In my introduction I mentioned that some people believe the Bible to be
too spiritual to be logical. They interpret Bible passages quite
spiritually, claiming that the Holy Spirit told them what the passage
"really" means. Then when some of us question their teaching,
they claim that what they teach is "foolishness" to our carnal
minds. (1 Cor. 1:18 and following)
When Paul uses the word "foolish" in 1 Cor. 1:18 and
following, it is in relation to the preaching of the gospel. According to
Paul, the gospel of grace is "foolishness" to the philosophical
thinking of the world. Paul is not saying that a particular doctrine
taught by someone in the church is foolish to carnal minded Christians.
Those who criticize us for our questioning of their teaching and use 1 Cor.
1:18 in their defense is abusing this verse. These people are practicing
bad hermeneutics on two counts. Their over spiritualizing of Scripture is
one count, and their misuse of 1 Cor. 1:18 in their defense is the second
I do believe we need the Holy Spirit to help us in our understanding of
Biblical truth. The Bible is a spiritual book, but itís not so spiritual
to be illogical. I believe a logical and systematic approach to Bible
study is fundamental to a sound understanding of its contents.
In Gal. 4:19 Paul says, "my little children, for whom I am again
in pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you". Paul introduced
these Galatians to Jesus. You might say that he gave birth to their
spiritual life in one sense of the word. These Galatians were beginning to
wander away from the truth of salvation by faith and were substituting it
with a salvation by works. This made Paul quite sorrowful. Heíd spent
great time and energy with these folk and now they were about to leave the
truth of the gospel of Jesus that he committed his life to.
When Paul says that he was in pain, as if he were giving birth to a
child, he simply is speaking about the sorrow he was going through because
of the Galatians possible departure from the faith. You can easily imagine
why that would bother Paul so much.
You wouldnít think thereíd be any misunderstanding over what Paul
said here. Itís not hard to figure out, but I knew a man who claimed to
be inspired by the Holy Spirit and built a major doctrine around this
verse that he called the doctrine of "travailing".
"Travailing" is the word the King James Version uses in Gal.
4:19. The NIV uses the word "pain".
So this is how his doctrine played out with the people he pastored. He
would pray for a person by the laying on of his hands. Supposedly the Holy
Spirit would fall on the person and rage a war against the human nature
within that person. The battle between the Spirit and the individualís
human nature caused the person to "travail", thus the name of
the teaching. This travailing would produce physical manifestations. The
women would beat their fists into pillows, while the men would smash an
old tire with a baseball bat.
I found myself watching this from the sidelines a few times in the
house where these people met. I do use the word "sidelines"
because it almost appeared to be a sporting event. The swinging of
baseball bats and the punching of pillows might have actually made for an
interesting "reality sports show" on ESPN . Things got wild,
loud and real crazy at times, and I was afraid that some neighbour would
call the police and have us all arrested for disturbing the peace on an
otherwise quiet Sunday morning. I donít think Iíd mind being arrested
for the gospel of Jesus, but for some "travailing teaching" I
didnít participate in is another story.
Such a so-called Holy Spirit led interpretation of this verse is both
wacky and bad hermeneutics. Itís neither logical or factual If Paul says
that he was in pain as if he was giving birth, thatís the fact. Logic
should tell us that nothing else should be added to the fact of this
statement. Letís be logical and factual about what we believe the Bible
says, and letís not claim, or should I say blame, the Holy Spirit for
such nonsensical doctrines.