About Jesus - Steve
'the art of Biblical Interpretation'
- Inspiration Of Scripture
- Historical Context
- No Presupposition
- Admit To Your Interpretation
- Scripture Interprets Scripture
- Importing Scripture Into Scripture
- Reading Between The Lines
- So-called Holy Spirit Interpretation
- Word Studies
Verse By Verse Exegeses
- Our Personalities
The Old Testament Is Our Example
Types And Shadows In The Old Testament
- The Law Of Moses Is Prophetic
- The Fulfillment Of The Law
- The New Meaning Of The Law
The Law Was Nailed To The Cross
The Law Is Obsolete
- Jesus Obeyed The Law
Jesus Redefines The Ten Commandments
- Implications Of The New Testament Reality
The Acts 15 Decision
Law, Grace, Or License
The New Testament View Of The Old Testament
God Doesn't Change
33 - The
Culture In Scripture
Faulty And Flimsy Premises
Defining A Word By Context
- In Conclusions
online dictionary defines hermeneutics as "the study of the
methodological principles of interpretation."
I define hermeneutics as the attempt to understand what others
say as they understand it, not as I think they understand it or as I
want to understand it.
You might say that hermeneutics is the art of common
hearing my definition of hermeneutics one wife said that she wanted to
hermeneutic with her husband over lunch the next day.
Obviously, she had something she wanted to communicate to him.
She wanted him to hear something from her point of view, not from
his point of view.
I guess she wanted him to understand something that he didn't
quite understand as yet.
most common mistake we make in attempting to understand others is that
we put words into their mouths, something none of us like others doing
We do this by defining their words and statements based on our
thinking, not their thinking.
Whether we intentionally do this or not, it misrepresents what
others intended to say.
At this point the attempt to communicate fails.
Biblical terms, hermeneutics is the ability to understand the Bible and
its authors, including the Lord, as it wants it to be understood, not as
we want to understand it.
If we fail to understand the Bible the way its authors intended,
we do damage to the Bible and our understanding of the Bible.
Therefore, Biblical hermeneutics incorporates common sense rules
to help us interpret the Bible in the way it is meant to be interpreted.
It's not an easy process at times but it is an important process.
most well known common sense rule in interpreting the Bible is that we
donít take a statement out of its context.
When we do that, we make the statement say something it was never
meant to say.
Any Biblical statement must be understood in the context of the
paragraph it's in.
Beyond that, it must be understood in the context of the book in
which it is written; the context of the whole Bible; the context in
the life of the one who made the statement, and, the context of the
culture in which it was written.
This obviously takes serious thought and study, but once you go
through the process you'll understand the statement much better.
simple example of a common sense rule is to understand a statement in
light of whom it was written or spoken.
Jesus told a rich young ruler to sell all that he had and give
the proceeds to the poor (Matthew 19:21).
Jesus spoke this to one specific man.
He did not speak that to you or I. What
Jesus told that man doesn't necessarily apply to me.
Unless the Holy Spirit clearly tells me to sell all I have and
give it to the poor, I keep what I have.
That doesn't mean there are lots for me to learn in this
passage about money, the poor, and following Jesus.
There are lots for me to learn.
the Bible in a logical, systematic, and methodical way is becoming a
lost skill in today's postmodern church.
The western world church, in my opinion, is fast becoming a lazy
church when it comes to Bible study.
I believe we are paying the price for our laziness in that real
spiritual growth and our representation of Jesus to the world is being
There is no growth as a Christian or a church apart from the Holy
Spirit led study of the Bible.
The Apostle Peter, in 1 Peter 2:2, encourages us to crave, as the
NIV puts it, the sincere milk of the Word, as the KJV puts it.
Christians read the Bible purely as a devotional book.
They hope the Holy Spirit will simply drop the understanding into
I do believe in what I would call Biblical revelation where the
Holy Spirit hits us with a truth we've never seen before, but that does
not discount our responsibility to seriously study the Bible.
There is nothing inherently wrong with viewing the Bible as a
devotional book to be inspired by, but, it's also a book to educate us
in the ways of our Lord.
That requires study, not just reading.
churches teach Biblical hermeneutics and that is to the detriment of
both the church and the Christian.
You would think any kind of help to understand what God wants us
to know would be important, but apparently it's not in many Christian
So here we go.
Let's see if we can learn some common sense rules of Biblical
Islam, Christians do not believe God dictated the words of the Bible to
those who penned it.
The historical belief among Christians is that God inspired, not
dictated, what the writers of the Bible wrote.
This means that men wrote in their own words, their own
writing style and mannerism.
They were moved upon, or inspired, by the Holy Spirit as they
This is seen in the different writing styles of Biblical writers.
These differences donít suggest that they werenít inspired.
They suggest the words were not dictated.
need to note that the traditional view of the doctrine of the
Inspiration of Scripture applies only to the original writings, not to
any copies or versions of these original writings.
This means that the King James Bible is not more inspired than
any other version.
The KJV is called the "authorized version" because King
James authorized it to be written, not because it's more authoritative
than any other version.
do not have any original copies of any of the books found in the
We only have copies and fragments of copies.
It is important to understand that the Bible stands out alone as
authentic among other historical writings.
Our copies or partial copies of the original writings are closer
to the original writings in date than any other historical writings.
We also have more copies and fragments of copies than these other
historical books written in the same time period.
If you question the Bible, you must question Plato and a whole
host of other books of history that historians claim as credible and
may cause some to question the reliability of the Bible.
Can we trust what the Bible says as being the Word of God if we
don't have the original inspired version?
As Christians we have an underlying element of trust in Jesus
that helps us with this question.
Beyond any doubt, Jesus has convinced us of His existence.
We, therefore, trust that His Word that we hold in our hands is
sufficient for Christian maturity.
If we cannot trust Jesus on this matter, we canít trust Him for
our salvation or for any other matter of life.
The real question that remains is whether Jesus is really who He
and we claim Him to be.
Does He really exist in the first place as the Bible claims?
Thatís a topic for another day.
I trust the Lord Jesus Christ in all matters of life.
is one hermeneutical rule that is well known but not always followed in
It is the rule of context that Iíve mentioned in my
often donít follow this rule in life let alone in interpreting the
reason why people communicate poorly with one another is because they
take things that are said out of context.
Husbands and wives often do this.
A husband may say something to his wife and his wife may respond
by saying something that has little relevance to what her husband just
said. She might be upset at what her husband said or did yesterday and
so her response is a reaction to that and not what he just said. She
is, thus, responding out of context.
At this point the communication between the two becomes
disjointed; the original train of thought introduced by the husband is
broken and shifts in a different direction.
Then, the husband may follow his wife by doing what she did.
He introduces something into the conversation that was said by
his wife on a prior occasion.
This shifts the attempt to communicate even farther away from the
husband's original comment.
The conversation gets even more disjointed.
Nothing usually gets accomplished in this kind of dialogue.
out of context communication often happens when we attempt to interpret
Taking words and phrases out of context leads to a disjointed
misunderstanding of Biblical truth.
Our response to a particular verse or passage may be influenced
by what we think the verse means or want it to mean.
an example of taking a verse out of context.
Paul, in Romans 4:17 says that "God Ö calls things that
are not as though they were."
The misconception here is that God calls things that are not as
though they are, and therefore, so should we.
This means that if you want a new car, you name it and claim it.
You speak it into existence and act as if you already have the
In other words, you call your new car, something that is not, as
though it was, that is, already in your driveway.
That is not what this passage is saying.
Many people have gone astray by misrepresenting Romans 4:17.
This misappropriation of Scripture is often seen in what is
commonly called the Hyper Faith and Prosperity Movement, which in my
thinking, is an unhealthy influence by our hedonistic western culture on
how to understand Romans 4:17 in its context.
The things that are not are Gentiles who possess the same faith
as Abraham, who Paul says is the father of many nations, meaning,
Gentiles who have the same faith as Abraham are now considered to
be part of the people of God along with faithful Jews.
God considered Gentiles, those who are not, as though they were,
the people of God.
Beyond this contextual understanding there is no secondary
meaning to this verse that says we can call things that are not as
though they were.
There is no hint of this assertion in the passage.
Romans 4:17 has nothing to do with positive thinking, naming and
claiming, or speaking things into existence as those in the Hyper Faith
just spoken of the context of a sentence within a paragraph, but
thereís more to context than that.
There is the context of a verse in the book or letter in which it
For example, we need to consider what Paul says in the rest of
the book of Romans that would shed light on Romans 4:17.
If you read the previous chapters of Romans you will note that
both Jews and Gentiles are condemned by God as sinners.
Therefore, both Jews and Gentiles can find favour with God
through faith in Jesus.
There is no hint in the context of the entire book about us
speaking things into existence or us calling things that aren't as
though they are.
this, there is the context of the whole Bible.
We should know what the rest of the Bible says about a particular
issue found in a particular verse that might shed some light on the
There are many other Biblical passages to consider when thinking
about Romans 4:17.
the context of the Bible, it's important to understand a statement in
light of who wrote the statement.
Paul wrote Romans 4:17.
Knowing and understanding who he was, other things he wrote, and
how he thought, at least to a limited degree, will help us understand
what he meant in Romans 4:17.
context of the culture in which a passage was written is also important.
This is an important one.
We often fail to understand a Biblical passage because we
interpret it in light of our western world's 21st century culture.
That is a mistake.
The historic culture, whether religious or secular, in which a
statement is made sheds much light on a passage. For
example, in 1 Timothy 2:9 Paul says that a woman should not have braided
a statement sounds foreign to us today.
I've seen many Christian ladies with braided hair.
Are they sinning?
This statement must be understood in its cultural context, where,
prostitutes often had braided hair.
In short, today's Christian women should not dress like
agents say that location is everything when selling a house.
Bible teachers say that context is everything when attempting to
interpret the Bible.
1 John 2:27 the Apostle John said that we do not need anyone to teach us
because of the anointing of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Some Christians have taken this
verse to mean that they donít need any human teacher to teach them the
things of God from the Bible.
Is this what John is really saying?
of all, there are other Biblical passages that tell us that we need
In Ephesians 4:11 we see that teachers are a gift of Christ to
So, in the context of the Bible as a whole we see the need for
teachers in the church.
tells us that a church without teachers isnít Biblical. If
John believed that we donít need human teachers, then why was he
teaching in this letter?
Why would he teach others if others didnít need him to teach
just a matter of common sense, something Christians should use more
often in their interpretation of the Bible.
point of this chapter is that the context of history says something
important to what John is saying in his first letter.
In his letter John mentions that false teachers were trying to
sway his readers from the truth of the gospel.
The historical record fills in some gaps for us.
Church history tells us that there was a man named Cerinthus, who
among other things, did not believe in the Deity of Christ.
Cerinthus and others like him were promoting the idea that
Christians didn't need teachers.
Of course, in his promotion of a teacherless church, he was
It was for this reason that John wrote this letter and said
what he said about teachers.
He was warning his readers of false teachers.
He was not saying they did not need teachers.
John told his readers that they didnít need man to teach them, history
clarifies what he was saying by telling us that the readers didnít
need men like Cerinthus to teach them.
Itís not that Johnís readers didnít need teachers.
They didnít need false teachers.
The anointing of the Spirit in John's readers lives should help them distinguish between true and false teachers, and thus
his reference to the Holy Spirit.
teaching of Cerinthus and others like him was the reason why John wrote
History tells us about Cerinthus.
John doesnít tell us this detail, but his readers would have
understood it. Knowing
some history is an important hermeneutical tool in Biblical
word "presupposition" comes from the word
Presuppose is made up of "pre," meaning before, and
"suppose," meaning "to consider or think about."
To presuppose something is to consider something
A presupposition is thus something that you have previously
thought through and have adopted into your thinking.
is a place for presupposing.
If you are entering a debate or a negotiation, you want to
consider all of the pertinent information in advance.
That's only logical.
That being said, presuppositions can have their downfalls.
If you are trying to understand what someone is saying, you don't
want your presuppositions entering your attempt to understand the
You want to listen intently and understand exactly what the other
person is saying from his viewpoint.
have the tendency to bring their presuppositions into the study of the
This means our pre-thought conclusions influence how we interpret
This in turn causes us to mix our thinking with Biblical
thinking, resulting in misunderstanding of what the Bible is saying.
we bring our presuppositions into our Bible study we often put words in
the Bible's mouth.
If the Bible says, "donít steal" that means
It doesnít mean donít steal on certain occasions or in
Thereís no need to put words in the Bibleís mouth by
interpreting "donít steal" to mean anything different than
less simple and more debatable example of what I'm saying is when the
Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 2:24 quotes Isaiah 53:9. "By
His wounds you were healed."
Many Christians see the word "healed" in this verse and
because of their presupposition of healing being associated with
sickness say that Peter and Isaiah are speaking of physical healing.
That might not be the case.
A study of the context of both passages tells us that the healing
spoken of is healing of the sickness of sin in our lives.
Beyond this, both the Greek word "ailomai" and the
English "heal" is often used in the New Testament in context
with sin, not just healing physical ailments.
In this example, bringing one's presupposition into Bible study
misrepresents this verse.
I personally have had to work my way through this passage because
in past days I have brought my physical healing presupposition into this
point here is simple. As
much as possible, leave our presuppositions out of Bible study and let
the Bible speak for itself.
Biblical passages may be difficult to understand on the surface.
The "donít steal" passage that I mentioned above is
easy to understand.
We donít need to interpret don't steel.
We just accept it, agree with it, and repeat it as Biblical
There are, however, other passages that arenít so clear that
needs to be interpreted.
We need some help in understanding what these verses are saying.
We have a variety of tools at our disposal these days that help
us with the process of interpretation.
As a matter of fact, we have so many tools at our disposal that
we as western world Christians should be the most Biblically literate
Christians in human history, but we aren't.
is how I proceed with the process of interpreting harder to understand
I check out credible commentaries that fill me in on such things
as history and culture that relates to the text I'm studying.
I check the original languages to see if there is something I can
Grammar and meaning of words are important.
I then attempt to form my interpretation in the context in which
it is written.
Once I reach a conclusion I will often say that this is how I
view this passage.
I don't say that this is the truth of God concerning this
Too often in Christian circles we confuse Biblical truth with our
interpretation of Biblical truth.
Beyond this, I often say that this is my understanding of a
particular passage to date, suggesting that as I learn more, my
interpretation may be modified.
is an example of personal interpretation of a passage that goes beyond
the scope of the passage.
Revelation 4:1 says that "there before me was a door open in
And the voice I first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said,
'come up here and I will show you what must take place after
Here is what is happening in this verse that we know for sure.
The voice is speaking to John, the writer of the book of
Without putting any words into the Bibleís mouth, this verse
simply says that a voice invited John to come up to heaven so he could
see what happens next.
That's all we learn from this particular verse.
It is a literal happening.
John, whether through a vision or a literal transportation to
heaven, is going to see the future.
Any thought beyond this fact is an interpretation, an
interpretation that might be right or might be wrong.
teachers of Biblical prophecy say that this verse represents, or is
really speaking of, a pre-tribulation rapture.
They say that John's invitation to heaven represents the church
being taken out of this world and thus can no longer be seen on earth in
the rest of the book of Revelation.
This verse, therefore, has a secondary meaning beyond the primary
The problem with this secondary meaning is that it is pure
interpretation, interpretation that may vary from one person to another
verse says nothing about a pre-tribulation rapture.
The idea of a pre-tribulation rapture from this particular verse
is a personal interpretation of certain Bible teachers based on their
presuppositions of a pre-tribulation rapture being Biblical truth.
There might well be a pre-tribulation rapture but this verse is
not confirming that.
It is a mistake to put a personal secondary meaning to a verse
and claim it as Biblical truth.
If you want to teach a pre-tribulation rapture from this verse
you must admit that it is your personal secondary preferred
lead people astray when we claim our personal interpretation as truth.
We should let the Bible speak for itself, and if necessary, we
should state that our interpretation is only our interpretation.
Let others decide for themselves how to understand a particular
passage once you have informed them of how you view the passage at hand.
Bible teachers donít want to admit the possibility of being wrong so
they teach their interpretation as gospel truth.
One of the characteristics of a good Bible teacher is humility.
When it comes to interpreting difficult passages, and really,
Revelation 4:1 isn't a difficult passage, the humble way of teaching is
admitting that this is how you understand the passage, and, that your
understanding might be wrong.
said that there are various passages that require some kind of
interpretation for various reasons.
As I said before, we donít need to interpret "donít
We simply believe "don't steal" as Biblical truth. On
the other hand, other passages need some help in interpreting.
Help often comes from other Biblical passages.
This is called Scripture interprets Scripture.
One verse is a commentary on another verse.
kind of assistance in interpreting a passage is often used when
interpreting the imagery found in the book of Revelation.
Many prophetic teachers say that all the imagery we read 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 imagery in
Revelation means much better.
8:9 to 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 of God.
Verse 15 tells us that the Holy Spirit had not yet come to
these people when Philip preached to them.
For this reason 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.
pastor friend once told me that Scripture interprets Scripture.
He said the word "believe" in the above passage
indicates that the Samaritans were "in Christ" as the Apostle
Paul called salvation in other passages.
My friend thus said that because these people were in Christ they
would have received the Holy Spirit when they first believed Philipís
message. That being the
case, when Peter and John prayed for these people, they received what
Pentecostal doctrine calls the Baptism in the Spirit, which they
understand to be a second work of grace.
In other words, once receiving the Spirit when they received the
message, they then received the power of the Spirit after hands were
laid on them.
explanation was based on the phrase "being in Christ" as seen
in Ephesians 1:3 and elsewhere.
He said that if you believe, you are in Christ, and
therefore must have the Holy Spirit living within you.
Therefore, the Samaritans had received the Spirit when they first
believed Philip's message and not when Peter and John laid hands on
laying on of hands was the Baptism in the Spirit.
attempt to convince me of his point based on Scripture interpreting
Scripture failed. It
was a leap of logic to use Ephesians 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.
need to be clear.
The text does not support my friendís thinking.
It plainly says that they "believed and accepted the
There is no hint of these people receiving the Spirit when they
believed the gospel message.
Verse 15 specifically says that "the Holy Spirit had not yet
come on them." The
convincing verse is verse 17.
It says that "they received the Holy Spirit" at the
laying on of hands by Peter and John.
Thatís clear and simple.
These people did not receive the Spirit when they first believed
as my friend taught.
friend, in the name of Scripture interpreting Scripture actually
imported a new idea into Acts 8 that changed the textís meaning.
The new idea was that these people were in Christ and received
the Spirit when they believed Philip's preaching.
There is no such statement in the text.
Itís not even alluded to.
His use of Ephesians 1:3 as a commentary on this passage was not
again, we need to let the text speak for itself before we go looking
elsewhere for help.
Thatís a rule weíve already talked about.
Importing ideas from other verses into a text can be helpful at
times but the importation cannot change the original meaning of the
should only add clarity to the meaning of the text.
a good example of Scripture interpreting Scripture.
The Apostle John, in his first letter uses the phrase "born
of God" a number of times. One
might wonder what he means by this.
We can turn to his gospel record for clarity.
In John 3:5 Jesus uses this phrase.
He tells Nicodemus that he needs to be born again.
Jesus clarifies His own words by saying that 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.
John 3:5 is a valid commentary on 1 John. In
this instance Scripture interpreting Scriptures is valid.
just mentioned how Scripture can interpret Scripture.
One Biblical passage often helps us understand another Biblical
There is, however, some danger in this process.
If we import a thought into the passage we are attempting to
understand that changes its original meaning, then that is bad
Another passage should only add to the meaning of the passage we
are studying, not change its meaning.
That being said, there are instances where we can import an idea
from another verse that does not change the original meaning of the
passage we are interpreting.
It actually adds clarity to the meaning of the passage at hand.
Mark 10:11 Jesus says that anyone who divorces his wife and marries
another woman commits adultery.
From this statement we learn that when a man divorces his wife
and remarries, he is committing adultery when he remarries another
there more to be learned on this subject from other passages?
Yes there is.
In Matthew 19:9 Jesus says that anyone who divorces his wife,
except for marital unfaithfulness, and remarries commits adultery.
Matthew inserts a clause that Mark leaves out.
Weíve called this clause "the exception clause." Matthew
adds to what Mark says by saying, if a wife is unfaithful to her
husband, the husband is permitted to divorce her and remarry without
Matthew contradicting Mark?
No he isn't.
Matthew is adding a clause that Jesus said that for some reason
Mark omitted. From
Matthewís account we learn something about divorce and remarriage that
we donít learn from Markís account.
We are indeed importing a clear statement from Matthew into our
understanding of divorce and remarriage that we derived from Mark.
This imported thought doesnít change the basics of our
understanding from Mark.
It adds some clarity.
may be a bit unfair for me to have chosen the above example of how one
passage brings clarity to another because there are even more passages
that bring clarity to what I've just pointed out from Matthew and Mark.
Concerning divorce and remarriage, which is a difficult Biblical
subject to work through, you must begin in Genesis and work your way
through the whole Bible to even begin to get clarity on this subject.
There are other passages that bring clarity to this issue that
does not change what Mark said.
These passages must also be studied in detail.
weekly Bible studies I lead we often have fun reading between the lines
of certain Bible passages. For
example, in Galatians 2 Paul speaks about some false teachers
infiltrating the ranks of the Galatian Christian community.
You could consider these men to be spies. You might say they
worked for the C. I. A.. No,
not that C. I. A.. I call
this C.I.A. the Circumcision Inspection Agency.
Through their surveillance techniques they somehow discovered
that Titus was not circumcised. How
these spies discovered this intimate fact and what techniques were
involved, Paul doesnít say.
can easily let our imaginations run wild concerning how these spies
discovered that Titus was not circumcised and come up with some pretty
funny stuff. Itís probably
best that I donít fill you in on our imaginative ideas at this point.
Actually, I shouldnít blame the ideas on the others in our
Bible study group. They were
mostly my ideas.
between the lines
is helpful for a Bible study group to get people relaxed, comfortable
and thinking about the passage at hand. We
certainly donít want to make Bible study boring, as is often the case
in church. As fun as reading
between the lines might be, we should never take reading between the
lines seriously. It's pure
speculation, and speculation can never be incorporated into the process
of interpretation. When it
is, it distorts the truth of Scripture and does harm to our
the years I've heard people claim that they only need the Holy Spirit to
help them interpret Biblical passages.
Common sense rules of hermeneutics mean little to these people.
It's simply foolish human reasoning as some say Paul said in 1
Of course Paul said no such thing.
It was the preaching of the gospel of grace that was foolish to
unbelievers according to Paul, not the way we approach the Bible.
do believe the Holy Spirit's input is important, when studying the
He speaks to our hearts as well as our intellect.
He inspired the words we read so it only makes sense we need His
presence as we read what He inspired.
Still, that does not negate simple common sense in our attempt at
Galatians 4:19 Paul says this.
"My little children, for whom I am again in pain of
childbirth until Christ is formed in you."
Paul introduced the Galatians to Jesus and the gospel of grace.
They were now in the process of replacing salvation by grace with
salvation by works.
Paul was in great emotional and spiritual pain over this.
He related his pain to be like a woman giving birth.
wouldnít think Paul's sorrow over the Galatians departure from faith
could be construed to be anything else but sorrow, but it has been.
One Bible teacher claimed that the Holy Spirit told him the real
meaning to this passage.
He called it the "doctrine of travailing."
The word "travailing" is the word the KJV Bible uses in
The NIV uses the word "pain."
is how the doctrine of travailing played out in a meeting.
This teacher would pray for a person by the laying on of his
Supposedly, the Holy Spirit would fall on the person and rage a
war against the human nature within that person.
The battle between flesh and Spirit caused the person to travail.
The travailing would produce physical manifestations.
Women would beat their fists into pillows while men would smash
an old car tire with a baseball bat.
watched all this from the sidelines as if it was some kind of sporting
got wild, loud, and real crazy at times.
I was afraid that some neighbour would call the police and have
us all arrested for disturbing the peace on an otherwise quiet Sunday
Being arrested for my faith in Jesus was one thing but being
arrested for this weird doctrine didnít sit well with me.
a so-called Holy Spirit led interpretation of this verse is bad
Paul says that he was in pain as if he was giving birth, thatís the
Logic dictates that nothing else needs to be read into Paul's
Let us not lay aside our God given ability to logically think
We didn't lose our minds when the Holy Spirit came into our
Galatians 4:21 to 31 Paul tells the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar.
Sarah was Abrahamís wife and Hagar was Sarah's slave.
Sarah had no children, even though God promised her a son, so she
told Abraham to sleep with Hagar.
He did and she gave birth to a son.
Finally, in her old age, Sarah had a son which made Abraham the
father of a son born from Sarah's slave Hagar and a son born from the
free woman Sarah.
All this was a literal and historical event that took place
centuries before Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians, yet he
allegorizes this historical event.
is the process by which we give a secondary meaning to an event.
This method of Biblical interpretation was a pagan influence in
in the second century that found its way into much of Catholic doctrine.
says in Galatians 4:24 that these things can be taken figuratively, or,
He then said that Hagar represents the covenant God gave Moses
and the earthly city of
represents the new covenant of grace and the heavenly city of
where true believers in Jesus live in the Spirit.
The son born from Hagar was a slave and represents the Jews of
The son born from Sarah represents true believers in Jesus that
are free from the Law.
Paul was allegorizing an historical event by applying a symbolic
or secondary meaning to it.
He spiritualized these women and their sons and created a New
believe Paul could allegorize Scripture. I don't think we can do the
and other Biblical writers, are on a higher level of Scriptural
authority than you and I.
What you or I write is not on the same authoritative level as the
writers of the Bible.
people have claimed their writings to be equally inspired and
authoritative as the Bible. The
Book of Mormon is one example, but neither the Book of Mormon nor what
you are reading right now is equal to the Bible as being the inspired
Word of God.
The Bible stands alone in this respect.
doctrine of covering is an example of what I believe is unhealthy
In the Old Testament we see Ruth desiring a husband.
She found Boaz one night while he was sleeping and she laid at
He woke up and covered her with the hem of his garment.
Some people have allegorized this historical event and have made
a New Testament teaching out of it.
They say Boaz represents pastors while Ruth represents
As Ruth was covered by Boaz, so a Christian must be covered by
The details of this teaching vary from place to place, but some
teach that one must have his pastor's blessing on most everything he
decisions, both personal and ministerial, can only be made after
consulting the pastor because he is the Christian's covering.
One lady refused my request to attend a home Bible study because
she would be leaving the covering of her pastor.
we symbolize or allegorize an Old Testament historical event as many
preachers do, weíre walking on hermeneutical thin ice.
How do we know our allegory is correct?
I believe Paul could allegorize, but I'd be very careful about
you and I doing the same.
allegory is a symbolic representation of something.
An analogy is the use of an illustration to help explain
Usually the illustration has two or more things in common with
that which is being explained.
Beyond that, analogies tend to fall apart and can actually
misrepresent what you are explaining.
Using analogies can help in Biblical interpretation as long as we
don't carry the analogy too far.
In that case you misrepresent Scripture.
we allegorize an Old Testament event to create a New Testament teaching
we create a teaching out of a symbol.
We shouldnít do that.
We can, however, take a New Testament teaching and explain it
with an analogy.
When we use analogies properly we are not inventing a new
are explaining a Biblical teaching.
used analogies to explain a point. He
spoke of our life with Jesus as being a race. By
using this analogy he helped explain that we need to persist in our
faith to the very end, as runners do in a race (1 Corinthians 9:24).
The analogy of a race is meant to provide a mental picture of
what persistence of faith means.
is a proper use of analogies that help explain a Biblical passage, but
as I've said, at some point an analogy breaks down.
If we move beyond that point we do more harm than good to the
Some have gotten carried away in their analogies and have changed
the meaning of a particular passage by making too much out of an
The analogy thus becomes the basis for false doctrine and becomes
no different than allegorizing in this respect.
example of a bad use of an analogy to explain a teaching is this.
I'll use the race analogy to explain Paulís teaching on
If we say that weíre competing with other runners, which one
does in a race, and if we say these runners are our brothers in Christ,
then we abuse the analogy.
We are taking the analogy too far.
We are in a race, but weíre not in competition with our
brothers in Christ.
This explanation goes beyond the scope of Paulís teaching of
did not have competition with our brothers in mind when he used his
analogy to explain persistence.
is nothing wrong with analogies as long as you don't take the analogy to
the extreme and change the meaning of the passage you are attempting to
done many word studies in my life but Iíve come to the conclusion that they have their
For example, if you do a word study on the word "faith" you
look up every place in your English New Testament where the word
"faith" is used.
You gather all of these verses together and formulate your
thinking from the information you gather. The
problem is that there is more information about faith than what you have
gathered from your study.
There are other words related to the word "faith" that
you need to consider to get a more complete understanding of faith.
of other related words for faith are, trust, believe, trusting,
believing, believed, and so on.
All these words need consideration in our attempt to understand
is another problem to consider as well.
If you only look up the English word "faith" and its
related words you will still miss some important verses.
The reason is because some Greek words are translated into more
than one English word. For
example, "pistis" is the Greek word commonly translated as
faith in our English New Testament, but, "pistis" is also translated
into other English words as well.
So, in order to get the full understanding of faith you need to
get a full understanding of pistis and how and where it is used
throughout the New Testament.
This shows you the importance of the word "pistis" when
This is where the original languages of the Bible are important
in Bible study.
know this sounds difficult and youíre probably ready to throw up your
hands and give up on Bible study.
There is hope for the ordinary person.
There are many books and online aids that can help us be the
most Biblical literate Christians in history.
There are also some very good Bible teachers who can be found on
the internet that are educated in the original languages of the Bible,
history, and other related subjects that provide a balanced
hermeneutical approach to Scripture.
wouldnít throw out word studies altogether, but Iíd certainly
understand their limitations.
I believe there is a better way of Bible study.
It's called "a verse by verse exegesis of Scripture."
It will help you understand each verse in its immediate context.
word "exegesis" is a fancy word that theologians have used
throughout the centuries to describe one form of Bible study.
Websterís Dictionary defines exegesis as "an explanation,
or critical interpretation of a text."
you add the words "verse by verse" to the word
"exegesis" youíre speaking about a verse by verse
explanation of a certain portion of Scripture. Unlike
the topical and word study approach to gathering Biblical information, a
verse by verse approach is a systematic working through each phrase in
its entire passage.
importance of this approach of studying and explaining Scripture is that
you get to understand each and every phrase in the context of what is
being said throughout the larger body of what is written.
7:1 is often misunderstood because people consistently rip it from its
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged."
If you take this statement all by itself youíll think that we
should never judge anyone.
Many believe this is what Jesus meant because theyíve failed to
do a verse by verse exegesis of the passage in which this verse is
order to understand Jesusí statement you need to understand the first
six verses of Matthew 7, not just verse 1.
In verse 2 Jesus says, "In the same way you judge others,
you will be judged."
Thatís common sense.
How we treat others is how they will treat us.
If we judge others unfairly, you can bet theyíll judge us back
goes on to say this. "Why
do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brotherís eye and pay no
attention to the plank in your own eye?"
Jesus is talking about the person who is judging unfairly, or
unrighteously as we will see later.
Heís talking to the person who is pointing out a little sin to
someone else but is committing an even bigger sin.
verse 5 Jesus says, "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of
your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your
If weíre judging others for their sin and are committing the
same sin, then we are hypocrites.
says that once you remove the sin in your life then you can help a
brother remove the sin in his life, which requires judging. At this
point Jesus clearly says that we can judge.
exegetical understanding of this portion of Scripture tells us that we
can make judgments as long as we are not committing a worse sin in our
own lives. To say that Jesus told us never to judge in Matthew 7:1 is
not what He was saying.
As a matter of fact, Jesus, in John 7:24 tells us to judge
When studying anything that one says in the Bible we need to
consider all he said which we do in a verse by verse exegeses of the
I spoke about bringing presuppositions into our interpretation of
Many times our doctrinal presuppositions influences the way we
interpret particular passages which in turn can pollute the text.
presuppositions, our personalities can also influence how we interpret
the Bible. If
you are a loving and caring person, Scriptures that speak of Godís
love may stand out in your mind more than verses that speak of Godís
This in turn may lead you to emphasize Godís love at the
expense of His justice. Those who may be more judgmental by nature may
over emphasize verses speaking of GodĎs judgment.
This too leads to an unbalanced understanding of Scripture
heard Matthew 11:12 interpreted wrongly by men who are of the more
rough, tough, and violent nature.
"From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of
heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold on
Without some serious study, some men see the word
"forceful" and view this verse militarily.
They aggressively advance the kingdom with as much masculine
forcefulness as they can muster.
Actually, the KJV translates this verse better. "From
the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been
suffering violence and the violent take it by force."
Christians are not to be violent.
Jesus said that if His kingdom were of this world His disciples
would fight (John 18:36), but it's not of this world and thus His
disciples will not fight to advance the Kingdom
of God. Matthew
11:12 cannot form the basis for a forceful, even violent, expansion of
is clear that who we are can influence how we understand and interpret
the most part, the Old Testament was written in Hebrew while the New
Testament was written in common first century Greek.
Knowing something of these languages opens the pages of the
Bible, much like a rose opens into full bloom in the summer.
you need to be an expert language scholar to understand the Bible?
If you follow the rules of logic that Iíve spoken of, youíre
well on your way to a good understanding of Biblical truth.
At the same time there are books that can help the layman to
understand the Bible.
Vineís Expository of New Testament Words is a good starting
Itís a relatively easy book to comprehend that gives you simple
definitions of Greek and Hebrew words and how and where they are used in
From this book you can progress to more complex and detailed
reading material explaining verb tenses and other such grammatical
Koine Greek (common Greek of the first century) we should know that many
Greek words are extensions of root words that have a pool of various
this case you need the context of the word to provide the wordís exact
Prefixes and suffixes are also added to the root word that will
affect the exact meaning of the word.
I say this only to let you know that there is more to understand
than what a simple definition that books like Vineís Expository
So, unless youíre a Greek scholar, remember youíre still an
amateur, and a little knowledge can be dangerous if youíre not level
headed in your approach to Bible study.
Our English word "leaders" is a noun.
A noun is a person, place, or thing.
The word "leads" is a verb because it is an action
participle is half noun and half verb.
With this in mind Hebrews 13:17 says this. "Obey
your leaders and submit to their authority."
Many leaders have used this verse to exercise a heavy handed
authoritarianism of church leadership.
English word "leaders" in Hebrews 13:17 is a noun, but in the
Greek text it is a participle.
It's part noun and part verb.
It emphasized the action of the noun leader.
The Greek text actually reads, "obey the ones leading,"
or, "obey the leading ones."
This is more than semantics and double-talk.
The difference between the English "leaders" and the
Greek "ones leading" is that the Greek emphasizes the action
of leading with the addition of the verb part of the participle.
The English word ďleadersĒ emphasizes the office of a leader
because thereís no action involved in the noun leaders.
to the Greek text we are to obey the ones leading, that is, those who
are actually fulfilling the Biblical responsibility of leading.
I conclude that if the leaders arenít leading according to
Scripture, we donít submit.
We donít obey church leaders merely because they hold the
office of a leader, as the English version seems to suggest.
We obey because they are leading as the Bible states.
I understand this to be true because of the Greek participle in
is important. Do we obey
leaders because they hold the office of leaders or because they are
actually leading according to Scripture?
are many leaders who are leaders in name only and arenít performing
their duties according to Scripture.
Those who use this verse for an abuse of authority are
misunderstanding its meaning. Hebrews
13:17 is saying just the opposite to this authoritarian leadership.
the grammar of the original languages of the Bible is a real asset to
understanding the Bible. I
know that the majority of Christians have not been educated in Hebrew
and Greek, but, there are some good Bible teachers who are.
We should take advantage of their service.
culture has its own mannerisms when it comes to language and meaning of
This hit home to me when I moved to
I soon learned not to ask for a cup of tea, because I never got what I
Youíd think asking for a cup of tea would be a simple request,
but cultural differences confused things. When I asked for tea in Virginia, I got what we call ice tea in Canada. If
I wanted tea as we understand it in Canada
I had to ask for hot tea as they understood it in Virginia.
By default, tea in Canada
is always hot.
If we want cold tea in Canada
we asked for ice tea. As
missionaries soon discover, cultural differences can be confusing.
thinking of words and phrases meaning something different depending on
culture, we think of idioms. An
idiom is a figure of speech and doesnít have to be an exact
representation of what we arre speaking about.
For example, we speak of a sunrise.
This is a figure of speech, an idiom.
The sun doesnít rise.
you were raised in an evangelical church family you heard the phrase
"invite Jesus into your heart."
This is an idiom.
Jesus doesnít squeeze Himself into your heart.
The word "heart" in this case doesnít refer to the
muscle in your chest.
It represents that inner spiritual place within you where the
Holy Spirit can reside.
idiom that we see a lot in the New Testament is the phrase "right
hand of God."
Jesus now sits at God's right hand.
If you take this phrase literally, you'll believe that God has a
right hand like us.
God is a spirit, and unless spirits have hands, God doesn't have
hands like us.
Maybe God has some kind of right hand but this phrase was an
idiom in first century Greek culture.
It meant a place of authority.
In other words, Jesus now sits in a place of authority alongside
God having a physical right hand is irrelevant to the meaning of
"the right hand of God."
historical and cultural idioms is important when studying and interpreting the Bible.
met many people over the years that have their one pet doctrine and
thatís all they talk about and thatís all they see in the Bible.
They manipulate Scripture in the hope that weíll see their pet
doctrine in verses where it isnít.
pet doctrine may well be a Biblical based teaching, but even legitimate
teachings canít be found in every verse of the Bible.
Over the years Godís grace has been big in my thinking, and in
my younger days I found grace pretty well in every verse in the Bible,
and maybe thatís one topic thatís almost in every verse, but of
course it isn't.
1978 my wife and I bought our first car.
It was a Honda civic.
Soon after we noticed Hondas all over the place.
They were in parking lots, driveways, and on city streets.
We used to point them out as we drove by them until we almost got
into an accident while looking at Hondas instead of the car ahead of us.
We soon figured out it was time to stop counting Hondas and pay
attention to driving our own Honda before we lost it in an accident.
can get into a doctrinal accident by seeing your pet doctrine every time
you turn a page of the Bible.
I think back in the 1970ís many of those who were involved in
the Shepherding Movement saw the doctrine of shepherding in many verses where
By doing this we taught that everyone should to be a shepherd or
That is clearly not Biblical. We further confused the issue when
we saw the concept of shepherding in discipleship verses.
"Go and make disciples' doesnít mean "go and
end result of this was a doctrinal accident which caused some spiritual
Many people were shepherding others when they had no business
hermeneutics is bringing a balanced approach to Bible study and leaving
our pet doctrines in the particular verses where they belong.
now turn our attention to the relationship between the Old and New
How New Testament Christians should understand and interpret the
Old Testament is one misunderstood issue.
How you understand the Old Testament will determine how you live
as a Christian.
For example, how you view the Old Testament Sabbath laws will
determine what you do on what you consider the Sabbath.
How you interpret the tithing laws will influence your financial
people ignore the Old Testament altogether because they think it
doesnít apply to Christians.
They say it was written to Jews, and theyíre not Jews.
Others say everything that is written between its covers applies
to Christians and so we better obey every last rule or else.
These people say that God doesnít change, and what He said back
in Old Testament days still apply to us today.
Then there are the vast majority of Christians that in my opinion
simply pick and choose what they feel applies to them, as if it were a
matter of personal preference. The rest are
think thereís a fundamental way to view the Old Testament that we can
build our understanding on. In
1 Corinthians 10:11 Paul says that what was written in the Old Testament
was written for our example.
So, before we get thinking of what applies and what doesnít
apply, think of what is written in the Old Testament as examples for us
to learn from.
is an example of a man of faith for us to imitate.
Jonah, and is running away from God's will is something we don't
want to imitate.
Itís as simple as that. If
this is all the understanding you have about the Old Testament then
youíre on your way to good hermeneutics, but there is obviously more
to consider in answering our question how Christians should understand
the Old Testament.
look at what Bible students call types and shadows.
Types and shadows are Old Testament events or things that foreshadow a New
you walk down the street
on a sunny day your shadow
appears on the
Whatís more important, you or your shadow? The
answer is obvious.
The same is true with the shadows in the Old Testament.
The reality they represent are more important.
example of an Old Testament shadow is the tabernacle that God told Moses to
construct to exact measurements.
Hebrews 8:5 reads as follows. "The
(priests) serve at a sanctuary (tabernacle) that is a copy and a shadow of what is in
There it is.
The tabernacle is a shadow of a heavenly temple.
Bible clearly tells us what some shadows represent, but in other cases
it doesnít tell us so clearly.
Weíre left to figure that out.
For example, some say that the exact measurements of the
significant of a New Testament reality.
If they werenít, God wouldnít have cared about their
So, some people derive all sorts of realities from these shadowy
measurements and come up with some pretty weird stuff. When
it comes to these measurements, your guess is as good as mine as to what
group in the 1970ís believed in what they called the manifestation of
the sons of God.
They claimed that they wouldnít die but would reach total
perfection which included receiving their glorified bodies prior to the
return of Jesus.
Their state of perfection would then usher in the return of
Jesus. Much of
this teaching came from personal
interpretations of these Old Testament shadows, including the
measurements of the tabernacle.
Ironically enough, the leader of this group was killed in a plane
tabernacle was instituted as part of the Law of Moses, so we conclude
that the Law was more than a list of rules and regulations.
It was a shadow of something better to come.
When studying the Law as New Testament Christians we must
understand that it represents a reality to us that the Jews of old never
experienced or understood. Thus,
we view the Law of Moses in a different light than Old Testament Jews.
We view it as a shadow of a reality we are now beginning to
In one sense of the word the Law of Moses is prophetic as seen in
the book of Hebrews.
that the Law of Moss in Matthew 5:17 and 18. "Do
not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I have
not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest
letter, not the least stroke of the pen, by any means will disappear
from the Law until everything is accomplished."
the above verse, Jesus
associates the Law with the prophets.
Both are similar in the sense that they are prophetic
The fact that Jesus said that He has come to fulfill both the Law
and prophets tells me that the Law of Moses is prophetic.
then said that not the smallest letter or a stroke of a pen will be
abolished from the Law until "everything is accomplished."
The word "accomplished" means the Law is
The Law remains in tact until all of its prophecies have been
prophecies of the Law arenít all in the form of "thus says the
Lord" as they are in the prophetic books.
Many are in the form of types and shadows which we spoke
of in the last chapter.
Other hand, parts of the Law are pure prophecy.
One example is Deuteronomy 28 where we see the prediction of many
curses God predicted would come Israel
because of its rebellion against Him.
that weíve established that the Law is prophetic we need to know when
it was or when it will be fulfilled.
Knowing this will shape our theology and the way we live as Christians.
just established that the Law of Moses is prophetic. In
Matthew 5:17 and 18 Jesus said that the Law would not be abolished until
all of it has been fulfilled.
We just need to know when it was or will be fulfilled.
I maintain that a good part of the Law has already been
The rest is yet to be fulfilled.
of the Law is in reference to Jesusí life and ministry on earth.
The Feast of Passover as seen in the Law is one prophetic example of the atoning
death of Jesus.
So, any part of the Law dealing with the life of Jesus on earth
has obviously already been fulfilled.
That being said, the Feast of Tabernacles that speaks to the
return of Jesus to earth is yet to be fulfilled.
of today the Law has not been abolished in its totality because parts of
it are yet to be fulfilled. Those parts of the Law that have already
been fulfilled, even though they have not yet been abolished, take on a new meaning for us
as New Testament Christians.
believe many of the prophecies found in the Law of Moses have already
been fulfilled by Jesusí life, death, resurrection, and ascension.
Many of the regulations of the Law were instituted to temporarily
cover the sin of individual Jews, but these rules spoke of something
better to come.
This is what the book of Hebrews is all about.
sacrifice was the permanent fix to the sin problem and was the fulfilled
reality for every lamb that was sacrificed and every rule that was to be
obeyed for the purpose of obtaining a righteous standing before God.
For this reason Paul says in Romans 10:4 that "Christ is the
end of the Law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who
was grieved over the fact that most of his fellow Jews to whom the Law
was given had rejected its fulfilled reality in Jesus.
They felt that being righteous in Godís eyes came through their
own human effort which included obeying the Law of Moses and the
traditions of Judaism.
preached that the days of human effort were over. God now viewed people
as being righteous if they put their trust in Jesus, not their own human
In short, when Paul said that Christ is the end of the Law, he
meant that Christ Himself has both fulfilled and replaced the Law of
Obedience to the Law for the purposes of righteousness was
replaced by obedience to Jesus. No
longer does obeying rules make anyone righteous, even if those rules
were Godís rules.
No longer is an animal sacrifice needed to cover our sin.
might put it this way. The
shadowy imagery of the Law concerning the sin problem has found its
reality in Jesus. The
rules and regulations of the Law that God gave Moses have come to an end
and do not apply to New Testament Christians, whether Jewish or Gentile
We now have what the Law foretold.
not saying that the Law is completely abolished because there is still
more to be fulfilled at the return of Jesus, yet, that part of the Law
that pertains to our salvation has been fulfilled.
Christ is indeed the end of the Law when it comes to finding
righteousness in the sight of God.
For some this is problematic and confusing.
I'll continue to explain.
Colossians 2:11 Paul said this.
"In Him (Jesus) we were all circumcised Ö"
Circumcision is another Old Testament type or shadow which has a
New Testament reality.
No longer does a baby boyís circumcision have any spiritual
Iím sure Abraham would have preferred living in New Testament
times in this respect.
is now a matter of the heart (Romans 2:29) because the intent of the New
Testament is to get to the core of who we are.
In general terms the Old Testament dealt more with the outward
man while the New Testament deals more with the inner man, thus one
reason why we have the Holy Spirit.
Colossians 2:16 Paul also said, "Do not let anyone judge you by
what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New
Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
These are a shadow of things that were to come; the reality,
however, is found in Christ."
Note the words "shadow" and "reality," words
that Iíve been using all along.
Paul confirmed what Iíve been saying by giving more examples of
shadows found in the Law that have their New Testament reality in Jesus.
what happened to these Old Testament rules?
In Colossians 2:13 and 14 Paul said this. "He
(God) forgave us our sins, having canceled the written code; with its
regulations Ö He took it away, nailing it to the cross."
Did you know that the death of Jesus wasnít the only death that
took place on the cross?
The Law died with Jesus too, but unlike Jesus, the Law didnít
rise from the dead.
clearly said that the code, meaning the Law of Moses, has been cancelled
and taken out of the way because it was nailed to the cross.
If the Law died on the cross and was subsequently cancelled,
itís clear that it means something altogether different to us than
what it meant to Jews in Old Testament times.
So, when understanding and interpreting the books of the Law and
anything associated with them, we need to think in terms of this New
We donít interpret the books of the Law as if we were Old
Testament Jews living under the Law's demands.
writer of Hebrews puts what Iíve just said another way.
Hebrews 8:13 says that "by calling this covenant new, He
(God) has made the first one obsolete, and what is obsolete and aging
will soon disappear."
This clearly says that the first one (the Old Covenant Law) is
obsolete or outdated. You
could say that there is a new version called the New Covenant that needs to
be downloaded into our hearts from heaven.
text says that there is a new covenant and that the old one is now
The word "obsolete" tells us that the Old Covenant is
It's outdated because there is a new covenant.
This text does not say that the old covenant, the Law, has been cancelled as Paul
said in Colossians 2:13 and 14.
It says that it is aging and will soon disappear.
Itís aging because it has lost much of its significance. Its
best days are over.
writer of Hebrews said that the Law is obsolete and will soon disappear.
Paul said the Law is cancelled because it was nailed to the cross
Jesus said that the Law will remain until it has been fulfilled.
How do we reconcile these somewhat opposing statements?
rules of the Law which are now obsolete and no longer significant have
been replaced with Jesus.
These rules have been cancelled, taken away, and figuratively
nailed to the cross.
They no longer have anything to do with us finding righteousness
in Godís eyes.
Although the Law has been cancelled for purposes of finding
righteousness, it still remains in tact in terms of its prophetic
the Lawís prophetic importance, it has become a teacher, leading us to
Jesus (Galatians 3:24 - 25).
though the Law still has some purpose for New Testament Christians, we
are not obligated to obey its rules and regulations because theyíve
Our obligation is to the Lawís New Testament reality, who is
Thus, the way we interpret the books of the Law should be based
on this New Testament understanding which has major implications for the
way we live as Christians.
believe that Jesus was the only one to have obeyed the Law of Moses in
its entirety. More importantly, He obeyed the intent of the Law,
the heart of God that instituted the Law in the first place. It
is, therefore, my position that Jesus obeyed the Law on our behalf.
As Jesus died on the cross on our behalf, He lived the righteous demands
of the Law on our behalf. This is important when we read and
interpret the Old Testament books of the Law.
Have you ever
thought that Jesus might have redefined the Ten
Matthew 5:21 to 23 Jesus commented on the "do not kill"
This command says "donít kill," but Jesus said,
"anyone who is angry at his brother without cause will be subject
to judgment," and, "anyone that says, Ďyou foolí will be
in danger of the fire of hell.'"
Though the Law says "donít kill", Jesus says
"donít get angry without cause."
Anger is linked to murder as being worthy of Godís judgment. Even
calling someone a fool puts you in danger of hell.
That makes such anger a very serious problem. Of
course, killing someone has greater implications and consequences than
merely being angry at him, but, it's still a major offense in the eyes
is putting the emphasis on the issues of the heart here, not merely the
outward working of these issues. Jesus is going beyond the outward sin
the command addresses and speaks to the condition of our hearts.
Itís the condition of our hearts that produce the outward sin.
then commented on the "donít commit adultery" command.
He said that if you lust after someone in your heart, youíve
committed adultery with that person in the eyes of God.
Once again Jesus is getting to the heart of the matter, because
He knows if the lust problem can be solved, there wonít be an adultery
The Ten Commandments points out our sin while the Holy Spirit
deals with our sin.
both of the above examples Jesus is redefining the commandments.
Heís going beyond the outward sin the commands addresses and
redefining them by stating Godís real intent behind the command. Donít
kill becomes donít get angry.
Donít commit adultery becomes donít lust. We obey Jesus and what He says.
We approach the Old Testament, including the Ten Commandments,
from this New Testament perspective.
is an interesting study to go through the New Testament to see just how
many of the Old Testament laws have been redefined for New Testament
The book of Hebrews is a good place to start that study.
Matthew 19:1 to 12 Jesus commented on what the Law of Moses said about
told the Pharisees that God placed divorce legislation into the Law of
Moses because of the hardness of man's heart but this was not His
intention from the beginning. These
rules were a concession on Godís part, yet, behind this concession was
Godís desire for a man and a woman to love one another for life.
24:1 to 4 permitted divorce but God never wanted divorce.
In fact, you might say that the whole Law of Moses was a
concession on God's part due to our sin.
Thus, the New Testamentís approach to Law and sin is different
than the Old Testamentís approach.
We must interpret the Law of Moses in light of the New
I will now turn to a practical implication of what Iíve been
saying in the last few chapters.
we come to the bottom line about what Iíve been saying about our New
Testament approach to the Law of Moses.
As Iíve said, some Christians ignore the Old Testament because
they say itís not relevant to them.
Thatís not me.
Others say we better obey every rule or else.
Thatís not me.
Still others pick and choose what they want to obey depending on
Thatís definitely not me.
What is me is this.
I approach the Old Testament with a New Testament understanding,
which I believe Iíve systematically set forth.
the rules of the Law of Moses do not apply to us because theyíve been
nailed to the cross, then we donít need to sacrifice animals.
We donít believe that our church buildings are a sacred place
for God to live in.
We donít believe that there is a human priest that represents
us before God.
We also donít believe that God demands a tenth of our income.
just no Biblical logic in thinking that you can exclude some rules of
the Law and include other ones like tithing, especially when theyíve
all been nailed to the cross.
Iíve heard it said that tithing was instituted long before the
Law and therefore it exists long after the Law.
Yes, tithing seemed to be around in some form that is somewhat
vague before the Law, but it was placed into the Law when God gave the
Law to Moses.
are many things that existed before the Law.
People sacrificed animals before the Law, but we donít do that
any more. In
fact many theologians believe that the Law codified what already existed
and that had been passed down from one generation to another by word of
was once challenged that Luke 11:42 to 44 shows us that Jesus taught
tithing as a New Testament principle.
In this passage Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because they tithed
but ignored justice.
He told these men they needed to act justly as well as tithe.
Itís bad hermeneutics to say that this passage teaches that
Jesus taught tithing as a New Testament principle and therefore demands
a tithe from Christians. Jesus
could not have told the Pharisees anything different or else Heíd be
breaking the Law.
He had to uphold the Law in order to fulfill it, and, He had to
fulfill it before it could be nailed to the cross.
What Jesus told the Pharisees concerning tithing doesnít apply
to Christians because the Pharisees lived in Old Testament times and
thus were still obligated to obey the Law.
clearly taught this New Testament approach to tithing when he told us to
give generously, joyfully, and according to our ability to give, whether
itís 5, 10, 20 percent or more (2 Corinthians 9:7, 1 Corinthians
Paul and the other New Testament writers had lots to say about
money, but nothing to say about tithing.
If it was important Iím sure we'd read about it in the New
pastor told me that the New Testament didnít have to address tithing
because everyone tithed.
Of course, he had no historical proof to back up his statement.
not saying we shouldnít give. Poverty itself is no excuse not to give.
In Luke 21:3 Jesus complemented a poor widow for giving her last
He didnít tell her that she did not have to give.
Paul did the same when he praised the Macedonians for giving
beyond their ability to give (2 Corinthians 8:3).
pastor once told me that he couldnít teach what I'm saying about
tithing even if it were true because people would no longer give.
Well, he missed the whole point to the New Testament, and that is
we trust Jesus with our whole lives, which includes our church finances.
We should teach what the Bible states and trust Jesus for the
New Testament goes far beyond the rules of the Old Testament.
It gets to the heart of the human condition, which is sinful.
For this reason the Holy Spirit has entered our lives to enable
us to do God's will, something any law cannot do.
canít pick and choose what rules of the Law of Moses to obey.
We simply realize theyíve all been nailed to the cross and we
follow the New Testament pattern.
question concerning our response to the Old Testament Law was settled in
Paul, Peter, James, and others concluded after much debate and
prayer that it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to them not to burden
Gentile Christians with anything beyond four requirements.
These were to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood,
from the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality.
They concluded by saying, "you will do well to avoid these
things," which doesnít come across to me as being a heavy handed
Acts 15:28 to 30.
may disagree but I think the first three requirements were a compromise
between James and Paul because Paul didnít completely follow the meat
offered to idols rule.
As long as the meat wasnít eaten in the context of pagan idol
worship, Paul would eat meat offered to idols.
He had no problem being invited out for lunch and eating such
1 Corinthians 8 and you will see his logic on this point.
So, Paul agreed to the first requirement, but didnít
necessarily follow them himself in every instance.
yourself as one confused Gentile Christian back in those days.
Certain Jews told you that you had to become a Jew and obey the
Law in order to be a Christian.
Paul told you that you were free from the Law in order to live
What a relief it would have been to you when you heard the Acts
15 letter read and you learned that the Law had no place in your life.
A great burden would have been lifted from your shoulders, a burden that
should not have been placed on you in the first place.
30 - Law, Grace, Or License
of Paulís teaching concerning the Law, he was accused of encouraging
people to sin so grace would abound to them (Romans 6:1).
This is called a license to sin, meaning, if thereís no law,
one can sin all he wants.
Paul was not teaching any such thing, and neither am I.
Such thinking disregards and takes advantage of Godís grace and
shows a complete misunderstanding of what His grace is all about.
Galatians 5:13 Paul said that you were called to be free, but do not use
your freedom to indulge your sinful nature.
He also said in Galatians 5:16 that we should live by the Spirit
so we won't gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
As New Testament Christians we are free to live according to the
Spirit of God and not to the obligations of the Law of Moses.
That being said, this does not give you a license to sin.
Sin is still sin.
Evangelical preachers do not get the same criticism as Paul did because
they donít preach a gospel free from the Law as Paul did.
They preach a mixture of grace and law, that is, get saved by
faith and stay saved by law.
If we preach total freedom from law we might well be accused of
preaching a license to sin.
fact is that if we add law to grace in our gospel we are
running the risk of making the gospel of no effect. In
Galatians 5:4 Paul said some extremely powerful words about this point.
"You who are trying to be justified by law have alienated
yourself from Christ; you have fallen away from grace."
If your mixture of law and grace suggests that you need to follow
certain rules to be saved or stay saved, you have alienated yourself
from Jesus, and youíve fallen away from Godís grace.
I realize this is not everyoneís thinking, but in my opinion,
if you alienate yourself from Christ, you walk away from Him.
Also, if you fall from grace, youíve forsaken your salvation
that is based on the grace youíve fallen from. By
adding rules as conditions to salvation, whether Godís rules or
manís rules, youíre telling Jesus what He did on the cross is not
Something more needs to be added to it.
That's one bad sin.
Thus a proper hermeneutical approach to the Old Testament Law and
also to any of manís law is vital to our gospel message.
- The New Testament View Of Old Testament Prophecy
now turn to the New Testament approach to the prophetic books of the Old
Testament. In brief many
theologians believe that much of the prophetic passages that were
directed specifically to
had their fulfillment in Old Testament times.
Yet beyond their Old Testament fulfillment, these prophecies have
a New Testament fulfillment as well.
Simply put, thereís a double fulfillment to many of these
prophecies. This of
course presents a problem in that there are many different
interpretations to these prophecies.
may not think of the Psalms as being prophetic, but many of them are.
Many Psalms appear to be written about Davidís life, which they
are, yet beyond their present day meaning in Davidís life, they have a
Messianic significance as well.
Psalm 22:1 says, "my God, why have you forsaken me".
David cried these words out to God in a time of need, but do you
recognize these words in the New Testament?
Jesus cried out these same words while on the cross, making this
verse a Messianic prophecy.
8 says, "He trusts the Lord, let the Lord rescue Him".
People may well have spoken these words about David in his day,
but once again, while Jesus was on the cross these same words were
spoken about Him, making this verse a Messianic prophecy.
18 says, "They divided my garments among themÖ"
David may have had his clothes divided but while Jesus hung on
the cross He watched the soldiers divide His clothes among themselves.
This verse also has a double meaning, speaking both of David and
a matter of fact, whether David realized it or not, all of Psalm 22 is a
picture of Jesusí death on the cross, and if you read this chapter in
this light, youíll gain great insight into what took place on the
going into great detail, much of Old Testament prophecy had a present
day fulfillment in Old Testament times, but also has a New Testament
fulfillment as well. One
needs to take this into consideration when interpreting Old Testament
could write a whole book on this chapter because it is a huge subject.
I will just add one more thing.
If you want to understand Biblical prophecy, the first thing you
must understand properly is the Abrahamic Covenant that we see in a
number of places in the book of Genesis.
How you understand this covenant will determine your view on
prophecy. I suggest that you
read what I've written on the Abrahamic Covenant.
another point to make concerning how we view the Old Testament and that
is, God doesnít change. God
in His essence, who He is, how He thinks, and how He feels, all remains
constant. I say this because
some argue that if God doesnít change, then how He deals with mankind
from Old Testament times to New Testament times doesnít change either.
I believe this is a faulty premise to build an argument on.
the risk of being branded a dispensationalist, I do believe that there
are different ages in human history in relation to how God relates to
us. Though God does not
change, how He deals with mankind does change from age to age.
are three verses taken from the Law of Moses to illustrate my point.
20:27 says; "a man or a woman who is a medium or a spiritualist
among you must be put to death".
22:18 says, "Do not allow a sorceress to live".
13:5 says, "That prophet or dreamer must be put to death because he
and other Old Testament laws show how God wanted
to deal with the sinner in those days. So why donít we kill the sinner
among us today? Itís not
that we pick and choose what laws to obey, even though some try.
Godís plan is to deal with the sinner differently in this age.
Heís not overlooking the sinnerís sin. Heís recording every last
sin on His heavenly hard drive, allowing us time to repent and escape
the penalty of death these laws require.
Heavenly hard drive is modern terminology for Revelation 20:12.
this age of grace is over, Heíll deal with unrepentant sinners
differently still by sentencing them to eternal death, meaning, always
in the process of dying but never being able to die.
So even though God doesnít change, can you see how He deals
with us does change from age to age?
This is one more point to consider when interpreting Old
like to say something about the cross and Iíll be brief because this
topic could fill a whole book in itself.
How we understand what happened on the cross will determine
greatly how we interpret the Old Testament. In Galatians 3:13 Paul says,
"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse
for us". If you donít
understand that Jesus was cursed on your behalf then youíre likely to
interpret certain Old Testament passages incorrectly.
Youíll probably think itís still possible to be under some
kind of curse. I donít
believe this is New Testament thinking.
aspect of the cross which would also include the ascension is the fact
that we now can have the Holy Spirit in our lives, bringing us into the
New Testament age. This fact
alone should bring a New Testament perspective to the Old Testament.
are just two examples of how
the cross is a multi-faceted event.
Forgiveness wasnít the only thing Jesus purchased for us on the
cross. If you understand the
totality of what Jesus did on the cross, I guarantee youíll have a
different approach to the Old Testament.
to idea that the culture in which the Bible was written needs to be
considered when interpreting certain passages.
In the early 1970ís a legalistic type Christian man rebuked me
for having long hair. He
told me that ďsomewhereĒ in the Bible God said that men shouldnít
have long hair. Hoping not to embarrass the poor guy too much, I told
him that the verse he was attempting to quote was found in 1 Corinthians
11:14. The man was taken
back, not thinking that a guy looking like me might know exactly where
such a verse would be found, but it was only one of more than 1800
verses I had memorized to that point.
Whether right or wrong, I told the man that Paulís statement
was based on his cultural upbringing.
also told women not to have braided hair. Most scholars tell us that
prostitutes had braided hair in those days and so Paul didnít want
Christian woman looking like prostitutes.
Iím not sure prostitutes have braided hair these days, so I
really donít think braided hair is a relevant issue for todayís
Christian woman. Ironically
enough, the manís wife who rebuked me for my long hair had braided
hair. The point here
is that Paulís statement concerning braided hair was based on the
culture of the day and doesnít have the same relevance for woman
thereís the matter of women being silent in the church. Most women
believe this statement is based on culture, while many men believe
itís God directive to women. Iíll
let you figure this issue out for yourself.
There are reasons why Paul made this statement.
idea of culture influencing certain Biblical passages does have some validity. Thereís
just one problem though, and that is we need to be careful lest we
culturalize the Bible away. We
need to be sure what is cultural and what is Godís directive or else
weíll misinterpret the Bible.
of what Iíve been saying is to help us have a sound premise to build
our teaching on. If we have
a flimsy or faulty premise our teaching will be in error.
a young Christian in 1972 I wrote about "spirit soul and
body". This teaching
states that man is triune in nature, consisting of three distinct and
separate parts - a spirit and a soul housed in a body.
I based my teaching on one verse, something we should never do.
1 Timothy 5:23 says, "I pray your whole spirit and soul and
body be preserved blamelessÖ"
Those who hold to this teaching believe from this verse that Paul
taught that we consist of these three parts.
It never crossed my mind that Paul ĒmightĒ not have meant for
me to build a doctrine from these three words, but I did
until one of my Bible college teachers suggested another way of
bad hermeneutics to base a teaching on one sentence as I did with
1Timothy 5:23. Thereís
also another problem that arises from this, and that is we often base
secondary teachings on this one teaching we derive from just one verse.
If the premise of the original teaching is faulty because itís
based on one verse, then any secondary teaching we build from the
original teaching will be faulty as well. If
you base spirit soul and body solely on 1 Tim.5:23 then any subsequent
teaching that comes from spirit soul and body will be based on a flimsy
foundation and is thus questionable.
who hold to spirit soul and body whole-heartedly do build secondary
doctrines on it, such as generational curses and demon possession.
Some of these people suggest that a curse or a demon can reside
in your soul but not your spirit. To say this you need to believe in a
distinct separation of spirit and soul. Personally I believe the line
between spirit and soul is way too blurry and indistinguishable to build
such secondary teachings on.
Bible college teacher pointed out to me that when God made man, He made
him to be a living soul as the KJV puts it. (Genesis 2:7)
Therefore my teacher suggested that the totality of man is a
ďliving soulĒ. If man is
a soul, then thereís no logic in saying we are a body housing a
distinctly separate soul and spirit.
teacher also pointed out that Jesus told us to love the Lord with all
our hearts, souls, minds and
strengthĒ Ė four parts that doesnít even include our bodies.
(Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30).
He suggested that if you believe that Paul told us we consist of
three parts then you should believe that Jesus told us that we consist
of at least four parts. Also,
spirit soul and body teaching states that the mind is part of the soul,
but Jesus makes a distinction between soul and mind as if they were
distinct and separate.
not sure Jesus and Paul wanted us to make a well defined doctrine out of
these particular words. What
I think they were saying is that we should love the Lord and be
blameless in every part of who we are, whatever those parts are.
the other side to what I've just said, those who hold to man being a
living soul also build their doctrine on just one verse.
That's Genesis 2:7, which by the way, the KJV translates poorly.
The NIV uses the words "living being".
The Hebrew word that is translated as soul or being means
"breath". Man did
not become a living breath. He
was created as a material being, not s soulish or spiritual being.
Besides, the same Hebrew word that the KJV translates as soul in
Genesis 2:7 that some claim to be the totality of man, is used in a
number of places in the Old Testament in a New Testament sense.
That is the soul within the body.
both sides of this fence people have made some bad premises.
you view this issue is beside the point.
Building your thinking on one statement that can easily be
interpreted differently from person to person results in questionable
words can only be fully defined by the way theyíre used in context.
Some words have more than one meaning while other words may have one
meaning but more than one application.
friend pointed out to me that the Hebrew word "yireh" for the
most part is translated as ďfearĒ, ďafraidĒ and other such words
in the Old Testament. ďYirehĒ
can also be translated as "see", so to understand how this
Hebrew word should be translated; you need to understand how the author
intended it to be used.
is the same with the Greek word "pneuma" which is translated
as "spirit" or "wind" in the New Testament.
The basic definition of "pneuma" is "wind
so the context in which it
is used will determine if you translate it as wind or spirit.
The context will also show if "pneuma" is
in reference to the wind blowing across the sea, to the Holy Spirit, to
the spirit of man, or an evil spirit.
words are similar. Take the English word "board" for example.
You say, "you need a board and Iíve got oneĒ.
I answer, "What kind of a board do you have"?
Is it a piece of wood, a committee of people, or a bulletin
board? Dictionaries have 10
or 11 different definitions for the word "board".
you tell me that youíre ready to hit me over the head with a two by
four, your context tells me I better run.
I now know what type of board youíre talking about, and it's
not a committee of people. Iím
not sure whatís worse, being hit by a two by four, or being clobbered
by a church board.
the Greek word "baptizo" basically means "to immerse or
to dip", the
application for our English word baptize needs to be understood in its
context. We normally think
of baptism in reference to water, but it also is applied to the Holy
Spirit and even to the church.
Acts 8 we have the story of Philip sharing the gospel with an Ethiopian.
Verse 36 says, "As they traveled the road they came to some
water and the eunuch said, Ďlook, here is some water, why shouldnít
I be baptized"? We
clearly understand from the context that this baptism is in reference to
a side note, something you donít learn from the text but do learn from
a geography lesson is that the country-side in which this took place was
extremely dry and there is a good possibility that the stream wasnít
deep enough for anyone to be immersed in.
It might be possible that Philip stooped down and somehow scooped
up water and poured it over this man.
So sometimes the way the word baptize is used may not even
reflect its basic definition.
in 1 Corinthians 12:13 also uses the word "baptize".
He says, "We were all baptized by one Spirit into one
suggested to me that Paul is speaking of water baptism here, but
thatís not so. According
to this text those who are baptized are baptized into the body of
Christ, (the church) not water. So
how does one get baptized into the church?
Does he get picked up by a couple of strong ushers and get thrown
off a platform into the congregation?
Unless youíre willing to invent a new doctrine, I donít think
Paul is talking about such a thing.
When the Holy Spirit comes into our lives we are not only joined
to God but also to fellow Christians.
This joining is a baptism in the sense we are totally submerged
into a relationship with the rest of the people of God.
We arenít isolated individuals, but connected to other body
parts. We are immersed into
Godís people as we would be in water.
point to be made here is that sometimes the Bible uses a word
differently than the culture of the day.
The Greek word "hoptasso" is translated as
"submit" and "subject" in the New Testament.
In Roman culture this was a very harsh, cold, dictatorial word.
The New Testament uses it is a very soft, loving, and kind way.
We submit out of love, not because we're being dictated to love.
important to understand how a word is used in its context because even
if you know its definition, the context will further define its meaning
could probably continue on into eternity writing about hermeneutics but
I will now bring this to an end. If
you understand and follow the principles that Iíve set forth, youíll
do well as a student of the Bible.
foundation point to all that Iíve said is that if we have a logical
and systematic approach to the Bible, with the help of the Holy Spirit,
weíll understand the Bible pretty well.
Contrary to popular belief, Jesus does want us to understand.
know that not everyone has the same capacity to be logical and
systematic, but I do believe we all can make some improvements in this
area. Those who do have this
capacity should wisely allow our Lord to use you to help others.
Christians today have never heard the word ďhermeneuticsĒ, and
donít have any interest in understanding the Bible.
Whether they know it or not, theyíve been influence by a
worldly post modern society that says, ďJust quickly clue me in on the
generalities and donít bore me with the detailsĒ.
This is no attitude for a Christian to have.
man recently asked if he should start reading the Bible after being a
Christian for 15 years. I
was speechless. This man wasnít even talking about studying the Bible,
only reading it. If the
Bible is indeed the inspired Word of God that we claim it to be, we
should treat it accordingly.
Reading ďThe Bible For Post Modern Christian DummiesĒ is no
substitute for a good hermeneutical approach to the Bible.