeing the world reached with gospel. In the case of Cornelius, yes…but then He led him to invite Simon Peter and Simon Peter was instructed to receive the invitation and preach the gospel and the resultant start of evangelization and churching of : Gentiles”!!!
Today there are many instances, where the Spirit gives visions/dreams to individuals to acknowledge and receive Jesus…but then they are led/ instructed to join with the other believers in fellowships and studying of God’s written Word and thus grow in the knowledge and grace of the Lord!!!
His Word alone stands/settled in Heaven. Visions, dreams, are only for the time being and may be only means to the end; not the end in itself!!
There are many images/symbols used in the Bible how the Word works:
A double-edged Sword-(Heb 4:12), bringing deep conviction in hearer/listener/user.
Hammer (Jer 23:29) breaks/smashes the resistance.
Seed (1 Pet 1:23) Seed that produces life-New Birth
Mirror (Js 1:23-25) Mirror that gives the true reflection of the individual!!
Fire (Jer 20:9; 23:29),All consuming/Purifying Fire
Lamp/Light (Ps119:105),The lamp that enlightens the passages of life
Food/water/nourishment/Honey (1Pet 2:2; Heb 5:12-14; I Cor 3:2; 2Pet 3:18)
Growing and maturing takes place as to the proportion one spends time in and with the Word.
Read, study, meditate, memorize Ps 119.11
Read, study, meditate the Word with reverence and fear Is 66:2
Read, study, meditate the Word with Prayer Ps 119:18
Read study, meditate the Word. Ps 1:1-3; 119:15
Read, study, meditate the Word systematically
Read, study, meditate with purpose and determination 119:112, 130, 165
Read, study, meditate regularly, daily as you would intake your daily food 119:62, 103.
Read, study, mediate the Word daily in order to know the mind/heart/will/purpose of the Father in/for your life (Col 3:16-17)
Read, study, meditate the Word daily, so you would have an effective prayer and answered prayer, thus glorify your Father (Jn 15:7-8)
Read, study, meditate the Word daily, so you would be able to make concrete effort to walk in step with the Spirit (Gal 5:25)
Read, study, meditate the Word daily in order the Spirit can bring forth/produce His fruit in/thru you (Gal 5:22-23)
Read, study, meditate the Word daily, and appropriate the Word in every situation to keep you from sinning (Ps 119:9)
Read, study, mediate the Word daily, for fruitfulness in your life (Hos 14:8)
Read, study, meditate the Word daily, for overcoming the vile strategy of the evil one against you (Eph 6:10-18, emphasis on vs 17); Rev 12:11
Read, study, meditate the Word daily, as you/in order to share the Divine nature (2 Pet 1:3-4)
Read, study, mediate the Word daily, so you may able to defend the faith once for all entrusted to (you) the saints (Jude 3) and keep yourself in the most holy faith (Jude 20)
Read, study, meditate the Word daily so as to keep you unspotted from the world, and the lusts thereof (i Jn 2:15-17).
Jesus quoted to devil Deut 8:3, that our priority should not be laboring for food that perishes, but our true nourishment should be from and by the Word of the Living God. Then he told his disciples in Jn 4:34 that his nourishment comes from…doing the will of the ONE who sent him…if Jesus was so particular about his nourishment, how about us?
The Scriptures are full of people of God living by the Word of God…Jesus told to the people of Israel in John’s Gospel, not to be over-laboring for the food that perishes.
He also said the words that He speaks are life and spirit-true nourishment!!
Ex: Psalm 1, talks of a man who is joyful/happy/blessed-by delighting in the Word… how? He takes time, effort to make the Word his by meditating-his passionate pursuit…as a result-ministered, enlightened by the Author of the Word he meditates, he is like a tree firmly planted, rooted, grounded, drawing out his nourishment, sustenance from the Word of His God…He coordinates his everyday life in accordance with the Word he intakes everyday…His successes or even his failures, he is not worried, because he lives according to the Word of His God, for His glory and honor…He is particular about who his associates, friends are. Those who directly influences him in his walk with the Lord and who he also can influence he chooses, others who will not encourage him in this life of faith and obedience to the written Word of the Living Word, he shuns/rejects: He has no casual friends, associates, association!! You are known by who your friends/associates are!!
Then there are few verses in Psalm 36:8-9 talk about the plenty in the Father’s house/storeroom (His Word). And how he invites those who are thirsty to come and drink from the river of His delights– His Delight is His spoken–His written Word. Finally the Word that became flesh and blood for us…in Him we see, understand, intake, ingest the true character and person of The Living Word…for we see in Him the FULLNESS of who our God is… for He has honoured His Word according to the honor due to His Name (Ps 138:2). So take time to come to Him and let His Delight be your delight too. He alone can satisfy you. No one else can and will. No substitutes. Do not try to live on “crumbs“ that fall from any one/thing. There is plenty at the Master’s Table. Come and eat/drink and you will be nourished, you will be fattened and matured!! He is the ever-living, flowing, nourishing Fountain, come to drink deep… let this be your cry of your heart-the passionate pursuit- of your God thru His written Word and let it become the living Word to you in your everyday life and ministry!! In His LIGHT you will see the light-enlightened by the True Light.
May we be like the True Shepherd who leads His flock (Jn 10:1-16) to green pastures; Psalm 23 (Word of the Living God). And he leads his flock to the still waters of His Word-River of the His Delight (His Word). May we learn ourselves and teach our flocks to get into the Word for themselves and feed for themselves, not spoon-feeding, and not even chew the cud and spit into their mouth…that’s what majority do!!!
(I have this final request to you, the congregations, fellowships, churches, readers, listeners: Tell your pastors/elders, “We would like you to teach us the Word: Genesis-to Revelation; book-by-book; chapter-by-chapter; passage-by passage; verse-by-verse and word-to-word…And ask them to teach you how to get into the Word for yourself and dig deep, diving deep to get the precious stones, pearls…don’t be satisfied by spoon-feeding, or by visiting preachers etc”!!! In this way, you will grow in the Grace and knowledge of Jesus… This is His will for you!!!!
Pastors/Teachers/Preachers: Determine in your hearts that you have depended on others and your theology or homiletics to pastor the church of the Living Word and not taught the Word…but now on you will be His kind of man, studying to be approved by the One who enlisted you into the ministry, who will nurture the flock by/in green pastures/Living Waters of His Word… book-by-book; chapter-by-chapter; passage-by-passage; verse-by- verse and word-to-word and teach His people (flock) to get into the Word for themselves and drink from the River of His Delights. Then you will see your fellowship-church-congregation, growing in the Grace and Knowledge of Jesus, (read Ps 92:12-15; 2 Pet 3:18) everyday!
Then we all will grow in the full Grace and knowing Jesus, till we all attain full stature, image, maturity, which the Father longs for His children. Be like His “only-begotten Son”, who has become our older brother, we His brothers and sisters to reign with Him in our royal role !!! Amen, Come Lord Jesus, Your Bride is ready, eagerly waiting for YOU, our GROOM!!!
The author invites constructive feedback/ suggestion/criticism etc. through the comment box.
A Freelance writer from Secunderabad India
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