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Scripture Interprets Scripture

Iíve said that there are various passages that require some kind of interpretation for various reasons. Itís hard to repeat these verses as truth as we can with the "donít steel" verse. As I said before, we donít need to interpret "donít steel". We only repeat it as Biblical truth. Yet concerning other passages we sometimes interpret them by having other passages give explanation. This is called "Scripture interprets Scripture". One verse is a commentary on another verse so to speak.

This kind of assistance in interpreting is often used when interpreting the imagery found in the book of Revelation. Many prophetic teachers say that all the imagery used in Revelation can be found elsewhere in the Bible. When you consider these other verses and compare them with the imagery verses in Revelation, youíll understand what the images mean. Personally, when it comes to interpreting Revelation, I think thereís more guessing based on presuppositions than anything else.

There is some validity to Scripture interpreting Scripture. Itís similar to interpreting a particular verse in light of the context of the rest of the Bible, as I discussed earlier. But even with this method of interpretation things can go wrong.

Acts 8:9 Ė 25 tells the story of Philip meeting up with some Samaritans. Verse 12 says that many of these people "believed" Philipís preaching and "accepted the Word". Verse 15 tells us that "the Holy Spirit had not yet come on them" when Philip preached so Peter and John came from Jerusalem to pray for them at a later date. Verse 17 says that these people "received the Holy Spirit" when Peter and John laid hands on them.

A pastor friend told me that Scripture interprets Scripture and thus we should understand "believe" and "accept the word" in this case as meaning these people were "in Christ" and since they were "in Christ", they received the Holy Spirit into their lives when they first believed Philipís message. Then he told me that when Peter and John prayed for them, they received the experience called the Baptism in the Spirit, not the Spirit Himself.

His explanation was based on the phrase "being in Christ", as seen in Eph. 1:3, and elsewhere. He said, if you believe, you are in Christ, and therefore must have the Holy Spirit. Therefore, my friend says that these Samaritans received the Spirit when they believed Philip, and not at the laying on of hands by Peter and John. Thus the only explanation left for the laying on of hands event was the Baptism in the Spirit.

His attempt to convince me of his point based on Scripture interpreting Scripture failed. It was a leap logic to use Eph. 1:3 as a commentary on Acts 8, even though for the most part I agree that one who is in Christ is a true believer and has the Holy Spirit, but not in this case.

We need to be clear here. The text does not support my friendís thinking. It plainly says they "believed and accepted the word". Thatís it Ė no hint of receiving the Spirit at that point, especially in light that verse 15 says "the Holy Spirit had not yet come on them". Then the convincing verse is verse 17. It says "they received the Holy Spirit" at the laying on of hands by Peter and John. Thatís pretty clear and simple. These people did not receive the Spirit when they first believed as my friend taught.

My friend, in the name of Scripture interpreting Scripture actually imported a new idea into the text that changed the textís meaning. The new idea was that these people were in Christ and received the Spirit when they believed Philip. There is no such statement in the text. Itís not even eluded to. His use of Eph. 1:3 as a commentary on this passage was not appropriate. Moreover, the text clearly says the opposite to what he believed.

Once again, we need to let the text speak for itself. Thatís a rule weíve already talked about. This text is clear. We donít need Eph. 1:3 to comment on it. Importing ideas from other verses into a text can be helpful at times, but the importation cannot change the original meaning of the text. It should only add clarity to the meaning of the verse. Thus we need to be careful how we let Scripture interpret Scripture.

Hereís a good example of Scripture interpreting Scripture. John in his first letter uses the phrase "born of God a number of times. One might wonder just what he means by this. We can turn to Johnís Gospel record, chapter 3 verses 8 to see where Jesus uses this phrase. Jesus tells Nicodemus that he needs to be born again. Jesus clarifies His own words by saying being born again means being born again by the Holy Spirit. When we receive the Holy Spirit into our lives we are born into a new world of the Spirit, just as we entered a new world when we were born naturally. So in this example Scripture really does interpret Scripture. John chapter 3 is a commentary on 1 John. We havenít imported anything new into the texts of 1 John that changed its meaning. Weíve only turned to John 3 to find some clarity on what being born of God means.

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