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So-called Holy Spirit Based Interpretations

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 count.

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.

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