“What Saith the Scriptures?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
In declaring the truth of how a man is made right with God, the Apostle Paul asked, “What saith the Scriptures?” The foundational truth of justification is that God declares a sinner to be right with Him through faith alone! This act of God’s free grace is the foundation of the Good News of God in Jesus Christ revealed throughout the Bible.
The ancient Hebrews, the Apostle Paul, the Church Fathers and the Protestant Reformers all searched the Scriptures to arrive at the truth. Yet this question is rarely asked in the Church today. Now, we often hear “It’s a matter of interpretation.”
God gave us the Bible because He is a God of revelation. He expects that we understand what He has said, Deuteronomy 29:29. Therefore, the Bible is understandable. There is a right interpretation of every passage of Scripture. Too frequently, Christians are told by leaders in the Church that there are many interpretations of one passage of the Bible. Church members are confronted with choices. Many accept that no one interpretation is right. We’re told, doctrine is unimportant because no one can claim to know the truth!
If we look at this issue of biblical interpretation logically, we must conclude that all interpretations cannot be right. When there are contradicting views of the Bible, one, both or all may be wrong. One thing for certain is they all can’t be right. There is only one right interpretation of a passage of Scripture. For difficult passages, we may never arrive at the right interpretation this side of heaven. Sound doctrine is what the Bible teaches. God has revealed the truth and we can know it.
Now we’ve come to the way in which we can answer the question, “What saith the Scriptures?” It is called the science of biblical interpretation. The technical term is hermeneutics.
Hermeneutics rests upon two main principles. The first is the biblical principle, also called the analogy of faith. The second is the literal principle. The biblical principle, the analogy of faith was recovered by the Protestant Reformers. They understood that the Bible interprets itself. This means the clear passages of Scripture shed light upon the more obscure ones. It is also understood that one place of Scripture must not be placed against another. Further, Christians interpret the Old Testament in light of the New Testament. There are no contradictions in the Bible. There may be apparent contradictions, but once studied we find that the Bible is consistent with itself, because God does not speak with a “forked” tongue.
The second principle, the literal one, is also called the historical/grammatical principle of interpretation. You may have heard the saying that, “Text without context is pretext.” The words of Scripture find their meaning within the broader context of the passage. For example, because of the difficulty in understanding Hebrews 6:4, it would not be accurate to base a theology on the possibility of losing one’s salvation! Keeping that verse within its context makes it clear that the writer is speaking of one who may profess faith, but does not possess genuine saving faith. In other words, the writer was speaking of those who are called apostates.
Further, to interpret literally means to understand that which is plainly meant and that the Bible is literature. This is how we read and understand any written material. Therefore, in interpreting the Bible: grammar, meaning of words, context, time in which it was written, etc. are involved in understanding the meaning. It is important to remember that the literal interpretation of the Bible is not the same as a literalistic interpretation. For example, we know that when the prophet Isaiah wrote that the “trees of the field shall clap their hands” he didn’t mean that trees have hands. God was describing the joy of all Creation when His plan of redemption is finally consummated. Or, when Jesus said that He was the “door of the sheep”, He did not mean that He looked like a door! John 10 was declaring that Jesus is the only way for His people to have safety and security.
Finally, the Bible is the only rule of faith and practice that God has given to His people. He means for us to understand it. I encourage you to apply these principles of biblical interpretation. God expects His people to know, “What saith the Scriptures?” Expect your Church to teach the plain truth!